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9 things to know about the character behind mega-popular animated film Nezha

A giant meatball? Lotus roots for limbs? The hotheaded character has more to his story than what the mega-successful film reveals

Images: courtesy Coco Cartoon via IMDB
With no signs of slowing down, animated film Nezha has been China's biggest box office hit of the summer – it's projected to rake in more than 600 million USD, reports Variety. But before Nezha became one of the highest-grossing animated films, its protagonist was a prominent figure in ancient Chinese mythology known for his dark past and eventual heroic sacrifice to save his parents. Here are nine things to know about the young deity.

1. The beginning

According to the classic Taoist novel The Investiture of the Gods, Nezha was supposed to be a reincarnation of God.

2. Family problems

As the original myth goes, Nezha was born into a mortal family during the Shang Dynasty. His mother was named Lady Yin, and his father was the general Li Jing, who was also known as the 'pagoda-wielding heavenly king'. Nezha and his father did not get along, to say the least. But can you blame the boy? Those are some massive shoes to fill.

3. A long wait...

Nezha's mother was pregnant with him for three and a half years. Someone give this woman a medal for 'The Most Patient Person in the World'.


4. Tragedy strikes

In the original tale, Nezha kills Ao Bing, the dragon king's son, who is his friend in the movie. In some versions, Nezha does it by accident while the two are roughhousing, but in others, it is a purposeful act of cruelty.

5. Come again?

According to the legend, Nezha sacrifices himself to save his parents and people from the dragon king's wrath after Ao Bing's death. Nezha is later reincarnated by his mentor, who uses lotus roots to reconstruct his body. So while this version of Nezha may appear human, he is in fact a three-headed, six-armed deity, or 'a personified lotus, a body without a spirit, one that's free from all pain and suffering'. It's also why the lotus later becomes a symbol of Nezha's power.

6. Making waves

The film has grossed over 3.55 billion RMB (503 million USD) so far, officially becoming the fifth-highest grossing movie in China. It is by far the highest-grossing animated film to hit Chinese cinemas, surpassing big overseas names such as The Lion King, Zootopia and Pixar's Coco.


7. An even longer wait...

The film took a total of five years, over 20 Chinese special effects studios and 1,600 animators to make. One scene, in particular, took nearly two months to complete.

8. Uh... what?

In the original tale, Nezha's mother actually gave birth to a big round meatball (just let that mental image simmer behind your eyelids for a minute). Her husband, thinking it was some demonic presence, slashed it open with his sword, but instead of slaying whatever evil lay within, out jumped Nezha, a fully-grown, energetic child with superhuman strength. Now there's a story to tell at the dinner table.

9. His legacy

Due to his hotheaded behaviour, Nezha is often considered an allegorical figure for societal misfits, anti-authority narratives and rebellious youth, making him popular among young people. In addition, because of the fiery wheels he wears on his feet, he's also a symbol of protection among professional drivers. They'll sometimes place a small Nezha statue on their dashboard, hoping it will watch over them and prevent road accidents.

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