Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang，Kitten Wang
Magicians are a mainstay in fantasy movies, novels, and games around the world. They have the power to control mysterious forces. Because of their unique roles and supernatural abilities, they’re sometimes called wizards, fortune-tellers, prophets, etc. In the last two years, movies with magical or fantasy themes have been extremely popular in China and overseas. Whether it’s World of Warcraft, Doctor Strange, or other movies, the magician character has always been a hot topic for the audience. As more and more Chinese fantasy movies and novels are introduced to overseas readers and audiences, people have realized that there are many kinds of Chinese magicians and they possess unique features not found in the West.
Chinese magicians are often called alchemists, wizards, or Taoist shamans. Alchemists believe in supernatural beings, claim they can visit these beings, and create special remedies for longevity, which is why they have always been valued by generations of emperors in ancient China, as the royals have never stopped pursuing eternal life. The most well-known alchemist of all is Xu Fu, dispatched by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, he went on an Eastern quest for a remedy to longevity, which was depicted in the popular historical cartoon, The Legend of Qin.
Wizards are similar to prophets in the Western world; unlike alchemists, they work as fortune tellers or astrologers, and sometimes in the digital gaming industry in contemporary life. Most wizards learned their craft via I Ching, the Chinese classic, and they are well-versed in astronomy, geology, meteorology, and medicine. They may be physically weak, but they are able to train themselves to use natural elements to manipulate magic and to predict the future. The classic Chinese novel, Legend of Deification, had very vivid depictions of Chinese wizards, which has been adapted into many TV shows and movies.
The Taoist shaman is a profession created by Taoism, a homegrown Chinese religion. Using classic black magic from ancient China, then adding their own culture, they also believe in the Universal Noumenon, respect the ancient Chinese thinker Lao Tzu, and believe a peaceful mind is the origin of everything and the way to human salvation. Taoist shamans constantly morph their images and titles; they like to help the mortals, to proselytize and educate everyone. In addition, Taoist shamans have combined the Taoist ideals of “quiet and inaction” and “cultivation of health” with a series of thought patterns and magical methods into their own brand of wizardry. It was because of this reason that the Taoist elder Li Er turned into an idol for all of the Taoist shamans and become known as Laotze.
In July of 2016, the major cartoon movie, Big Fish & Begonia, was released, enabling audiences to appreciate the allure of modern Chinese magicians. Chun is a magician who lives inside “God’s round house.” In charge of raising begonias, she turned into a dolphin on her 16-year birthday to visit the earthly realm. During the tour, she became trapped by a fishing net, causing a human boy to die in trying to save her. To repay the debt, she needed to help the boy’s soul, a thumb-sized fish, to change into a fish that’s bigger than a whale, and return it to the ocean.
In the foreseeable future, the popularity of fantasy novels is only increasing. A movie based on popular writer Tianxia Bachang’s bestseller, Candle in the Tomb: The Secrets of Dragon Valley, has just been released. Lured by a mysterious embroidered slipper, a group of treasure hunters launch an exploration of a giant tomb from the Tang dynasty. It is certain that 2018 will bring even more revelations of ancient magicians.