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Poetry in motion from the silver screen to the museum

Updated: 2024-02-22 08:04 ( China Daily )
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Children enjoy the immersive exhibition, Chang'an, at Powerlong Museum in Shanghai that will last to the end of March. CHINA DAILY

An immersive exhibition at the Powerlong Museum in Shanghai is bringing to life the most glorious chapter in Chinese poetry. Chang'an is a spinoff event associated with the animated film of the same name, and tells the stories of renowned Tang Dynasty (618-907) poets.

The film, produced by Light Chaser Animation Studio and directed by Xie Junwei and Zou Jing, premiered last summer and raked in box-office revenues of 1.8 billion yuan ($251 million). It also won the award for the Best Animation film at the 36th Golden Rooster Film Awards, as well as other prizes and recognition in China and abroad.

Chang'an, the ancient name of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, was China's national capital during the Tang Dynasty.

The plot follows elderly marshal poet Gao Shi as he reminisces about his experience spending time in the company of other poets such as Li Bai, Du Fu, Wang Wei, as well as the artist Wu Daozi and calligrapher Zhang Xu, when he was younger. Filled with talent and ambition, the young creatives constantly face disillusionment, and in venting their passion and disappointment, end up writing some of the greatest poetry in Chinese literature.

The exhibition re-creates the settings of five important scenes from the film during which poets and artists are seen drinking and composing poetry together. Actors have been hired to play the roles of the leading characters from the movie, and guide visitors to the exhibition through milestone events in the poets' lives.

The exhibition is interactive. Visitors will be able to recite poems with Gao Shi in the royal garden of Liang Yuan, learn new moves from a dancing lady in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, a popular urban destination for poets that was known for its drinking and entertainment, and play the guqin, a traditional Chinese plucked-string zither, alongside Wang Wei, certain notes of which will cause digital imagery from his poems about nature and art to appear.

The final section of the exhibition is focused on Li Bai, arguably the greatest Chinese poet of all time. Famous for his love of wine, some of Li's most celebrated verses were composed as he drank, and often extol the joys of alcohol. A man of imagination with a romantic view of life, Li also wrote about friendship, solitude, the passing of time and the pleasure of nature.

Here, visitors will be able to learn about Li's celebrated drinking poem, Qiang Jin Jiu (Bring in the Wine) and will also have the chance to dub for themselves the scene from the animated film when Li recites the poem at a drinking party with friends.

Finally, an interactive screen permits visitors to interact with flying cranes, a bird that frequently appears in ancient Chinese literature, and which represents pastoral beauty, immortality and moral integrity.

"My son doesn't like it when his teachers tell him to recite a poem, but after seeing Chang'an, he became fascinated with Li Bai, so I brought him to this exhibition," a young mother surnamed Lin says. Her 8-year-old son, Wenxuan, says that the movie and the exhibition made him feel closer to Li Bai, Du Fu and Gao Shi, "because the men and their poetry seem vivid and alive".

The show opened on Jan 27 and runs until the end of March. The exhibition is expected to tour other cities in China afterward.

If you go

Chang'an, an immersive exhibition

Jan 27-Feb 8, Feb 12 — March 31, 10 am-6 pm, Tue-Sun

Powerlong Museum No 8 Hall, No 3055 Caobao Road, Minhang district, Shanghai.021-6221-9111.

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