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    ‘Chang An’ Reignites Ancient Rivalry Between 2 Chinese Capitals

    Luoyang replaced Chang’an, in modern-day Xi’an, as capital several times in Chinese history. However, the hit animated film “Chang An” turns the tables and puts the emphasis on Chang’an, leaving some in Luoyang upset.
    Aug 17, 2023#TV & film#history

    “Chang An,” this summer’s hit animated film, has won rave reviews for stimulating interest in Chinese history and poetry. But in recent days, the film has been facing backlash over its historical inaccuracies, with residents from one city in particular upset about their hometown’s treatment.

    The film, currently the second best-selling animated film in China ever, tells the stories of famous Tang dynasty poets including Li Bai and Du Fu, close friends and widely considered two of the greatest-ever Chinese poets. In the film, Li and Du meet for the first time in the eponymous city of Chang’an, in modern-day Xi’an. In reality, the two poets first met in Luoyang, Henan province. 

    In a Wednesday statement, the Luoyang Sui-Tang Historical Society accused the film’s production team of twisting historical facts and causing online spats between residents of Luoyang and Xi’an. The academic group, which has instructed a law firm, is demanding public corrections and an apology from the production team.

    Wang Kai, the Society’s president, told The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, that they are not seeking financial benefits but rather only seeking historical truth. 

    “We maintain a sense of responsibility toward historical facts. As scholars, we are not trying to take advantage of the movie’s popularity,” said Wang, a part-time professor at Luoyang Institute of Science and Technology, among other roles.

    Apart from where Li and Du first met, the statement accused the film of a host of other inaccuracies, including Du’s early life being spent in Chang’an rather than Luoyang. 

    “Seriousness and truth are the shackles required by history. Cultural products derived from history should dance in these shackles when exploring the possibilities of history,” the Society said, adding that the inaccuracies have hurt the feelings of people in Luoyang. 

    Luoyang is an ancient city with significant historical importance, having served as the capital of 13 dynasties. In the Tang dynasty, the city was the capital during the reign of Emperor Wu Zetian, the country’s only female emperor. The city has a historical rivalry with Chang’an as Luoyang replaced Chang’an as capital several times in Chinese history.

    Netizens — mostly users with Henan IP addresses — have been calling for an apology to be made to Luoyang. There were protests during an official roadshow for the film in Luoyang at the end of last month.

    Online, the controversy has split opinion. While some say the film's inaccuracies mean a lack of respect for history, others argue that films should be granted artistic license. 

    “Does ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ also need to apologize?” a user on microblogging platform Weibo wrote, referring to the famous Ming dynasty novel, which also blended fact and fiction.

    The “Chang An” production team has not directly responded to the historical society’s criticisms. Xie Junwei, the film’s co-director, previously told domestic media that the film’s plot involved “reasonable imagination” while taking cues from history. 

    On Wednesday, the film’s production team apologized for including a designer’s artwork in an official photo book without the designer’s authorization.

    Editor: Vincent Chow. 

    (Header image: A still from Chang An.)