China in film as a new sea power and mythical world power: Zheng He and the Chinese deities

China in film as a new sea power and mythical world power: Zheng He and the Chinese deities

In view of its New Silk Road, which is both continental and maritime, China now seems to want to become a sea power through immense naval expansion. Just as there is now a kind of Chinese Top Gun film for its air force, and propagandistic science fiction films accompanying its space power, although not yet in the style of Star Wars or Startrek, there is now a revival of old Chinese naval power in memory of the legendary eunuch admiral Zheng He . Zhenghe and all the god mythologies are now massively appearing on Chinese cinema screens. The CCP, its propgandanda department and movieproducers think that this will also impress foreign audiences with the Fengshen triology. Therefore is also a Golden Panda Award for the director Wuershan.

 “China’s great voyages of Zheng He to head to big screen, says director Wuershan

Voyages of Zheng He to head to big screen: Wuershan

By Xu Liuliu in Chengdu Published: Sep 21, 2023 12:10 AM

 Chinese director Wuershan Photo: Courtesy of Golden Panda Awards

Chinese director Wuershan Photo: Courtesy of Golden Panda Awards

Chinese people have long had a profound fascination with the ocean, giving rise to numerous stories and a deep connection with the sea. These maritime tales have served as inspiration for ancient literary works such as the Classic of Mountains and Seas, or Shanhaijing, and the Romance of the Flowers in the Mirror, or Jinghuayuan. However, these subjects have received relatively little attention and few discussions.

„My next project focuses on Zheng He’s epic seven voyages to the Western Ocean [the Indian Ocean] and bringing China’s maritime adventures to the world,“ Chinese director Wuershan told the Global Times on Wednesday after attending the Director’s Chair section at the First Golden Panda International Cultural Forum in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

The Classic of Mountains and Seas is a revered Chinese text that compiles mythic geography and descriptions of mythical creatures. Romance of the Flowers in the Mirror is a fantasy novel written by Li Ruzhen in 1827 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It follows the magical adventures of its central character as he travels by ship.

„In traditional Chinese culture, there is a rich tapestry of classic stories like these, along with techniques and works brimming with the aesthetic value of traditional art,“ noted the director, whose film Creation of The Gods I: Kingdom of Storms not only received praise from audiences but also performed exceptionally well at the box office. The film became one of the summer season’s biggest hits in the Chinese mainland, earning more than 2.6 billion yuan ($356 million).

Both audiences and film critics have drawn comparisons between the world of Shang Dynasty (c.1600BC-1046BC) depicted in the film and the Marvel-like Fengshen universe inspired by the Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi.

Interestingly, the director had a similar idea nearly 10 years ago when the project was in its early stages. Fengshen, with its „richly developed worldview and well-defined characters,“ presented the opportunity to expand the realm of gods such as Ne Za, Yang Jian, and Lei Zhenzi.   

The director holds Fengshen in high regard for its rarity and value. Wuershan expressed his aspiration to use films „to create a comprehensive Chinese mythological epic, emphasizing the significance of Chinese history and mythology in the nation’s classic arts.“ He noted that the success of the Fengshen Trilogy will ensure the steady development of more productions.

Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms was also screened in cinemas worldwide, starting in Australia and later in the UK and North America, where it received a warm reception.

„For audiences outside China, it’s an entirely new story with a fresh interpretation that leaves them marveling,“ Wuershan told the Global Times. „At its core, the story is about the bond between father and son, a universal theme that resonates with people worldwide, as well as the growth of a young hero, with which they are very familiar.“Much credit for this success goes to his international cast and the spirit of international cooperation. 

„We had team members from New Zealand, the US, Russia and Spain. Film professionals from around the world were drawn to the Chinese mythological narrative. They came to China to bring to life these classic Chinese mythological stories, a testament to the allure of Chinese culture, its openness and its inclusiveness.“

On Wednesday morning, Wuershan engaged in a dialogue with US director and producer Rob Minkoff, UK film director and writer Malcolm Clarke, and Kishor Jawade, the Indian secretary-general of the Musicians Federation of India.

In Wuershan’s view, film is „an art form that thrives through collaboration across countries and cultures.“ Indeed, it is only through cooperation with diverse cultures and nations that „we can nurture enduring vitality and creativity.“

Events like the First Golden Panda Awards and the International Cultural Forum are crucial, as they facilitate international exchanges and the merging of diverse cultures, which in turn infuse the art of filmmaking with continuous vitality and creativity.

China expert Professor van Ess commented:

“The Fengshen yanyi (Investiture of the Gods) is one of the great Ming novels, mentioned here together with the Shanhai jing, Classic of Mountains and Seas, one of the first geographical texts with some fantastic content, but also historical content. Of course there’s also Xinjiang in there…”

It is remarkable that an atheist party pushes mythology and deities in this way. Even in Germany, earlier rulers were often intoxicated by the irrational worlds of gods and myths and old legends, be it the Eda, Odin, Thor and Valhalla, Richard Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelungs „, which also influenced Ludwig 2, Wilhelm 2 and Hitler alongside Stewart Chamberlein as Wagnerians or be it religions such as the Orthodox Church for Putin, the Ottoman Empire Erdogan, Allah and Mohammed for Islamists , the mythical Ergenekon Valley of the fascist Turkish Gray Wolves, on the Christian and Jewish right, Yahweh, God or biblical figures and legends, etc.

In the USA, the superhero comics of the Marvel Universe or DC Universe also haunt pop culture of superhuman heroes who emerged from failed scientific experiments such as the X Men, Hulk and Fantastic Four , Spiderman, Captain America fight alonside with mythical gods like Thor, Hercules or European witches, the Nightcrawler, Eastern European horror figures like werewolves or Count Dracula, Frankenstein, dictators like Dr. Doom or there are also Nazi supervillains such as the intimate enemies of Captain America or the Invaders such as the Red Skull, Baron Blood (a Nazi vampire) or The Übermensch in these legendary worlds or in Gal Gadot’s Woman historical figures such as General Ludendorff. In the US superhero world, Europe was always the world Germanic and Greek deities, the Middle Ages and the Nazis – the Old world in apparent contrast to the New world. There have already been traditional martial arts films in Chinese cinema, historical borrowings from traditional warrior figures (Heroes, etc.), but not yet from Zheng He or even Chinese deities and myths, as this was previously considered a dangerous superstition. Up to now, the Falungong in particular has relied on Chinese myths and deities in its cultural propaganda show Shen Yun claiming that this was the real Chinese history , and now the CCP has also increasingly uses them, especially since this is now apparently seen as providing identity for the new nationalism and imperialism. There is extensive literature about the power and effect of myths, just as C.G. Jung became famous in Germany with his theory of archetypes in his “German psychology” in contrast to the “Jewish psychology” of Sigmund Freud. Let’s hope that Xi and the Chinese don’t let their myths get to their heads and that they don’t think of themselves as new gods, although not a monotheistic god, especially since Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism have so far been said to be not religions but rather philosophies and not monotheistic ( although there was a god-like worship of Buddha and Confucius with the associated temples and statues,) which is what David Precht emphasizes, who believes that only monotheistic cultures are capable of proselytizing, colonialism, holy wars and imperialism, which then turns out to be could also turn out to be a mythical old wives‘ tale from a German philosopher, especially since Erich Vogelein already spoke of “political religions” in the context of fascism and communism and Mao and Kim, along with Stalin and Hitler, were also worshiped like gods.

Kommentare sind geschlossen.