Kung Fu Panda 2, made in 2011, was an enormously successful sequel. Not only is it action packed and exciting, but it is filled with little hidden messages, and multitudes of references to ancient China, as well as its legacies and values.
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In the movie the main character Po battles his opponent, the evil peacock lord Shen. In their endless battle for justice, a very vivid image of the two sides of the story come together, and they form the ancient Chinese concept of Yin and Yang. This force shows us how in real life as well as in the movie, opposite forces oppose each other, as well as compliment and balance each other out at the same time.
Over the course of the previous movie, Po, our main character assumes the role and the rightful tittle of the sacred Dragon Warrior. This is important because in Chinese culture, dragons are highly regarded creatures, and are respected by all. In this movie, (Kung Fu Panda 2) Po becomes famous for his title. This really relates to the topic and concept of rectification of names and titles, which describes calling things what they really are. Po is known by all of China for being the Dragon Warrior because he is a fierce hero who defends his country with his friends, the Furious Five.
This connects us to the concept that was prominent not only in Chinese society then, but is also crucial to harmony today, and those are the Mianxi and Guanxi. When the Po and the Furious Five defend and fight for China, they represent the whole of China, and by doing that, they gain face or a reputation for China. For Mianxi, as they work together and fight side by side, they build an important relationship with each other, which also connects to the Five Great Relationships (Friend - Friend). Also, over time, they have built up a strong bond with Master Shifu (Student - teacher).
In Kung Fu Panda 2, one of the most important and reoccurring themes is the ideal of finding inner peace. Inner peace is achieved through strict meditation. Like the Buddha, when Master Shifu meditates, he isolates himself in a cave, with little food and water, and no distractions in order to attain purity of the mind and body. This relates to the concepts of Dao and P'u, and returning to the original and the simplest state and form, without corruption of the human world. One of Po's main goals of the movie is to find his true self, and mind, or his true inner peace.
In Kung Fu Panda, the theme of filial piety also shines through the constant excitement and action, as the bond between Po and Master Shifu gets stronger. By respecting and caring for master Shifu, they also bring back the five great relationships of elder to son, and teacher to student.
Finally, by the end of the movie, our main character Po finds inner peace in himself, and is able to defeat the evil lord Shen because of his newfound power he found in himself. By finding peace and defeating China, he also built China's reputation (Mainxi) and maintained its face (Guanxi). This makes him the hero of the movie once again. In order to attain his goal, inner peace, he practices the art of meditation and the ancient art of Kung Fu.
I think that a future eighth grader should watch this movie for so many reasons, and not just because of its great plot, characters, and action. This film details many different topics from our China unit that help us maintain a better understanding of traditional, Daoist, and Confucian ideals that we have studied in class, and how they relate to everyday life. Also, it has many vocabulary terms that are very relevant not only in the ancient Chinese Legacy, but in the world today.