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Artists: Lily & Honglei Art Studio
Year of production: 2015
Duration: 3’08”
Medium: Oil on paper, digital animation, soundtrack



The animated film MILKY MAY reimagines the Chinese folktale of the Weaving Maiden and Buffalo Herder to reflect the social reality of present-day China. Settings include the urban landscape of Shanghai, the fireworks ceremony at the Beijing Olympics Stadium, and the ruinous aftermath of the Sichuan Earthquake that was concurrent with the 2008 Olympic Games.

The tale of the Weaving Maiden (F1) and the Buffalo Herder (F2) is known to practically every segment of the Chinese population. The narrative, which roots could be traced back thousands of years, revolves around a tragic romance between the two namesake characters, crystallized in the saga of Chinese astrology: the constellation Altair represents the Buffalo Herder while Vega is likened to the weaving maiden. The Milky Way is the celestial river which separates them.

lily honglei, chinese art, asian art, new media art from china


lily honglei, new media art of china


Still image of MILKYWAY (Oil painting on paper, digital animation). Courtesy of Lily & Honglei Art Studio


As fancifully heartbreaking as the story is, it is undoubtedly more tragic that the tale has become reality for rural families in contemporary China. The traditional lifestyle of the agrarian population has been destroyed by the economic development that has been taking place over the past few decades. In order to fulfill their basic needs of living, hundreds of millions of rural people have poured into cities as migrant workers. True to the folklore, families have been separated and have no means of reuniting except for a few days each year during the traditional Spring Festival. Such separation has not only brought dread to families, but also the collapse of cultural morality that roots in the relationship between land and people (F3).

lily honglei, chinese media art


Still image from MILKYWAY (Oil on paper, animation). Courtesy of Lily & Honglei Art Studio
Courtesy of Lily & Honglei Art Studio


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