How Marvel's Shang-Chi Celebrates Chinese Culture On The Hollywood Stage
With its breathtaking martial arts fight scenes, emotional storyline with family at its heart, and a cast of world-famous actors, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" celebrates Chinese culture on the Hollywood main stage.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, Marvel's first Asian superhero movie, has been released in cinemas worldwide to rave reviews. Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Zhang Meng'er and more, the film celebrates Chinese culture, history and family values. The actors speak Mandarin for almost half of the film's dialogue, and numerous other elements of Chinese culture and traditions are incorporated into the film's plot, set design, themes and costume.
Read on to learn more about the Chinese culture and heritage you can see celebrated in Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. If you've not watched the movie yet, be warned as there may be plot spoilers ahead.
It's no surprise that Shang-Chi And The Legend of The Ten Rings wows us with its incredible fight scenes. Veteran Hong Kong actor Tony Leung uses his well-known martial arts skills to bring the villainous Wen Wu to life. In one particularly heart-fluttering sequence, Wen Wu and Ying Li (played by Fala Chen) engage in a battle scene that blurs martial arts moves––Chen’s fighting style is similar to Tai Chi––with dance, resulting in a Tango-like duel between the two.
Religious myths and legends
Ta Lo––the hometown of Shang-chi's mother Ying Li––may be fictional, but its inspiration can be traced back to ancient Chinese culture.
In Taoism––a philosophy and spiritual practice of Chinese origin––"Ta Lo Tian" means "the highest and broadest heaven", and is the ultimate aim of those who practise Taoism. "Ta Lo" can also be translated to "eternally free and unfettered".
Traditional dress and crafts
Most of the characters in Shang-Chi And The Legend of The Ten Rings wear modern clothing. In contrast, the villagers in Ta Lo dress in colourful, traditional Chinese garments. The juxtaposition between old and new highlights the historical, fairyland setting of Ta Lo.
In one of the final scenes of the film, traditional Chinese lotus flower lanterns make an appearance. Traditionally, these lanterns are lit and floated on water to offer condolences to deceased relatives and bring blessings to the living. The religious folk tradition of lighting floating lotus lanterns can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty.
Descendants of the dragon
Dragons have been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years, and so it will come as little surprise that the mythical creatures have a big role to play in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The dragon totem is the national totem of the Han people, and the descendants of the Yan and Huang people are known as "the descendants of the dragon".
Chinese Naming Conventions
Given and family names in Chinese culture are often full of symbolism and hidden meanings, and the names of the characters in the movie are no exception. When naming their children, Chinese parents favour names that embody characteristics of goodwill or are auspicious. Names are often chosen to honour ancestors or bring luck and prosperity. Shang-Chi sharing his real name with Katy is a moment in the film that would have stood out to many.
Traditionally, Chinese society has been patriarchal. In Shang-Chi, this is illustrated by Shang-Chi's sister, Xia Ling's, inability to practice martial arts with her male peers. Her evolution through the film, from practising in secret at night to carving out a niche among the men and then building her own fighting empire, is a metaphor for women's progress in modern-day society.
"You are a product of all who came before you".
Family is at the centre of the storyline of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Shang-Chi's father, Wen Wu is a typical master of the house, strict and feared by his children. Ying Li is somewhat more flexible, compensating for Wen Wu's rigid ways. Despite their differences or challenges, the family unit stays strong, and generations depend on each other––a key feature of Chinese family relationships and values. Shang-Chi’s struggle to confront the past while carving out his own space in the world is a story many will relate to as they watch the film.