Kung Fu Panda 2 A REFLECTION OF ANCIENT CHINESE TRADITIONS

Kung Fu Panda 2 is about the new dragon warrior, Po the Panda. A new threat has come to China in the form of the disowned prince Lord Shen and his new inventions which utilizes gunpowder to make weapons that could destroy the world. And while China goes through the crisis of a super villian coming to power, Po finds inner turmoil in himself about his past and how he came to become Po; when his master, Master Shifu, reveals to Po that the only way he can win against a weapon that detroys kung fu is inner peace. With a turbulent heart, Po goes on an adventure to save China. And through his adventures finding inner and world peace, this movie shows how the legacy of ancient China is still carved into modern society.

Spoiler Alert: This Spark Page contains some massive spoilers

Lord Shen, the villianous ex-prince

Pre-Confucian / Traditional

Oracle Bones

During the Shang Dynasty, the emperor carved the soothsayer questions on oracle bones about the future before making any important decisions. The soothsayer would then use a hot tool and press it into the "bones" until they cracked and then interpret the cracks to divine the future.

In Kung Fu Panda 2, although the soothsayer used smoke instead of oracle bones, the concept is essentially the same; the soothsayer is divining the future. As we see in many scenes, the emperor often asks the old soothsayer for guidance. The original emperor (Shen's father), had consulted the soothsayer when he discovered his son experimenting with gunpowder to make a weapon, and her prophecy caused Lord Shen to massacre all the pandas because she predicted that he would be defeated by "a warrior of black and white". The impact of her prophecy caused an entire village to be destroyed and Po to lose his family. This just shows that an oracle's prediction could cause the royal family to act rashly or postpone actions due to bad omens. Not only that, but Shen doesn't immediately get rid of the soothsayer after he takes over Gongmen City because he needs her to guide him to victory. Of course, once he thinks he's changed his fate by killing Po, he extracts her from the palace. She also shows how wise she is when she saves Po from death with her accupuncture skills. She gives him advice to help with his memories and she heals him with accupuncture.

Fun Fact:

Acupuncture is a healing art orginated in China that's still used today all around the world for massages and healing. It's great if you're not afraid of needles.

Oracle bones, although not used in the movie, were used in the Shnag Dynasty to divine the future.

The Mandate of Heaven

The Mandate of Heaven or Tianming, was the seal of approval from heaven that an emperor needed to rule. Every emperor had the Mandate of Heaven, but emperors not fit to rule lost the mandate of heaven. And when one loses the Mandate of Heaven, that person is replaced by another who can do better than the previous king.

In Kung Fu Panda 2, it's obvious that Lord Shen isn't the best ruler; he kills all of the pandas and turns his destructive weapons against China. As such, he has lost the Mandate of Heaven. And because he's lost the Mandate of Heaven, he's soon forcibly removed from power because a ruler must have the Mandate of Heaven to continue ruling and once it's lost through immoral behavior, a new emperor will replace the old one. This shows how important it is to keep the Mandate of Heaven, because according the Traditional beliefs, if one has lost the Mandate of Heaven, that person can't be king anymore.

Confucianism

Guanxi

Translated as relationship, a bond that outlives all of us. Those in this network of relationships help those connected to them.

The characters in Kung Fu Panda are all wrapped up in the network of guanxi. Po's relationship with Master Shifu shows the power of guanxi. When Po was badly injured by Lord Shen, Master Shifu was startled and knew immediately that his disciple was in trouble. As such, Master Shifu went to help Po with the battle. Po and the other five also have a very strong relationship. They always help each other out whether in battle or with their emotional problems. Not only that but even though Po hasn't met his parents or the other pandas since he was a small child, he stills has a connection to them established from birth. This is proved when one of the pandas realizes that their son is still alive at the end of the movie. If they had no guanxi, the panda wouldn't have felt something at the end of the movie.Not only that but Po and the Furious Five(Tiger, Viper, Monkey, Heron, and Praying Mantis) show the relationship between friends, helping each other out in fights and supporting each. For example, Tiger helps Po on the boat when he felt inner unrest. Not only that but Po also shows respect to his elders when he listens to the soothsayer's advice. He didn't know that she was an oracle, but he took her advice because she was his elder. Po and his father the goose also show their strong bonds many times. The goose even says "I'm his father! I'm always worrying about him" when Po went to defeat Lord Shen. It just shows that although he can't go out and protect Po from the fighting, he still cares about Po's wellbeing.

The characters for guanxi, or relationship

Rectification of Names

The rectification of names is the belief that depending on your title, there are duties you must fulfill and limits to what you can do.

Many people in Kung Fu Panda 2 have titles. Po is the dragon warrior, Master Shifu is the master, and Lord Shen is a prince and forcibly becomes the emperor as well. There're expectations for all of them and they all must fulfill their duties. There're also things they can't do as well. And Shen abused his power and hurt his people which ultimately caused his downfall. Po's duty is to save China from all threats, and he does defeat Shen and his weapons. He knows that this is his duty and he does his best to do his job. In Kung Fu Panda 2, everyone has a job and it's made intricately clear that everyone must do this job in order to have a harmonious world. Bad examples such as Lord Shen show what happens when you do what you shouldn't according to your job(Lord Shen is an emperor so he should be looking to past emperors and mimic their actions, but he decides to go off on his own and start creating weapons). Lord Shen also went against his parents' wishes and continued to do what he wanted despite them thinking that it was a bad idea. As a result, he nearly destroys China. And good examples such as Po who always saves the world and gets showered in love for it. His father the goose is also a good father for he always makes Po happy, makes him a home to go back to, and worries about him a lot. As he says "I'm his father! I'm always worrying about him", and because he's a good father, Po always comes back to him safe and sound. So, Kung Fu Panda 2 teaches the importance of doing what you must do depending on your title, whether it be emperor, dragon warrior, son or father, and the importance of never breaking taboos of your title.

Daoism

P'u the Uncarved Block

The uncarved block repesents how humans are in their purest form, simple and unique. Every time we're bound by rules, we've been slowly carved into something that we're not. But the natural form we were born in is the form that allows for true wisdom and morality.

Po can be considered an uncarved block. He's seen as foolish by many and he trusts in the Dao to guide him and the world to peace. Lord Shen, in conversation with the soothsayer, says "Your magic panda is a clearly a fool". To which the wise soothsayer replies "Are you sure he's the fool?". Another example of when Po was foolish was when his hand was on fire and instead of putting it out witht he water of the sea that he was in, he shoved it into his own mouth. Not the best move he could've made. He also shows his childishness when he never questioned that the goose was his father. The goose is, but not biologically because it seems impossible for a goose to birth a panda. But according to Daoist values, Po is wise because he's a fool. Po is childish and simple which makes him the perfect daoist, the uncarved block.

Winnie the Pooh, another uncarved block and considered the quintessential daoist by many.

Wu-Wei, Passive Action

The action of following the Dao, if one lets go of all control and lets the path lead them to a happy ending. After all, if one maintains passive action, everything will work out in the end.

At the end of the film, everything works out despite the turbulent journey. Po starts out doubting his past and he continues to doubt himself as he tries to force himself to remember his past. However, once he takes the advice of the wise soothsayer he remembers everything. Her advice for him was "To just let it flow." And because he allows the Dao to guide him, everything works out and he remembers his past. Since Po represents the uncarved block, although he makes mistakes such as letting Shen escape, everything works out in the end because Po followed the Path. Not only that, but when Po was "killed" by Shen, Po floated down the river unable to resist the pull of the Dao. As a result of this, he meets the soothsayer who helps him with his inner struggle and saves him. And the only way she was able to do this was due to Lord Shen sending her away once he believed that he changed his fate which only sealed his fate.

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang, the two opposite forces. One cannot exist without the other and they balance each other out. Light and dark, masculinity and femininity.

It's not hard to find yin and yang imagery in Kung Fu Panda 2. It pops up every where.

In the prologue of the movie, they used animation that made it sem like paper puppets, and though not connected to any of the three main belief systems, is connected to the history of China.
Fireworks are also an important invention of China
Here, Po is fighting with Lord Shen and becomes the yin and yang symbol while bending his cannon balls with the power of inner peace.

These photos are screenshots from the movie.

The soothsayer prophesied that Shen would be defeated by "a warrior of black and white". Now, Shen and the movie takes it pretty literal; Shen tries to kill all the pandas and Po, a panda, defeats Shen as well. However, metaphorically, it could denote that a warrior who had mastered the balance between yin and yang would defeat Shen, especially since the soothsayer said a warrior of black and white. Not a warrior that's black and white, of black and white. Po also literally became a yin and yang symbol during the last battle. The last image was actually Po once he had mastered inner peace and found a balance between the little panda he once was and Po, the dragon warrior.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a film that beautifully illustrates how the legacy of ancient China still affects the modern world. The film is not only educational but humorous as well. Even with my terrible sense of humor, I found Master Shifu funny(Shifu in Chinese means master. So his name is Master Master). The animation is beautiful and this experience presented old traditions in a new and exciting light.

From left to right; Mantis, Monkey, Tiger, Po, Heron, Viper, and Master Shifu

The interesting thing about this cast is the animals they chose. The praying mantis, monkey, tiger, heron, and snake. These animals represent five forms of animal mimcry kung fu. Even if all of these animals come from different disciplinary branches from all over China.

Credits:

Created with images by Kooroshication - "kung Fu Panda"

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