Introduction to Chinese Entertainment: 21 Things You Must Know

Let me help you.. reach for my hand!

Hi! Are you new to the Chinese show business? Chinese dramas, variety shows and movies are great source of leisure for many. But, it can also be hard to get into at first because China is such a different culture compared to what the western media is portraying! Even if you are from a more Eastern/Asian country, the Chinese entertainment industry may not be that easy to understand. So, hope this list can help you navigate through the amazing world of C-entertainment! I have been following actively the industry for at least three years now so hope I can be reliable source for you πŸ˜‰ For people who know C-ent well, hope this can be a fun read!

  1. What is SARFT? This is the establishment in China that regulates all entertainment rules. They are the famous people who said in 2012, after the success of Scartlet Heart, that no more “time traveling drama that may change Chinese history depictions” are allowed anymore. Yop, pretty silly. Two months ago, they released another list of bans for webdramas which includes the classic time travelling and (homo)sexual contents.

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  2. Weibo is the ultimate source of information, especially if you want to know what is trending in China. It is like a mix of a twitter/facebook/instagram as most celebrities have an account on it and are pretty active. Everything can become trending through hashtag and they have a trending chart that tells you what is more popular per category.Β If you want more reliable official sources, you can also check out Sina and Xinhua News.
  3. Do note that been relevant on Weibo can change from one day to the next so you can call yourself popular 1) based on the number of followers and 2) based on the number of days you are trending. Another source that I like is called Vlinkage which compiles the most popular celebrities and the most popular dramas/webdramas of the day. It is always fun to see dramas you like ranking high on the chart πŸ˜‰

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  4. Chinese people are obsessed with the SAME story. Everything is an adaptation of another book, movie, drama, manhua or video game. Especially these years, every announced new project seems to be an adaptation of an online novel. Do you know the famous author Jin Yong? His novels gets adapted every year since the 80s…
  5. Dramas are LONG, like 50-100 episodes. Need I say more? Watch at your own discretion.
  6. When people think of Chinese dramas, they probably thing about period dramas and be like yeah, I don’t really watch period stuff. WRONG! There are so manyyy categories out there, so many different dynasties to talk about! The story can range from simple comedy to complicated scheming, with various genres like wuxia, xianxia, historical, palace, mythological, and war. If you tell me you can’t find what you like in these, you are lying!

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  7. Blooming of webdramas. I think that is pretty unique right now as most other industries are focused on movies and dramas the most. In China too, dramas are the main focus. BUT you can definitely create a lot of buzz even with a small budget webdrama *keuf Go Princess Go*. A lot of celebrities with huge success chooses to go film a webdrama (Li Yifeng and Yang Yang for Lost Tomb, Lay, William Chan, Zhao Liying for Old Nine Gates, Chen Xiao for Who Sleeps My Bro, etc).

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  8. Actors don’t know what is over working. Seriously, they can film four dramas at once, attend events and film CF all at once. They are supermen and superwomen and we are definitely thankful to their dedication! After an actor hits big, he is suddenly casted for three new dramas all at once!
  9. Everyone acted with everyone: the reuse of OTP. Need I say more? China is producing a huge amount of dramas so everyone gets a chance to work with everyone. Unless they hate each other of course. Actors can act like divas too πŸ˜‰

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  10. Founding your own company is a logical step. This I think is really unique too. Actors starts off by being signed under big agencies such as Yu Zheng Production, Tangren, Huayi, Tencent, etc. However, as time passes by and actors receive more and more recognization, they will choose to found their own company. With themselves as the only artist. The best way to maximize your profit and get the ultimate decision on what project to take on.
  11. Singers and actors are not defined by their job title. Actually, this one is pretty common, but I still wanted to point it out. Actors can sing their own OST, which will be strongly focused on ballad and nostalgic songs. Some of them are great singers (Hu Ge) and some of them are trying their best (Zhao Liying, Yang Mi). Furthermore, singers are more than welcome to try out acting (JJ Lin, Chen Xiang, Li Yifeng, etc). Unlike in Kpop, being an “idol” is not a bad thing.
  12. I often see comments saying that Chinese music industry is so behind compared to other industries. I disagree. It is just that Chinese people like nostalgic ballads instead of hyped up boy bands song. I am not saying being in a group means failure, but in general,Β solo are better received than groups. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, such as the massive success that is TFBoys.

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  13. Everyone gets photoshots! Haha, I just find it funny because there are just SO many photoshots getting released everyday for all actors and actresses. I mean, leave some pages to the actual top models πŸ˜‰
  14. Differerent broadcast station buy the rights of the drama, but they are not the main sponsor of the show. Let me explain. In other countries, you will most of the time have the broadcast station choose a script, pick the team, the cast and start filming. Then they will announce the release date, which will be done of course on their channel. In China however, the shows are prefilmed. They have various producers and filmmakers work on the initial project together: casting, filming and post-producing. During this process, they may get sponsors who want to support the drama or channels who want to buy the airing rights when it will be ready. Of course, some streaming web sites and TV channels can also buy right away and get implicated with the process from the beginning.
  15. Based on the last point, this one should not be a shocker: Not all dramas get an air time! There is a huge amount of dramas been made every year that a lot of them will not get bought by the TV channels or will have to wait years before they can appear to the public. I think that is why when a drama is been produced, they release so many stills and BTS before they are done filming. They want to catch the eyes of a broadcaster! This is also why …
  16. … the trailers are super looooong! A trailer in average I feel are like 20 minutes and cover pretty much the whole story. The goal: catch the interest of the viewers and the investors! So don’t be too surprised if you got spoiled from the story from a trailer πŸ˜‰

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  17. Dubbed voices. Cdramas are dubbed! This mean that whether you speak French, English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, it doesn’t matter as they will dub you with a standard mandarin speaker with a proper accent. Yop. This is because China is such a huge country that many places don’t have the same accent. To make the show more accessible, they hence add dubbed voices and Chinese sub on the bottom of the screen.
  18. Another note to point is that the acting pool is VERY diverse. You will have a high percentage of Chinese actors, followed by Taiwanese, Hong Kongenese, Korean, Thai, Tibetin, etc. There are also various ethnicity groups inside of China. Pretty cool I think πŸ™‚
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  19. Not that much hate comments/pessimism. Or at least these comments don’t seem to influence the drama that much. I mean, the broadcasters have the final word after all and they know the viewers are too sucked into the story. Hence, they are not scarred of the “I will not watch the ending if you do this” menace from the fan. Yes, reference to last year’s Hua Qian Gu vs. Hunan TV trauma.
  20. If we talk about modern dramas, Chinese dramas are more focused on reality, down to earth stories. If I had to categorize productions based on their country of origin, I would say that America loves dangerous/action/democratic/intellectual shows, Korea loves makjang/intense/improbable story lines, Taiwan loves the cute/romantic/exagerated dramas and Japan loves the silly/weird/cute dramas. As for Chinese dramas, they are more realistic, more nostalgic.

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  21. Final point: the cast of variety shows are actors! This is weird, but so true! I guess there are just so many actors in China so, they need to expand their job description. Think of Run Brother, Up Idol, Go Fighting, Noonas Over Flowers, etc. The cast is nearly all made of actors!

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That’s it! That is my list of 21 must know facts about Chinese entertainment. Tell me what you think in the comment section below πŸ˜‰

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14 thoughts on “Introduction to Chinese Entertainment: 21 Things You Must Know

  1. intellectualkitten says:

    To add to the #19, even if the dramas’ ending are not influenced by the public, it is often restricted by the values established by the government. I have never seen a drama where an evil character (even if it is the protagonist) win or if something completely out of ordinary happens πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that you mention it, this is so true! The only bad endings I know is that, after the heroe succeds, he must die (keuf, most of Hu Ge’s characters…) Anyhow, I won’t complain as this gives me one less thing to worry about πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an interesting write-up especially since I am new to C Dramas!
    Thanks for this massive information for me to better understand how C Ent works
    I just started watching C Dramas last year when my drama buddy got me to watch Cruel Romance!
    Many dramas down the road, I am now a big fan, spending less time on K Dramas and more for C Dramas but unfortunately C Dramas don’t get subbed so fast:(
    I noticed that depending on who is the main actor/actress in a drama will also result in the speed of subbing or whether it gets subbed eventually πŸ˜›

    My only problem is finding subbed C Variety shows, can’t seem to find them ( end up watching raw )
    I enjoy reading here, just never write before πŸ™‚

    Like

    • intellectualkitten says:

      Hey! I am sure Archidisign can give you more help but here are some tips ^^
      1) Dramas: Viki and fansubs groups are the fastest and they start with dramas that star really famous people (ex. Kpop stars Yoona/Lay or more recognized actors in the rest of the c-drama world such as Chen Qiao En/Tang Yan) Otherwise, wuxia and xinxia dramas have a good follow up so the really popular ones also get english subs (Tian Long Ba Bu, Hua Qian Gu). Except from Viki, Youtube is your best friend πŸ™‚
      2) All Chinese variety shows can be found on Youtube since Chinese Broadcasting channels release them on their Youtube Channel. Run Brother get official Eng Sub one week after the episode is released whereas Go Fighting has some fansub on Youtube. As you can see, both star Hallyu stars. Sadly, other popular variey shows such as Happy Camp, Idol Up don’t have eng sub 😦

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      • Hi, thanks for the tip but unfortunately Viki does not work for me in my country 😦
        Sadly, the variety I like doesn’t get subbed, Up Idol and Run for Time! I saw Happy Camp and quite like it too, at least my Chinese understanding is improving except I wish they won’t speak so fast! LOL

        Like

    • Hi! Thanks for leaving a comment and for the warm words :3 I tried to write a general post that includes all the key elements that I believe are important. Yop, it is a bit massive haha, but now you know πŸ˜‰
      Cruel Romance was a lot of fun to watch and a great start to get you introduced to 2 of the most popular actors in mainland! Great to see you transitioned as both k and c dramalands have great stuff to offer. As Ikitten already explained some ways to find eng subbed shows, I will just add the importance of GOOGLE. Sometime, these shows are more accessible than you think, you just need to search hard. Other shows have recaps been done by bloggers which is also a great way to understand the plot. Good luck! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Annie says:

    I’ve been lurking around for over a month now. Finally decided to drop a note to say that I enjoy your posts very much, especially the pretty pictures!

    This article has definitely answered a few questions for me. I’ve always wondered why trailers are so long (they might as well give the story away!) and why actors’ voices are dubbed (what’s wrong with their original voice?!). As if you’ve read my mind!

    Like

    • Hi! Thanks for the comment πŸ˜› Hehe, we can’t take credits for the pictures, but glad you are enjoying the blog.
      Then this post served its purpose: help more people to understand the culture behind cdramas/c-entertainment! Yop, I am a mind reader πŸ˜‰ I came up with these 21 points by thinking what makes chinese entertainment unique/different to other dramalands ~~

      Like

  4. mic says:

    i was so surprised to hear wallace chung and nicky wu speak bc i was so used to their dubbed voices in dramas. yeah the only modern drama that i finished was you’re my sunshine? w/ tang yan and wallace chung and idek how i did it. i think i like the period dramas more like nirvana in fire (that was everything!!!!!). & yes the adaptations.. there has to be a movie and drama version….. then web drama version??

    Like

    • Yop, because both of them actually have an accent very different from the standard Chinese one. I actually like Nicky Wu’s real voice as it is really unique, but I never finsihed a Wallace Chung drama/interview to judge properly… You Are My Sunshine was such a hit last year so I am not surprised πŸ˜‰ So, is Nirvana in Fire! I like both modern and period, but I feel like pretty period dramas make me happier cause they are fairyland like~~ So pretty.
      Webdrama too if we think of the Lost Tomb series… And pretty sure Go Princess Go is going to get a movie adaptation soon too.

      Like

      • mic says:

        same i like period dramas for the same reason. i feel like *some* modern dramas are superficial. and yeah nicky wu’s voice is unique for some reason his mandarin sounds like how cantonese accented mandarin or it’s just me being crazy. i also had no idea wallace chung is from hk. i only found out his voice through amazing race.

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      • What I like with modern drama is that sometime, you find good ones where you can reallyy identify yourself to the main character (which happens more with cdramas since they are often done more realistic). Period dramas make me dream and happy, but they rarely teach me much about how to be a better person πŸ˜‰ Nicky Wu is Taiwanese, but he worked most of his life in China mainland and Hong Kong. His accent is hence very unique and I like it a lot xD Maybe that is why he has a cantonese accent? Haha, omg, I need to catch up on amazing race!

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  5. This is a very great and insightful post for newbies out there. My main issue with Chinese dramas is that they have no sense of good pacing (#5). I tried to introduce Cdramas to some of my friends, and the bad pacing really put them off, lol. Also, I kind of dislike how dramas are prefilmed, as opposed to having the broadcasting station be in charge of the decisions, development and production of the shows. This leads to certain dramas not having a promising airing date, as you mentioned.

    “Some of them are great singers (Hu Ge) and some of them are trying their best (Zhao Liying, Yang Mi).” hahaha, the shade!

    Like

    • Hehe. I agree because although I love the story, I will still tend to skip through the episodes if the drama is beyond say 50 episodes. There are just too many filling scenes and often in the middle of the drama, the conflicts get repetitive. Good luck introducing cdramas to your friends! There are still a few really good one to get addicted to and maybe try with shorter dramas first? xD
      I actually like the prefilming part because that leaves less opportunity for the filmmakers to make changes in the middle of the drama. I watched a few Korena and Taiwanese dramas, which were ruined by the sudden popularity and the greediness of the producers to make “more episodes”. I think China had one drama airing as it filmed (Another Kind of Pretty Man with Zhang Han) and it flopped pretty hard. It is sad some good dramas can’t have air dates though..
      Haha, I still love these girls ❀ but really, a part of me wished they didn't push themselves so hard to sing their own OST πŸ˜›

      Like

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