Surprise!  Aladdin Was Originally Set in China

Audiences worldwide mostly associate the tale of Aladdin with the Arabsphere, thanks mainly to Disney’s 1992 animated film. But did you know the original story was seemingly set in China?

The opening sentences of the version of Aladdin included in The Arabian Nights by Frenchman Antoine Galland list the setting as “one of the cities of China.”

Victorian illustrators depicted characters from the story with Chinese features and dress, and early theatrical productions of Aladdin also involved Chinese set designs.

Far from a shrewd thief, Aladdin was originally a slothful youth who gave his parents so much grief that his father, an elderly tailor, died of shame.

Also, in the original tale, Aladdin only won the princess over with the aid of his mother. In modern Chinese culture, some parents are still highly involved in matchmaking.

There is reasonable scholarly debate about whether the story of Aladdin was originally intended to be set in China. Regardless, it’s fun to imagine a remake of the film set in ancient China!

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