Chinese heroes and heroines attracting movie and games makers.

Nine hundred years ago, when Guo Maoqian, an obscure governmental official, compiled a collection of ancient Chinese lyrical pieces, he could never have anticipated that two of his characters, a heroine and a veteran, would later become global screen stars.

From Guo's Anthology of Music Bureau Poetry, Hua Mulan, a legendary warrior woman, not only inspired generations of Chinese people with lessons of perseverance and girl power but also helped introduce Chinese culture to the world in Disney's well-received 1998 adaptation of Mulan.

Raymond Singer, the Annie Award-winning screenwriter of Mulan, said: "We have much to learn from the history and success of China. Traditional Chinese culture is a treasure trove of stories. By bringing them to a Western audience, and giving new life to Eastern ones, we can shrink the differences between us."

Tony Bancroft, a veteran director at Walt Disney Animation and Sony Pictures, added that more recent US films have explored Chinese culture and environment, opening up a whole new world of stories and characters.

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Singer, along with other Disney content creators, visited Mulan's birthplace in Hubei province earlier this year, looking for further inspiration for a new live-action version of Mulan, due to be released in 2020, as well as fostering a better understanding of traditional Chinese culture.

"I think we have only just begun to see films that are influenced by Chinese culture and stories based on its folklore," he said.

Alex Xin, an art research fellow at Peking University, said Mulan's image in the west had changed over the past two decades from a westernised heroine into an authentic Chinese girl: "When you check the 1998 animation, Mulan was depicted as a fighter for gender equality, which kind of missed the point, as the original story mainly focused on promoting traditional family value.

"I'm glad the new movie has included this important clue showing that, after two decades, Westerners now have a better understanding of Chinese culture."

Though not as famous as Mulan, another character in Guo's poetry, a John Doe veteran who joined the army at the age of 15, has also added authenticity – this time to a strategy video game.

In Total War Three Kingdoms, a popular game from UK-based developer Creative Assembly, the nameless soldier's story has been adapted into a theme song, showcasing the brutal war of the Three Kingdoms Period in ancient China.

Based on Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the game includes historical depictions and has also introduced some philosophical concepts to foreign players – like the Chinese concept of guanxi, which deals with social connections and relationships.

The upcoming Mulan movie is a live-action adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name. The film stars Liu Yifei as the eponymous character and is set to be released on March 27, 2020. (Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)
The upcoming Mulan movie is a live-action adaptation of Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name. The film stars Liu Yifei as the eponymous character and is set to be released on March 27, 2020. (Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Virtues that the ancient Chinese revered – such as obligation, reciprocity and trust – are also essential factors in the game.

To date, the game trailer has received over 2.5 million views on Youtube, with many players expressing their desire to learn more about the history, as well as showing their respect for Chinese culture.

Apart from foreign audience's growing interest in China, the country's huge domestic market seems to be an even more important reason for the rise of Chinese culture in the global entertainment arena.

According to a survey published by the Motion Picture Association of America in April, with US and Canadian cinema takings at a 22-year-low thanks to an audience decline, the Chinese market will soon be world's top film market.

The statistics for the Chinese gaming industry are also climbing. With 600 million gamers, roughly twice the entire population of the United States, China has overtaken America as the "global gaming capital" in terms of market size.

The country is now the world's largest mobile games market, accounting for over 25 per cent of global revenue, while domestic games revenue in China is expected to reach a total of US$42 billion by 2022.

"Roughly 5 per cent of our business comes from the Greater China area, and we already have two studios in China, fulfilling the local needs of Chinese players. The Chinese gaming market is a big opportunity for foreign companies like us," Michael Burk, director of Corporate PR, Ubisoft, said. told People's Daily Online.

In addition to the vast market, the efforts of Chinese authorities to protect intellectual property rights has also encouraged more foreign films and games to enter the Chinese market. A total of 18,037 publication copyrights were imported into the country in 2017, a much larger number than previous years.

Content sourced from the People's Daily Online here