“A Deer of Nine Colors” is a Chinese animated film produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio and co-directed by Qian Jiajun and Dai Tielang. It is also referred to as “The Nine Colored Deer”. The original story is based on the Buddhist Jataka tale of the same name, which were discovered as cave paintings from the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, China.
The Jātaka stories, or ‘birth stories’ are tales which originally came from local folklore and were adapted as teaching aids as Buddhism spread throughout Asia from India. The stories depict the Buddha in former lives or ‘incarnations’, both human and animal, and usually portray him showing great compassion, thus serving as moral fables in a similar way to the Parables used in Christianity. The Jātaka stories appeared frequently in Buddhist art as a way of teaching illiterate people the morals of Buddhism. Many such examples can be seen in wall paintings at Buddhist cave complexes such as at Mogao near Dunhuang on the Silk Road.
Original story and images of cave paintings can be found at The International Dunhuang Project website
Qian Jiajun (钱家骏) was the creator of a number of China’s earliest and award-winning cartoons, including “A deer with nine colors”, “Why are the crows black?” and “Baby tadpoles look for their mother.” Though not as famous as most of his students dubbed as the “golden generation” of China’s animation industry, Qian was regarded as one of the important industry founders. Born in 1916, Jiangsu Province, Qian developed a great interest in literature and art. In 1935, he graduated from Suzhou Fine Arts College and became a professional cartoon artist. He used to work as the director of Chongqing Educational Film Animation Studio, the board director of an animation school in Hong Kong and the director of China Film Production Factory in the Republic of China (1911-1949). After 1949, he was hired by Shanghai Animation Film Studio as its art designer, director and leading technician. Meanwhile, he also took jobs as professors in various art and film schools.