10 myths from China and Asia that inspired films, TV series and cartoons

10 myths from China and Asia that inspired films, TV series and cartoons

10 myths from China and Asia that inspired films

Once upon a time there was a time when the West knew only its myths and legends. That time is gradually giving way to an era where the knowledge of myths and legends from Asia is becoming more and more global. Here are some stories that have achieved international notoriety thanks to their adaptation for small and big screen, but which actually have their roots in ancient myths.

Mulan A woman who joins an all-male army to fight against the invaders Huns and nomads. Mulan's character immediately had all the ingredients to become a timeless legend. And so it was. Although there are many different versions of the legend, its foundation is found in The Ballad of Mulan. The original poem is probably the work of the philosopher and writer Liang Tao and was composed in the 6th century at the time of the Northern Dynasties. As in the animated film, Mulan disguised herself as a man and joined the army to prevent her father, a sick veteran enlisted a second time by imperial decree, from being killed in combat. Active two Disney works, one animated and one (more controversial) with real actors.

Sun Wukong Wikimedia Commons

Sun Wukong is simply the most famous and beloved character in classical Chinese literature. In Chinese his name literally means "descendant of enlightenment or the awareness of emptiness". Magician, monk, king, sage and warrior with a monkey aspect, he is the protagonist of countless folk tales dating back to the Tang dynasty of the Chinese empire, between the seventh and tenth centuries AD. He also had a very strong influence on Japanese culture, so much so that he inspired dozens of anime and manga with the name of Son Goku, starting from the well-known Dragonball. References to the legend of him appear in many television and film products but also video games. The TV series The new legends of monkey is entirely dedicated to the character of the monkey king.

The moon rabbit Ancient China was full of myths about animals. Just think of the legend of the twelve animals on which the lunar calendar and its zodiac signs are still based today. In this panorama, a special place has the myth of the moon rabbit, whose oldest testimony dates back to the distant period of the fighting kingdoms and is present in the Chu Ci, a collection of Chinese poems composed during the Han dynasty. According to the myth about the Moon, together with a toad, a rabbit would be found busy chopping herbs for immortality. The figure of the jade rabbit is present in the successful animated film Over the Moon, produced by Netflix in 2020.

The white snake Wikimedia Commons

Let's stay with the animals, but moving on to the reptiles. According to another Chinese myth, a white snake and a green snake living in a remote mountain became immortal and gained superpowers after centuries of practice. They turned into two beautiful women eager to visit the human world. Starting from Hangzhou West Lake. This legend has inspired countless films (after countless plays), including a 2019 animated work co-produced by Warner Bros.

The Eight Immortals Wikimedia Commons

One of the Chinese legends with major film and television transpositions is probably that of the eight immortals. According to tradition, the power of each immortal can be transferred to a vessel that can give life or destroy evil. For the myth most of them were born during the Tang and Song dynasties. They are revered by Taoists but are also a popular element in centuries-old Chinese culture. For decades, Chinese and Taiwanese cinema and television have dedicated films and series to their myth.

Ye Xian Ye Xian is a Chinese fairy tale similar to the European story of Cinderella. First published in a collection from the Tang Dynasty era, it tells the story of a Chinese girl, the daughter of an intellectual who had two wives. When her mother and father died, Ye Xian was forced to become the servant of her father's other wife, her stepmother, and the woman's daughter. I mean, she really looks like Cinderella. Although in this case there are no pumpkins. The American film Year of the Fish, directed by David Kaplan in 2007, is based on its story.

The 4 great classical Chinese novels Wikimedia Commons

The novel of the three kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, I brigands by Shin Nai'an, The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en and The Dream of the Red Room by Cao Xueqin. These are the titles of what has always been known as the 4 great classical Chinese novels. The list of film and television adaptations is endless. From The Assassins to an episode of Doraemon, the stories told in these legendary books continue to be presented in new versions.

Ghost Month Avoid water, don't get married, don't hang your clothes outside. These are some of the recommendations related to Ghost Month, the seventh month of the lunar calendar. On the fifteenth day of the month, the Pudu (中元 普度) takes place, the Ghost Festival in which ancestors are venerated with food offerings and leaving lanterns to the currents. This until the day when the "gates of hell" are not closed and the ghosts return to the beyond. Today the tradition, of Chinese origin, is especially alive in Taiwan. And it inspired the Hollywood horror Seventh Moon of 2008.

Yokai monsters Wikimedia Commons

Yokai monsters have dominated Japanese myths and folklore for centuries. A class of supernatural monsters, spirits and demons, may also be called ayakashi, mononoke or mamono. They became internationally famous thanks to the cult film trilogy called Yokai Monsters and written in the 1960s by Tetsuro Yoshida.

Jeon Woo-chi Jeon Woo-chi was a mythological Taoist scholar who lived during the Joseon dynasty of Korea. He is known by many as the most important "sorcerer" in Korean history and as a representative of ancient Korean literature. His stage name was Woosa, which means "man of feathers". He has inspired several short stories and cultural productions, including the South Korean film Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard. It was 2009 and South Korea's soft power was not yet ready to take over the world as it has done in recent years.

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