Chinese animators are working on a new series that tells the coming-of-age story of a legendary Uygur girl in Xinjiang.
The 104-episode cartoon series, "Princess Fragrant," is based on the tale of the Fragrant Concubine, a beautiful Uygur woman from Xinjiang's Kashgar City. According to legend, she became a concubine of Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
"The heroine is depicted as a 10-year-old girl in the cartoon, and the storyline is all fictional and has nothing to do with history," said Lu Jun, chairman of Shenzhen Qianheng Cultural Communications Company, which is producing the series.
Director Deng Jiangwei said the cartoon tells the story of how heroine Iparhan went abroad to look for her father and protect the Silk Road with the help of her friends.
"It's a story about growing up and love, and we also want to replicate the beauty of Xinjiang history and culture in our production," he said.
After deciding to make the series in late 2012, the producers went to Xinjiang for field research and set up a subsidiary company in the region.
The producers traveled along a section of the ancient Silk Road in Xinjiang to explore the beauty of the landscape. They also collected pictures of children from different ethnic groups, landmark architecture, ethnic costumes, and information on traditional dances and legends, which were later incorporated into the animation.
The producers consulted local artists and scholars to better respect local customs and accurately represent different ethnic groups, according to Deng. More than 30 cultural experts from different ethnic groups have given their suggestions on plotlines, characters, scenery, and costumes.
Deng said the company has invited a Uygur singer to write and sing the cartoon's theme song.
"Hopefully, the production will contribute to cross-cultural communication among different ethnic groups," Lu Jun said.
Lu said the company is also preparing to produce an opera and film on the same subject.
It is not the first time an artistic work has been inspired by the Fragrant Concubine. The love story of the Uygur concubine and the emperor has been adapted into several stage and television productions.
Song Tong, lecturer at the Institute of Qing History at Renmin University of China, said the story of the Fragrant Concubine depicted in artistic works has been based on different versions of folklore.
There is no historical record of anybody called "Fragrant Concubine" in the imperial palace during the Qing Dynasty, according to Song.
He said Emperor Qianlong only had one Uygur concubine, called "Concubine Rong," and it is widely believed that the story of Fragrant Concubine is based on her.