By Daisy Yan Du
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the inaugural Conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies! I am Daisy Yan Du, from the Division of Humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Thirteen years ago, when I was working on my PhD dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I never could have imagined that we could have such a big conference on Chinese animation today.
As some of you already know, my encounter with Chinese animation was mediated through Japan. In the Spring of 2008, I took courses in Japanese animation and film studies, and was amazed by the popularity of anime in American universities. I kept wondering why no one paid attention to Chinese animation in the US as well. I therefore started my research and wrote a final paper about the Japanese connection of Princess Iron Fan (1941), the first animated feature film in Asia, made by the Wan Brothers in wartime Shanghai. This paper later became the first chapter of my book Animated Encounters. During my research, I realized that Chinese animation was a marginalized topic in English academia. In addition to a few essays written by Marie-Claire Qiuquemelle, Mary Ann Farquhar, and John Lent, the only systematic study in English I could find at that time was Wu Weihua’s PhD dissertation.
Today, we gather together for the inaugural Conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies, the first international conference in English devoted to Chinese animation. We have 75 speakers and 500 registered attendees, hailing from all corners of the world. This conference marks the rising status of Chinese animation as a possible field of serious research.
Starting from this conference, perhaps it will no longer be necessary for us to lament the invisibility of Chinese animation. The fact is that the past thirteen years witnessed an explosive productivity in Chinese animation in terms of both quality and quantity, represented by Monkey King: Hero Is Back (2015) and other animation blockbusters. It is time for us to talk about the spectacular return and revitalization of Chinese animation since its so-called “decline” in the 1990s.
The context for all of these changes is the rise of digital technologies and the saturation of digital images in our daily lives over the past decade. In the digital age, all films are, in a sense, becoming animation. Animation, which existed as the shadow of live-action cinema in the past, becomes more and more significant in the digital age. The digital age is the animation age. It is our age. We can predict that in the long run, Chinese animation studies will rise as an important field, just like anime studies in English academia. Today’s conference marks the very beginning of this long journey ahead.
On this special occasion, I would like to thank many colleagues who have supported this arduous cause over the past decade. I thank all of the conference speakers for sharing your cutting-edge research with us. I also thank the attendees from the public who have joined this conference as audience members. Your support means a lot to us!
More importantly, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the two sponsors of the conference: Professor Kellee Tsai, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Professor Andrew Cohen, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I thank them for their unfailing support since I first broached the idea of this conference with them in the spring of 2019.
Without further ado, let’s invite the two sponsors to deliver their welcome speeches.