In 1998, the non-profit educational organisation Sesame Workshop launched a coproduction of Sesame Street - titled Zhima Jie - in China. Geared toward preschool children (ages 3 to 6), a total of 130 half-hour episodes of the Mandarin language co-production aired on Shanghai Television (STV) from 1998-2001. The programme focused on teaching basic skills, such as literacy, numeracy, and an appreciation of the arts.

Zhima Jie returned in 2010 as Zhima Jie: Da Niao Kan Shijie, or Sesame Street's Big Bird Looks at the World.
Communication Strategies: 

The initial series of Zhima Jie used engaging live action, animation, and colourful characters in an effort to meet the educational needs of young children in China.

This version of Sesame Street drew on the knowledge of local Chinese experts in child development, education, and media to identify the most important developmental needs of children in China and the best ways to address them. To generate culturally appropriate education goals, the advisors participated in a seminar in which they presented suggestions and - through group discussion - reached a consensus on the educational objectives of the series, which included:

  1. Symbolic representation - goals related to literacy, such as learning Chinese characters, and numeracy, such as counting and identifying geometric forms
  2. Cognitive organisation - skills such as auditory and visual discrimination and classifying quantity and shapes
  3. The child's world - goals such as identifying body parts, learning about emotions, and problem solving
  4. Family and society - goals pertaining to family structures, family activities, social relationships, and the child's environment
  5. Aesthetics and arts - the senses, artistic expression, and creativity.

After the seminar, an educational advisor summarised the specialists' recommendations in a document stating the educational objectives of the series; the document addresses each of these 5 curricular areas in detail and served as a guide for developing the series' studio, live action, and animation segments. Also key to this process was formative research carried out with different groups of Chinese children. This research provided information on the programme's appeal, the comprehension of the educational messages, and the types of images and activities Chinese children liked in the programme.


Through the above-described process, organisers developed several animated colourful, quirky Muppet characters to entertain and educate young Chinese viewers through the televised programmes. For example, the tall, 6-year-old yellow bird "Big Bird (Da Niao)" proved himself willing to try again, correct his mistakes, and find solutions to problems through persistence.


Zhima Jie: Da Niao Kan Shijie, or Sesame Street's Big Bird Looks at the World, premiered on Shanghai's HaHa Channel in December 2010. It aired nationally on CCTV Children's Channel and regionally on Toonmax Channel and on Guangdong Jiajia. As part of this effort, Sesame Workshop sought to educate and entertain Chinese children on various multimedia platforms and via community engagement strategies, including:

  • Sesame Street China website (Chinese language only);
  • Sesame-Street-featured programme blocks available on a variety of digital platforms, including on an internet protocol television (IPTV) service, an online video streaming site, and a children's portal;
  • 40 bilingual home video titles for Sesame Street and Elmo's World;
  • 16 collections and more than 200 storybooks for Sesame Street;
  • National tour of Sesame Street Live Show Elmo's Super Heroes (which launched in October 2013);
  • Let's Get Ready! localised mobile app and mobile site available to download nationwide to help children and families prepare for emergency (Over 2/3 of families who used the mobile content had taken action (i.e., packed an emergency kit) to prepare for an emergency; for further details, see Related Summaries, below);
  • Partnership with China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) to distribute educational outreach material on emergency response and preparedness to over 120,000 children in 15 provinces; and
  • Public service announcement (PSA) campaign on "Water Conservation" launched in Beijing and Changsha as part of Children's Urban Sustainability Initiative "Kids Create Cities of the Future", led by The China Center for International Economic Exchanges, the China Association of Mayors and the Paulson Institute.
Development Issues: 

Early Childhood Development, Education.

Key Points: 

A study conducted by Jin Li and Jimei Li (published in Early Education & Development, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 2002, pps. 379-394) found that Zhima Jie's purpose to reach Chinese preschool children through television "corresponded to their needs and desires for learning. The program's educational goals met overwhelming love and appreciation from those children studied." One reason for this impact, they speculate, is the fact that "Zhima Jie's goals were a product of Chinese educators' thoughtful design, not a transplantation of US [United States] Sesame Street materials."

Partner Text: 

Original Zhima Jie: Sesame Workshop, STV. Zhima Jie: Da Niao Kan Shijie: Sesame Workshop, China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF).


Sesame Workshop website; "'The Cow Loves to Learn'": The Hao-Xue-Xin Learning Model as a Reflection of the Cultural Relevance of Zhima Jie, China's Sesame Street", by Jin Li and Jimei Li. In Early Education & Development, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 2002, pps. 379-394; Sesame Workshop Press Release, August 20 2003; and emails from June Lee to The Communication Initiative on January 19 2006, December 17 2013, and January 10 2014. "Sesame Street" excerpts provided courtesy of Sesame Workshop (New York, New York) © 2013 Sesame Workshop. "Sesame Street" ® and associated characters, trademarks, and design elements are owned and licensed by Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.