8 Chinese Animation – 动画 (dònghuà)

Myla Valmont

simplified Chinese: 动画; pinyin: dònghuà

Chinese Animation

In 1926 the four Wan brothers, Wan Laiming, Wan GuchanWan Chaochen and Wan Dihuan worked under the Great Wall Film Company in China. Wan Laiming and Wan Guchan were then recognized as China’s animation pioneers when they produced the first animation short Uproar in the Studio running 10 to 12 minutes long in black and white.[1]

In 1941 the Wan brothers created the Princess Fan animation which gains influences from Western styles seen in Betty Boop and Snow White.


Wu Kong in Iron Princess Fan
The Monkey King fleeing from the Flaming Mountains

The 1990’s is when more diverse and experimental animation styles are seen in China. The industry began to grow, and studios produced a variety of animated content, including adaptations of classical Chinese literature. In Chinese animation Son WuKong the monkey king is a prevalent character from traditional Chinese literature.

Monkey victorious in Heaven
Monkey victorious in Heaven, Havoc in Heaven, 1964.

 Donghua like Nezha, The Daily Life of the Immortal King and Monkey King: Hero is Back (XI YOU JI ZHI QI TIAN DA SHENG GUI LAI) include characters that either embody the Monkey King or have powers/personality similar to the monkey king. Donghua like these often draws a lot of their inspiration from Chinese mythology, history, and classical literature. By incorporating these elements into animated shows and animated films, donghua contributes to the preservation of traditional Chinese culture while mixing it into popculure. It helps introduce younger audiences to historical stories and cultural values.

I’ve seen Donghua’s like “The Daily Life of the Immortal King,” “Psychic Princess,” and “Mo Dao Zu Shi” which are all different plots but have similar Chinese mythology incorporated in the animation. Donghua’s main audience is the younger generations and its popularity has a substantial influence on youth culture in China. Animated series and films become important for younger generations, helping shape their preferences, values, and even fashion trends. Characters from popular donghua may become iconic figures in Chinese pop culture.

For example, the novel version of Mo Dao Zu Shi is a Danemi (Chinese genre centered around MLM romance)[2] However, because of China’s censorship of MLM in media like film, tv and reality shows there isn’t  distinct romance in the Donghua. Nevertheless, having such a novel adapted into a Donghua must be nice for those underrepresented in China due to their sexuality or gender identity. In conclusion, donghua plays a multifaceted role in shaping Chinese culture and pop culture.image

  1. http://en.chinaculture.org/focus/focus/2011dmyx/2011-07/22/content_420884.htm
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danmei#:~:text=Danmei%20(Chinese%3A%20耽美%3B%20pinyin,romantic%20relationships%20between%20male%20characters.


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Chinese Animation - 动画 (dònghuà) Copyright © 2024 by Myla Valmont is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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