Exploration of Chinese myths and beliefs through festivals: an approach via digital media

2017-05-15T06:46:29Z (GMT) by Phung, Siew Poh
After experiencing feelings of alienation, as a diasporic person of Chinese descent, my research aimed to discover the meaning underlying popular Chinese festivals, with the underlying aim to connect more deeply with my ethnic ‘roots’. Being an ethnic Chinese does not automatically mean that one will have knowledge of, or will understand, the origins of Chinese festivals. Reinforced by greater movements of people across borders globally each year, the research identifies this as a contemporary social issue of increasing importance. I am Malaysian of Chinese descent who has lived in Australia for a large part of my adult life. Through this research, I seek to expand my knowledge beyond a superficial awareness of the meaning of festivals to the Chinese community, and to deepen understanding of the foundational impacts of festivals on the way of life and traditional practices of one of the oldest and largest ethnic groups in the world. The work constitutes an examination of festivals categorically by their nature, namely, seasonal: the Lunar New Year Festival; historical and mythical: the Mid-Autumn Festival; and, religious: the Hungry Ghost Festival. By examining these festivals from three perspectives– mythological, customary and symbolic– it is posited that celebrations of these events present opportunities to learn about beliefs, rituals and superstitions central to ethnic Chinese. During these celebrations, traditional practices and significations unique to each festival, but otherwise not easily observable, are unveiled. These various perspectives reveal important elements which may otherwise not be typically noticed and which uniquely define the festivals of interest to this research and which are all integral to understanding the Chinese identity. This is also a practice-based research project, whereby the myths behind the festivals through textual and visual research are recreated in the production of experimental digital media that use a combination of 2D, 3D and motion graphics. Through researching different versions of the myths behind the festivals, this research attempts to reclaim them, bringing to the surface common key elements of these narratives, and thereafter re-imagining, recreating and retelling these stories using digitally enhanced visuals. In this way, the research further contributes to extant literature by exploring the creative usage of an alternative media to tell these ancient stories. The animation outputs from this research are aimed at providing a tool to engage primarily with younger generations of diasporic Chinese, aged eight years and over, as a way to create greater awareness of, and insight into their culture by providing the meaning behind key Chinese festivals. The animation pieces have been designed and produced primarily for digital mobile platforms (Mp4), with a small viewing screen in mind, and with an aesthetic that will appeal to a younger demographic. The research has clear parameters. Outside the scope of this research, but signposted as potential for future research, is the development of detailed business and marketing plans that would allow the animations to go to market. What the project does cover, however, is research— textual, statistical and studio— necessary to develop an educational tool such as research into the myths behind the festivals, the size and language groups of Chinese diasporic communities and their dispersion into other cultures, investigations into age-appropriate graphic and animation styles, including typefaces and subtitling, and other studio investigations and experiments, including audio and visual.