May 022011
 

Aang floats on an "air scooter"

Aang floats on an "air scooter"

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated series, not to be confused with that later movie with the blue aliens, although A:TLA did spawn a live-action feature film as well.

Although the setting is a fantasy world, it is heavily influenced by various Asian cultures and I enjoy watching for the Chinese bits that come up (I actually do like the show a lot generally). Names of people and things are one fruitful area. For example, the protagonist’s name Aang seemed obviously to be a rendering of Chinese  ān ‘peace’, like the given name of the director Ang Lee 李安 (pinyin: Lǐ Ān).

But Aang’s name is written using two Chinese characters 安昂 (ān áng) which can be understood as ‘peaceful soaring’ (see the Avatar Wiki), specifically  in the episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se” (according to Wikipedia).

The use of Chinese isn’t gratuitous; it tends to be meaningful in the context. Aang’s name is entirely appropriate for a character who is an Airbender (he can manipulate air currents and also uses a glider to travel) and committed to ending warfare between nations. The fact that the name suits the person makes it a nice little mnemonic device for students of Chinese. I’ll highlight a few other bits of Chinese from Avatar in later posts.

“Tales of Ba Sing Se” (from Season 2) and all three seasons can be purchased on iTunes.
Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 1
Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 2
Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 3

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