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Ruimeng Yang

Transculturation Interpretation Betweenof Chinese and American Cultures in

Kung Fu Panda

Ruimeng Yang
Bowling Green State University

With the rapid development of globalization and current economic growth, our
social life tendencies will inevitably undergo a transformation from native culture to a
global one. Kung Fu Panda, a DreamWorks produced cartoon movie, is a typical
example of a cinematographic work that shows great integration of American culture
and Chinese culture. This film dealt smartly with interpreted and understood Chinese
traditional culture, and intertwined these with western cultural elements, . It which is
showcased succeed example of multicultural coexistence and prompteding mutual
development of culture in Chinese and western culture collision DID NOT
This paper will explains how Chinese elements are used in Kung Fu Panda, and
will discussdes the Chinese traditional Chinese reflections in Kung Fu Panda and
American cultural connotations in Kung Fu Panda, that to highlight the contrast
between Chinese and American cultures.

Key words
Kung Fu Panda; Kung Fu Panda; Chinese culture; Western culture;
Comparison; American culture; Enlightenment; Chinese Elements; Traditional
culture; Globalization; Integration

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Introduction of Kung Fu Panda
Thanks to the rapid development of technology and economy, countries with
varied cultures are today in much more frequent, and closer, contact with each other.
At the same time, misunderstandings keep increasing between different cultures,
especially between the East and the West. But people do not give up trying to find
effective ways to introduce their own cultures to the outside world to improve and
smoothen cultural frictions. Effectively, they are addressing the urgent need for
intercultural communication. American Hollywood movie Mulan (1998), Japanese
anime Only Yesterday (1991), and Chinese opera Turandot (2009), were all good
attempts at diffusing regional cultures globally (LIU, 2001; YANG, 2009).
Kung Fu Panda became a popular phrase movie since in 2008, . Box Office
Mojo report shows that in 2008, the worldwide box office collection of Kung Fu
Panda reached $631,744,560, with the a total domestic total gross of $215,434,591 in
the U.S. In Mainland China, it was also quite well received with athe box office
collection of 186,000,000 RMB, becoming the best-sale imported film in 2008 (LIU,
2009). Iit achieved an unprecedented success around the world and attracted the
attention of global audiences by its extensive use of Chinese elements.

The Ddefinitions of Transculturation

The term transculturation is refers to the integration and convergence of
different cultures, and was coined by a Cuban anthropologist Fenando Oritiz in the
1940s (Oritiz, 1995?????). In the later cultural studies, transculturation was defined as
is the process by which a culture is transformed by another for self-aggrandisement

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(Chan, 2000, p. 106). This transformative process of culture of in society, which is

imposed by foreign materials, leads to and athe creation of a new and original
cultural production is created due to the fusion of the local and the foreign (Taylor,
1991), ). The local and foreign materials, thus, interact with other cultural forms and
settings, influence each other, produce new forms, and change the cultural
settings(Taylor, 1991, p. 242).

American Cultural Connotations in Kung Fu Panda

Whether the audience hailed from the East or West, Kung Fu Panda seemed new
yet familiar to viewers from both parts of the globe. This was because it blended
strong Chinese cultural elements and those consistent with American culture in
Hollywood movies.

American Dream
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom
includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the definition of the
American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer
and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or
achievement", regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the
American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence, which
proclaims that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator
with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
The American culture laid lays stress on heroism, one a kind of struggling spirit,
. which tThey believe that people a man can realize histheir dreams through efforts

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and endeavor; that they a man can achieve great success when showing his endless
courage and taking the right decisions. The struggling journey is encouraging; and at
the same time the American dreams also come true. Heroes of the American dream
Dream include about the West mainly described ordinary people who make their
dreams come true through lots of efforts and sweat, like the widely known Benjamin
Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, who all of them coming from hailed from humble
placesorigins. Po, the protagonist in Kung Fu Panda, is no superhuman and is not or
born into a rich family; he is a normal lazy, willful, fat panda. He is so ordinary that
we could can see our daily foibles in him. Nevertheless, it is he, with no tiger claws,
crane wings, monkey quickness, snake sensitivity, or mantis scythe, who becomes to
be a master artiste at last. After Po becomes the Dragon warrior accidentally, Shifu
(who is the current senior master of the Jade Palace and trainer of many kung fu
warriorsEXPLAIN WHO SHIFU IS) and five other fearless warriors try to keep
him down, poke fun at dig at him or and even hit him on occasionsto push Dragon
warrior back. Po, sad for sure, is remains determined to stick with to Kung Fu
under Master Oogway's persuadepersuasion. Finally, Po confidently refutes Tai
Lung's (main antagonist of Kung Fu Panda. He was the adopted son and student of
Master ShifuWHO IS THIS) laughing insult, "You are a big panda", and saidsays:
I'm the big panda. Po's success is the classic theme in of many Hollywood movies.
The film likens Pos victory to the American Dream, only garbs it in under cultural
Chinese clotheselements.

The Chosen One

Whenever there is was a new King king in ancient Israel, he the king lets the holy
oil fall from his head during the inauguration ceremony. This is was a symbolization

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that God always saves the Israeli King king. The meaning could be stretched to infer
and then transformed the meaning into that God choose the savior for the country to
bring peace and harmony. Usually, God's will be was delivered by the far seer, which
is why one of the main features of Christianity is prophetic religion. In Kung Fu
Panda, Po is considered to be the laziest animal in his locality, Peace Valley.
However, when he flies with firecrackers and rushes into the tournament of held to
choose the Dragon warrior, and he unexpectedly stands in front of Master Oogway's
pointed finger pointing. This singles him out as the chosen one. All those with
martial arts training who are present are shocked to find out that Peace Valley 's fate is
closely linked with this lazy panda. Later, the chosen one grasped grasps profound
complicated Kung Fu moves in a short time. Po fulfills his destiny and becomes the
Dragon warrior as he is the chosen one by God.
This section features an analysis of and comparison between Chinese and American
cultural patterns manifested in Kung Fu Panda according to those theories concerned.
Hierarchy and Egalitarianism
American Egalitarian Culture and Chinese Hierarchical Culture
As we have identified earlier, power power-distance is a potential source of
Hierarchical and egalitarian tendencies exist in all cultures, but one tends to
predominate. Using a broad classification scale, low power-distance cultures can
generally be categorized as egalitarian, with little concern for social differences; high
power-distance cultures can be categorized as hierarchical, where significant
emphasis is placed on status and rank.

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Egalitarianism is characterized by informal interaction between subordinates and

superiors, minimizing the expectation or need for deference and formality. In an
egalitarian culture, a persons status is usually acquired through individual effort,
rather than ascribed by birth, appointment, or age (Samovar & Porter 2009: 235). This
facilitates the belief that everyone has the opportunity to improve their social status.
The United States U.S. is regarded as a highly egalitarian culture and was
founded on the principle that all men are created equal.. Equality can be observed in
every aspect of its society from government to social relationships. Most Americans
believe that all people should be given an equal opportunity to succeed and they place
little emphasis on social status and power. This may partly result from the U.S.
frontier heritage, when early immigrants were forced to rely on hard work to survive
and get rich. In the face of the wild landscape and hash conditions, the rigid social
formality and protocols prevalent in Europe at that time proved to be useless and were
soon abandoned. Moreover, people resented the privileged aristocracy and being
deprived of equal rights. Because of this, they added equality and procedural
justice into the U.S. Constitution. The value of equality then began to take shape and
continues to this day. In the United StatesU.S., you can often see authority questioned
or challenged, be it in a classroom, a staff meeting, or a presidential press conference.
Another manifestation of an egalitarian society is the use of first names rather than
titles. Individuals are assigned to positions of increased responsibility based on their
ability, rather than age or longevity with the organization.
The hierarchical tradition of China is influenced by Confucian philosophy.
Confucianism provides a rigid, hierarchical social structure and defines the formal
relations between seniors and juniors. The general deference to people in authority
and to people of higher positions is an example of hierarchy. For example, teachers

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and elders receive the utmost respect, and what they say are beyond dispute and
cannot be questioned. The hierarchy nature of Chinese society also expresses itself in
the extensive use of formal language and titles to identify people and their positions in
the social structure.

Switchover between Hierarchy and Egalitarianism

In the filmKung Fu Panda, the Chinese culture of hierarchy is vividly displayed.
Master Oogway is the eldest figure in the valley, and the creator of Kung Fu. He is
has been treated with great honor and high reverence by all villages, and regarded as
the symbol of authority. His lofty status can be is indicated by the fact that he is the
only one who has the right to decide who can be the Dragon Warrior, and no one is
supposed to doubt his decision. Even Shifu, the master of the Furious Five, shows his
greatest respect for Oogway. In the beginning of the film, Shifu rushes to the Jade
Palace as soon as he is told that Oogway wants to see him. He was is out of breath
when he arrives, ; however, he soon calms himself down and never forgets to salute
Oogway with a formal bow and then says humbly, Master Oogway, you summoned
me? Is something wrong? As is found we find out later, Shifu is always at Oogways
beck and call and he never questions Oogways authority. Although at first Shifu does
not agree with Oogway on his decision of making Po as the Dragon Warrior, he still
promises Oogway that he will train Po. In fact, his deference to Oogway is not
something new. Several years ago, when Shifu took Tai Lung, the disciple who he
treated as his own son, to meet Oogway, hoping that Oogway would appoint Tai Lung
as the Dragon Warrior, Oogway refused as he saw darkness in Tai Lungs heart. Shifu,
as much as he loved Tai Lung, tried nothing to defend him. Later, when Tai Lung
blames him for his weakness, Shifu says, Obeying your master is not weakness! ... It

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was never my decision to make! To Shifu, whatever Oogway says should be received
as an order, which he must obey.
On the other hand, it is also to be however, we can also observed that this is
something that is away from the hierarchical structure found in China. Although
Oogway is of the highest status in the Valley of Peace, he does not appear as a serious
or arrogant guy. It has been We have mentioned just now that Shifu addresses him
formally as Master Oogway, but surprisingly enough, Oogway calls Shifu my old
friend. In China, this can hardly happen because in a hierarchical society, people of
high status are supposed to maintain a grave and dignified bearing so as to show their
authority. Unlike the Furious Five who revere Shifu in every possible way, Po dares to
make fun of him by imitating him in a hilarious way. Also, having been stopped by
Shifu from quitting, Po can no longer swallow his displeasure. He shouts, You dont
believe that! Oh! You never believed that. From the first moment I got here, youve
been trying to get rid of me. He looks at Shifu right in his eyes and keeps questioning
Shifu, How are you going to change this into the Dragon Warrior? Hah? How?
How? How? He raises his voice and Shifu seems to lose his ground. There is another
scene that shows the equal relationship between Po and Shifu. In view of Pos great
progress, Shifu praises him when he says, You have done well. Instead of being
humble like most Chinese, Po answers, Done well? Done well! I have done
awesome! Along with that, he bumps Shifu with his big belly. The seemingly
offensive behavior doesnt anger Shifu. The mark of a true hero is humility. But yes,
you have done, awesome. Shifu says, giving Po a jocular prod with his finger. Then
they look at each other and smile. The two are more like friends rather than master
and disciple. After Po defeats Tai Lung, the Furious Five, though more senior, bow to
him and respectfully call him Master, and all citizens follow their suit. Even Shifu

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says thank you four times to Po for bringing back peace to the valley and to him.
Pos transition from nobody to a respectable hero once again proves that in an
egalitarian society, everyone has the equal opportunity to improve his/her position in

Chinese Formality and American Informality

The concept of formality and informality is another aspect related to power
power-distance. It sets the tone for the role relationships in different cultures. As you
one would suspect, the degree of formality varies a great deal between hierarchical
and egalitarian societies. The manifestations of informality and formality take many
forms including the way people dress, their posture, how someone is addressed, and
even the type of speech used.
Grounded in a strong tradition of hierarchy, China has long been considered a
highly formal culture. In China, there are levels of formality attached to status as well
as age differences. Formality in role relationships is reflected in a host of ways. For
instance, students are taught to stand up when the teacher enters the classroom.
Formal communication is demanded when juniors speak to seniors. Polite and even
self-depreciatory words and phrases are often employed to indicate the hierarchical
relationships. Formality is also evident in how the Chinese use forms of address to
identify people and their positions in the social structure. In order to show respect,
young people or people lower in the hierarchy often use titles after family names
when addressing their elders or superiors. Using first names to address is only
reserved for family members or close friends.
In contrast to the high degree of formality found in China, the United States U.S.
places a high value on informality. For hundreds of years, Americans have strived to

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create a classless and egalitarian society. The idea of equality is taken for granted and
is deeply rooted in the American culture. The great majority of American people
prefer to associate themselves with the middle-class group, the biggest group in
American society. They believe that members of this group are equal to each other,
and no one is superior to the other in terms of personality and personal value. As a
result, informality prevails in American society, and it is manifested in almost all
relationships, such as the relationship between general and soldier, teacher and
student, parent and child, physician and patient, employer and employee, etc.
Many Americans do not use formal codes codes of conduct, titles, honorific, and
ritualistic manners in their daily communication. Instead, they are much more
comfortable with informal, idiomatic speech and slang. Regardless of their social
position, most Americans, whether a professor, manager, director, or even presidents,
are often addressed by their first names. The American style of greeting and farewell
is also short and informal. Students may greet their teacher with such simple words as
Hi! How are you? or Whats up? and bid a brief farewell with See you,
Take care, or Come by some time.. The informal style can also be seen in nonverbal behaviors. For instance, it is common for Americans of all identity and status to
wear jeans, sandals, or other informal attire. Instead of maintaining an upright posture,
Americans prefer to lean against a door, a wall or a piece of furniture when they talk.
Both formal and informal styles can be observed in the film. As we have
mentioned earlier, most of the time, the relationships between Shifu and Oogway, the
Furious Five and Shifu, are very formal. The former usually adds the title Master
before names when addressing the latter. Shifu and the Furious Five always observe
the traditional Chinese etiquette and use formal language to show their respect. In
contrarycontrast, Po always performs remains informallyl. Sometimes it can be

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considered extremely irreverent by the traditional Chinese. He calls Oogway and

Shifu by their names without adding the title of Master. When he finds the scroll
blank, he even says Oogway was just a crazy old turtle. This is a dreadful disrespect
for the his senior. Also, Pos language is often informal. He greets his seniors Shifu
and the Furious Five with such simple words as Hey, hows it going? or just Hey,
guys! Other informal speech and slang can frequently be heard, including Come
on! No way! Oh, Man!
wanna, gonna, awesome, suck, kidding, to name just a few.

Hollywood is capable of absorbing and digesting various cultures. Kung Fu
Panda is said to be a love letter to China by which Hollywood is is able to translate
the Chinese cultural icons of the panda and martial arts into marketable success on a
global scale. Meanwhile, Chinese culture travels throughout the world and triggers a
burst of popularity. From this aspect, Kung Fu Panda serves as the transmitter of
Chinese culture. However, as a product of Hollywood, it is inevitably branded with
the American mark.
Of course, not every Chinese is a fan of Kung Fu Panda. Some artists and
scholars accused the film of stealing Chinese culture, feeding our Chinese people with
American values, and making money out of usthem, so they urged the country to
boycott Kung Fu Panda. Most of them even did not even see the film before they
made such judgments. Actually, if you take an objective view rather than looking for
an excuse to be offended, you will find the film positively promotes Chinese culture
positively. Chinese elements are delicately designed, the story is hilarious and the
theme is inspiring. The

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DreamWorks team spent years studying Chinese culture and invited many Chinese to
offer their ideas, as a result of which they turned our the Chinese culture into a tasty
meal that was appealing to both the Chinese and the world. It also proved that
Hollywood could tell a Chinese story just as well as, if not better than, the Chinese.
While appreciating Hollywoods brilliant product, many Chinese cannot help
lamenting that their culture is labeled with a Hollywood brand and why the
Blockbuster blockbuster wasnt made in
China. The answer may partly lie in the following fact.
As the author mentioned, culture awareness not only refers to the consciousness
of home culture, but also that of other cultures. Thanks to globalization, different
cultures are becoming more and more closely linked, resulting in ever increasing
intercultural interactions and communication. In this new era, no culture can exist
without the influences of other cultures. In order to adapt ourselves to this changing
world, we people should realize the relationship between our, their and other cultures,
understanding in both similarities and differences in human behavior and cultural
patterns. Intercultural communication focuses on the exchange of ideas, information,
beliefs, customs, values, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of promoting
mutual respect and understanding. It requires us one to reconstruct our their
traditional way of thinking. This does not mean that the local cultural traditions
should be abandoned in the process of globalization, but that we everyone should as
well also absorb the essence of other cultures and combine traditional values with
modern ideologies so as to keep maintain the vigor and vitality of Chinese culture.
Kung Fu Pandas success in both Western and Eastern markets depends depended
largely on its intercultural nature, namely, integrating Chinese and American cultures.
It suggests that positive values such as hard work, self-belief, equality, self-

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realization, humanity, and love are common to all humanity. This positive value
orientation is neither exclusive to Hollywood or the United StatesU.S., nor to China.
In fact, it is acknowledged and shared by all cultures. Also, the American Dream is
actually the dream of the majority and thats why Kung Fu Panda arouses rings with a
global resonance. Moreover, the lack of imagination and creativity has prevented
Chinese films from attracting overseas audiences and even domestic audiences. In this
respect, Kung Fu Panda also provides us with a good example for vigorous and
unrestrained ideas that permeate throughout the film, making it more enjoyable and
China is now receiving considerable recognition from the rest of the world.
Chinese culture, having been polished and precipitated for thousands of years, is now
playing a significant role on the world stage. China should take this opportunity to
establish a good image of their country, and step up efforts to spread their its culture if
they want to gain more influence internationally. It is believed that films can function
as a form of soft power if they are made to transmit a culture and increase feelings
toward that country. At the same time, in the era of globalization, films are also made
to present a vivid picture of intercultural communication and help promote mutual
understanding. In this sense, Kung Fu Panda definitely serves as a model for future
intercultural films. To us Chinese, oOne of the most important things that the Chinese
we have learned from Kung Fu Panda is that they we should on the one hand carry
forward the fine traditional culture of the Chinese nation and one the other hand
absorb and make use of the achievements of the cultures of other countries. By
interacting and integrating with diverse cultures, Chinese culture will show the world
its unique splendor in a brand- new way.

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