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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 5 Chinese Television Dramas This Summer

Not a day goes by without television dramas becoming a trending topic on Chinese social media. Some Chinese hit TV drama’s took over 17 years of preparation, others have over a billion views – this is an overview of the five dramas that are trending this summer.

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Not a day goes by without television dramas becoming a trending topic on Chinese social media. Some Chinese hit TV drama’s took over 17 years of preparation, others have over a billion views. This is an overview of the five dramas that are trending this summer by What’s on Weibo.

The popularity of Chinese television dramas continues to grow – not just within China, but also internationally.

Xinhua News recently featured a story about Vietnamese youth getting hooked on dramas from the PRC. But many people from other countries outside of China are also getting more addicted to Chinese television dramas. On various online video platforms, such as Viki.com, thousands of drama fans volunteer to subtitle dramas to make them accessible to people who don’t understand the language.

A continuing trend over the last decade is the huge popularity of Chinese costume dramas. What is noticeable is that TV dramas relating to the Sino-Japanese war, previously one of the most popular historical genres, now seem to have become less popular.

Based on the popularity charts on Weibo, Sohu TV, and Baidu, these are the five hottest Chinese TV drama this summer.

 

#1. Princess Agents 楚乔传

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Historical drama, romance, action
Broadcast start: 27 December 2016, Hunan TV
Episodes: 58
Starring: Zhao Liying aka Zanilia Zhao 赵丽颖/ Lin Genxin aka Kenny Lin 林更新 / Dou Xiao aka Shawn Dou 窦骁 / Li Qin 李沁 / Wang Yanlin 王彦霖 / Niu Junfeng 牛骏峰

The recent popularity of Princess Agents in China is enormous. Not only is the series constantly in the top trending lists on Sina Weibo, it also received over 2 billion views on Youku alone this month.

Princess Agents (楚乔传 Chu Qiao Chuan) is adapted from a novel written by Xiao Xiang Donger (潇湘冬儿). The story takes place during the time of the Western Wei (535-557), a period of chaos, where ordinary citizens are kidnapped and turned into slaves.

One of these slaves is the young and rebellious girl Chu Qiao, played by the pretty Zanilia Zhao. The story starts with Chu Qiao, suffering from amnesia, finding herself in a group of young female slaves who are used for entertainment for the rich lords. Dropped on a field exposed to a group of wolves, they become hunting targets in a rich man’s game.

After a bloody battlefield, in which she puts up a fight against wolves and arrows, the fierce Chu Qiao is the only one to survive. She is brought into the powerful family of Yu Wenyue (Lin Gengxin) as a maid. Her sister already serves in this household, and Chu vows to rescue her sister and flee from the situation.

The story follows Chu throughout her brave journey to keep herself and the people she loves safe from harm, and to destroy the injustice that is taking place in the world around her. She will do anything to reach her goals – even if it means becoming a spy.

Princess Agents has everything fans of Chinese dramas usually like; it is a story full of love, action, and conspiracies, in a historical setting with lush costumes and a lavish set, along with plenty of special effects that make the scenes more spectacular.

On Weibo, the topic of Princess Agents has received over 4.8 billion views. Many netizens praise Zanilia Zhao for her acting skills, and the fact that a fierce woman has the main role in this drama is something that many drama lovers seem to appreciate.

Available for viewing on YouTube with English Subtitles.

#2. Midnight Diner 深夜食堂

Drama Origin: Mainland China, previously also released in Japan and South-Korea.
Genre: Human drama, comedy, food
Broadcast start: 12 June 2017 (network Beijing TV, Zhejiang TV)
Episodes: 40
Starring: Huang Lei 黄磊 / Zhao Youting aka Mark Chao 赵又廷 / Hai Qing 海清

Midnight Diner previously came out as a Japanese TV drama in 2009 (Shinya Shokudo), and later was remade in South-Korea. Now it is time for China’s adaptation of the drama, which revolves around the happenings at a special restaurant that is only open in between midnight and 7am. The restaurant owner, played by famous actor Huang Lei, does not like to talk much – but he does love to cook while his customers share their personal stories.

The series is a popular topic on Sina Weibo, where netizens have heated debates about it. They compare the drama to the previous adaptations, and share their own restaurant stories and recipes from the Midnight Diner kitchen.

Despite its popularity, the drama is also receiving a lot of criticism for its “exaggerated acting” and “awkward lines.” Many fans say that the restaurant owner in the Chinese version is making weird food choices and they also complain that the show is not ‘Chinese’ enough.

#3. Rush to the Dead Summer 夏至未至

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Romance, Youth drama
Broadcast start: 11 June 2017
Episodes: 46
Starring: Chen Xuedong aka Cheney Chen 陈学冬 / Zheng Shuang 郑爽 / Bai Jingting 白敬亭 / Xia Zitong 夏梓桐 / Chai Biyun 柴碧云 / Pang Hangchen 庞瀚辰 / Wang Yuwen 王玉雯 / Chao Zhang 张超 / Zhengge Huizi 郑合惠子

Rush to the Dead Summer (夏至未至) is a TV drama based on the novel by Guo Jingming (郭敬明) that follows a group friends during a time span of ten years as they go from their highschool life and each start their own life in society.

Many fans have been waiting a long time for this TV drama to come out, as its airing was already announced in the summer of 2016. By now, its official Weibo account has well over 1.6 million followers.

The theme song of the TV drama (video above) is also very popular. The song, titled “First Memory” (最初的记忆) is by Taiwanese singer Lala Hsu.

 

#4. White Deer Plain 白鹿原

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Contemporary historical drama
Broadcast start: May 10 2017, Anhui TV, Zhejiang TV
Episodes: 85
Starring: Zhang Jiayi, He Bing, Qin Hailu, Liu Peiqi, Li Hongtao, and more.

The preparation and production of White Deer Plain was certainly not rushed; it reportedly took 17 years before this TV drama finally went on air. The drama plot is based on the award-winning Chinese literary classic by Chen Zhongshi (陈忠实) of the same name from 1993.

This work’s success in China has previously been compared to that of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. White Deer Plain was previously also turned into a movie (2011).

The historic epic follows the stories of people from several generations living on the ‘White Deer Plain,’ or North China Plain in Shanxi province, during the first half of the 20th century. This tumultuous period sees the Republican Period, the Japanese invasion, and the early days of the People’s Republic of China.

The drama has received an 8.9 star review from netizens on Douban.

#5. The Legend of Dragon Pearl 龙珠传奇

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Costume, romance, idol drama
Broadcast start: 5 May 2017, Anhui TV
Episodes: 90
Starring: Yang Zi aka Andy Yang 杨紫/ Qin Junjie 秦俊杰/Shu Chang aka Jennifer Shu 舒畅

The Legend of Dragon Pearl (龙珠传奇) is the second palace drama in this top 5, which shows that the genre of traditional drama, particularly costume drama, is still very popular – arguably even more popular than before.

This Chinese television drama tells the story of the unlikely romance between the Princess Zhu Yihuan (Yang Zi), a martial arts talent and the last princess of the Ming dynasty, and Emperor Kangxi (Qin Junjie), who is the young emperor of the Qing dynasty. Their love story is not without hurdles, because the Kangxi court is actually hated by Zhu’s family as the Ming dynasty, by the Han people, was overthrown by the Manchurians who established the Qing Dynasty.

This love story gets even sweeter when you know that main players Andy Yang (Yang Zi) and Qin Junjie are also a couple in real life.

On Youku, the drama has received a total of over 2.2 billion views by now. Many fans on Weibo share their favorite scenes and share their drawings and other art works based on this successful drama.

By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Mixing Chinese Opera With Pop Music, Jason Zhang Becomes a Social Media Hit

A classic Chinese opera song has become a viral hit.

Susanna Sun

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A song that mixes pop and rap with traditional Yue opera has become a viral hit on Chinese social media. Despite the praise for the song, some people say pop and opera should not be mixed.

In the second episode of Battle For the Heavenly Voice, Dragon TV’s new music contest show featuring celebrity singers, pop singer Jason Zhang (张杰) recently took the Internet by storm.

Zhang performed a rearranged Chinese Yue opera piece titled “Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” (天上掉下林妹妹), mixing elements of pop, rock, and rap music with traditional Chinese opera.

Jason Zhang, also known as Zhang Jie (张杰), is a Chinese mainland pop singer. In 2007, Zhang rose to fame after taking fourth place on Hunan Channel’s singing competition show Super Boy.

His popularity has increased over the past two years: having made it into the final round of I Am a Singer, Zhang is widely recognized in China as a talented singer with a hard-working, down-to-earth attitude.

Earlier this week, Jason’s pop music rendition of the famous opera song debuted on the new music show and went viral almost immediately. The hashtag ‘Zhang Jie Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” (#张杰天上掉下个林妹妹#) has thus far received more than 170 million views on Weibo.

The hashtag page’s introduces the song as “a blend of traditional Chinese opera, rock, and R&B music, full of originality and freshness, showing the young singer’s willingness to preserve our traditional culture as a responsibility.”

Check the video here:

Yue opera (越剧), one of the five main types of traditional folk opera in China, is characterized by its lyricism and prized particularly for its intimate portrayal of emotion. “Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” originally is a duet song from Yue opera’s adaptation of thee Dream of the Red Mansion, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels.

‘Dream of Red Mansion’ special opera cinema, 1962.

The song is sung at the beginning of the story, when protagonists Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu first meet. They both have the same strange feeling that they have been close friends for a long time and have met again after a long separation. Using an emotional melody, the duet shows the affection Baoyu and Lin Daiyu feel in such a lyrical way that it has become the most well-known song representing Yue opera.

 

“A disgrace to the art of Yue opera.”

 

Yue opera mostly uses Wu dialect in singing and speech. The Wu dialect’s vowels and consonants are quite different from standard Mandarin. Zhang, not a native speaker of Wu dialect, memorized the standard Yue opera pronunciations of lyrics with both alphabet combinations and Mandarin word substitutes.

The version of the song as performed in this 1962 special opera cinema with leading actress Xu Yulan:

Given its courageous mixing of music styles, “Sister Lin Fallen from Heaven” has been praised as extraordinary, with netizens applauding Zhang for his experimentation. On Weibo, there are many positive comments, such as: “I appreciate your act of promoting Chinese opera culture so much. Hope there will be more surprises like this in the future.”

However, a few passionate Yue opera lovers did not seem to approve of Zhang’s Yue opera singing: “His Yue opera singing is so unprofessional. It doesn’t sound like Yue opera at all. His song is a disgrace to the art of Yue opera.”

A netizen named Kou Li Dao has one of the most upvoted comments under the video:

Some will praise Jason Zhang for singing a Chinese opera song, and some will criticize him for not ‘respecting’ our traditional folk music. Indeed, Zhang did not sing Yue opera in the most ‘orthodox’ way, but he is showing his efforts to introduce and spread Chinese opera culture to the younger generations in his audience. We should all embrace his act of integrating Chinese traditional with contemporary music, because only by constantly experimenting with new styles of modern music, Yue opera will not remain an isolated art – it will be an ever-developing art.

By Susanna Sun

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Video of Chinese Football Celebrity Causing Havoc on Cancelled Flight Stirs Discussion

A video of a violent altercation between footballer Li Lei and local police on an Air China aircraft is going viral on WeChat and Weibo.

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A video showing how a famous Chinese footballer is forcefully dragged off an aircraft in Hainan together with his wife is going viral on Chinese social media.

A video has emerged on Chinese social media on October 26 of a Beijing football celebrity and his wife forcefully being taken off an Air China flight.

The incident, which reportedly took place on October 5, occurred when flight CA1356 from Hainan got canceled due to bad weather conditions after passengers had already been waiting on the plane for five hours.

After the announcement, some angered passengers, including Li Lei and his wife, refused to get off the plane. Police were called on the aircraft when the couple got into a dispute with flight attendants. According to the flight attendant, the footballer allegedly threw a bottle of hot water on the ground.

The video shows how Li Lei gets into a violent altercation with local police. When he refuses to comply with them, both he and his wife are forcefully taken off the aircraft. Li Lei can be heard screaming: “You would all lose your head over this” (“你们一个个都要掉脑袋”).

Li Lei (李磊, 1992) is a well-known Chinese footballer who plays as a midfielder for Beijing Guoan of the Chinese Super League.

Lawyer Zhang Qihuai (@张起淮) was amongst the first persons on social media to expose the story. It is not clear why the story, which occurred three weeks ago, only surfaced on social media now.

The video has stirred commotion on social media, where some people question the police’s actions for resorting to violence: “The police only acts based upon what he knows from the flight attendant. They do not even question the passenger,” some say.

But there are also many who condemn the footballer for causing unrest on the plane: “Nobody wants a plane to be delayed, but there’s no reason to bully the flight attendents and to throw things around.”

“We don’t know what exactly happened, but I just know Li Lei is a good man – he was just trying to protect his wife,” one commenter says.

Air China has responded to the controversy on October 27, saying that it is the police’s duty to take passengers off the aircraft when they refuse to do so.

By Miranda Barnes and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2017

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