There is such a Chinese original animation, which has only been updated for 6 episodes since its broadcast in 2017, but has collected 30 million views. It is Choir of Chinese Poems (中国唱诗班), the first Chinese short animation production, with classic ancient poetry as the main theme of the story and the historical allusions of the scholars as the outline.
The animation is entirely original and hand-drawn by a team of Chinese youths, and each episode is less than 25 minutes. The images are beautiful and moody, with strong Chinese colours and a moving storyline that brings to life traditional Chinese ancient poetry.
1 Love Seeds
Released on 23 December, 2016.
The most popular of all Choir of Chinese Poems episodes is "Love Seeds", about a red bean and a tragic love affair.
The young scholar Wang Chutong has been secretly in love with Liuniang since childhood. Hearing that red beans could express love, he sneaked up to the door of the Liuniang and presented a red bean.
"This is the red bean from Wang Wei's poems 'Xiang Si'."
Liuniang knew exactly what the Wang Chutong was thinking but did not say anything. But after joking, she cooked a bowl of red bean soup for him.
And the childhood sweethearts grew up slowly, the young scholar's family is poor and he is not suitable with Liuniang. When they met on the street, they became strangers to each other.
On the day of Liuniang's wedding, the alleyway was crowded with people, making it a very festive place. Only Wang Chutong and Liuniang cried through the door. Neither of them had the courage to push open the door. Because of the disparity in their status and the shackles of the world, they missed each other but could not be together.
When they were young, their feelings for each other were conveyed through the red beans; in the misty rain, the red beans were transformed into a red oil-paper umbrella; before the marriage of Liuniang, the red beans were drops of blood on her handkerchief. The red beans are throughout the series, become a testimony of mutual love, attachment and longing.
Wang Chutong was anxious to learn that Liuniang was getting married. The separation was also implied when he hit a pear vendor's cart on the road.
It is hard not to be moved by the combination of the well-made and classically Chinese-inspired images and the perfectly played background music, which is based on Wang Wei's "Xiang Si" and provides the audience with a tragic account of love in ancient society. Although this episode is less than ten minutes long, it is a lamentable tragedy of love, which is very sad.
2 A Traveller's Song
Released on 14 May, 2017.
The story of "A Traveller's Song" is based on the real-life experiences of Wang Mingsheng, a Qing Dynasty textual researcher. The short film is only seven minutes long, but it shows the world the simplest and most selfless love of a mother.
During early childhood, Wang Mingsheng's family was extremely poor. He wore a worn-out cotton jacket to school every day and was ridiculed by his classmates. He had always longed for a new cotton robe, but considering that his mother was tired enough of raising his siblings alone, he buried his wish in the mind.
To change his destiny of poverty, Wang Mingsheng strived to be strong. And the very night before he took the Tongzishi (童子试, the first examination of the imperial examination), his mother stayed up all night sewing a new cotton gown for him. The sight of his mother's frost-red hands and haggard face, Wang was moved and suddenly full of confidence. Not only did he succeed in passing the Tongzishi, but he also went to the capital and became an official.
The story is told in the same way as 'Love Seeds', using flashbacks, starting with an object that tells the audience a story of the past. However, this story touches the audience with the simplest and most selfless mother's love through details that allow the audience to immerse themselves in the scenes of the story.
3 In the Quiet Night
Released on 17 August, 2018
"In the Quiet Night" differs from other stories in that it is set in the Republican period.
After the Mukden Incident, Japan occupied the northeast China. Gu Weijun, a famous Chinese diplomat, was sent to the Northeast for investigation the evidence of the crimes of the "Manchukuo".
"When the motherland called me up, I'll fight like a fearless solider. If anything happens to me in the Northeast, it will be a great honor for me."
Gu Weijun's journey was bumpy and uneventful, and he even came close to being assassinated. Along the way, he received several petition delivered secretly by the people. Even in such a crisis, Gu Weijun bravely sat at the negotiating table and confronted the enemy head-on. The truth relies not on bombs, but on evidence.
Thanks to the unremitting efforts of Gu Weijun and many patriotic people, the League of Nations denied the legitimacy of the "Manchukuo" and affirmed that the northeast was part of China territory and that sovereign rights belonged to China.
Many years later, in an interview, Gu Weijun recalled that period of history. The reporter asked Gu Weijun about what it means to be a true diplomat.
"I love my country deeply, but I have to fight for her rights and honor from millions of miles away from her, and that is what a diplomat is." Gu Weijun replied.
4 Chant plum
Updated at the beginning of the year, "Chant plum" is not only historically-integrated, but the images are beautiful to the extreme. It is based on Zhou Hao, the master of bamboo carving in Jiading. During his life, he has travelled all over the country, and his workmanship is so delicate. However, he never carved a lady or a plum blossom. The story is based on his love for Meiniang, a woman he regretted but could not repent.
In order to make the plum tree in the bamboo forest not look out of place, the team also searched through various illustrations of plum trees and found a species called the "Chui Zhi Mei (垂枝梅)", it was chosen as the model for the plum tree because of its naturally drooping branches, graceful posture and defiance of the cold.
At the same time, there are numerous ancient paintings hidden throughout the film. The Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard and Melting Snow at Broken Bridge of the West Lake all come from real ancient paintings.
The fragments of Zhou Hao's travels through the landscape, what he saw and heard, were accompanied by clever transitions. The natural scenes are numerous and varied, with an emphasis on spontaneity and the unity of heaven and earth; multiple first-person perspectives are used to bring the audience into character and enhance a sense of empathy. "Chant plum" follows the subtle changes in their emotions and relationship over time through distance and expression, foreshadowing for the ending.
In the end, it was only after Zhou Hao lost Meiniang that he learned, "after all the sails are gone, as faint through air soft fragrances flow." And as a result, he never again met the plum blossom of his heart, and the girl of his heart.
The "Choir of Chinese Poems" animation series has been highly praised by the netizens. Without dazzling special effects or conflicting plots, just the gentle telling of poetic stories that convey the delicate and romantic emotions of the Chinese. The creative team combines animation and Chinese ink painting to create a realistic Chinese style. Every scene, every object, every detail shows the flavour of oriental aesthetics.
The Lantern Festival in "The First Day of New Year ";
The romantic mood in "Drinking at the Lake First in Sunny and then in Rainy Weather";
The landscape of Jiangnan in "Chant plum".
The reason for the positive response to "Choir of Chinese Poems" is the sincerity of the creative team. Despite the "high difficulty, high cost and low manpower", they still insisted on creating and striving for a good production. Times have changed, but they have stayed true to their original intention.