I don’t just love China and culture. I like robots and movies too, so I’ll always take the opportunity to look at any area where these loves collide.
“Next Gen” is an animated film currently available on Netflix, set in a futuristic society in which advanced robots look after every stage of human existence, from home appliances, to drones, doors, even education. Justin Pin, the man-bunned CEO of IQ Robotics is adored like a superstar, and his Q-Bots are the must-have personal assistants. Angry, disillusioned high school student Mai Su (Charleyne Yi), bullied at school and trying to cope with her father’s abandonment, made worse by her robot-obsessed mother Molly (Constance Wu), ends up dragged along to a product launch for the latest bot. Getting lost in the labs, she accidentally activates a prototype robot, codenamed “77”, who becomes attached to her, and escapes the lab to find her. The two begin an unlikely friendship, whilst the robot’s original creator finds more sinister things afoot than a missing robot.
Posted in Blog and tagged animation, china, Chinese, culture, robots
Tomorrow is China’s National Day, established on the 1st of October 1949, when the country gained its independence. Nowadays in the West, most people’s association with this occasion is Golden Week, one of the few times of the year when China takes a break. Another connection that Westerners have with the founding of the People’s Republic is Xuan Chuan Hua, Chinese Propaganda Art, which is now iconic around the world. This art style would never have existed without the decades of commercial artistic development that preceded it. This year I’m taking a look at 月份牌 Yue Fen Pai, Calendar Posters, an art form centred around early 20th century Shanghai.
Posted in Blog and tagged art, Calendar Posters, china, Chinese, culture, National Day, propagada art
“Crazy Rich Asians”, has made a huge impact in the short time since its release, not only because it’s based on an international bestseller by an East-Asian author, Kevin Kwan, but because it features an almost entirely Asian cast, (with only five white guys even getting a speaking part). In a U.S.-originated movie, it’s a rare thing for East-Asians to take centre-stage.
With screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, this is the story of quintessentially American Chinese Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who embarks on a trip with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to visit his home, Singapore. It turns out to be the trip of a lifetime. Rachel discovers that her laid-back, low-profile boyfriend is a billionaire whose family built half of Singapore. Between head-on cultural clashes, and the brutal matrimonial realities within Asian family clans, Rachel is way out of her depth, and must sink or swim.
Posted in Blog and tagged Asia, book, china, Chinese, cinema, Crazy Rich Asians, culture, East Asian, film, review, romcom, Singapore
Zhong Qiu Jie, or Mid-Autumn Festival has come round again. I hope you have been enjoying my article and video on the origin and traditions of this wonderful Chinese harvest celebration, finding them useful for your festive preparations. This year, I’m writing about how the Moon Festival is celebrated in China today.
Posted in Blog and tagged Autumn, china, Chinese, culture, Equinox, festival, harvest festival, mid-autumn festival
With the release of Big Fish & Begonia, Xueting Christine Ni looks at China’s diverse pantheon that influenced the animation… As a public speaker who saw the oncoming wave of Chinese animation in the early 2000s, and who spent the last decade promoting these to West, it was my absolute joy to introduce Big Fish & Begonia this spring to the general public at various venues in London for the cinema release. Summer brings the home media release, set for the 9th of July, which coincides with the UK publication of my new book From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: An Essential Guide to Chinese Deities. Many of the beings I have written about are also featured in this 21st-century animation, and one of the reasons I have written the book is to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of these deities. In this article, I take a look at their origins and their reinterpretation in the film. China has a long tradition of taking inspiration from its Shen Hua (mythology) for the creation its Dong Hua (animation), from classics such as the 1964 Uproar in Heaven and Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (1979), to The Calabash Brothers (1986) and recent renditions of Investiture of the Gods. Certain deities, such as ones that have evolved with urban entertainment, tended to be focused on. Big Fish & Begonia takes a fresh angle on the subject. The story is set in the Undersea, the world of Chun, heroine of the story. Based on the concept Gui Xu from the 4th to 5thcentury BCE Daoist text Lie Zi, Undersea is the final Continue Reading →
Posted in Blog and tagged animation, Big Fish & Begonia, china, Chinese, culture, Daoism, deities, fantasy, pop culture
As one of the major directors in Chinese cinema, any new work of Tsui Hark’s is exciting news, let alone any work released outside China and Chinese-speaking regions. As relatively more Chinese films make their way to Western cinemas, some top-bill Wuxia titles are now sharing the summer slot with Hollywood Blockbusters. This summer sees the global release of “Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings”, the third film in Judge Dee series (after “Mystery of the Phantom Flame” and “Rise of the Sea Dragon”), produced by renown and award-winning producer Nansun Shi (Infernal Affairs, Seven Swords, Chinese Ghost Story). Five years would have given this film considerable build-up, especially after the second one, which, despite the bold steps it took, was by far the weaker of the two.
Posted in Blog and tagged china, Chinese, cinema, culture, Detective Dee, film, pop culture, review, Tsui Hark, Wuxia
14 years ago, I asked myself, what do you do with a B.A. in English and an innate understanding of Chinese culture? Alongside my translation and public speaking, I began a career in #publishing, to the consternation of my family and social circle. Writing China came to me later, and this has put me in a better position to tell you about this now.
Posted in Blog and tagged Chinese, diveristy, POC, publishing
After the delays due to the World Cup, I am very happy to see “Incredibles 2” released at last. The major reason for my anticipation for seeing this film in the cinema, is the short preceding the main feature, “Bao”, the first Pixar production with a female director, and one of Chinese heritage, no less. Needless to say, my expectations were high, and this adorable work has met them.
Posted in Blog and tagged animation, china, Chinese, cinema, cuisine, culture, Disney, film, food, Pixar
In the recent past, China has been known to the West for its Great Wall and its Terracotta Warriors, a great ancient civilization that gifted the world with revolutionary inventions such as the compass, fireworks, and beautiful silks, that was subsequently torn apart in the early 20th century and closed off. Even when it re-emerged and became a global manufacturing powerhouse, by and large in the Western consciousness the country still remained a land enshrouded in legends and mystery, about which not much is known beyond the Cultural Revolution.
Now, in the 21st century, China is once more truly becoming the author of its own fate. A new technological golden age seems to be dawning, from innovations in AI and 3D printing, to developments in biomedicine and space exploration — both via private investment and state funding. With this new-found confidence, China has also begun to re-connect with its past and create a Chinese version of modernity that it didn’t have the chance to before. And it is doing so in in fascinating ways — sometimes this means reaching back thousands of years, to draw that connection.
In this article, I look at 13 (a lucky number to the Chinese) pieces of new technology that demonstrate in their conception and nomenclature how China is mapping out its gods and traditions in the cyberverse and the stars.
Posted in Blog and tagged AI, china, Chinese, culture, deities, exploration, Fintech, gods, mythology, science, space, technology
It all began in 1922. Between 1922 and 45 was a period when China discovered and explored animation for itself. The main force behind early Chinese animation were three classically trained art students from Shanghai, the Wan brothers, who taught themselves the techniques of animation from studying 20s American cartoons such as Out of the Ink Well, Popeye and Betty Boop. The very first Dong Hua movie, “Uproar In the Studio”, was born in 1926 in a 7 square metre room in Zha Bei district of Shanghai.
Posted in Blog and tagged animation, china, Chinese, cinema, culture, film, history, pop culture