At the recent Hero Comic Con held in the bustling venue of Brussels Expo in Belgium, attendees were treated to an unexpected yet captivating sight. A young Polish enthusiast, dressed as Zhang Lingyu from the popular Chinese comic series ‘The Outcast,’ stole the limelight. Adorned in a traditional white Taoist robe, complemented by shimmering silver hair, she perfectly embodied the essence of the character, exuding an undeniable Chinese aura. To the delight of spectators, she seamlessly integrated Tai Chi movements and exhibited Chinese martial arts, juxtaposing iconic characters like Spider-Man and Batman.
This surge of interest in Chinese cultural productions among the younger generation is becoming increasingly palpable, especially among Europe’s Generation Z. Series like ‘The Outcast’ and its subsequent streaming adaptation, ‘I Am Nobody’, along with video games, have entrenched themselves in the hearts of many overseas, serving as gateways to understanding and appreciating the depths of Chinese culture.
This Polish enthusiast’s passion for Zhang Lingyu isn’t an isolated incident. During a summer visit to central Europe, the streets of countries like Hungary revealed a similar trend. The online game ‘Genshin Impact’, a product of Chinese ingenuity, was the talk of the town. It was common to spot clusters of young people coming together, donning costumes of their favorite game characters and immersing themselves in spirited cosplay sessions.
Conversations with these fans often highlighted a profound sense of connection they felt with these Chinese cultural offerings. They resonated not only with the captivating narratives and content but also with the broader themes of justice, good over evil, and traditional Chinese values.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at enhancing trade and cultural ties, has inadvertently facilitated this cultural exchange, introducing an array of Chinese streaming series, movies, and other media content to the global stage. For instance, ‘I Am Nobody’, streamed on the renowned platform Youku, narrates the tale of young individuals endowed with extraordinary powers, uniting to confront challenges and ensuring the triumph of good. This series, boasting an impressive rating of 8.1 out of 10 on the popular Chinese platform Douban, has been embraced by viewers in over 200 countries, translated into eight languages including English, Spanish, and Thai.
The ripple effects of this cultural penetration are extensive. An increasing number of international youth are developing an affinity for traditional Chinese elements – be it the martial art of kung fu, the philosophy of yin and yang, or the mesmerizing architectural landscapes. Online platforms, such as Reddit, are abuzz with discussions and recommendations. One enthusiast’s post captures the sentiment aptly: “Just finished ‘I Am Nobody’ and now I’ve caught the C-drama fever. Can you recommend something similar?”
Enthusiasm is also visible in active participation. Young Hungarians, for example, have gone beyond merely consuming content. They have passionately taken up tasks like creating Hungarian subtitles for Chinese dramas, including popular ones like ‘A Dream of Splendor’ featuring actress Liu Yifei.
In a rapidly globalizing world, the growing appeal of Chinese comics hints at a transformative shift in the comic landscape. With its unique characters championing Chinese values of peace, love, and justice, China’s cultural export promises a richer and more inclusive global entertainment tapestry.