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Chunwan 2022: The CMG Spring Festival Gala Liveblog by What’s on Weibo

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As we are leaving the Year of the Ox and entering Year of the Tiger, it’s time for the 40th edition of the Spring Festival Gala! Watch the Gala together with What’s on Weibo here and follow our liveblog to keep up with what’s happening on screen and on social media (this liveblog has now closed, read the overview below!) [Premium content]

Another year has flown by and despite many changes, we can always count on China’s annual Spring Festival Gala. This 40th edition of the festival is the third one to take place in the Covid era.

The Gala will be broadcast on TV and live-streamed via various channels on January 31st, 20.00 pm China Standard Time. So turn on your TV and tune into CCTV, live stream from Weibo, watch on YouTube, or head to the CCTV website. We will be live-blogging on this page here and you can scroll & watch at the same time from this page.

 

Very Brief Introduction to the Spring Festival Gala

 

China’s Spring Festival Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会), commonly abbreviated to chūnwǎn (春晚), is the annual TV gala celebrating the start of the new year. Broadcasted since 1983, it is not just the biggest live televised event in China, it is even among the most-watched shows in the world. The show reached a record 1.27 billion viewers around the globe in 2021.

Previously known as the ‘CCTV Gala,’ it is officially presented as the ‘CMG Spring Festival Gala’ since 2020: it is hosted by China Media Group (CMG), the predominant state media company founded in 2018 that holds China Central Television, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

The Gala is an important Chinese media moment and significant cultural event organized and produced by the state-run broadcaster, overseen by the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), and aired across dozens of channels. It shows the very best of China’s mainstream entertainment and Party propaganda and is a mix of traditional culture, (digital) commerce, and politics. It is an opportunity for the Party to communicate official ideology, it is also a chance to present the nation’s top performers.1

Since recent years, it has also become a platform to showcase China’s innovative digital technologies. In 2015 the show first featured the exchange of virtual hongbao, red envelopes with money, which WeChat users could obtain while shaking their phones during specific moments in the show. Such marketing strategies have drawn in much younger viewer audiences than before. In 2021, the Gala explicitly presented itself as a “tech innovation event” by using 8K ultra high-tech definition video and AI+VR studio technologies and super high definition cloud communication technology to coordinate performances on stage.

The show lasts a total of four hours, from 8pm to 1am Beijing time, and usually has around 30-40 different acts, from dance to singing and acrobatics. The acts that are both most-loved and most-dreaded are the comic sketches (小品) and crosstalk (相声); they are usually the funniest, but also convey the most political messages.

As viewer ratings of the Gala in the 21st century have skyrocketed, so has the critique on the show – which seems to be growing year on year. According to many viewers, the spectacle generally is often “way too political” with its display of communist nostalgia, including the performance of different revolutionary songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There is No New China” (没有共产党就没有新中国).

For this same reason, the sentence “There’ll never be a worst, just worse than last year” (“央视春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂”) has become a well-known idiom connected to the Gala.

If you want to know more about the previous editions, we also live-blogged
– 2021: The Chunwan Liveblog: Watching the 2021 CMG Spring Festival Gala
– 2020: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2020
– 2019: The CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2019 Live Blog
– 2018: CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 (Live Blog)
– 2017: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017 Live Blog
– 2016: CCTV’s New Year’s Gala 2016 Liveblog

 

Liveblog CMG Spring Festival Gala 2022

 

Underneath here you will see our liveblog being updated. Leave the page open and you’ll see the new posts coming in, there should be a ‘ping’ too with every update.

Update: this liveblog is now closed, check below for an overview of the entire show.

 
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The original liveblog was done via a third-party app. The original texts and images are copied below for reference. If there are links to particular segments of the show, they have been added later. The timestamp (in Beijing time) refers to the last moment that post was updated.

Want to directly check out some Spring Festival Gala highlights on YouTube?

We recommend:

The ‘painting’ dance: ‘Only This Green (只此青绿)

The dancing elephant song: ‘The Herd Returns With Spring’ (万象回春)

Creative music, dance, poetry, and painting: “Reminiscence of the South” (忆江南)

Tai Chi up in the sky: ‘Flowing Water’ (行云流水)

The space-themed children performance: ‘Star Dreams’ (星星梦)

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What can we expect?

Jan 31 19:30

It’s almost time for the 40th edition of the Spring Festival Gala to begin. The fifth and final rehearsal of the entire event took place on January 29th. Even if something goes wrong tonight, the tape of the official rehearsal runs together with the live broadcast, so that in the event of a problem or disruption, the producers can seamlessly switch to the taped version without TV audiences noticing anything.

The Spring Festival Gala usually always focuses on the themes that matter to Chinese authorities, as the event is an important moment to communicate official ideology.

The themes and topics that mattered last year were China’s battle against COVID19, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, China’s eradication of poverty, China’s Space Program, and the upcoming Winter Olympics.

This year most of these themes will probably again also play an important role this year, together with rural revitalization and China’s unity, with a special focus on Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Also, we’re pretty sure that Olympic mascots Bing Duan Duan (“Bing Dwen Dwen”) and Xue Rong Rong (“Shuey Rhon Rhon”) will show up.

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Less Focus on Celebrity Culture

Jan 31 19:35

After a year of celebrities being canceled and crackdowns shaking the Chinese entertainment industry to the core, this year’s Spring Festival Gala will be less focused on popular idols of the internet era and more focused on performing art talents and national heroes.

Chinese state outlet Global Times stressed the idea that those performing in the Chinese New Year Gala should “act as a role model to viewers.”

Many of the people who have an impeccable track record are the older performing artists (those who never had to deal with the social media audiences), so the average age of the artists tonight might be a bit higher up the age ladder than usual.

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Most Anticipated Acts?

Jan 31 19:50

One of the most anticipated acts for tonight is the dance play “Only This Green” (只此青绿) inspired by the famous handscroll “One Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains.” In this performance, choreography twin stars Zhou Liya and Han Zhen will highlight the aesthetics of traditional Chinese painting.

The performance of the official Winter Olympics theme song is also attracting some attention.

Overall, the schedule of tonight’s show is looking fairly traditional, although there will be plenty of tech on display too; a 720-degree dome made of LED screens is set up for an immersive viewing experience, and the latest technology like AR, XR, and 8K will also be used.

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Liu Zhen: Chief Director

Jan 31 19:57

This year’s director of the Spring Festival Gala is Liu Zhen (刘真), who is the Deputy Director of the CCTV arts channel. He is known for previously directing the 2009 anniversary night of the Great Sichuan earthquake and he also directed the 2019 Spring Festival Gala themed around “New China.”

Noteworthy enough, it seems that this year’s Gala is only broadcasted from CCTV 1 Beijing Studio. Usually, there are also three or four other sub venues in other parts of China. Perhaps the Covid19 situation has been a contributing factor to deciding to let this year’s show only take place in one location.

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We’re starting!

Jan 31 20:05

In this opening act, Happy and Auspicious Year (欢乐吉祥年), three major Wuhan art groups are on stage together with many familiar faces, including the 87-year old actress Tao Yuling, we just saw Chinese director Zhang Yimou and acclaimed actor Ge You appearing in the intro, and there are many others together with some veteran performers who are being honored on stage today.

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Tonight’s hosts

Jan 31 20:06

These are tonight’s hosts:

Ren Luyu (任鲁豫, 1978): Ren Luyu is a famous Chinese television host from Henan who is a very familiar face for viewers. He presented the Gala five times since 2010.

Li Sisi (李思思, 1986): Li Sisi is a Chinese television host and media personality who is actually most known for her role as host of the Gala since 2012. This is the fifth time Li Sisi is presenting the Gala. She used to be the youngest host, but this year, Ma Fanshu is taking her place as the youngest host.

Nëghmet Raxman (尼格买, 1983): Together with Ren Luyu, Raxman is known as one of the veteran Gala hosts of the past decade. This is the seventh time for him to present the event since 2015. Nëghmet Raxman is a Chinese television host, born and raised in Ürümqi, Xinjiang.

Sa Beining (撒贝宁, 1976): Also known as Benny Sa, SA Beining previously presented the Gala in 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016. He is a Chinese television host known for his work for CCTV.

Ma Fanshu (马凡舒, 1993): Ma Fanshu is the youngest and newest host in this year’s Gala. She is a sports program host who has also been called “the most beautiful host of CCTV.”

It’s noteworthy that renowned CCTV host Zhu Jun still has not returned to the Gala. The presenter was accused of sexually assaulting an intern in 2018 and hasn’t been a host at the Gala since. Although the internet lost the sexual harassment lawsuit against Zhu Jun, he still hasn’t reappeared.

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Sense of the Times 时代感

Jan 31 20:10

This song is performed by the Chinese actor and singer Deng Chao (邓超) together with China’s ‘Supergirl’ Li Yuchun (李宇春) and Yi Yang Qianxi (Jackson Yee), the youngest member of the Chinese boy band TFBoys and super popular solo artist.

On stage, we also see dancer Zhang Yin (张引) together with various dance troupes.

Tonight we’ll see other members of the TFBoys come up in other acts as solo artists rather than as a group.

Link to this performance here.

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Skit: Father and Son

Jan 31 20:15

This is the first sketch comedy or short play of the night, called xiaopin 小品 in Chinese. Traditionally, the xiaopin is the best-received type of performance of the Gala for evoking laughter among the audiences. The various xiaopin shows are filled with puns, funny lines, and plot twists to entertain the viewers.

Over recent years, these comic acts performed during the Spring Festival Gala have come to center more on social issues such as environmental protection, corruption, social morals, migrant workers, and family affairs – including those concerning love and marriage. These are not always appreciated as much by viewers.

Meanwhile, on Chinese social media, some netizens are wondering who this kid is who was on stage earlier because he seemed a bit uncomfortable and awkward. But wouldn’t you too?! Over a billion people are watching this show!

Link to this performance here.

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The ‘Awkward Kid’

Jan 31 20:20

Look son, you’re a meme now!

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Pressured by the Parents

Jan 31 20:25

Inevitably, this skit touches upon the issue of Chinese parents pressuring their kids to settle down and have kids. This is already leading to online discussions as viewers often think the Gala has skits that are insulting to women or just embarrassing. In this case, the grandpa can’t wait for a grandkid, he even thinks his future grandchild is already calling him from the womb!

Link to this performance here.

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The Herd Returns With Spring

Jan 31 20:36

After the night’s first public announcement video – which was actually very well made with the tiger jumping through all the scenes -, we are now at the next segment. This is a musical skit (音乐短剧) focused on how nature blossoms with the return of spring (万象回春). It is performed by Chinese mainland singers Sha Baoliang (沙宝亮) and Wang Li (王莉) together with dancer and singer Liu Jia (刘迦).

The highlight of this act is the dancing elephants. They’re not real, obviously.

Last year, a herd of wild Asian elephants wandered hundreds of miles across southern China. They became a top trending topic on Chinese social media as netizens followed their journey. In September 2021, the elephants returned home after covering a total distance of 1,300 km.

Before tonight’s show, a creator already highlighted the elephants in the countdown program.

Link to this performance here.

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Spring Breeze

Jan 31 20:38

Chinese soprano Yin Xiumei (殷秀梅) and contemporary opera singer Yan Weiwen (阎维文) perform the song Ten Thousand Miles of Spring Wind (春风十万里), which was previously performed at the 2020 Gala by Zhang Ye (张也) and Liu Tao (刘涛).

Link to this performance here.

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21 Weibo Accounts Suspended For ‘Ruining The Holiday Spirits’ During Lunar New Year

Jan 31 20:40

We’re seeing loads of criticism on the Gala already. Online criticism and making fun of the Gala is a big part of the ‘Chunwan Experience’ ever since the social media era. But Weibo censors might be stricter this year.

On January 22, Weibo issued an indirect warning to netizens criticizing the festive annual Chinese New Year Galas by suspending 21 Weibo users spreading negativity regarding broadcasted festival programs and their performances.

According to Weibo Management (@微博管理员), there are individual netizens who are using televised Lunar New Year celebrations to condemn and slander Chinese performers and Chinese media. In doing so, they allegedly “deliberately destruct the warm and peaceful holiday spirit.”

“In times of pandemic, the Spring Festival needs positivity and warmth,” Weibo Management stated.

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Comical Sketch: To Return or Not?

Jan 31 20:45

This is the sixth time for Chinese comedian Shen Teng (沈腾) and Ma Li (马丽) to be on stage together at the Spring Festival Gala. Besides that, you also might know them because Shen Teng, one of China’s top comedian actors, and the famous Ma also played together in the 2015 hit movie Goodbye Mr. Loser (夏洛特烦恼).

On stage with them are Chang Yuan (常远), Ai Lun 艾伦, Wang Chengsi (王成思) and Xu Wenhe (许文赫).

This act is about people who have the means to repay debts they owe but choose not to, also referred to as 老赖 (laolai). This guy is so cheap he even offers a drink of water from the heating system.

By the way, did you know you can even watch the Gala from WeChat? It seems there are more ways and channels to watch every year. The Gala already reached a record 1.27 billion viewers last year.

Link to this performance here.

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Heads Up! Only This Green (只此青绿)

Jan 31 21:04

This is a much-anticipated dance performance by Chinese star dancer Meng Qingyang (孟庆旸) together with the China Oriental Performing Arts Group. Meng also performed the dance Jasmine in last year’s Gala.

“Only This Green” (只此青绿) is inspired by the famous handscroll “One Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains.” In this performance, choreography twin stars Zhou Liya and Han Zhen will highlight the aesthetics of traditional Chinese painting.

The 11.9-meter (39 ft)-long scroll A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains by Wang Ximeng comes from the Song Dynasty and it has been described as one of the greatest works of Chinese art. The painting is in the permanent collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Link to this performance here.

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Tai Chi: “Flowing Water”

Jan 31 21:10

Chinese Olympic athlete Yang Shunhong (杨顺洪), Tai Chi World Champion Liang Bifeng (梁壁荧) and Tai Chi master Yang Dezhan (杨德战) were just featured in this impressive Tai Chi performance recorded on dazzling heights in Shanghai. (Correction > recorded from the three highest buildings in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Chongqing!)

Link to video: ‘Flowing Water’ (行云流水)

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Chunwan Shopping

Jan 31 21:21

Over recent years, it’s become more common for e-commerce sellers to immediately jump in on the hype of what performers are wearing to sell the same or similar clothes and accessories online. In this way, viewers can watch the show while also eating and shopping, and chatting on social media at the same time!

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喜上加喜

Jan 31 21:23

In this comic sketch, we see Chinese comedian actress and film director Jia Ling together with award-winning actress Zhang Xiaofei. These two also worked together in the super popular 2021 movie ‘Hi, Mom‘. This time they are on stage as a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Since they’re both very popular, many Weibo users also said they were looking forward to seeing this sketch – especially because there was a scene in which Jia Ling, who played Zhang’s daughter in the movie, said: “Next life, let me be your mother.”

Meanwhile, some on social media are wondering if Jia is wearing the same outfit every year.

Link to this performance here.

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Uhm…

Jan 31 21:29

Some very quick viewers were able to capture Chinese actor Chen Baoguo (陈宝国) picking his nose with his mask on while sitting in the audience.

By the way, this is the second year the audience is wearing a face mask. In 2020, when Wuhan was first facing the Covid19 outbreak, the audience was not wearing face masks yet. 2021 was the first year.

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Here’s Han Hong Again

Jan 31 21:33

Singer Han Hong (1971) is one of China’s most famous pop singers and she is a regular at the Spring Festival Gala. For decades, the singer of mixed Tibetan and Han ethnicity was a member of a performing arts troupe within the People’s Liberation Army.

Tonight, she is singing the song So Many People in This World (这世界那么多人). She seemed to have some tears streaming down her face during her performance.

Link to performance here.

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Peking Opera

Jan 31 21:45

Every year you’ll see a Peking Opera act passing by during the Gala. This year, it is a mix of martial art acts together with singing. The performers are from all generations, from those born in the 1930s to those born in the early 2000s.

Link to this performance here.

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About that Sweater..

Jan 31 21:47

The sweater worn in the ‘debt dodger’ comic skit earlier tonight might have looked cheap, it’s actually $260! Gala viewers who liked the sweater can buy it online straight away.

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Grabbing Red Envelopes with JD

Jan 31 21:48

After the Gala partnered with Tencent, Kuaishou, and Baidu in previous years, they’ve now partnered up with e-commerce giant JD.com. Throughout the show, you’ll see various ‘media moments’ during which viewers can ‘catch’ red envelopes.

Actually, the Gala became especially linked to social media it first featured this kind of exchange of ‘hongbao’, red envelopes with money, which is a Chinese New Year’s tradition. In 2015, for the first time, viewers were able to receive virtual ‘hongbao’ as part of a cooperation between CCTV and WeChat. WeChat users shook their phones 11 billion times that night in order to ‘grab’ the money. These kinds of campaigns drew in much more young viewers – the Gala was previously viewed as something for older audiences – although it still might be, social media has helped get the younger viewers involved, too.

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“Sending Out Red Envelopes”

Jan 31 21:57

This is another comical sketch, titled Sending Out Red Envelopes (发红包) featuring some well-known comedians including Jia Bing.

This skit is another one focused on money: “You’d almost think that the director still needs to get his money back from someone,” some Weibo users are joking, since money seems to come up a lot as a theme in tonight’s comedy.

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Happy Vibes

Jan 31 22:09

Next up, there are some happy vibes with Da Zhangwei (大张伟) and Wang Mian (王勉) in this “music talk show” (“音乐脱口秀”) segment.

You might know Da Zhangwei as ‘Wowkie Zhang’ from the Sunshine Rainbow White Pony song. Attention was drawn to the song in the West when internet users thought that the chorus of the song, where Wowkie Zhang repeats the lyrics “nèi nèi ge nèi nèi nèi ge nèi ge nèi nèi,” was racist. But ‘nèi ge‘ is actually a filler word in Chinese (like ‘like’).

Link to this performance here.

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Magic Act

Jan 31 22:21

Usually, you’d expect magic performances to come a bit later in the show, but here we are with Chinese magician Daly Tang (邓男子). We’re halfway through the show.

This act is not received well on social media, with many saying this can’t even be called magic. Chinese actress being used as a ‘prop’ for the act is trending at this time.

Link to this performance here.

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乳虎啸春

Jan 31 22:25

There are martial arts at the festival every year, but this performance is a bit special since it combines comedy and martial arts and also is performed by many younger performers from the Henan Shaolin Tugou School of Martial Arts.

It is also a special performance because it combines martial arts with humor, whereas these kinds of performances are usually more serious.

According to one of the coaches of the children, the students practiced their facial expressions in the mirror every day as part of their homework. They also looked at film and television materials to learn from.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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“Happy Dialect”

Jan 31 22:39

This ‘crosstalk’ performance features xiangsheng actors Jiang Kun and Dai Zhicheng. Xiangsheng (相声) or crosstalk is a traditional Chinese comedic performance that involves a dialogue between two performers, using rich language and many puns.

Meanwhile, presenter Sa Beining is going viral for his peculiar role in the magic act.

Link to this performance here.

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“Star Dreams”

Jan 31 22:45

Every year, there’s always one song dedicated to children and it’s often all over the place. In the past, we’ve seen dancing panda’s and dogs, flowers, and even swinging broccoli on stage. Here we see the Air Force Blue Sky Children’s Art Troupe on stage together with Zhao Yixi (赵芸熙) in this beautiful space-themed performance.

The kids’ performance “Star Dreams” also contained a special surprise: the little girl showing up at the end is actually the little daughter of female Chinese astronaut Wang Yaping, who is now on the 6-month Shenzhou-13 mission. She asked her mum to bring her back a star.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Yunnan Group Dance 摆出一个春天

Jan 31 22:48

This performance showcases the traditional folk dances from Lancang Lahu Autonomous County, located in the southwestern part of Yunnan province (not too far from the Myanmar border).

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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“Rest Area” Outside of the Hospital

Jan 31 23:00

Another comical skit, titled ‘Rest Area Story’ (休息区的故事), is performed by Guo Donglin (郭冬临), Shao Feng (邵峰), Han Yunyun (韩云云), Huang Yang (黄杨), Jiang Lilin (姜力琳), Zhang Dabao (张大宝).

Guo Donglin is notable for performing xiangsheng and sketch comedy and has appeared at the Gala for many years.

In this performance, we see a couple, who are both working on the frontlines of the epidemic, arguing together.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Sanxingdui Relics Ceremony and Dance

Jan 31 23:14

Chinese director Zhang Guoli is coming on stage now for this special ceremony that is all about the relics that were unearthed in southwest China earlier in 2021. A gold mask dating back over 3,000 years was among hundreds of relics uncovered from a series of sacrificial pits in southwest China. The finds were made at Sanxingdui, a 4.6-square-mile archeological site outside Chengdu.

Zhu Fengwei (朱凤伟) and Wang Xi (王西) perform this creative dance performance titled Golden Mask, of course referring to the special artifact found at Sanxingdui.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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ShaLaLaLa Song

Jan 31 23:17

Canto-pop is here! The singers performing this Shalalala song are all established names from Hong Kong. There’s Alan Tan, a big name in the Cantopop scene of the 1980s. There’s Kenny Bee who has been in the entertainment industry for at least three decades. We also see Bennett Pang, Anthony Chan, and Bingo Tso.

Together, these artists once were in the Hong Kong English pop band The Wynners, which became one of the most popular teen idol groups in Hong Kong during the 1970s.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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True Love Dance

Jan 31 23:22

The China Acrobatic Troupe is on stage to perform the True Love Dance (真爱起舞). Singing are Chinese actors and singers Ren Jialun (任嘉伦), Roy Wang (王源), Victoria Song (宋茜), and Jike Junyi (吉克隽逸).

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Another Xiangsheng

Jan 31 23:33

This xiangsheng or ‘crosstalk’ performance is by Lu Xin and Yu Hao. Crosstalk usually involves two actors with one being the “joker” and the other being the “teaser,” it is all about word jokes and playing with rhythm and language.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, many netizens are complaining that they don’t find the language performances as funny as before and that they are missing the older performers they grew up seeing on tv.

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You are the Gift of My Life

Jan 31 23:38

This song is sung by the renowned Chinese singer and songwriter Liu Huan (刘欢), who is famous for his work within China’s pop music industry. Outside of China, is also known for performing at the 2008 Olympics Ceremony, joined by Sarah Brightman to sing the official song You and Me. Liu actually has a small Olympic pin on his hat as a nod to the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Our Era

Jan 31 23:40

The song Our Era (我们的时代) is performed by Zhang Ye (张也) and Lü Jihong (吕继宏) who have often sung together at earlier Spring Festivals, mostly singing patriotic songs bringing an ode to China, Chinese people, and China’s landscapes.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Special Segment

Jan 31 23:43

Like every year, this is the part of the show where some ‘exemplary persons’ get honored for their accomplishments. This special segment pays a tribute to recipients of the July 1st Medal, the Party’s highest honor, recognizing exceptional service and contributions to the Party and the country.

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Love Together

Jan 31 23:46

We suddenly find ourselves immersed in an underwater world together with Chinese singer-songwriter Li Ronghao and Taiwanese singer Angela Zhang for the song Love Together (爱在一起).

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Yellow River, Yangtze River

Jan 31 23:52

Mainland China, HK, Macau, and Taiwan are all represented on stage for this song!

This song (黄河 长江) is performed by Chinese top actor and singer Chen Kun (陈坤 , 1979), who is also known as Aloys Chen. Together singing with him are Taiwanese singer Jam Hsiao and Hong Kong rapper/singer/multi-talent Jackson Wang. From Macao there’s the musical artist Sean Pang (Pang Veng-Sam/彭永琛).

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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The Bells of Spring

Jan 31 23:55

The Bells of Spring (春天的钟声) is a song performed by Gala veteran Sun Nan and the singer Tan Weiwei.

Sun Nan (孙楠) is a famous Chinese Mandopop singer who performed at the Gala multiple times over the past year, including the iconic 2016 performance where he danced together with 540 robots.

Tan Weiwei (谭维维), also known as Sitar Tan, is a singer from Sichuan who rose to fame when she became a runner-up in the Super Girl talent show. In 2020, she released a noteworthy album titled 3811 which focused on the struggles women in China are facing, with each of the 11 songs on the album telling stories of women from diverse backgrounds.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Twelve O’Clock Moment

Jan 31 0:00

Countdown!

It’s twelve o’clock. Happy New Year, everybody!

This special moment is celebrated together with Chinese astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu. The three were sent into China’s space station aboard the Shenzhou-13 spaceship on October 16, 2021, for a six-month stay – the longest ever in-orbit duration for ‘taikonauts.’

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Winter Olympics Special

Feb 1 00:09

We just saw Ice and Snow Twinkling in the Chinese Year under the guidance of the renowned conductor Chen Xieyang, who is also Honorary Music Director of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

Following were some words from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. Last week, the Olympic chief met face-to-face with Xi Jinping as China is getting ready to host the Winter Games.

Then this is the official Olympic song Light Up the Dream (点亮梦) performed by baritone Liao Changyong and Hongkong pop diva Coco Lee. On stage with them are 19 foreign hosts of CGTN.

Light Up Your Dreams was released in September 2021 by the Beijing Winter Olympic Organizing Committee as a song meant to communicate positivity and hope (“There’s a miracle waiting for you after the storm”).

Also performing: China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Online criticism

Feb 1 00:13

Some online criticism on an earlier short play performed tonight about the hospital staff couple arguing about a spot to go abroad. The husband told the wife not to go because she is female. The online doctor network 丁香园 is now pointing out it’s sexist to say females should not go abroad as people “would be all focusing on how pretty she is instead of getting medical help.”

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Hotpot Sonata!

Feb 1 00:20

After the Song of the Land we have now switched to Hotpot Sonata (火锅奏鸣曲).

This song is an ode to hotpot! And we love hotpot!

The performance, among others, is by Chongqing Song and Dance Troupe.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

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Creative music, dance, poetry and painting “Reminiscence of the South”

Feb 1 00:23

This song is called Remembering the South (忆江南) and is performed by a male group of older and younger performers, including the 68-year-old Chinese mainland actors Pu Cunxin(濮存昕, 68 years old), Feng Yuanzheng (冯远征, 59 years old), Ding Zhi-Cheng (丁志诚, 58 years old), and the Taiwanese actor Li-Chun Lee (李立群, 69 years old).

Among the younger singers (1980s/1990s), there’s Ayanga (阿云嘎), Chinese musical theater actor, singer and songwriter of Mongol ethnicity; Taiwanese Mandopop singer Aska Yang (杨宗纬), Chinese singer Shawn Zheng aka Zheng Qiyuan (郑棋元) and the Chinese operatic tenor Cai Chengyu(蔡程昱).

Many on social media find this performance so beautiful that they wonder why it was scheduled so late in the evening.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

——–
 

Happy Hour

Feb 1 00:26

Chinese actor Zhu Yilong (朱一龙, 1988) is on stage singing the song Happy Hour (欢乐时光). It is not the first time for the Beijing Film Academy graduate to take part in the show. Last year, he performed together with Jackie Chan in one of the most anticipated acts of the night, which was a performance dedicated to all the health workers during the epidemic.

With Zhu there is the “queen of TV ratings”, Chinese actress Zhao Liying (赵丽颖), there’s TFBoys leader Karry Wang aka Wang Junkai (王俊凯), and Yisa Yu aka Yu Kewei (郁可唯).

Dance by Jilin City Song and Dance Troupe, China Post Art Troupe, Shandong Arts Institute, Zhongnan University of Nationalities School of Music and Dance, and the Beijing Modern Music Training Institute.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.

——–
 

Song “Unforgettable Tonight”

Feb 1 00:23

As always, the last song of tonight is Unforgettable Night (难忘今宵), the traditional closing song of the Spring Festival. The song was composed in 1984 when CCTV was preparing for its second Spring Festival Gala. Chief director Huang Yihe invited Qiao Yu and Wang Ming to write a closing song for the Gala in a simple yet popular style. The lyrics are by Qiao Yu (乔羽), the music is by Wang Ming (王酩).

Every year, the song is sung by Li Guyi (李谷一), who became famous with the song Homeland Love (乡恋) around the time of China’s Reform and Opening Up – the singer and her songs are nostalgic for many viewers. Li Guyi also appeared at the very first version of the Gala in 1983 and became the singer that sang the most at the event. She is singing together with Yang Hongji (杨洪基), Huo Yong (霍勇), and Yi Liyuan (伊丽媛).

With her on stage are all performers out tonight. It’s a wrap! Thank you for joining us and cheers to the Year of the Tiger.

Link to this performance on YouTube here.
 

By Manya Koetse, together with Miranda Barnes

1 For more on the political and socio-cultural meaning of the Gala, see Gao Yuan, 2012, “Construction of National Identity Through Media Ritual: A Case Study of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala,” Master’s Thesis, Uppsala University, Media & Communication Studies;
Yuan Yan, 2017, “Casting an ‘Outsider’ in the Ritual Center: Two Decades of Performances of ‘Rural Migrants’ in CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala,” Global Media and China 2 (2): 169-182.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Looking Back on the 2024 CMG Spring Festival Gala: Highs, Lows, and Noteworthy Moments

Reflecting on the highs and lows of this year’s China Media Group Spring Festival Gala, the world’s most-watched television program.

Manya Koetse

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PREMIUM CONTENT

The biggest media spectacle of the Chinese New Year is the annual CMG Spring Festival Gala. The entire week, this four-hour extravaganza featuring forty-six performances has dominated social media conversations.

The 42nd edition of The CMG Spring Festival Gala was broadcasted on February 9th, celebrating the start of the Dragon Year. This year, the show reportedly attracted 679 million viewers.

The annual Spring Festival Gala by the state-run China Media Group (CMG) has become an integral part of the Lunar New Year celebrations for Chinese people since its debut in 1983. As the world’s most-watched live-broadcasted entertainment program, the Gala is now aired across dozens of channels, both in China and abroad, both on television and online.

China’s Spring Festival Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会) is commonly abbreviated to Chūnwǎn (春晚) in Chinese. Over the past week, the Chūnwǎn became a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media and dominated all trending lists during the Chinese New Year’s Eve.

The Gala, which lasts a total of four hours, shows the very best of China’s mainstream entertainment and Party propaganda and is a mix of culture, commerce, and politics. Through music, dance, art, and comedy, the event serves as a significant platform for the Party to disseminate official ideology. It is also a chance to present the nation’s top performers while showcasing digital innovations.

 

A “No-Covid”, Traditional Gala


 

The phrase “There will never be a worse, just worse than last year [中央春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂]” has become a well-known saying among viewers about the Chūnwǎn, as complaining about the show is very much part of the tradition. However, was this year really worse than last year? Not at all.

This 2024 edition was directed by Yu Lei (于蕾), who also directed the 2023 Gala. The 45-year-old female director previously also served as the general scriptwriter and overall designer for the Gala.

Not only was the director the same as last year, but the five main hosts were also exactly the same. They include Ren Luyu (任鲁豫, 1978), the TV host from Henan who has now become one of the most familiar faces on the show; Sa Beining, also known as Benny Sa (撒贝宁, 1976), who is famous for his CCTV work and for hosting the Gala regularly over the past twelve years; Nëghmet Raxman (尼格买提, 1983), a Chinese television host of Uyghur heritage who has hosted the Gala seven times since 2015; Long Yang (龙洋, 1989), a CCTV host from Hunan who presented the Gala for the third time this year; and Ma Fanshu 马凡舒 (1993), who was the youngest and newest host during the 2022 Gala and has been presenting it since.

The choice of director and presenters suggests that continuity and consistency were important for this year’s Chūnwǎn. Although the Gala’s format is always more or less the same, including songs, dances, cross-talk, sketches, traditional opera, martial arts, magic, etc., this year’s Gala stood out for sticking to tradition.

Over the past few years during the pandemic, several elements of the show were altered to adapt to the new situation. From 2021 to 2023, the show was only broadcast from the Beijing Studio and focused less on big spectacular scenes. Since 2020, the battle against Covid has also been a theme in the show. In 2020, the Gala included a segment that was broadcast live from a Wuhan hospital to show how medical staff were spending their Lunar New Year taking care of Covid patients. That was the first time since 1983 for the Gala to include a segment that was not meticulously rehearsed.

From 2021 to 2023, the nation’s battle against Covid was also a theme in songs and other segments, reflecting on the daily lives of ordinary people. In 2021, for example, Jackie Chan sang “Tomorrow Will Be Better” (明天会更好), which addressed the epidemic situation and honored all who joined in the fight against the virus.

However, the theme of Covid played no role at all anymore in this year’s Chūnwǎn, which focused entirely on celebrating the Year of the Dragon, the home, and the nation (龙行龘龘,欣欣家国). Similar to the pre-2020 Gala, this 42nd edition was broadcast not only from the Beijing venue but also included performances in four other locations: Shenyang, Changsha, Xi’an, and Kashgar. Continuity was also seen in the 46 acts of the night, as many familiar faces, such as Sun Nan (孙楠) and Han Hong (韩红), performed during the night.

 

Highlights of the 2024 Gala


 

The xiangsheng (相声) act “Director’s Worries” (“导演的心事”) was the most-watched act of the entire show according to the viewership ratings – this also relates to the time of the broadcasting. Xiangsheng is a traditional Chinese comedic performance that involves a dialogue between two performers, using rich language and many puns. This act was performed by comedians Jin Fei (金霏) and Chen Xi (陈曦). They were also joined by others, turning it into a “group xiangsheng” (群口相声) that humorously portrayed the mental strains faced by Chinese young people and served as a source for parodies and memes on social media.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The Song “Dragon” (龙), performed by famous pop singers Zhang Jie aka Jason Zhang (张杰) and Sun Nan (孙楠) was particularly popular this Gala. The song encompassed the main theme of the Dragon Year, as they sang about how a dragon lies in every Chinese person, representing the spirit and strength of the Chinese nation over the past five thousand years. This song integrated popular entertainment with the essence of the Chinese New Year, cultural heritage, and national pride, making it the perfect anthem for the Spring Festival Gala. One Weibo post by Zhang Jie about his performance received nearly 167,000 comments and over 176,000 shares.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The performance of “Koi Carp” (锦鲤) featuring lead dancer Hua Xiaoyi (华宵一) and the Beijing Dance Academy (北京舞蹈学院) was another standout moment of the Gala. The ‘painting’ dance “Only This Green” (只此青绿) stole the spotlight in 2022, while the ’embroidery’ dance “Splendid” (锦绣) was one of the highlights of the show in 2023. Continuing the tradition of presenting top-notch, artistic dance that merges tradition with technology, the Koi Carp dance had a similar charm, with dancers suspended on spring ropes performing an exquisite aerial dance that made them look like graceful fish underwater.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The creative act “Start Something New” (别开生面) directed by the renowned filmmaker Zhang Yimou (张艺谋) was a highlight in the show for its originality. The act, which combined cooking, dancing, and singing, presented various Lunar New Year customs and food cultures from different regions in China. Besides directing films, Zhang Yimou also has a lot of experience as a creative director of major shows, including the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, and the outdoor night show Impression Sanjie Liu.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The Xi’an special segment “Poem for the Landscape of Chang’an” (山河诗长安) performed by Zhang Ruoyun (张若昀), Tang Shiyi (唐诗逸), Zhu Tiexiong (朱铁雄) PACT (派克特), Yang Li (杨力) and conductor Sun Yifan (孙一凡), was among the most spectacular ones of the night. This was an ode to Xi’an and Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, Li Bai. Filled with lion and dragon performances, opera, rap, dance, and specially arranged music by the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra, the segment included a virtual version of Li Bai joining the spectacle. On social media, netizens praised the performance and posted many gifs of the Chinese actor Zhang Ruoyun together with the virtual version of the classical poet Li Bai.

Watch on Youtube here

 

The ‘Lows’ of the 2024 Gala


 

The various xiaopin (小品, skits) were not very well-received. Over the past few years, the Gala’s dance and song performances have actually become among the most beloved acts – far more popular than the xiaopin, which did not get much positive feedback this year at all. Some people said they just “didn’t get” the humor or that the sketches were just not entertaining enough.

 
The song “Unforgettable Night” (难忘今宵) was the least viewed part of the show according to viewership ratings, and it marked a departure from tradition in a significant way. Since the 1980s, the final song of the Spring Festival Gala has always been “Unforgettable Night,” sung by Li Guyi (李谷一). Li Guyi rose to fame with the song “Homeland Love” (乡恋) during China’s Reform and Opening Up era, and her songs evoke nostalgia for many viewers. She made her first appearance at the Gala in 1983 and became the most frequent performer at the event. Due to her recovery from Covid in the hospital, she was unable to perform at last year’s Chūnwǎn, and her absence from this year’s show was not only a significant disappointment for many but was also seen as the end of an era. Additionally, many people commented that they did not appreciate the new interpretation of the traditional song.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The PLA song “Decisive Victory” (决胜) drew attention from Taiwanese media outlets, highlighting it as a controversial moment of the Gala. The performance of this military song, delivered by artists from the PLA Cultural and Artistic Center, featured soldiers clad in combat gear marching and dancing on stage, while the backdrop displayed images of rockets, tanks, and other war-like scenes. Taiwanese media framed the song within the context of mainland China’s military threats against Taiwan. Some Weibo commentators also interpreted the performance in this light, particularly noting the sequence where singers from Taiwan and mainland China first sang the song “Etiquette” (礼序) together just before the People’s Liberation Army performed the military song. This was seen as a statement of “diplomacy comes before violence” (“先礼后兵”).

Watch on Youtube here

 

The Noteworthy


 

The magic show “Guarding the New Year Together” (守岁共此时) performed by Liu Qian (刘谦) created quite a buzz. During a card trick involving the audience and Gala host Nëghmet Raxman, it seemed like Raxman’s cards didn’t match as intended. Although everyone was supposed to have matching cards, Raxman’s expression revealed that his two cards did not match. This led to much banter online, and Nëghmet Raxman – and his nervous expression – became a trending topic.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The song “Climbing Spring Mountain” (上春山) performed by Wei Chen (魏晨), Wei Daxun (魏大勋), and Bai Jingting (白敬亭) became one of the most discussed acts in the week following the Gala after a rehearsal video was posted online and netizens noticed inconsistencies in the singers’ attire and positions on stage. It was rumored that Bai Jingting may have intentionally vied for a more prominent position to attract more attention on stage, resulting in choreographic asymmetry and some apparent confusion during the song. One important reason why the main rehearsal video triggered controversy is because a tape of the official rehearsal always runs concurrently with the live broadcast, allowing producers to seamlessly switch to the taped version in the event of a problem or disruption without TV audiences noticing. But because Bai changed his outfit, wearing black while the others wore white, and because he did not give up his main spot during the performance, it might have been impossible for producers to switch to a rehearsed version of the song (even though the lip-syncing during the performance was completely out of sync).

Watch on Youtube here

 
● The song “A Friend Like You” (像你这样的朋友) attracted a lot of attention on Weibo and beyond this week as it was performed by the so-called “0713 Super Boys,” including Wang Zhengliang (王铮亮), Chen Chusheng (陈楚生), Allen Su (苏醒), Zhang Yuan (张远), Lu Hu (陆虎), and Wang Yuexin (王栎鑫). In 2022, these once nearly ‘forgotten’ singers made a remarkable comeback through the reality TV hits Welcome to the Mushroom House (欢迎来到蘑菇屋) and Go for Happiness (快乐再出发). They initially gained fame in 2007 after participating in the singing contest Super Boy but gradually faded into obscurity in the years following their initial success. Their gala performance marks their ultimate comeback.

Watch on Youtube here

 
“Belle” (美人) from the French musical Notre Dame de Paris was performed at the Gala in French by various French and Chinese performers, including Angelo Del Vecchio and Liao Changyong. “Who would have ever expected for Notre Dame de Paris to be performed at the Chūnwǎn in French?” one commenter wrote. The Gala provided some subtitles during the song to convey the general idea of the song. Although the Gala usually incorporates an international element, this was the first time for a song to be fully sung in French. The song was presented in the context of China and France celebrating their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

Watch on Youtube here

 
● Dilraba Dilmurat (丽热巴) in “Dances of Xinjiang” (舞乐新疆) was praised by commenters as the most beautiful performer of the night. The Chinese actress of Uyghur ethnicity showcased her dancing skills during the Kashgar segment of the evening. Not only was her performance notable for its beauty and grace, but it also garnered attention online due to a video recorded by an audience member showing Dilmurat slipping and falling on her bum during the show, after which she promptly got up and continued. After all, the show must go on!

Watch the full performance on Youtube here

Want to know more about the previous editions of the Spring Festival Gala? Also check out our articles below:

– 2023: Behind the Short Feature Film of the Spring Festival Gala
– 2023: Top 5: The Highlights of China’s 2023 CGM Spring Festival Gala
– 2023: Watching ‘Chunwan’: Liveblog CMG Spring Festival Gala
– 2022: Chunwan 2022: The CMG Spring Festival Gala Liveblog by What’s on Weibo
– 2021: Spring Festival Gala Draws Criticism for Gendered Jokes
– 2021: The Chunwan Liveblog: Watching the 2021 CMG Spring Festival Gala
– 2020: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2020
– 2019: The CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2019 Live Blog
– 2018: About the CCTV Spring Festival Gala’s ‘Racist’ Africa Comedy Sketch
– 2018: CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 (Live Blog)
– 2017: The Best and the Worst of CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017
– 2017: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017 Live Blog
– 2016: CCTV’s New Year’s Gala 2016 Liveblog

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 9 Chinese Movies to Watch This Spring Festival Holiday

Lunar New Year lineup: These are the 9 Chinese films competing at the Spring Festival box office.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past decade, China’s domestic film industry has experienced explosive growth, both in terms of production and box office revenue.

When it comes to the latter, the Spring Festival is the most important time of the year for box office success. Especially over the past few years, there has been more media focus on the Spring Festival season as the peak season for top domestic films.

During the Chinese Spring Festival, along with the National Day Holiday, movies tend to earn around 32.3% more on average. Sci-fi and action films are the most successful, followed by comedies (Li et al 2022, 128). Last year, the Spring Festival box office revenues accounted for about 12.3 percent of the yearly total.

Notable films in the Spring Festival lineup of 2023 included Zhang Yimou’s Full River Red (满红红), the sequal to China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi epic Wandering Earth (流浪地球2), espionage suspense movie Hidden Blade (无名), sports drama Ping Pong: The Triumph (中国乒乓之绝地反击), the comedy Five Hundred Miles (交换人生), animation feature Boonie Bears: Guardian Code (熊出没), and Tian Xiaopeng’s Deep Sea animation film.

Especially the first two movies, Full River Red and Wandering Earth 2, became box office hits, earning a respective RMB4.55 billion ($633 million) and RMB4.03 billion ($561 million).

This year, there are nine big box office movies during the eight-day Chinese New Year’s holiday, and virtually all of them have recently also trended on Chinese social media. Here, we will list all nine of them and what you need to know about them.

 

1. YOLO 热辣滚烫

  • Title: Chinese title: 热辣滚烫 Rèlà Gǔntàng, ‘Sizzling Hot‘; English title: YOLO
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Comedy/Sports Drama
  • Runtime: 129 minutes
  • Directed by: Jia Ling (贾玲), who previously also directed the 2021 Hi, Mom (你好,李焕英) movie.
  • Screenplay by: Sun Jibin (孙集斌), who also did the screenplay for Hi, Mom. The film is based on the Japanese 2014 movie 100 Yen Love (百円の恋, Hyakuen no Koi).
  • Starring: Jia Ling (贾玲), Jia Yinlei (雷佳音), Zhang Xiaofei (张小斐), Yang Zi (杨紫), Sha Yi (沙溢).
  • About: YOLO (热辣滚烫), which will hit Chinese theaters on February 10, tells the story of Le Ying (乐莹), who has withdrawn from social life and isolated herself at home ever since graduation. Trying to get her life back on track, Le Ying meets a boxing coach. The meeting proves to be just the beginning of a new journey in life filled with unforeseen challenges.
  • Trending: Chinese actress and director Jia Ling (贾玲) went trending on Weibo on the day she announced this upcoming movie because of her remarkable weight loss transformation; she lost a staggering 100 pounds (50 kg) for her role in this film.

 

 

2. Pegasus 2 飞驰人生2

  • Title: Chinese title: 飞驰人生2 Fēichí Rénshēng 2, ‘High-speed Life 2‘; English title: Pegasus 2
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Comedy/Sports Drama
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Directed by: Han Han (韩寒)
  • Screenplay by: Han Han (韩寒).
  • Starring: Shen Teng (沈腾), Fan Chengcheng (范丞丞), Yin Zheng (尹正), Zhang Benyu (张本煜), Sun Yizhou (孙艺洲).
  • About: This is the sequal to Pegasus (2019), the 2019 Spring Festival blockbuster about passionate rally driver Zhang Chi (张驰, played by Shen Tang), who had to step away from racing due to a ban for illegal street racing. But he never gave up on his dream. Now, he’s gearing up for a major comeback, facing new competition. Based on the experiences of Han Han, a talented writer and professional rally driver, and his admiration for racer Xu Lang, Pegasus 2 continues this tale of determination and passion. Zhang Chi, now a driving school instructor, gets a chance to return to the track when offered sponsorship from a car factory to compete in a high-profile racing rally with a team he must assemble.
  • Trending: Pegasus 2 is a much-anticipated movie among Chinese netizens, mainly because of the all-star cast including celebrated actor Shen Teng and young idol Fan Chengcheng. The movie’s January 29 promo event in Beijing also went trending when Fan Chengcheng posted a photo together with the cast members. This post was shared over a million times, receiving more than 100,000 comments.

 

 

3. Article 20 第二十条

Image via Weibo.

  • Title: Chinese title: 第二十条 Dì èrshí tiáo; English title: Article 20
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Comedy/Family Drama
  • Runtime: 141 minutes
  • Directed by: Zhang Yimou (张艺谋)
  • Screenplay by: Li Meng (李萌).
  • Starring: Lei Jiayin (雷佳音), Ma Li (马丽), Zhao Liying (赵丽颖), Gao Ye (高叶), Liu Yaowen (刘耀文)
  • About: Zhang Yimou’s Article 20 tells the story of prosecutor Han Ming (韩明, Lei Jiayin) who is facing a particularly difficult legal case at work, while navigating complicated situations at home, especially after his son got into a fight with the son of the school leader. As Han Ming strives to balance work and family responsibilities, he courageously fights for fairness and justice in his own way.
  • Trending: As one of China’s most prolific film directors, Zhang Yimou’s work always gets a lot of attention on Chinese social media. This time, some of the Weibo hashtags related to this movie received millions or even billions of views. Especially the young celebrity and teen idol Liu Yaowen (2005) is receiving attention for starring in this film as Han Ming’s son Han Yuchen who beats up the school director’s son and then refuses to apologise. Some online polls asking netizens which movie they’re most excited to see this Spring Festival (投票:你春节打算看哪部电影) also indicate that Article 20 is one of the most anticipated movies on this list.

 

 

4. The Movie Emperor 红毯先生

  • Title: Chinese title: 红毯先生 Hóngtǎn Xiānshēng, ‘Mr. Red Carpet’; English title: The Movie Emperor
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Comedy/Drama
  • Runtime: 127 minutes
  • Directed by: Zhu Hao (宁浩)
  • Screenplay by: Liu Xiaodan (刘晓丹), Wang Ang (王昂)
  • Starring: Andy Lau (刘德华), Pal Sinn Lap-man (单立文), Rima Zeidan (瑞玛·席丹), Yu Weiguo (余伟国), and Ning Hao (宁浩).
  • About: Andy Lau plays the main character in this film, a renowned Hong Kong film star who is preparing for a major comeback in a rural-themed film. To prepare for his role as a peasant farmer in the 1960s, he immerses himself in rural life in China, which leads to all kinds of bizarre situations that satirically reflect on the present-day entertainment industry.
  • Trending: The Movie Emperor is perhaps among the more serious comedies in this list, as it has a deeper message about the dynamics of the entertainment industry and present-day society. With a career spanning over four decades, there’s perhaps no other actor who’d be more suited to play this character than Andy Lau, and many commenters are looking forward to see him in this role.

 

 

5. Viva La Vida 我们一起摇太阳

Image via Yule 360.

  • Title: Chinese title: 我们一起摇太阳 Wǒmen Yìqǐ Yáo Tàiyáng, ‘Shake the Sun Together’; English title: Viva La Vida
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Romantic comedy-drama
  • Runtime: 129 minutes
  • Directed by: Han Yan (韩延)
  • Screenplay by: Han Yan (韩延), Li Liangwen (李亮文), Wang Xiaoyi (王小艾), Yang Fuzhi (杨富芝)
  • Starring: Peng Yuchang (彭昱畅), Li Gengxi aka Teresa Li (李庚希), Xu Fan (徐帆), Gao Yalin (高亚麟), Liu Dan (刘丹).
  • About: This movie is the third and final movie in the director Han Yan’s “Life Trilogy” of of uplifting films centered around the theme of battling cancer. It follows the successes of the previous hits, Go Away Mr. Tumor and A Little Red Flower, released in 2015 and 2020 respectively. The narrative focuses on the romance between a girl suffering from kidney dysfunction (Teresa Li) and a boy afflicted with a brain tumor (Peng Yuchang). Despite their contrasting personalities, they find unity in their shared struggles with illness, embarking on a journey that celebrates the essence of life.
  • Trending: These days, movie production teams are doing all they can to go trending on social media to increase the hype surrounding their films. In light of their promotional activities, actor Peng Yuchang went to Tianjin to join the ‘diving grandpa’s’ (#彭昱畅和天津大爷一块跳水#). This is a group of elderly swimmers who went viral in 2023 because of their daring dives into the river from the Stone Lion Forest Bridge (狮子林桥). People joked about Peng swimming in the cold river, saying they had “never seen a male lead work so hard to promote their film.”

 

 

6. Boonie Bears: Time Twist 熊出没:逆转时空

Image via Moonlight Media

  • Title: Chinese title: 熊出没:逆转时空 Xióng Chūmò: Nìzhǔan Shíkōng; English title: Boonie Bears: Time Twist
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Comedy sci-fi animation
  • Runtime: 108 minutes
  • Directed by: Lin Huida (林汇达)
  • Screenplay by: Xu Yun (徐芸), Wan Qin (万秦), Jiang Lin (蒋琳)
  • Starring: Tan Xiao (谭笑), Zhang Bingjun (张秉君), Zhang Wei (张伟), Zhang Ming (张茗)
  • About: This latest film from the Boonie Bears universe revolves around the stressed-out white-collar worker Vick (光头强), who has left his small town and forest job for a career in the big city. However, his absence has some far-reaching consequences. When he accompanies his boss on a work trip, he embarks on an adventure through time and space, that’s all about exploring life goals and finding self-fulfillment.
  • Trending: While this film may not be among the top trending movies this Spring Festival season, it’s still a beloved choice for both Boonie Bears fans and parents who want to take their kids to the movies this holiday. This is also a special Boonie Bears year, as it marks both the 12th anniversary of the Chinese “Boonie Bears” cartoon franchise and the 10th anniversary of the first feature film, “Boonie Bears: To the Rescue” (熊出没之夺宝熊兵).

 

 

7. Ba Jie 八戒之天蓬下界

Image via Xigua.

  • Title: Chinese title: 八戒之天蓬下界 Bājiè zhī Tiānpéng Xiàjiè; English title: Article 20
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Animated fantasy adventure
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Directed by: He Ranhao (何冉昊)
  • Screenplay by: Li Meng (李萌).
  • Starring: Zhang Lei (张磊), Ji Guanlin (季冠霖), Zhao Mingzhou (赵明洲), Gao Zengzhi (高增志), Ma Dehua (马德华)
  • About: This is the first animated film in China about Ba Jie, a renowned character from the 16th-century novel Journey to the West (西游记) who is known for being part human and part pig – as well as being lazy and gluttonous. Presented as a quintessentially Chinese animation film, Ba Jie is not just a contemporary adaptation of a Chinese classic, it also embraces a style and color palette that builds on Chinese tradition. Originally announced for release in 2021 for 2022, coinciding with the Year of the Pig, the movie was then rescheduled for 2023, and now is finally making its premiere in the Year of the Dragon. Ma Dehua (马德华), who played Ba Jie in the famous 1986 “Journey to the West” TV series is also a voice actor in this film.
  • Trending: The fact that this film was delayed and is already three years old by the time it hits cinemas does not exactly add to its appeal. Many people feel like they’ve seen the film posters again and again, and that its momentum has already passed.

 

 

8. Broken Mission 破战

Image via QQ.

  • Title: Chinese title: 破战 Pò Zhàn, ‘Break War’; English title: Broken Mission
  • Premiere: February 16, 2024
  • Genre: Drama / Action / Suspense
  • Runtime: 86 minutes
  • Directed by: Peng Fa aka Danny Pang (彭发)
  • Screenplay by: Peng Fa (彭发)
  • Starring: Wu Zhenyu (吴镇宇), Simon Yam (任达华), Cheng Yuanyuan (程媛媛), Tang Wenlong (唐文龙), Liu Yingyi (刘颖仪).
  • About: Although this movie won’t hit cinemas until February 16, it’s still considered a Spring Festival movie. Set in Hong Kong, this action-packed film revolves around the confrontation between the local police team and a criminal committing crimes in service to his “Savior.” The filming already started in 2019, and because of the big delay – partly due to many revisions in the script – the movie seems to have lost some of its relevance.
  • Trending: Together with Ba Jie, Broken Mission is among the least popular movies in this list. There have also been very few promotional activities surrounding the premiere. In an online poll asking netizens which movies they anticipated most, these two received the least votes. YOLO and Article 20 received the most votes. Given its lack of popularity, some netizens propose that the movie should bypass cinemas entirely and go directly to online streaming services instead.

 

 

9. Huang Pi: God of Wealth Cat 黄貔:天降财神猫

Image via Weibo.

  • Title: Chinese title: 黄貔:天降财神猫 Huáng Pí: Tiānjiàng cáishén māo; English title: Huang Pi / God of Wealth Cat or God of Money
  • Premiere: February 10, 2024
  • Genre: Animation/Comedy
  • Runtime: 82 minutes
  • Directed by: Bai Ding (白丁) and Guan Yang (关杨)
  • Starring: Li Meng (李盟), Yan Nan (闫楠), Wang Zi (王梓), Yang Tianxiang (杨天翔), Liu Yike (刘依可).
  • About: Inspired by Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Heaven, this Mandarin-Cantonese bilingual animated movie revolves around Huang Pi, who is transformed into a cat by the Four Heavenly Kings after causing trouble in the Heavenly Palace. In order to repay the kindness of the God of wealth who rescues him, Huang Pi descents to the mortal world with his five incarnations. Here, he faces various challenges, one of which involves being mistaken for a stray cat by a pet hospital owner.
  • Trending: The ‘lucky cat’ theme and Chinese artistic influences makes this movie a suitable one for the Spring Festival, with many people and animation fans anticipating its premiere.

 

By Manya Koetse

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References

Li, Xuefei, Hua Lu, Chengzhong Wu. 2022. “The Destiny of Movies’ Box Office Performance in China: An Expectation–Evaluation Model.” The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society 52(2): 117-135.

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