Phoenix and Qilin: Chinese cultural elements add color to Western movies
Published: Apr 12, 2022 12:49 AM
Poster of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Photo: Weibo
Poster of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Photo: Weibo


When Chinese moviegoers watch the newly released Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore on Friday, they will see phoenix and qilin, familiar mythological creatures  which many have known in childhood, appearing lively on the screen.

The movie has been rated 6.3 out of 10 by more than 70,000 Chinese netizens on China's media review platform Douban. The ancient Chinese mythological creatures are one of the points discussed in the reviews.

The phoenix ,with a pair of flaming wings, flies around a lead role, Credence, who is also one member of Dumbledore family. In the movie, the phoenix indicates Credence's fate.

Another Chinese mythological creature, the qilin, is crucial to the movie and plays a significant role in the plot.

The qilin was considered a righteous animal. Its appearance proved the existence of a just ruler or monarch and it could be used to judge who was innocent, which conforms to the description of the creature in Chinese mythology.

According to Taoist mythology, although they can look fearsome, qilin only punish the wicked. There are accounts in ancient stories of court trials and judgments based on the qilin's divine knowledge of whether a person was good or evil, guilty or innocent,.

"This adds a mysterious flavor of Chinese culture to traditional Western films," Luo Luo, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times on Monday, pointing out that with China's box office getting better in recent years and growing into an important market in the world, Western films, especially Hollywood commercial films, have also added more Chinese cultural elements.

Besides mythological creatures in the Fantastic Beasts series, other cultural symbols like Chinese martial arts and food have all appeared in Western movies.

However, the use of these elements in these films sometimes is not well received by Chinese audiences.

A number of reviews on Douban noted that plots about the phoenix and qilin did not develop well or display the real charm of these creatures.

Luo said that this is one problem of Hollywood and western films. "At present, many Chinese cultural elements in western movies are still superficial," she said.

The critic added that as cultural exchanges develop, she believes Chinese cultural elements will be used in a more "Chinese way."