Summer school holidays are just around the corner… so here’s a helpful list of Chinese movies your kids might like—provided by Jia Yu 姐姐, a Masters student in Taiwan who sometimes helps out during our Doodle Dates!

Movies-To-Help-Learn-Chinese-幸福路上-OnHappinessRoad

1.          On Happiness Road 幸福路上 (Xìng fú lù shàng)

Suitable for ages: 4+

Available on: Netflix

Genres: Animation, Family, Culture

Language: Taiwanese, Hokkien, Mandarin Chinese & English

Subtitle:  English and Chinese

Trailer:

YouTube video

Why I recommend it
Although the plot can be a bit overwhelming at times, the script is so well written that, at the end, all the disparate strands come together for an emotional finale that leaves butterflies in the audience’s stomachs.

Plot: 
The movie tells the story of Lin Hsu Chi, a Taiwanese woman born in the mid 70’s who is now married and living in America. Due to the passing of her grandmother (who is of indigenous Amis descent), she rushes back to help with the funeral at her old family’s house located on the titular Happiness Road in Xinzhuang, a suburb of Taipei.

 Movies-To-Help-Learn-Chinese-功夫熊貓KungFuPanda

2.             Kung Fu Panda 功夫熊貓 (Gōng fū xióng māo)

Suitable for ages: 4+

Genres: Animation, Culture, Martial Arts, Superhero

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Subtitle:  English and Chinese

Trailer:

YouTube video

Why I recommend it

You’ve probably seen Dreamworks’ English version already, but the Mandarin version is just as fun, and features very famous Chinese actors and actresses. It might be interesting to get your kids to do a comparison! The story has adorable animals, martial arts, and plenty of slapstick humor. Oh, and the animation is great too!

Plot: 
A bumbling panda learns there’s more to himself than he thinks.

Movies-To-Help-Learn-Chinese-大魚海棠-BigFishBegonia

3.            Big Fish & Begonia 大鱼海棠 (Dà yú hǎi táng)

Suitable for ages: 6+

Genres: Animation, Fantasy

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Subtitle:  English and Chinese

Trailer:

YouTube video

Why I recommend it

The artwork, script and unpredictable plot intertwine seamlessly to present a beguiling vision of the worlds of humans, non-humans, the living and the dead. The script uses basic Chinese words, but is still very moving and broaches rather philosophical subjects that will have you reflecting on them long after the credits roll.

Plot: 

Inspired by a myth from an ancient Chinese Taoist classic, the story is about a young girl living in an underground world hidden from humans. As a ritual of passage to adulthood, she must live for a week in the human world in the form of a red dolphin, avoiding any contact with humans. During these seven days, she will observe this world and how the laws of her own world work there. On the eve of her return, she will meet a young living boy who will change her life forever. A much more beautiful version of Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’!

Movies-To-Help-Learn-Chinese-肆式青春-FlavorsofYouth

4.            Flavors of Youth 肆式青春Sì shì qīng chūn

Suitable for ages: 6+

Available on: Netflix

Genres: Animation, Culture

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Subtitle:  English and Chinese

Trailer:

YouTube video

Why I recommend it

Gorgeous animation from the studio behind the international anime hit “Your Name”.

Plot: 

“Flavors of Youth” is a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese animation studios. The movie is composed of three stories, each taking place in a different city:

1. The Rice Noodles in Beijing.
2. A Little Fashion Show, in Canton.
3. Love in Shanghai

Movies-To-Help-Learn-Chinese-一一YiYi

5.         Yi Yi: A One and a Two 一一 (Yī yī)

Suitable for: Ages 6+ (some mature themes)

Genres: Family drama

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Subtitle:  English and Chinese

Trailer:

YouTube video

Why I recommend it

A great, great movie by Taiwanese master Edward Yang that’s routinely on lists of the best movies ever made. The standard Mandarin dialogue is clear yet naturalistic, making it great for learners.

    Plot: 

    The travails of a modern family in Taipei, as framed through the eyes of a young boy. Bookended by a wedding and a funeral, it is a gentle, yet profound film that explores the spectrum of life’s possibilities.

    Movies-To-Help-Learn-Chinese-小门神LittleDoorGods

    6.         Little Door Gods 小门神 Xiǎo mén shén

    Suitable for: Ages 4+

    Genres: Animation, fantasy, Superhero

    Language: Mandarin Chinese

    Subtitle:  English and Chinese

    Trailer:

    YouTube video

    Why I recommend it

    High-quality animation, adorable character design, engaging storytelling. The dialogue is simple and conversational—easy for young Chinese learners to understand. I love this contemporary family story about Chinese traditions. I remember the days when many families in my hometown left posters of gods on their doors to allow the spirits access to protect their homes. Lovely!

    Just a note: The villain in the story, 年(Nián), may be a little bit scary for very young kids. The 年(Nián), translated as Year, was a monster in old Chinese tales. Nián came out of its lair each New Year to attack people. Eventually, people figured out how to fend off Nián by exploding firecrackers and lighting red lanterns in the new year.

      Plot: 

      When a Chinese family’s dumpling soup shop is targeted for sabotage by a competitor, two guardians from the spirit world leave retirement to protect them.

      6.       Lunar New Year’s Day 元日 (Yuǎn rì)

      Suitable for: Ages 2+

      Genres: Short film, Animation

      Language: Mandarin Chinese

      Subtitle:  Chinese (no English subtitles, unfortunately)

      Full Film:

      YouTube video

      Why I recommend it

      This short and sweet film is a very charming modern adaption of a 900-year-old classic Chinese poem by 王安石, about traditional New Year activities set in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Even though no English subtitles are available, the dialogue is simple and conversational.

          The adapted poem in simplified Chinese:

          《元日》王安石

          爆竹声中一岁除,

          东风送暖入屠苏。

          千门万户曈曈日,

          争插新桃换旧符。

           

          English translation:

          Chinese New Year’s Day by Wang Anshi (translated by Xinliang Huang) 

          Amid the boom of firecrackers, a year has come to an end,

          And the spring wind has wafted warm breath to the wine.

          While the rising sun shines over each and every household,

          People would put up new peachwood charm for the old.

           

          Wang Anshi (1021-1086) was one of the greatest politicians, philosophers and scholars in the Song Dynasty.

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