Trends and Buzz

Putting a stop to historical re-enactment


Are you frustrated by the flood of low-quality palace soaps on television today? Does it make your blood boil when the characters you see in historical dramas are nowhere to be found in the history books? Can you feel your moral universe being chipped away by emperors and statesmen who act like they've just stepped out of a 90s-era nightclub? Does Wang Gang playing the role of the svelte, young Heshen just piss you off?

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television has heard your cries, and has answered. Following its widely acclaimed efforts last month to put a halt to the plague of live-action cartoons that were causing so much trouble for the development of the country's animation industry, the SARFT will be placing restrictions on the number of costume dramas that can be broadcast this year.

Wang Weiping, deputy director of SARFT's TV Drama Department, said at a planning conference that historical dramas on TV have serious problems with their historicity. Wang said that many adaptations have taken too great of liberties with their historical source material:

For example, historical figures or events with which everyone is familiar get adapted with too much fictionalization or too much mockery. Some adaptations completely distort history.

Of course, an artistic creation is not the same as a history textbook, and it is not really the history that occured. But during the process of commercialization, some adaptations of historical dramas have strayed very far from the truth of history. As a result, history is easily muddled; it provides young people especially with a very bad influence. Some other historical dramas have problems in the way they treat emperors, kings, generals, and ministers; they deviate to a degree in how they handle their position in history. Some parts of history are altered to be completely false, and are rendered very crassly. These must all be corrected.

Director Wang said that the administration would be increasing the proportion of dramas closer to reality - like last year's "Caught the Wrong Bus" (搭错车), a remake of a 1983 Taiwan tear-jerker, and "Nine Daughters in my Family" (家有九凤), a story everyone can relate to. Wang also spoke favorably of anti-Japanese themed war dramas. SARFT will also limit imported TV series, though Wang says that this is merely a consequence of the emphasis on war and real life.

The administration worked hard last year. The Beijing News summarizes the regulations: April 2005: Online gaming programs banned from TV; violent programs restricted from prime time; children's network set up; loose adaptation of "Red Classics" prohibited. May 2005: Vulgar content in costume dramas and teen idol soaps banned during prime time; TV hosts prohibited from using Hong Kong and Taiwan accents.

Links and Sources
Media Partners
Visit these sites for the latest China news
090609guardian2.png 090609CNN3.png
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.
Danwei Archives
Danwei Feeds
Via Feedsky rsschiclet2.png (on the mainland)
or Feedburner rsschiclet.gif (blocked in China)
rsschiclet2.png rsschiclet.gif Main feed: Main posts (FB has top links)
rsschiclet2.png rsschiclet.gif Top Links: Links from the top bar
rsschiclet2.png rsschiclet.gif Danwei Jobs: Want ads
rsschiclet2.png rsschiclet.gif Danwei Digest: Updated daily, 19:30