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Artists: Lily & Honglei Art Studio
Year of production: 2016
Duration: 5’56”
Medium: Oil on paper, digital animation, soundtrack

 

EIGHT IMMORTALS

 

THE EIGHT IMMORTALS are characters in Taoist legend, each with a unique identity and distinctive traits. In one tale, these mythical figures brawl with an aquatic deity known as the Dragon King. This narrative reflects the will of the Chinese people to resist the formidable power of despotic rulers.

 

In the film Eight Immortals, eight well-known figures from Chinese history and folklore play the roles of the eponymous characters. Each of these individuals is presented in a syncretic setting; their traditional narratives play out against the backdrop of the Three Gorges Dam construction project. Such a juxtaposition highlights the irreparable damage that the massive project had brought about. The environment, cultural heritage, and the lives of locals are all numbered among the victims of the undertaking.

 

lily honglei

F1

Still image from THE EIGHT IMMORTALS.
Medium: Oil on paper, animation.
Courtesy of Lily & Honglei Art Studio

 

The film begins with a sweeping vista of the Three Gorges in its unaltered condition- before the engineering project. A monkey’s wail can be heard reverberating through the space. A mad drummer-a fixture in Chinese folklore--starts to sound a beat. In his legend, the man is remembered for playing his drum nude while cursing the reigning tyrant. One thousand years later during the present time, the mad drummer begins to sound the drum in alarm. Harkening this warning, a lame local man sets out on foot on his voyage of relocation with all his possessions on his shoulders (F1).

 

As the film continues, more elements from Chinese folklore are juxtaposed against the realities of contemporary China. Lady White-another mythical character-- leaves her picturesque hometown after witnessing the demolition of the old bridge where she first met her husband (F2). In the midst of some boundless rubble, a young scholar searches in vain for his lover in the garden where she once lived. An old man, carried by a large crane, flies away from a massive construction site (F3).

 

Lily & Honglei, Asian Artist

F2

LILY HONGLEI

F3

Still images from THE EIGHT IMMORTALS.
Medium: Oil on paper, animation.
Courtesy of Lily & Honglei Art Studio

 

One of the towns flooded during the engineering endeavor was known as the “ghost city.” Many traditional sites of art and worship were situated there, depicting the netherworld and all its horrors. The Ghost-King (F4), who holds dominion over hell in Chinese folk religion, blows fire into the air in anger as he gazes at the at the submerged town. In a sunken bamboo forest, a hermit sits underwater as he plays the last song of his life on his flute (F5). Finally, a boy pokes at the garbage in a trash-covered lake as he floats in a basket, imagining that he is picking lotus pots as he did during bygone times.

 

LILY HONGLEI

F4

LILY HONGLEI

F5

Still images from THE EIGHT IMMORTALS.
Medium:
Oil on paper, animation.
Courtesy of Lily & Honglei Art Studio


 

 

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