Yugong Removes the Mountains

An interesting animation shows how technology is changing our lives. The story was adapted from an old tale in China and guided people to think more about the relationship between man and technology.


Although people are getting used to new technologies and new media, traditional culture is still affecting our daily lives in an invisible way. In China, shadow play is a representation of traditional culture and folk art. As a tool of education and entertainment, it is declining day by day, but the patterns and elements of this art still reflect many other aspects of our lives. In my project, I am trying to figure out how to combine the ancient aesthetics with modern culture. I also want to discuss the limitations of modern culture and the potential of the old one. To express my concept, I proposed to design a short animation with elements of Chinese shadow play. By a series of prototypes, I made some experiments of how to turn the movement of shadow puppets into digital animation. I also did much research on Chinese folk 1 tales and patterns used in shadow play. Finally, I created a story adapted from a popular Chinese folk tale, “Yugong Removing the Mountains” as the script for my animation. This project is supposed to show the merging of different cultures both in form and content and to bring audiences a new experience of traditional stories.

Research Questions

At first, I focused on the question, ”How can I get people pay attention to the decline of shadow play and find a new way to develop this art?” But later, I extended the research field to the traditional Chinese culture. With the shadow play, I wanted to discuss about the question, “Can the traditional story arcs of shadow puppet shows be effectively translated to modern stories in digital that convey similar messages of ancient wisdom without losing the charm and movement of shadow puppet techniques? ” Meanwhile, I also wanted to explore how new technology replaced the old things and how that affected our lives.

Process and Prototype

I decided to adapt the animation from an old tale in China. After researching for many different stories, I chose “Yugong Removing the Mountains ” as the original work for my story. The new story is not only going to show the merge of old and new cultures in form but also in content. When I tell the adapted story to my audience, I found that they thought the new one was much more interesting and meaningful for my concept, and it was easier to understand at the same time. You can see the storyboard for my final story below.

To observe the details of the action and the character of shadow puppets, I made a prototype of it with laser cut. After that, I started with the digital work of animation and the design of characters. My friend, Lu Zhang and Chen Zhu, helped me with the sketch and design for the background and the characters. We all agreed that the style of background should contain some classic elements of traditional Chinese culture, like clouds and rocks. Since it is a contemporary story, we tried to design modern clothes for our characters, but kept the eyes and the way the animated them as the traditional art. Since it is an animation, we merged the shadow play with the modern technology, which could explain the concept more clear. This is what we came up with:

Target Audience

My target audience is a group of well-educated young people who are interested in Chinese stories and different forms of design. They are a group of people who pay attention to social issues, so that they will be interested in the intersection of the ancient and the modern. As a group of young people, they have the courage to face the challenges brought by new technology, and also have the creative mind to find a balance between these two aspects of culture.


In order to reach my target audience, I propose to display my project as a short animation in a small gallery in Chinatown, or a place where Chinese people and young artists assemble. The project will be set in a dark room, where audiences can sit down and watch the short animation. At first, they might be attracted by the special character of the shadow play and the content of the story. But then, they will be interested in the issues shown in the animation. Nowadays, some artists and designers reject traditional art and overvalued new technology and modern culture. Meanwhile, some other people insist that we should keep the traditional culture the same as it was in ancient times. With my project, my audiences will realize the development of society, and the similarity between modern life and ancient life. Instead of just listening to the story, I want my audiences to think more about what has changed and what has remained the same.


With the development of technology and society, people are enjoying a better life. There is no doubt that new knowledge and modern culture have brought us lots of conveniences and changed our life in every aspect. Meanwhile, the traditional culture and ancient arts are declining day by day. Today, many artists are considering the situation of ancient art. With the emergence and development of a modern style and minimalism, many designers and artists are trying to get rid of traditional things, including traditional thoughts, patterns, methods and so on. However, the old culture is not really disappearing in our lives, in fact, they are still affecting our lives in some invisible ways. Instead of considering them as useless things, people nowadays can still learn a lot from them and develop great projects. With this animation, I wanted to show my audience how to merge the old form and the new one together, and how they can draw inspirations from ancient tales. Though this project, I believe that the audience can reflect on the situation of traditional culture and the modern culture.