The Tao Tei are the main antagonists in the 2017 live action monster film The Great Wall. They are a reptilian alien race from an unknown world that invaded Ancient China.
The Tao Tei are dark green quadrupedal, carnivorous reptiles, similar in appearance to ceratopsian dinosaurs (particularly the Defenders and Queen). They possess retractable membranous head frills which resonate, allowing them to communicate with each other over long distances. These beasts possess elaborate motifs on the crests of their skulls, which gave the inspiration of the taotie motif to the cultures of Ancient China. There appear to be three main breeds of Tao Tei: Soldiers, Defenders, and the Queen.
The Tao Tei are ravenous, aggressive, bloodthirsty and carnivorous monsters whose sole purpose is to consume anything in their path. They are eusocial creatures like ants, dedicated to serving their queen. They are carnivores, and will devour the flesh of their own to replenish their numbers. Strangely, magnetic rocks (such as lodestones) pacify them by muffling the signals from the queen. Soldiers and defenders are helpless without the constant contact with the queen. Queen's death causes the signal to die out completely, killing the rest of the colony by deactivating their brains.
During 1000 BC in Ancient China, a destructive meteor crash-landed into Gouwu Mountain, turning it green. With it came forth the Tao Tei that proceeded to lay waste to China. The appearance of the creatures coincided with the magisterial rule of an oppressive and despotic emperor, making the Chinese believe that the Tao Tei were sent from the gods to punish the emperor of the time for his abuse of authority. Since then, they attacked Northern China once every 60 years. The Nameless Order was formed to combat the Tao Tei and the Great Wall was erected to safeguard the land.
During the Song Dynasty, the Tao Tei attempted another invasion into the interior of China, but were once again repelled by the Nameless Order. It was discovered that the Tao Tei were pacified using magnetic rocks, and there was a plan to use them to destroy the Tao Tei through the Queen. However the Queen managed to devise a method in digging under the Great Wall, circumventing it and the Order, and led her hordes to the capital.
The capital was nearly overrun but a small contingent of the Order managed to hold them off with the help of the royal guards. The Queen was tricked into consuming meat tainted with magnets and was killed using an explosive arrow, shot by William Garin. Without their queen, the remaining Tao Tei are frozen solid in place.
Tao Tei Castes
- Soldiers: These Tao Tei are skinny with longer limbs and snouts. Their eyes are located on their shoulders rather then the head, and are the main weak points.
- Defenders: Bulkier and more armored, these Tao Tei defend the Queen, and are able to unfold their heavier frills to act as shields against bombardment. These armored frills are capable of withstanding catapults and sharp projectiles.
- Queen: The largest of the Tao Tei, this tyrannical creature commands the Tao Tei hordes. She is somewhat intelligent, being able to come up with strategies and countermeasures. Her sole purpose is to breed, which she can only in proportion to the amount of meat she is fed. She looks vaguely like a Protoceratops.
- Given the Queen is only somewhat larger than the soldiers and that none of the young Tao Tei are ever seen, it is unclear how she manages to birth such a huge army in a short span of time.
- It is possible that there are more Tao Tei living in their homeworld than there were in China, but how that horde of Tao Tei got there in an asteroid is unknown.
- In ancient Chinese mythology, the original Tao Tei was a monster that represented greed and gluttony and was said to devour its own body in fits of hunger. It was commonly depicted as a dog-like creature with a human-like head and eyes located in the armpit.
- The Tao Tei Queen was originally depicted as slightly more slim and would have engaged the Order's warriors in close combat.
- The foreheads of the Taotie have ridged symbols that resemble the actual taotie artistic motif in ancient Chinese art and heraldry.
- The Tao Tei Defenders greatly resemble the kaiju Leatherback from Pacific Rim, another film produced by Legendary Pictures.