All About Chinese Animation (Donghua FAQ)

Hey guys, this is your Yu-senpai and this time I would like to share an extensive discussion about Chinese anime, or some people called Donghua. In short, we will talk about anime made by Chinese people, the animation made in China.

All about Chinese anime or donghua

Let me give you a short overview of what this post is all about. With the growth of Chinese animation in recent years, many people are craving to know what it is, its potential, its current growth, and for anime fans like myself, what are the Chinese anime that we can start watching. Therefore, I have summarized in this post the various questions that many people ask about Chinese animation or donghua.

 

Without further ado, let’s start our discussion.

 

What is Chinese Animation?

I saw a lot of people asking questions like:

  • What is Chinese anime called?
  • What is Chinese anime?
  • What do you call a Chinese anime?

 

The answer to these questions is pretty short and I believe some fans already knew about it. Chinese anime is called DONGHUA (moving pictures), the term simply refers to any animation made in China that includes traditional 2D anime, and modern 3D animation. [Source: What is donghua?]

The older type of animation such as puppet animation is also included as donghua. So, from now on I’ll refer to Chinese anime in this post as donghua.

However, there’s another term that people could associate with donghua or Chinese anime. That is GUOMAN, this is a more specific term that refers to Chinese anime inspired by works from other countries such as Japanese animation. I have been accustomed to using donghua before until I saw some Chinese people among my circle of friends on the internet that GUOMAN is another and a much more specific term for it. But to avoid confusion, I’ll keep on using donghua in this post since it has been established quite a bit to the perception of many anime fans outside of China. [Source: What is Chinese anime called?]

I would like to suggest to you guys to watch this YouTube video from Accented Cinema for more info:

 

How Many Donghua Out there?

This is another question that I usually saw from people in various anime forums. While people who only heard of donghua in recent years might only think that there’s a handful amount of donghua compared to Japanese anime because it only gained popularity recently to people fans outside of China. I only discovered donghua when I first watched The King’s Avatar in 2017.

 

But Chinese animation has a long history and it can even be slightly older than the Japanese animation itself. The Golden Age of donghua was considered to be in the 1960s when tons of critically acclaim movies were released in local and international cinemas. These include many classic titles from Shanghai Animation Film Studio which is one of the oldest Chinese anime studios.

havoc in the heaven 1963

Havoic in the Heaven (1963) | Via: Simbasible

Selected Titles from the Golden Age of Donghua (1957-1966)

  • Pigsy Eats Watermelon
  • Where is Mama
  • Buffalo Boy and the Flute
  • A Clever Duckling
  • Havoc in Heaven
  • The Adventures of The Little Fisherman
  • The Spirit of Ginseng
  • Red Army Bridge
  • More or Less

 

With this fact, we can conclude that there are so many Chinese anime out there but people only started to discover them today. Albeit, the volume of donghua being released each year is simply growing bigger as major companies like Tencent Video Animation, bilibili, iQIYI, and YOUKU keeps on investing in the Chinese animation industry.

 

How to Watch Chinese Anime?

Now, this has been the question of many of us since the availability of donghua for international audiences is quite scarce until now. Many people are asking, how to watch Chinese anime online, or where to watch these donghua? To answer that in a more detailed way, let me share with you my previous post:

 

To summarize things, it may be true that donghua’s availability for international audiences is quite limited but there are various outlets that we can check. China’s leading distribution companies for donghua such as Tencent Video Animation, bilibili, YOUKU, and iQIYI are investing to produced various series and make them available for fans outside of China with English subtitles. Some of their works are available on their outlets like their YouTube channels, or their official websites.

 

While some fans who are dedicated to donghua are also doing fan translations or subs of various series. Among my favorite of these fansubs is Guodong Subs which also provided official translations on several donghua such as Fog Hill of Five Elements, Lonely Hero, and JX3: Chivalrous Sword Hero Shen Jianxin.

 

Are There Any Good Chinese Anime?

Absolutely YES! There are tons of great donghua out there. In recent years, I have noticed that the animation quality keeps on improving and the story itself while most of them may look generic, the storytelling has become enticing and interesting enough to keep me in my seat.

 

If you are simply looking for good Chinese anime, then let me share with you some of my most recommended donghua from my list post:

 

In terms of quality, there are some donghua that can stand on even ground against the best of Japanese animation such as the following:

 

Fog Hill of Five Elements

This awesome donghua is called Wu Shan Wu Xing in Chinese and believe it or not, during the span of its production, the entire donghua was animated by only 6 regular staff from Samsara Animation and 3 interns. That was amazing enough, and its director Lin Hun is a man of great vision and while we only have 3 episodes available for Fog Hill of the Five Elements so far, its sequel had already begun the production stage and we can only anxiously wait until its return.

 

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation

Mo Dao Zu Shi or also known as The Untamed, this donghua had been at the pinnacle of Chinese animation in recent years. It was my best donghua of 2018, and it captured the attention of many anime fans, especially those fans of the boys-love genre. It has a smooth and solid animation but what makes this donghua a spectacular ride is how well-written and directed it was.

 

Heaven Official’s Blessing

Tian Guan Ci Fu is the other name for this dramatic donghua. It is based on the novel written by the same author as Mo Dao Zu Shi. This is another boys-love donghua and yet thrives in the undeniable chemistry of the main characters which was animated perfectly while subduing the intense emotions embedded in its story.

 

The King’s Avatar

For many anime fans, The King’s Avatar or Quan Zhi Gao Shou had been our gateway show to donghua. Chinese animation had been introduced to many of us because of this fun and exciting e-sports donghua.

 

These four are only a few of the best donghua that anime fans must-see. In the section of 3D donghua, there are some series that people should check out such as Soul Land, Stellar Transformations, and the 2019’s blockbuster hit Nezha: The Demon’s Rebirth.

 

What are the common themes in Chinese anime?

There’s a lot of genres and themes that can be found in the donghua industry, however, most of them have plenty of touching grounds or similarities such as the cultivation or xianxia, transmigration, historical period-drama, futuristic post-apocalyptic science fiction, or insanely hilarious comedy-drama.

 

Here are some of the common themes in Chinese anime that people can check to start their adventure into the donghua realm.

 

Cultivation

This has always been a common theme in various donghua. Most of the donghua that revolved in this theme is influenced by the Chinese beliefs and culture, albeit some had been fictionalized to some extend. But at the core, it was influenced by the beliefs, traditions, and culture of Chinese anime accumulated through the long course of its history.

douluo dalu donghua

Soul Land (Douluo Dalu)

Among the top cultivation donghua that I could recommend for starters are the following:

  • Soul Land
  • Tales of Demons and Gods
  • Full-Time Magister
  • Planting Manual
  • Swallowed Star
  • Stellar Transformations
  • A Will Eternal
  • A Mortal’s Journey to Immortality

 

Transmigration & Reincarnation

Another common theme in Chinese animation is transmigration or people outside of China’s popularly known as isekai or transmigrated to another world or life. This can also be affiliated with reincarnation, as these two themes are quite inseparable in some series. I believed this was also influenced by the concept of Buddhism. However, most of the transmigration donghua that I had seen had some influence on the Japanese isekai-genre, yet keeping the story relevant to Chinese culture and traditions.

 

I have previously written a recommendation for this list of the best Chinese isekai anime that you check. Some of my favorite transmigration and reincarnation donghua are as follows:

  • Soul Land
  • Adorable Food Goddess
  • The Demonic King Who Chases His Wife
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
  • Scumbag System
  • Heaven Official’s Blessing
  • Are You Okay?

 

Historical and Period Drama

Donghua usually has stories that are set in Ancient China or a parallel world. This period-drama is quite fancy to watch as I usually enjoyed the beautiful character designs and the peculiar conspiracy that revolves in its story. As a country with a long history of culture and beliefs, China has plenty to offer in the various story of donghua.

psychic princess donghua

Psychic Princess (Tong Ling Fei)

Some of the best historical-period drama donghua that I had watched are:

  • Psychic Princess
  • The Legend of Tang
  • The Memory of ChangÁn
  • The Legend of Qin (this one is a classic)
  • Nine Songs of the Moving Heavens
  • Fox Spirit Matchmaker
  • White Snake
  • Wings of the World

 

Science-Fiction

The sci-fi genre is another of the popular themes in Chinese animation. Most of these donghua are post-apocalyptic but are well-animated and often packed with great activities such as the following donghua:

 

  • Swallowed Star
  • Galaxy Devastator
  • Wings of the World
  • Ling Cage: Incarnation

 

Comedy and Romance

Here, we have two of the most common themes in any story, not just in donghua but also in Japanese animation. What makes the comedy and romance in donghua unique? Well, it was always embedded with a flair of Chinese culture and traits that are unique only to them. Most of the comedy donghua that I had seen so far are obnoxiously hilarious and still hold some packs of action. The romance story too is influenced by Chinese beliefs and traditions, as well as some traits that can be found in many romance stories in East and Southeast Asia.

 

Now, here are some comedy and romance donghua that are worth checking out:

  • Psychic Princess
  • Everlasting Immortal Firmament
  • JX3: Chivalrous Sword Hero Shen Jianxin
  • The Memory of Changán
  • Spicy Girl
  • Hitori no Shita
  • Are You Okay?
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
  • The King’s Avatar

 

Chinese Anime with OP Main Characters

Here’s another theme that is usually explored and presented by many donghua. To shounen fans, this is one of the main reasons why donghua had captivated us. Having an OP or overwhelming strong main character is not a unique trait only to donghua but it existed in other works from other countries too. However, this has been a common theme in donghua that we actually get used to it and always get captivated by it.

the kings avatar ye xiu

Ye Xiu from The King’s Avatar

For shounen fans, here are some donghua that we recommend you to check:

  • The King’s Avatar
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
  • Soul Land
  • Battle Through the Heavens
  • Martial Universe
  • Stellar Transformations
  • Full-Time Magister
  • Hitori no Shita: The Outcast
  • Swallowed Star
  • Hero Return
  • The Daily Life of the Immortal King

 

Now, I have shared and provided answers to some of the major questions that many people are asking about Chinese animation. It has been my honor to spread the word about donghua and if you guys had started watching some of these series, please let us know your thoughts about it? You can either contact us directly on our social media accounts or drop your comment below.

 

Are there any questions that you had about donghua? Please let us know! To get the latest updates and various posts about donghua and anime right in your inbox, please subscribe to our newsletter.

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