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China Arts & Entertainment

Jia Zhangke Responds To Criticism From Global Times Editor Hu Xijin (Full Translation)

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Jia Zhangke (l) versus Hu Xijin

When the editor-in-chief of state tabloid Global Times gave Jia Zhangke’s latest film a bad review on Weibo, the renowned director responded with a bad review of the bad review.

This week, an online quarrel between Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡锡进) and Chinese director Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯) drew much attention on Chinese social media.

The issue started when Hu Xijin criticized Jia Zhangke’s latest film Ash Is Purest White (江湖儿女) on Weibo on September 24, calling the film “depressing” and “full of negative energy,” and suggesting the film Dying to Survive is much better.

At SupChina, Jiayun Feng translated Hu’s comments. Besides condemning the film for its negativity, Hu also wrote:

Please don’t place stinky tofu under our noses and force us to get used to that particular smell. I am aware that some people love to watch horror movies and negative energy can also attract audiences in a way like how opium gets people hooked. But I still hope filmmakers in China can study movies created by Hollywood and Bollywood and produce some movies with normal views about what’s good and what’s evil.”

Adding:

I know I can’t blame others because I bought the [movie] ticket and no one forced me to watch it. But what I’m doing here is to caution my fans no to be deceived by the movie’s title. It uses a gloomy style of filming to tell a banal story of how nice people don’t get properly rewarded for good deeds. It’s neither pleasant nor sad enough to bring you to tears. It only makes you frustrated and upset.”

Hu’s criticism was soon after deleted, but the screenshots already circulated online.

Ash Is Purest White, that was released in mainland China on September 21st, is a big box-office success and is Jia Zhangke’s highest-grossing film yet. The film revolves around the tumultuous love story between gangster Bin (Fan Liao) and dancer Qiao (Tao Zhao).

Jia’s responded to the harsh criticism in a lengthy Weibo post, that has since been shared more than 68,000 times, receiving over 128,000 likes and 30,500 comments.

Here is a full translation of Jia’s Weibo post in response to Hu:

Editor Hu Xijin:

I’m glad you went to watch ‘Ash is Purest White’. And I’m sorry it made you feel “depressed” (堵心) during the Mid-autumn Festival. First, I wish you nothing but happiness. Regarding your opinions, I’ll respond to them one by one below, comments/suggestions are of course welcome.

1. I also was moved by the movie ‘Dying to Survive’ (我不是药神). But, as Lu Xun (鲁迅) [famous Chinese writer] once said: “People’s joy and sorrows are not connected” (人类的悲欢并不相通). I’m not sure you and I are similar in what makes us happy or sad. That also goes for our feelings on ‘Ash is Purest White’ – I’m quite confused about how we could be so far apart.

2. About the “negative energy” – I believe energy is built on the basis of telling the truth as much as possible. The truth is the most powerful form of positive energy. Not tolerating truth or facts will bring about negative energy. Seeing or hearing it all the time, but pretending you have not, gains no truth or facts. In the end, it’ll lead to even greater negative energy. You should always be seeking truth from facts, don’t you agree?

3. Speaking of horror films and their audiences; I’ve never directed any horror films myself, hence my experience in this area is limited. However, all audiences are equal, regardless of taste. As an atheist, you shouldn’t really have any opinion regarding ghosts anyway, as you don’t believe in them.

4. With regards to Hollywood and Bollywood; you’re a ‘complex China’ (复杂的中国) reporter, but it would be better for you to further investigate ‘complex foreign movies’! Your job is to report ‘complex China’, and I am interested in making films about ‘complex characters.’ You can’t really be picky about your definition of “complex”, now can you?

5. Regarding “normal views about what’s good and what’s evil” – what I don’t really understand is: who should be the judge of what is normal and what is not?

6. About “stinky tofu” – you can certainly use ‘fragrant’ or ‘stinky’ as metaphors to comment on a movie. However, I disagree with your slandering of “stinky tofu.” For many families in poverty, it is all they eat! I’ve had a lot myself, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

7. Regarding the fact that you “bought the ticket yourself,” great! I’m a big supporter of the 8 provisions [rules stipulated by Chinese government on frugality within Party/government]. We don’t give free tickets to chief editors of government media!

8. About “letting your fans know” – I think it’s great of you to always have your fans in mind. But your fans might not be exactly the same as you in thinking that a movie is good or bad, in considering stinky tofu edible or not. There are many different colors in this world, if something is not black doesn’t mean it’s white.

9. About the movie using a “gloomy style” – were your eyes built in Meituxiuxiu? [美图秀秀: Chinese photoshop app]. Things are beautiful because they are real. Accept diversity and this world will be more beautiful.

10. About “nice people not getting properly rewarded for their good deeds” – I also wish good things come to good people, but this world is full of strange circumstances, and no one can have full control over it. Things we can’t control are also normal, we should accept that. I didn’t know you believed in karma yourself.

11. About it being “a banal story”: I’ve always been curious about strange stories, but would always do my best to understand the lives of ordinary people and this both inspires me and moves me.

12. With regards to you feeling “depressed” (堵得慌) – my apologies for not making you feel all warm and fuzzy during the Mid-autumn festival. I couldn’t make you tear up, your feelings didn’t get an outlet, instead, you felt “blocked and trapped.” But ‘feeling trapped’ is actually a complicated sensation, a big emotional wave if you will. You’ve been numb for too long, ‘feeling trapped’ shows that you still have some emotions. Congratulations! The fact that you ‘feel trapped’ has raised my hopes for the complexities of China.

Happy Mid-autumn Festival! I wish you all the best.

Many netizens applauded Jia’s reaction to the Global Times editor. One of the most popular comments was a wordplay on the two men’s names, saying: “Director Jia is not fake [‘jia’ in Chinese] while Editor Hu is full of nonsense [‘hu’ in Chinese]. (“贾导不假,胡编真胡 Jiǎ dǎo bù jiǎ, hú biān zhēn hú“)

“Perhaps Hu can tell me all the movies he dislikes,” another commenter said: “Because I’d sure love to watch them.”

At time of writing, the hashtag “Jia Zhangke sents response to Hu Xijin” (#贾樟柯发长文回应胡锡进#) received over 12,5 million views.

Hu dedicated another post to the issue on his Weibo account on Wednesday, saying he had written the bad review in the heat of the moment after watching the film, and that he had deleted it after calming down, never expecting it already went viral.

The editor wrote that he “fully accepted” everything Jia had written, and that he had learned his lesson and will be “more careful” in the future in posting his criticisms on Weibo.

“You have your right to criticize, and Jia has the right to refute it,” a popular comment said.

Although many people support Jia’s response to Hu, there are also those who are critical of it: “He’s just creating a hype to sell more tickets at the box office.”

Ash Is Purest White (Director’s cut) will also be featured at the upcoming Busan Film Festival.

By Miranda Barnes and Manya Koetse

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Miranda Barnes is a Chinese blogger and parttime translator with a strong interest in Chinese media and culture. Born in Shenyang, she now lives in Beijing with her British husband. On www.abearandapig.com they share news of their year-long trip around Europe and Asia.

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China Arts & Entertainment

(Op-Ed) The Forgotten Genres & Loss of “Intellectual Taste” in Chinese TV Drama

“We need to recall those TV dramas and genres that have vanished into oblivion,” Zhao writes.

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When What’s on Weibo published a list of classics of Chinese TV dramas, Beijing Film Academy graduate Zhao B. felt the list was missing relevant titles and genres. These are the top classic TV dramas that should be added to the list, according to an article sent in to What’s on Weibo by Zhao.

The entertainment industry is a hot topic in present-day China, where online videos are being watched by millions of internet users every day. The way in which these videos are created, spread, and consumed, signals a new kind of emotional consumerism.

TV drama is still a benchmark of China’s popular culture, but it is no longer the newest one – and might even have started to be somewhat worn out. It has gone into a phase of systematically deleting conflicting memories, in sync with the loud internet environment and the pop culture factory.

Not only has the length of TV drama episodes been shortened for today’s ‘online binging,’ but streaming sites are also filled with certain algorithms and tracking codes that accelerate the obliteration of certain television dramas. The mass ‘industrialization’ of popular culture has shortened the lifespan of television dramas and its genres.

Which is why if a list such as the Top 30 Classic TV Dramas in China is based on rankings provided by social media sites or online video platforms such as Sougo or Douban, there are certain blind spots.

It is not out of mere nostalgia that we need to recall those TV dramas and genres that have vanished into oblivion. It gives us an overview of marginalized genres and taste, that are different from the current mainstream ones. They are the working memories for contemporary life.

Genres that have come up and have since been forgotten in the People’s Republic of China from roughly 1978 to 2018, are:

-the “rural genre” (农村题材)
-the “youth genre” (青少年题材)
-the “army genre” (军旅题材), a sub-category of the military genre.

Theme Productions versus Genre

There is a socio-historical difference in Chinese and English popular culture industries in use of the term ‘genre’ that should be noted here. Chinese TV dramas are often categorized in ‘topics’ or ‘themes’ (tícái 题材) rather than in ‘genres’ (lèixíng 类型).

Thematic terms were used in planning and reviewing art productions (literature, film, TV drama) in PRC history, but this practice has been transforming over the past forty years. 

With the rise of the pop culture industry, the term ‘genre’ (类型) also became more popularized, with ‘theme’ and ‘genre’ now existing together.

Some productions have been recognized as either an old-fashioned ‘theme’ product, while also being categorized as a genre. For example, the TV drama Era of Peace (和平年代, 1996) marks the transition from the thematic categorization of ‘Revolutionary History theme’ (革命历史题材) to the categorization of ‘Era genre’ (年代戏). Later, the famous production The Year of Burning Passion (激情燃烧的岁月, 2001) was simply categorized as a typical ‘Era Genre’ rather than a theme production.

But there are also those thematic productions that did not have a ‘genre offspring.’ One of those is the established “intellectual theme” (知识分子题材) in Chinese literature, film, and TV drama, which is not reflected in today’s TV drama industry. Although educated identity plays a key role in today’s medical genre (医疗剧) – a subcategory of the ‘professional genre’ TV drama (职业剧) – the agenda and rhetoric are very different.

To avoid long discussions on the complex nature of theme versus genre productions and categories in Chinese TV dramas, the following overview mixes both thematic and genre TV dramas, using the terms interchangeably.

‘Forgotten’ TV Dramas

An overview of some series in supplement to the Top 30 Classic Chinese TV dramas article:

 

#1 ‘Trilogy of Women’s Fate’ (女人命运三部曲)

* 篱笆、女人和狗  ‘Fence, Woman and Dog’

Year: 1989
Episodes: 12
Genre: Rural/Family
Directed by 陈雨田 Chen Yutian

* 辘轳、女人和井 ‘Windlass, Woman and Well’

Year: 1991
Episodes: 12
Genre: Rural/Family
Directed by 陈雨田 Chen Yutian 可人 Ke Ren

* 古船、女人和网 Ancient Ship, Woman and Net

Year: 1993
Episodes: 14
Genre: Rural/Family
Directed by 吴珊 Wu Shan 张扬 Zhang Yang

In this 1990s ‘Trilogies of Country Life’ (农村三部曲), China’s rural community is still presented as being in a stage of self-reflecting amidst a time of transformation. This portrayal of China’s countryside stands in stark contrast to present-day productions that often represent the rural community as either ‘to be developed’ or to be laughed about, caught in a discourse of urban-rural binary opposition. These series are still available for viewing on sites such as QQ (no English subs).

 

#2. ‘The Flowering Season of Being Sixteen’ (十六岁的花季)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 12
Genre: Youth
Directed by Directed by 富敏 Fu Min 张弘 Zhang Hong

This TV drama, spoken in Shanghai accent, tells the coming-of-age story of a group of middle school students. It represents Chinese youth as being in the age of poetic self-reflection, rather than the ‘young idol’ genre that is ubiquitous today. The actors and narrator’s voice directly reflect on society and question it. The episodes are available for viewing on Youtube here (no English subtitles).

 

#3. Young Special Force 少年特工

Year: 1992
Episodes: 16
Genre: Military
Directed by 郑方南 Zheng Fangnan

This TV drama, set in contemporary China, tells the story of the experiences of children during a military camp in Shandong, where these young scouts are thrown into a ‘battle’ between the ‘Red Army’ and the ‘Blue Army.’ The military setting and modern timeframe ironically reveal the hidden elite and historical subtext. Link to episodes on Youtube here.

 

#4. Era of Peace (和平年代)

Year: 1996
Episodes: 23
Genre: Army/History
Directed by 李舒 Li Shu 张前 Zhang Qian

This title represents the difference between the army sub-genre and military genre. It is a retrospective story that describes the transformation of China’s armed troops from the Reform and Opening Up (改革开放) (1978-1996) period, going from war preparations to a period of peace.

Over the last two decades, the army sub-genre has gradually allowed new components into the military TV drama genre, which has also led to those narratives in the late 2010s that focus on overseas operations by elite soldiers.

 

#5. Fortress Besieged (围城)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 10
Genre: No (some will say Historical)
Directed by 黄蜀芹 Huang Shuqin

This drama, a classic adaptation of the same-titled 1947 novel by Qian Zhongshu, is set in the 1930s and portrays Chinese intellectuals, while focusing on the misadventures of Fang Hongjian, who returns to China after studying in Europe. The mild, cautious, ironic yet effortless taste from 1940 Shanghai and the figures of Republic of China’s bourgeois intellectuals, showed itself for the very first time to PRC audiences in this classic.

Nobody would like to admit they forgot about this classic adaptation. Actually, people tend to forget it not because of itself, but for its isolation from any current trends. Intellectual taste and artistic pursuit are quite alien to China’s current TV drama culture. Intellectual influence and TV as art was a cultural feature of the late socialist planned economy of the 20th century, when the Communist war against intellectuals had ended, and the capitalist front was yet to be developed.

Various episodes are available for viewing on Youtube.

 

#6. Sinful Debt (孽债)

Year: 1995
Episodes: 20
Genre: Family
Directed by 黄蜀芹 Huang Shuqin

This drama, from the same female director Huang Shuqin (黄蜀芹) of Fortress Besieged, tells the story of five left-behind children in pursuit of their fathers – former sent-down “educated youths” as part of the Cultural Revolution crusade. It is a drama of middle-aged males, females and children, affected by historical, geographical, social and ethnic displacement. These series represent a delayed response to Scar Literature on TV.

The portrayal of Shanghai intellectuals in 1990s TV drama was very different from the 1980s intellectual idealism on TV, which then later transformed in the full-fledged populism in today’s political discourse of pop culture. In policy and critiques after 1990s, the once legit intellectual theme (知识分子题材) was completely erased.

Episodes of Sinful Debt are available for viewing on Youtube here.

By Zhao B.

Edited for clarity by Manya Koetse

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

©2018 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

The Never-Ending Drama: Ma Rong Accuses Wang Baoqiang of Violent Attack, Netizens Don’t Buy It

A messy story is flooding Weibo today, as Chinese celebrity Ma Rong accuses ex-husband Wang Baoqiang of assault.

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It is the never-ending drama: China’s most famous divorced celebrity couple Ma Rong and Wang Baoqiang once again hit the top trending lists on Chinese social media. This time, it concerns an alleged violent outburst during which Ma Rong was injured.

Ever since the 2016 split between Chinese celebrities Wang Baoqiang (王宝强) and his ex-wife Ma Rong (马蓉), the former couple keeps on making headlines. On Sunday, December 2nd, the hashtag “Wang Baoqiang Beats Up Ma Rong” (#王宝强殴打马蓉#) went trending on Weibo, receiving some 520 million views at time of writing (update: the hashtag page has since been taken offline).

According to various Chinese media, Chinese actress Ma Rong stated that her ex-husband attacked her when she wanted to take her children with her in the early morning on Sunday. The children allegedly were not present when the altercation occurred.

Ma Rong claimed that she was hit and kicked in the head and back by Wang, who was accompanied by “four or five” others.

Dramatic photos of a seemingly injured Ma Rong have spread on social media, along with photos of her in the hospital.

A video issued by Sina Entertainment News on Sunday shows Ma Rong lying in her (hospital) bed crying, telling the interviewer that Wang has previously been abusive towards her and their two children.

But there is also another side to this murky story, as security footage from surveillance cameras at Wang’s house have leaked, reportedly showing that Ma came to Wang’s house with her mother on Saturday night around 19.00 to “cause a scene”, carrying scissors with her to intimidate Wang’s family. The footage shows how a woman, said to be Ma Rong, jumps up to the camera in an apparent attempt to sabotage it.

According to an “insider” quoted by Sina Entertainment, Ma and her mother were apparently involved in an altercation with Wang Baoqiang’s mother, although these rumors have since been refuted by Ma’s family.

A report on Jinri Toutiao also claims that the altercation had already started on Saturday night, and that police were present at the scene around 23.00 in an ongoing confrontation that allegedly lasted the entire night.

Wang’s mother, who was present at the scene, was apparently so shaken by the turmoil, that she reportedly was also checked into a local hospital with “palpitations” on Saturday night.

Photos surfacing on Weibo supposedly show how Ma Rong is lying on the floor in Wang’s home, while security staff is present at the scene.

As the situation is somewhat messy, and details are still unclear, most netizens side with Wang Baoqiang and are not buying Ma’s story, suggesting the photos of the injured actress have been staged. Ma Rong has become very unpopular since her divorce from Wang, with many calling her a “gold digger.”

“She’s a very good actress,” many commenters say. “There’s seriously something wrong with her,” others write.

The first memes on today’s case are also surfacing on WeChat and Weibo, with some photoshopping Ma’s photo on a magazine cover of Zhiyin (知音), an old Chinese magazine known for telling dramatic and sensationalized social stories.

Others post the dramatic photo with the underline: “Oh, my head hurts.”

Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang, known for his roles in films such as Blind Shaft (2003) and A Touch of Sin (2013), is highly popular in China. Born into a poor rural family in Hebei Province, the former migrant construction worker rose to fame when he was cast in his first movie. With his rural-to-urban, migrant-to-actor story, Wang has come to represent the Chinese dream in the eyes of many.

In 2016, Wang Baoqiang publicly announced on Weibo that after seven years of marriage, he was divorcing Ma Rong as an exposed illicit affair between his wife and his manager Song Zhe (宋喆) had damaged his marriage “beyond repair.”

Wang Baoqiang announced on Weibo that his wife betrayed him and that he was getting a divorce.

At the time, the exposure of the alleged relationship between Ma Rong and manager Song Zhe hit Weibo like an earthquake, with millions of netizens jumping on the discussion – many of them scolded Ma and alleged she had only married the Chinese film star for his money. With ten billion views, it became one of the all-time biggest topics on Weibo.

Wang and Ma in happier times.

The story has continued to attract people’s attention. A year after the initial separation, Song Zhe was arrested in Beijing for embezzlement – a topic that immediately became trending on Chinese social media.

The various court cases between Wang and Ma Rong, who first sued her estranged husband for defamation of character and then refused to sign the divorce papers, has also recurrently been in the media.

According to the latest reports, Ma has now left the hospital. A video that is spreading on Weibo shows how a woman, supposedly Ma Rong, is carried out of the hospital and is put inside a car, while reporters are running after her (see embedded tweet below).

At time of writing, Wang has not posted any statement regarding this incident on his Weibo page, where he has more than 28 million fans.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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

©2018 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. ©2014-2018

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