Pandas, a young Chinese artist’s muse

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“Feeling from Mountain and Water,” an animated short film produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio 30 years ago, is four years older than Zeng Long, who says it is anything but outdated.

Without any dialogue, the film portrays hidden treasures among the mountains and rivers with natural soundscapes of water, wind and rain. Like a paper scroll in motion, the characters’ feelings and demeanor are seen vividly in the scenes.

Zeng was deeply impressed by the film’s classic and lasting appeal.

“I never knew that animation could convey such an original artistic concept of ink wash paintings!”

Black and white, the two fundamental colors used in traditional Chinese ink paintings, have now become Zeng’s favorite colors.

Since 2017, he began creating drawings, paintings and GIFs of a chubby panda with black patches around its eyes and ears and across its round body.

Zeng’s short videos of world-renowned paintings featuring his panda were displayed at the first ever Giant Panda International Culture Week, held last week in Beijing.

Sometimes the panda is a flying Apsara of Dunhuang in caves with a Chinese lute in its arms or a paunchy hermit deep in the mountains. In one second, the panda is enjoying a leisurely ride on a fishing boat, and the next second, it smiles at you as elegantly as Mona Lisa.

Pandas are the young artist’s muse indeed. “I hope that when people see the panda paintings, they associate them with me,” said the painter.

“It brings new feelings to people when a giant panda from China shows up in Western paintings,” said Zeng.

He uploaded his panda paintings, GIFs and emojis on social media platforms including WeChat, Weibo and Instagram, gaining likes and comments on all platforms. People abroad even wrote him emails asking to buy his paintings.

Comments and instant chats with his fans also inspire the young artist. Living in Shenzhen, southern China’s Guangdong Province, Zeng began to create a new series of pandas under the theme “Good Morning to Everybody.”

He believes the pandas bring comfort and love to the lonely and listless young generations in fast-paced urban jungles.

“Young people think differently about life and happiness from their elders. They care more about their life quality and individuality. I want to express the lifestyles, thoughts and love for life of the young generation through my works,” Zeng said.

Like most of his peers, Zeng grew up with Chinese animations such as “Journey to the West,” adapted from a classic novel, and “The Legend of Nezha.” In 1998, the Disney animated film “Mulan,” adapted from a Chinese legend from the period of the Northern and Southern dynasties (AD 420-589), blew his mind with touching lines and an impressive plot.

“How I wish Chinese could turn stories from our culture into such interesting and impressive films!”

In his graduation film, the heroine had strong will just like Mulan. She also dressed in traditional Chinese clothing and shot arrows to defend her country.

Now Zeng’s fans expect his pandas to show up in paintings related to the twenty-four solar terms and traditional Chinese festivals such as Mid-autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. Enditem

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