China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper discusses the animated film A Zhuang Brocade (1959), directed by Qian Jiajun (1916-2011), a very important animator/director of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio (SAFS). In a discussion on animated film from 1960, the painter Wu Zuoren (1908–1997)would criticize A Zhuang Brocade for being too much indebted to Disney animation in the film’s depiction of animals. At 48 minutes, A Zhuang Brocade was at the time the longest film produced by the SAFS. The rich, full animation was based on a Zhuang folk-tale and hints at links between ethnicity, narrative, and folk art. From one perspective, since the film appeared in tandem with the very important live-action musical Third Sister Liu (1960), A Zhuang Brocade can be read as part of the promotion of Zhuang culture. At the same time, by the mid-1950s, film producers were attempting to ground filmmaking in concepts of national style. Minority culture, including folk art, storytelling, and song and dance performance, was viewed as an important marker of authentic Chinese national style. National style would be a short-lived movement that nevertheless remains important even for contemporary discourse surrounding cultural production. In addition, when A Zhuang Brocade was screened, the Zhuang was a relatively new ethnological category incorporating several cultural and linguistic groups within a geographical region. The film represents the intersection of several concerns and cultural policies from the 1950s and 60s. It is also one of the most underrated masterpieces from the golden age of the SAFS.