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Taming the Rebellious Child: The Adaptation of Nezha in Three Chinese Animations of the Socialist and Post-Socialist Eras

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As a child god from Chinese legends, the figure of Nezha has a strong appeal to children, and his story has been adapted to various media. This article examines Nezha’s image in three animated films, exploring how this figure has been altered to represent Chinese children and youth and symbolize their subjectivity. From a revolutionary hero to a socialized child and a rebellious adolescent, Nezha’s transformations demonstrate how an iconic figure has been reimagined to reflect shifting socio-political contexts in the Chinese socialist and post-socialist eras.

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  • 30 September 2021

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  1. Nezha Conquers the Dragon King won the 1980 Hundred Flowers Award for best animated film and the 1983 Special Award of the Manila International Film Festival. It was the first PRC film shown at Cannes Film Festival. The Legend of Nezha was praised as “China’s Best Animation Production” by the first nationwide animation evaluation system in 2004 for its quality and market influence. Demon Child has been the second highest grossing film of all time in China, with total earnings of over 700 million US dollar. It has also won various awards, including a Golden Dragon Award and the 2020 Golden Rooster Award. It was nominated for best international feature film at the Academy Awards.

  2. All quotes from Chinese sources in this article have been translated by the two authors.


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Correspondence to Cathy Yue Wang.

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Jing Jin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Elementary Education at the University of Alberta. Her research interests include children’s literature, and bilingual and biliteracy education.

Cathy Yue Wang is a lecturer in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, and a member of the Innovative Team of High-Level Program in Comparative Literature and World Literature at Shanghai Normal University. Her research interests include adaptations, retellings and children’s and Young Adult literature. Her recent publications include articles in Children’s Literature in Education and Asian Studies Review.

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Jin, J., Wang, C.Y. Taming the Rebellious Child: The Adaptation of Nezha in Three Chinese Animations of the Socialist and Post-Socialist Eras. Child Lit Educ (2021).

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  • Nezha
  • Animation
  • Adaptation
  • Subjectivity
  • Representation of children