The Japanese Studio Ghibli classic, which was officially released in 2001, was never shown in Chinese cinemas, but became a household favourite thanks to DVDs and pirated downloads.
According to Maoyan, China’s largest film ticketing app, the film grossed $27.7m (£21.8m) in its opening weekend.
In comparison, Pixar’s latest adventure Toy Story 4 made $13.2m.
Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is one of the most beloved animes of all time and became the first non-english language film to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.
The first Ghbili film to be shown in Chinese cinemas was My Neighbour Totoro, which was finally released last year, 30 years after being made.
Japan occupied China in 1931, which led to the death of millions of Chinese people by the time the war ended in 1945.
After lingering hostility, Stanley Rosen from the University of Southern California told the BBC that the “relationship has improved significantly.”
Despite falling short of expectations, Toy Story 4 – directed by Josh Cooler – broke a UK record in its opening weekend.
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