An animation based on Buddhist stories from northwest China's Gansu Province is set to be broadcast on TV, illustrating how emerging creative industries are tapping into ancient Chinese culture.
"Legend of Dunhuang" is a 12-episode animated series that will come to as-yet unconfirmed channels before the end of 2013. It is adapted from Buddhist frescoes in the Mogao Grottoes, home to more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of frescoes in 735 caves carved along a cliff by ancient worshippers.
Six episodes that were put online in October 2007 have attracted a "whopping" number of clicks, according to Wu Qian, deputy general manager of the Lanzhou Nante digital technology group, producer of "Legend of Dunhuang."
"We've done thorough research into the history and culture of Dunhuang. This desert oasis and crossroads on the ancient Silk Road acted as a depository for Buddhist art for around a millennium," said Wu, "and our producing group has made affiliated culture products featuring cartoon characters."
This animation is just a stepping stone for the company's plans to build a cultural and creative industrial park in Gansu. An investment of 1 billion yuan (163 million U.S.dollars) was put behind the project in 2012.
It aims at bringing out more cultural products based on rich cultural resources, Wu said, adding that another animation adapted from the legend of Fu Hsi (Fu Xi), a heavenly sovereign character, is under preparation.
The company is among those growing out of the nation's rich ancient cultures with government supports.
Gansu hosts over 7,000 sites of historical relics and the ancient Silk Road, a 7,000-km-long pathway created 2,000 years ago by camel-driving merchants carrying silk and porcelain to Western Europe and spices to the Far East.
But its affluent cultural resources have not translated into a boon for Gansu's economy. In 2011, the provincial urban and rural income ranked at the bottom of the nation's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.
In February 2012, however, the State Council, or China's Cabinet, approved Gansu to build the nation's first "Chinese Civilization Inheritance and Innovation Zone."
The zone is primarily inspired by the ancient Silk Road that once spanned the entire province from east to west, as well as abundant resources related to ancient civilizations in Gansu.
Zhang Guangzhi, vice governor of Gansu, said the project focuses on protecting cultural heritage, the inheritance of cultural traditions, collating and publishing ancient books, and organizing contests and exhibitions.
The province has offered beneficial policies such as financial support and tax preferences to attract cultural enterprises. In the first half of this year, 195 deals with a total investment of 75.9 billion yuan have been inked in this sector, according to Zhang.
The annual output of Gansu's cultural industry reached 7.82 billion yuan in 2012, accounting for 1.4 percent of the province's gross domestic product. Provincial authorities are planning to raise that proportion to over 5 percent in 2020, when culture will become the province's pillar industry.
"Moreover, by tapping into the province's cultural resources, the zone will set an example for other regions that are economically under-developed yet culturally rich, or even spearhead the country's economic restructuring efforts," Zhang added.