Big Fish and Small Gods

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 →


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Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

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.


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A Brief History of Dong Hua: Taster

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.


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Have a Nice Day

When I first heard about this Chinese animation, it was in the context of bankable dissent, so I was pre-disposed to dismissing this work, but when I actually had a chance to see some of the footage, I was thoroughly impressed, and subsequently, very happy to hear it was being screened at the Genesis.


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So Long 2016

This year has been the Chinese Year of the Monkey. I am sure many feel, as I do, that it has been quite trying in many ways. The monkey is lively, clever, but also mischievous and cheeky, prone to playing naughty pranks and causing disorder before running away, leaving others to their fate. A year under the auspices of this zodiac was bound to be chaotic.


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On Chinese Geek Part 1

From the outside, China has a unified people. It presents itself as a united country when dealing with any outsiders, though internally, they are proud of the 56 ethnic groups which make up the whole. Each region having its own customs and rich history.

These days, with the increasingly widespread presence of mobile phones, wifi and other communication channels, new communities spring up, and new tribal lines are drawn. One of the nascent new people of China, are a community whose mythic stories star giant robots, whose traditional dress is Cosplay, and whose folk dances consist of spinning leeks.


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China Underground – A Translated Sample

An interview with the band Vagabond Street, by John YingLing, for his upcoming documentary, China Underground.
I’ve translated about 3 hours of interviews for this project, which is now heavily into post production (but could still do with more funding). This will be one of the video programe available to accompany my talk “Peking Into Punk”.


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All Hail Starscream

We’re half way through a very busy month, of conventions, appearances and traveling. A month that started off with a fantastic weekend at Auto Assembly. Europe’s largest Transformers convention. We were made to feel so welcome, that I had to write something for my new friends and followers.

Let me tell you a bit about Transformers in China.


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