A sprawling tribute to China’s Tang Dynasty, the recently-released animated film Thirty Thousand Miles from Chang’an (长安三万里) is finding fans in a generation that grew up reading the poems of Li Bai and Du Fu.
Featuring 48 Tang-era poems, Chang’an tells the story of legendary poet Li Bai, as narrated by his old friend, military commander Gao Shi; simultaneously, the film portrays the ordeals of Chang’an, the imperial capital of the Tang Dynasty, during the An-Shi Rebellion.
“If most ordinary people dream of being literati, then all literati dream of the Tang Dynasty, and the Tang dream takes place in Chang’an,” wrote one reviewer. “Finally, there is an animated film that takes us back to this independent, romantic, meaningful time.”
The film’s evocative nature has even led to a viral Weibo tag: ‘Many people are crying while watching Chang’an’ (#看长安三万里很多人都哭了#), with netizens discussing the film’s most impactful moments.
“People don’t understand the complexity of history and the helplessness of individuals in history until they are middle-aged,” one user wrote. “[In Chang’an,] the Tang Dynasty is in decline…The gap between ideals and reality is too great. Li Bai, there are many people in this world who understand you.”
Many audience members see the movie as a “love letter to middle-age,” offering an honest portrayal of the deferred dreams of youth. In an article about her experience watching the film, science fiction author Hao Jingfang described it: “We are waiting for taxis on darkened streets, waiting for our hopeless ideals to come to pass.”
In part thanks to this connection to the feelings of modern-day audiences, Chang’an has an 8.2/10 on the Rotten Tomatoes-esque review aggregator Douban, a high score that’s also reflected in its performance at the box office.
According to ticketing platform Maoyan, Chang’an has already grossed 817 million RMB (113 million USD) since its release on July 8. It even beat out Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible 7 on the latter’s opening weekend.
Chang’an is the latest release from Light Chaser Animation, a studio known for its impressive output and its focus on stories from the Chinese canon. Other successful Light Chaser films include New Gods: Nezha and New Gods: Yang Jian.
“Probably only adults know how difficult this journey of life is,” a Weibo user wrote. “A lifetime of wandering and youthful disappointment is not so smooth. Thank you to Chang’an for letting me know a different Li Bai and a different Gao Shi.”
Cover image via Weibo
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