A Legend’s Story Relived in Animated Splendour

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On 10 December, Mr Hsiao Yi-chun, the manager of Da Ai TV's Production Centre and producer of the epic animation "The Great Master Jian Zhen", was invited to share his film-making experience in Tzu Chi Singapore's Jing Si Hall.





Da Ai TV producer and manager Mr Hsiao Yi-chun shares his experience in animation production. (Photo: Law Sook Fong)


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Mr Hsiao and his team spent five years to produce the animation of the legendary Venerable Jian Zhen who overcame numerous obstacles to cross the East China sea to propagate Buddhism in Japan. (Photo: Law Sook Fong)
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Enthusiastic response from the floor during the Q&A session. (Photo: Law Sook Fong)
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New volunteer Xie Ding Kun was deeply inspired by the spirit of Venerable Jian Zhen. (Photo: Law Sook Fong)

The animated children's series "The Little Chestnut of the Tang Dynasty" produced by Taiwan Tzu Chi's Da Ai TV was highly recognized by the media circle and was nominated for the best animation award for both Golden Bell Awards and Asian Television Awards in 2010. "The Little Chestnut of the Tang Dynasty" was the adaptation of the stories told by Tzu Chi's founder, Master Cheng Yen. The twelve-minute episodes are a combination of short stories from everyday living embedded with Tzu Chi humanism. Presented in an amusing and lucid way, the animation is an excellent tool for children to learn moral values and ethics.

On 9 Dec 2010, Mr Hsiao Yi-chun, producer and manager of Da Ai TV's Production Centre, came to Singapore to attend the Asian Television Awards Ceremony held at Pan Pacific Hotel. Also a member of the Tzu Cheng Faith Corps, Mr Hsiao was invited to share his film-making experience with the local Tzu Chi volunteers and members of the public in Tzu Chi Singapore Branch in the evening of 10 Dec.

Mr Hsiao Yi-chun and his team spent five years to produce the story of the legendary Buddhist monk, Venerable Jian Zhen, who overcame various difficulties crossing the treacherous East China Sea to preach Buddhism in Japan. The film integrated 2D and 3D technologies to create a different style from contemporary Japanese and American animations.

The simple yet interesting plot and carefully crafted drawings of "The Great Master Jian Zhen" brought the audience back to the Tang Dynasty, telling the true story of Venerable Jian Zhen who was so determined that he attempted to sail across the East China Sea five times before he successfully landed on Japan during his sixth trip.

Before he left for Japan, Venerable Jian Zhen was a doctor and also the abbot of Daming Temple in Yangzhou, China. The renowned Chinese monk conducted ordinations and earned the reputation of "the Ordinator" across the south of Yangtze River.

The film was set in the year 742 when the Venerable was invited by several monks from Japan to help restore Buddhist precepts and discipline to Japan's monastic community. Though dissuaded by his disciples, Venerable Jian Zhen resolutely decided to head for Japan.

On the fifth attempt, the Venerable and his followers met a storm and the ship was blown to Hainan Island. The disastrous journey took the lives of 36 members of Venerable Jian Zhen’s crew and more than 200 abandoned him out of fear and frustration. The Venerable even lost his sight at this attempt. After drifting for a month at sea, the Venerable eventually arrived in Japan in year 753 at the age of 66. The Venerable had since made great contributions to the development of Buddhism in the country as well as in its areas of culture, architecture, Chinese medicine.

The animated film first premiered in Taiwan and was equally well received by audiences in Japan and Hong Kong alike. Mr Hsiao said the pressure was great when the team first started the production. However, Master Cheng Yen encouraged him, "Stress is the driving force to progress". At the end of the production, Mr Hsiao gained a deeper insight of Master Cheng Yen's aphorism: "Do not look down on oneself for everyone has boundless potentials".

Mr Hsiao said that the reason Master Cheng Yen chose to produce the story of Venerable Jian Zhen was because of the determination and perseverance showed by the Venerable during his voyages to Japan. The Master wished that Da Ai TV would become a "pure stream" among mainstream media and become widely accepted by the public. Also, the Master anticipates that Da Ai TV would revive moral values and ethics, purify people's hearts, and cleanse away the unwholesomeness in our society.

Mr Hsiao related Venerable Jian Zhen's willpower to Master Cheng Yen's determination in building the first free hospital in eastern Taiwan back in the 1980s. The two noble Buddhist practitioners, said Mr Hsiao, displayed the same integrity and perseverance in their endeavours.

The animation was produced with the aim to spread the teachings of Buddha and describe the ardent relationship between Venerable Jian Zhen and his disciples. Mr Hsiao and his team faced numerous challenges in searching for and cross-checking over the historical references, solving technical problems as well as in fathoming and expressing the emotions of a great master of the time.

Nonetheless, "everything lies in our hands; no matter how arduous our task may be, we must still take the first step in order to succeed," Mr Hsiao encouraged the audience to face their life challenges with confidence.

During the Q&A session, a member of the audience asked Mr Hsiao how Da Ai TV positions itself as a global TV station with a mission to purify people's minds. The producer replied that Da Ai TV connects to the world via satellite and it can also be accessed through the internet (http://en.newdaai.tv). All of the station’s programmes are originally produced by the TV crew and aims to offer a different perspective and solution by delivering stories that highlight the good that can and are being done in society. In order to bring this pure stream into every household, Mr Hsiao stressed the need for everyone who agrees with the concept of Da Ai TV to promote it to their friends.

After listening to Mr Hsiao's speech, Xie Ding Kun who recently joined Tzu Chi as a volunteer, said, "We must regard pressure as our driving force because the greater the difficulty, the greater the (spiritual) wealth that lies beneath it. We must be firm while walking on Tzu Chi's bodhisattva path."

Brother Xie believed that one needs to deal with the pressure right at the beginning to prevent it from growing like a seed in our hearts and eventually hinder us from seeking enlightenment. He also pointed out the scene of Venerable Jian Zhen's disciples giving excuses not to travel to Japan, of which he felt that people tend to think of only themselves and forget about others.

"We are Tzu Chi volunteers," said the young volunteer, "when we are doing good deeds, we must put the people who need our help in the first place, and not only ourselves."



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