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Avatar, Pandora and the Hallelujah Mountain in China

Updated on November 10, 2014

Avatar blockbuster partly inspired by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Avatar is a sci-fi blockbuster film directed by James Cameron. Although set in the future on a far-distant planet where blue-skinned aliens live, the inspiration for the movie is far more down to Earth. Part of that inspiration is the amazing sandstone pillars of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China.

These stone pillars, some of which are more than 650ft high, create a very weird landscape in the forest park which is situated in the Hunan Province and has cable cars and an incredible elevator building so that visitors can experience them for themselves. This strange location in China has been revealed as a place on Earth that inspired the movie’s other-worldly set on Pandora, a moon that orbits Polyphemus a giant gas-planet in the Alpha Centauri system.

Panoramic view from Mount Tianzishan wulingyuan Zhangjiajie Forest Park, Hunan, China
Panoramic view from Mount Tianzishan wulingyuan Zhangjiajie Forest Park, Hunan, China | Source

Buy Avatar on DVD

Hallelujah Mountains

In the film there are the aptly named Hallelujah Mountains, aptly named because “Hallelujah means to praise God and these incredibly high mountains are most worthy of praise because they float.

Avatar production designer Dylan Cole has admitted that the mountains in the film were based around some Chinese mountains, including Mount Huang and those in the Zhangjiajie Forest Park.

With the worldwide success of Cameron’s movie one of the mountains in this park has been given a new name. It is now officially known as the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

Buy Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley

The song Hallelujah

Whilst admittedly not having anything to do with the film Avatar, it is interesting to see how the word Hallelujah has become popularized in world entertainment and popular culture.

Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen’s song entitled Hallelujah has been covered by many other singers including Jeff Buckley and John Cale. Although not originally much of a success for Cohen himself the song has become one of his greatest hits and has been considered as one of the greatest songs ever written.


English: Illustration of the planet Polyphemus from the film Avatar, based on a photograph of the planet Jupiter
English: Illustration of the planet Polyphemus from the film Avatar, based on a photograph of the planet Jupiter | Source

Pandora and the Avatar plot

Avatar tells the epic story of the battle between humans from Earth, who are intent on mining the rare mineral unobtanium, and the peaceful natives of Pandora who are known as the Na’vi and who seek to continue their way of life and to protect their world. The Na’vi live in balance with the natural world of the moon they inhabit and they worship a Goddess known as Eywa.

Because the atmosphere of Pandora is poisonous to human, Earth scientists devise a fiendish plot for getting what they want and they create human-Na’vi hybrids that can be operated remotely. This means that their operator does not have to risk getting poisoned. They are called “avatars”, making reference to the factual term for an incarnation of God in a human body.

The avatars are sent as spies into the jungle homelands of the Na’vi and the narrative of the film follows their interaction with the real natives and the subsequent conflicts that ensue.

A Message From Pandora

Pandora and parallels with the real world

The film Avatar and the story it tells is not only inspired by real elements of the planet Earth, such as the Chinese mountains already described, but also draws parallels with and comments on the ongoing battles between tribal peoples in many parts of the globe who are uniting to fight against the mining companies and other global corporations that threaten to destroy their homelands and ways of life.

James Cameron and the Belo Monte Dam

In the Amazon there is the threatened destruction of much of the rainforest by the proposed Belo Monte Dam and the tribes there have been battling for years to stop this. The dam would severely impede the flow of the Xingu river and in real life James Cameron has added his support to the campaign to stop the destruction of the forests and all the wildlife that depend on them and the end to the ways of life for the 25,000 people that live there. The director produced a special “Message from Pandora” feature to help show his support.

It is fascinating to see the way that a fictional film is inspired by real locations on Earth and also mirrors real situations here too.

Avatar Trailer The Movie (New Extended HD Trailer)

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© 2013 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 3 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad you have seen this movie too. Thanks for commenting!

    • PinoyMom profile image

      Shiela Gerona 3 years ago from Philippines

      I'm a fan of that movie. It was also translated in Filipino language in a local channel here. James Cameron is an environmentalist too.