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The Lord of the Rings re-imagined as ancient China

18 January 2022 | Boing Boing } Thom Dunn

This gorgeous art comes from animator and visual designer Leia Ham, who was struck by the idea of: what if The Lord of the Rings had been modeled after Chinese art aesthetics, instead of European? As she wrote on her website:

LOTR: Tale of the Middle Kingdom is a personal project that reimagines J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth in a Chinese setting. China is called 中国 (Zhōngguó) – meaning The Middle Kingdom”. Taking inspiration from the books, movies, ancient Chinese artefacts and paintings, this project is a love letter to my own Chinese heritage, seen through the lens of medieval fantasy and historical design.

She gave a little more context in a series of tweets: …


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This gorgeous art comes from animator and visual designer Leia Ham, who was struck by the idea of: what if The Lord of the Rings had been modeled after Chinese art aesthetics, instead of European? As she wrote on her website:

LOTR: Tale of the Middle Kingdom is a personal project that reimagines J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth in a Chinese setting. China is called 中国 (Zhōngguó) – meaning The Middle Kingdom”. Taking inspiration from the books, movies, ancient Chinese artefacts and paintings, this project is a love letter to my own Chinese heritage, seen through the lens of medieval fantasy and historical design.

She gave a little more context in a series of tweets:

I made this from a place of someone who lives in the west, but who also wants to see people like me be part of stories that I love, u know? I’ve had mostly lovely comments, and a couple here and there that were unkind at best and racist at worst.

And the truth is maybe thats why I wanted to make it- who wouldn’t predict that there would b some ppl who are pissed about the idea of a Chinese lotr? But I hope that we can all see that transformative work takes nothing away from the original-But there’s space for all of us.

You can click through to view the slideshow of artwork on her website, or check it out through the embedded Tweets below:

A thought that has haunted me for years is what if LOTR but ancient China?’

So I finally made it!

Here’s the first look at a series of art I’ll be posting: Frodo at the beginning of the first movie’, and the Fellowship of the Ring. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​L​G​A​1​K​oOV0K

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 3, 2022

Pt 2 of LOTR: Middle Kingdom: A green, round door, an underground home with a open air courtyard like the siheyuan houses in China. The plaque on Bag End is taken from what they translated it in the Chinese movies.

It must be warm and cosy in the winter, I think. :) pic​.twit​ter​.com/​0​y​P​U​E​JEAK5

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 4, 2022

More of the Shire because that’s my fav place – an inside look to the study where Frodo finishes his book, as well as a hearth conveniently situated for Gandalf to toss the Ring into.

I included a little folding screen of the lonely mountain and Smaug for Bilbo. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​9​0​E​p​W​PHCN5

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 5, 2022

More LOTR: Middle Kingdom!

Some thoughts on how the armies would dress themselves, with inspiration from the central Asian steppes for the Rohirrim, and more scholarly, Tang Dynasty influences for the Elves.

Also soft yang guifei-esque Arwen because that brings me joy. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​V​O​6​C​T​G8mHp

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 6, 2022

More LOTR: Middle Kingdom!

Rivendell in Chinese limestone cliffs. Mooncake lembas for me because my family makes mooncakes, and they really are quite filling.

I didn’t do Lothlorien but just know that it’s a massive gingko forest, so the fellowship brooches reflect that! pic​.twit​ter​.com/​Q​a​b​r​r​gcknM

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 7, 2022

Rohan!! Forth Eorlingas for Lotr: Middle Kingdom! We’re almost at the end of the project. I think this is my fav spread, because I got to play with being a bit more illustrative.

The white hand of Saruman reaching deep into the hall of Meduseld. And my fav best girl Eowyn. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​P​Y​i​7​l​XdUt5

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 8, 2022

One last picture for LOTR: Middle Kingdom – the Argonath.

The Anduin is akin to the Yangtze, a great big thing that snakes across the middle kingdom.

The fellowship sail past these gates and onto the rest of the story, but the art ends here for now. Thanks for tuning in! pic​.twit​ter​.com/​Q​S​B​i​k​dLfmL

— Leia Ham (@leiahamart) January 9, 2022

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date recorded 📅2022-01-18
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