When and Where Does Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom Take Place?

The French live-action adventure comedy film ‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ (also known as ‘Astérix & Obélix: L’Empire du Milieu’) tells the story of the two eponymous characters, the legendary Gaulish heroes who have proven to be the greatest adversaries of the Republic of Rome. After her mother, the Empress of China, is deposed by the evil prince Deng Tsin Qin, Princess Fu Yi (Julie Chen) comes to Gaul to ask for the assistance of Astérix (Guillaume Canet) and Obélix (Gilles Lellouche).

Meanwhile, on the counsel of his Roman advisor, Deng Tsin Qin makes a pact with Julius César (Vincent Cassel), who agrees to come to China for two reasons: conquest and to get away from constant arguments with his wife, Cléopâtre (Marion Cotillard). If the historical setting of ‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ has made you wonder when and where the story takes place, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Setting the Scene: The Era of 50 BC

As many of you may know, ‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ has been developed from ‘Asterix’ or ‘The Adventures of Asterix,’ a bande dessinée (short form BDs; refers to comics originally published in French for French and Belgian readership) comic book series created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Besides portraying one of the main characters, Canet serves as the director of the film. The plot of ‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ is an original story written by Canet, Philippe Mechelen, and Julien Hervé and not inspired by any ‘Asterix’ comic album.

As the narrator states at the start, ‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ is set in 50 BC. César, the primary antagonist of the film, was killed six years later, in 44 BC. So, at least in this regard, the plot fits real-world history, though we can safely say that César never made it to China. During this period, the Han dynasty ruled in China. Emperor Xuan of Han ascended the throne in September 74 BC and reigned until his death in January 48 BC. The lore of the film states the emperor died before the film so that part is historically inaccurate.

Ultimately, as a franchise, ‘Asterix & Obelix’ is less about historical accuracy and more about humor, adventure, and fantasy. In an interview with Bluewin.ch, Canet explained why he depicted the two main characters as if they were bright-eyed teenagers.

“That’s what I wanted! I wanted to show them as grown-up children who are reaching adolescence and who have this carefree universe,” the actor-filmmaker said. “I also found it interesting to tell love stories. We don’t really know them to be sexual or romantic and I found it endearing to see them experience their first emotions and to play on that. This film is aimed at children in particular and I wanted to bring it closer to their everyday lives so that they can find themselves and identify with these characters.”

Journey Across Continents: From Gaul to China

‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ is set across three continents. A considerable part of the story takes place in the indomitable village, the native settlement of Astérix and Obélix. Located in the Armorica region (part of modern-day Brittany, France) in northern Gaul, the village is the only place in the country that the Republic of Rome hasn’t conquered. The initial part involving César and his cohorts is set in Rome before they make their way to China through the Silk Road.

After Princess Fu Yi convinces Astérix and Obélix to come to China, they first travel by sea to North Africa (Carthage, modern-day Tunisia). They then make their way through the Egyptian desert to reach the Red Sea and the City of Klysma or Clysma, an ancient city located at the head of the Gulf of Suez.

The heroes subsequently hire a ship to travel to China. Part of the film’s title, “The Middle Kingdom,” refers to an alternative name for China, deriving from the translation of  Zhōngguó (中國), the Chinese name for their country. Filming for ‘Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom’ predominantly took place in parts of France and Morocco.

Read More: Is Asterix & Obelix Based on a Novel or a Comic Book?