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A technicolor twist on Yu the Great

Hit animated series explores childhood of larger-than-life character from ancient Chinese classic, Xu Fan reports.

By Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-09 07:48
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The animated series Shan Hai Chuan Qi (Legends of Mountains and Seas) tells the story of the growth of Dayu, a legendary hero known for controlling floods and establishing the country's first dynasty. [Photo provided to China Daily]

For most Chinese, Dayu, or Yu the Great, is a household name. His feats blend myth and history, and range from taming raging Yellow River floods to starting the Xia Dynasty (c. 21st century-16th century BC).

Despite legends about him appearing in ancient records like the Shan Hai Jing (The Classic of Mountains and Seas) and the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), little is written about the hero's childhood or youth.

Recently, Shan Hai Chuan Qi (Legends of Mountains and Seas), an animated series consisting of 52 episodes in four seasons, has found a fresh perspective for chronicling Dayu's youth. It starts with him being raised by Zhulong, a half-human, half-snake deity, after his father is executed for stealing the Heavenly King's magic soil to stop floods and rescue suffering tribes.

Since its debut on CCTV-1 on March 18, the series has captured attention by bringing to life more than 400 figures and creatures from the Shan Hai Jing, including Gonggong, a bad-tempered god who governs the waters, and Xingtian, a mythological figure who continues to fight even after losing his head.

Cao Liang, the project's director, tells China Daily that he was commissioned by the China Media Group — the country's largest broadcaster — to create an animated series inspired by the Shan Hai Jing, which he describes as an encyclopedia that reflects the social life and geographical knowledge of ancient China.

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