This year, the Cantonese opera movie “Snake White (白蛇传·情)” was released, the combination of traditional Chinese opera and modern visual effects, let us surprised: the original traditional culture can also be so fashionable!
And the protagonist of today’s story, anthropomorphizing the mysterious and mythical creatures in the Shan Hai Jing, recreates the magnificent world of mythology.
She has been reported by China Daily, Huaxi City Daily, and many other official media, while triggering the attention of millions of netizens. She is the photographer Huanhuan (焕焕).
The “Shan Hai Jing (山海经, Classic of Mountains and Seas)” is an important ancient book of the pre-Qin Dynasty of China, and is also one of the oldest books rich in myths and legends, recording ancient Chinese mythology, geography, plants, animals, minerals, products, sorcery, religion, medicine, folklore and ethnicity, which can be said to be comprehensive.
Recreate the dream of childhood
When she was young, Huanhuan was obsessed with the fantasy world of mythology, and her grandmother would often tell her various mythological stories: snakes with nine heads, birds with three legs, fish with wings…all these stories were so fascinating to Huanhuan that she began to yearn for the mysterious “Mythical World”.
Later, Huanhuan found out that the place she had longed for was hidden in the ancient book “Shan Hai Jing” and the mythical creatures recorded in it were almost exactly the same as what his grandmother had told her.
But whenever Huanhuan talked to people around her about the stories in the Shan Hai Jing, almost no one paid attention to her, which makes Huanhuan feel very pity, so she picked up the camera, and decided to recreate the myth in a novel form.
“I wanted my work to be based on ancient records, but also have a modern aesthetic. So I chose to anthropomorphize the mythical creatures to present a reverie on the Shan Hai Jing.”
Ge Ge Yu (鮯鮯鱼), shaped like a carp, has six legs and a bird tail.
Jiu Wei Hu (九尾狐, nine-tailed fox), resembles a fox but has nine tails, and roars with a sound similar to a baby’s cry.
Pi Jiu (罴九), shaped like an elk.
Nan Hai Hu Die (南海蝴蝶), its form changes a lot, also known as “hundred fantasy butterfly”.
E Huang (娥皇) Nǚ Ying (女英), the daughters of Emperor Yao and goddesses of Xiang Shui, often stroll on the sparkling water.
Dreams are the process of constant persistence
“Based on the limited textual descriptions in the Shan Hai Jing, I can imagine infinitely.” However, it cannot deviate from the ancient records, and Huanhuan will carefully study any book about the Shan Hai Jing.
For a stylized sketch, she had to consult several ancient books and analyze the description details word by word. Then consult a professional teacher and spend several days and nights to ensure the rationality of the makeup styling.
From the smallest features of the mythical creatures to their living environment, every detail of Huanhuan’s work requires realistic results. For her, it is not only about restoring the appearance of the mythical creatures, but also about reflecting their emotions and spirituality without reservation.
According to incomplete statistics, there are nearly 4830 kinds of mythical creatures in Shan Hai Jing, with different forms: some have four antlers on their foreheads, some have angles on their backs, and some have long tails…
In order to highly restore the shape of the divine mythical creatures, the costumes and props are designed and made by Huanhuan herself, and a lot of money is spent on materials alone.
For example, the water drops on Fu Zhu’s head were made by connecting crystals one by one with fish thread. Four snow-white antlers were 3D printed from the design drawings.
The plumage of Fei Yi (肥遗), is tens of thousands of feathers dyed, collage, sewn one by one.
The fish scales on the Jiao Ren (鲛人), are based on the size of the fish scales cut piece by piece to make.
The hardest part is that Huanhuan and her friends often travel around with bulky camera equipment in order to find a satisfactory location.
But when the final work is created, Huanhuan will feel that all the effort was worth it. “I love every one of them, and looking at them is like seeing mythical creatures in my heart being brought back to life by own hands.”
From the first work in 2017 to now, Huanhuan has taken more than 30 sets of “Shan Hai Jing” mythical creatures anthropomorphs. Nowadays, Huanhuan releases a set of photoshoot about “Shan Hai Jing” once a month.
A group of photos costs tens of thousands of Yuan, and most of the photography friends around her can’t hold on to them. Some of them gradually disappeared, and some even sold their lenses and left photography completely. But she is unwilling to give up easily, and would rather use her own work savings to continue to support this “expensive hobby”.
To Make More People Know Chinese Culture
Shooting the “Shan Hai Jing” series so far, Huanhuan admits that She has never regretted it: “This is a ‘lifetime’ series, and will strive to finish it until the moment I run out of imagination.”
As long as it can make more people understand the “Shan Hai Jing”, whatever she is willing to try. In the future, she is even considering making “Shan Hai Jing” into a 3D animation to present it in a more diversified form.
After becoming popular, there were also some negative comments on the internet, but Huanhuan bluntly said that she has been sticking to her dream purely to let more people understand Chinese traditional culture, and if we don’t promote it, how can we let others know how excellent our culture is. “The excellent traditional culture needs each of us to show it out, be seen by more people.”
Source: Xian Yu (咸鱼), Puxiang Industrial Design Station
Picture source: Photographer Huanhuan
The article is the author original, udner (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) Copyright License
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