China's Internet users lit virtual candles and posted teary-eyed emoticons to bid farewell to caricaturist Xiongdun, who lost her battle with cancer on Friday evening.
Xiongdun, whose real name is Xiang Yao, was an inspiring caricaturist known for making fun stories out of her battle with lymphoma. She passed away at 5:25 p.m., said a statement on her account on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site.
"Xiang Yao, our beloved Xiongdun, left at 17:25. May she be as happy in heaven as she has been in her life," the announcement said.
Chinese microbloggers responded to the news with shock and sorrow, as the cartoonist was filling her microblog with fun chats and commentary on American TV series prior her death, showing little sign that her condition had been worsening.
"Thank you so much for empowering us with your 'positive energy,'" microblogger "moonmoon brother" wrote among the 40,000 comments left on the statement as of Saturday at noon.
In her last caricature posted online, Xiongdun marks her thirtieth birthday with a cartoon of her as a wrinkly old woman, joking that she is upset about being an year older.
The hand-drawn caricature recalled that as a small girl, she celebrated her birthdays with her parents, but her birthday celebrations have mostly consisted of friends and a significant other after she left for college and worked in cities away from home.
"Then on my 30th birthday, I realized my small yet difficult wish," reads the text accompanying the cartoon of the bald artist reunited with her parents. "The only gift I desire this year is to have my pop and mom around."
Xiongdun, a Beijing-based caricaturist born in Zhejiang Province, was diagnosed with lymphoma in August 2011 and has since used caricatures to document her hospitalization. The images are often captioned with humorous and inspirational messages that have become popular amongst young netizens.
In the "Piss off, Mr. Cancer" series, Xiongdun, depicted as a girl with bear ears, fancies good-looking doctors, makes fun of her chemotherapy-triggered baldness and reminisces about childhood stories with her parents.
In one widely forwarded caricature, she discusses the quirks of small children when they sleep with their mothers.
"Some kids can fall asleep only by putting a hand on mother's face, some by grabbing mother's breasts, and I used to sleep with my hand fondling my mom's lips," she wrote.
Though having abandoned the habit and other intimate behaviors as she grew up, Xiongdun said in the most trying nights of her cancer treatment, she had to hold her mother's hand in order to sleep.
"Her hand is coarse, warm and consoling, reminding me of the nights in my childhood when I slept comfortably by touching her lips."