The mythical animal Taotie of remote ages in The Great Wall (film)

Chinese mythical animal of remote ages shows up in The Great Wall (film).

China is a country with long long history, and many mythical animals of remote ages that have been passed down by word of mouth or documents. There are four Saint Beasts in Chinese myths and legends of the ancient times, i.e., Taotie, Hundun, Taowu, and Qiongqi. The origin of the four Saint Beasts are four Immortals, i.e., Sanmiao, Huandou, Gun, and Gonggong, who who had done all kinds of evil without virtues. And after the death, the four Immortals were debased from Heaven to Earth, and then Sanmiao, Huandou, Gun, and Gonggong transformed into Taotie, Hundun, Taowu, and Qiongqi respectively. To be practical and realistic, the history of four Saint Beasts in Chinese myth is much richer than the Beasts in King Kong, Godzilla, and Alien series. The Chinese Beasts always cannot prove their presence and strength to film fans for lack of stages. The Taotie in The Great Wall (film) is a good start, which means that the movie road of the four Chinese Saint Beasts become smooth.

The Great Wall is a 2016 epic historical fiction action-adventure monster film directed by Zhang Yimou. The film stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. In ancient China, the man-eating monster, Taotie, will gather together to invade the human territory to eat people every 60 years. Human Legion has to build the Great Wall to resist the invasion of monsters. Because of an accidental opportunity, the Foreign Mercenaries who look for gunpowder accidentally enter the Great Wall where they get to know the shadow troops who are against the Taoties. And together they resist the beasts hand in hand.

The mythical animal Taotie of remote ages in The Great Wall (film)

As a monster film, The Great Wall constantly emphasizes that Chinese invented gunpowder and compass. And The Great Wall makes another contribution that it presents the Chinese traditional Saint Beasts to the world audiences. The Great Wall, the ambitious work of Zhang Yimou, shoulders an important mission to introduce the Chinese cultural landmarks and mythical monsters to the world. Like that the shadow troops affect outsider Matt Damon with their indomitable spirits, Zhang Yimou uses his recreation of Chinese culture to influence more people to concern Chinese native cultures.

What is the Saint Beast Taotie?

Taotie only has his head and big mouth, and it eat everything, including its body. Taotie dies from overeating, and it becomes the symbol of greed. There are several versions of the origin of Saint Beast Taotie.

According to the ancient Chinese work, Shanhaiching, or the Classic of Mountains and Rivers, the Gouwu Mountain was rich of jade, and copper mine underground. There was a Beast on the Mountain that had the goat shape, and human face. Its eyes were under its armpit, and its teeth were like tiger teeth and its paws human hands, and it sounded like human infant. Here the Saint Beast Taotie is shaped as Humanoid beast. Below are two sketches of Taotie, according the description of Shanhaiching.


But somebody believes that Taotie was the transformation of Chiyou, the mythological warrior engaged in fighting with the Yellow Emperor who was the ancestor of Han nationality. In the decisive battle, Chiyou was killed, and he became resentment lingers, and his head was cut and fell to the ground to become Taotie. It is said that Chiyou looked thin, but infact greedy, which happened to coincide with Taotie.

In another story, Taotie was the fifth son of the Dragon. It had the shape of wolf, and was always desperate to eat. Because Taotie was extremely greedy, people in China call those persons that are greedy of food and fortune as Taotie persons. And in The Great Wall, Taotie is sent from God to punish the human because of the insatiably avaricious King Zhou, so human and Taotie are engaged in war every 60 years, which lasts 2000 years.

But Taotie was not the symbol of greed at the beginning, and it was once deemed as the mythical animal of deterrent to the nine regions of ancient China, so its image was engraved on many bronze wares, especially bronze tripod that was very important for ancient Chinese. Taotie pattern on the bronze wares dated from the Liangzhu Culture jade carving, 5000 years ago in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Traditionally, Taotie pattern on the bronze wares are not only an animal face images design, but also means Sun God. And the eyes are especially important for Taotie. In The Great Wall, the eyes of Taotie are given importance. Once the eyes are wounded, Taotie is seriously injured or dies. That may be the reason why the eyes are under its armpit.