TV series ‘White Deer Plain’ taken down after first episode airs

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/18 19:18:39

"I have watched the first episode twice, and was very looking forward to a new episode last night. I never expected that it wouldn't air."

Du Ren

a Chinese film director commenting on the removal of TV series White Deer Plain

Promotional material for White Deer Plain Photo: IC


Promotional material for White Deer Plain Photo: IC

One day after its first episode debuted on two provincial TV channels on Sunday night, the TV adaptation of the novel White Deer Plain has disappeared from the airwaves.

"To achieve better broadcasting impact, the TV series White Deer Plain will be broadcast someday in the future. Thanks for all your attention," said an identical message posted on the two channel's official Sina Weibo accounts around 11:20 am Tuesday.

Schedule change

The second episode of the TV series was originally supposed to air on Jiangsu TV and Anhui TV at 7:30 pm on Monday. However, that evening audiences found other shows had taken the adaptation's place. Jiangsu TV showed the film Lost in Hong Kong while Anhui TV screened live talk show Listen to China.

The show's sudden disappearance is quite unusual, as the series, an adaptation of a highly acclaimed 1993 novel by late Chinese novelist Chen Zhongshi (1942-2016), was highly anticipated.

Leading up to the show's debut, the show's producers told media they had been preparing for 15 years to make the 85-episode series, which stars a lineup of China's veteran actors and actresses.

After the initial broadcast of the first episode, many netizens praised the show's production quality on social media and expressed they were looking forward to the next day's episode.

"I have watched the first episode twice, and was very looking forward to a new episode last night. I never expected that it wouldn't air," Chinese film director Du Ren posted on Sina Weibo on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no other reasons have been provided for the takedown. Chinese netizens have speculated that it may have been due to the appearance of politically related content. 

In his post on Tuesday, Du speculated that one of the reasons behind the removal may be related to the main character's political background and tragic ending. This post was removed later that day.

Politically sensitive

Set during the latter part of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in the small village of "White Deer" in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the novel follows the story of two families, Bai and Lu, over three generations. Chen, a Shaanxi native who grew up in a small village, wrote the novel in 1992, during a time when self-examination literature was extremely popular in China.

Chen was praised for the way he integrated the personal lives of his characters into a grand historical background that spanned several decades.

Due to its heavy political content, the book was edited several times before it was published by the People's Literature Publishing House in 1993. In fact, the content was deemed so sensitive that the book was revised once again in 1997.

The novel, which won the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 1997, has seen numerous adaptations into several mediums, including a Shaanxi opera in 2001, a graphic novel in 2002, a modern dance drama performed by the Capital Normal University and a film directed by Wang Quan'an in 2012. The Wang's film adaptation took part in the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012 as the only Chinese film in competition.

Copyright troubles

Also in 2012, the French version of the novel was published in France. Having already been translated into Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Mongolian, this was the first time the novel had been translated into a Western language.

Although the Chinese government has been pushing to introduce Chinese literature overseas, the novel has not yet been translated into English. Some fans of the novel has speculated that it may be due to the difficulties that come with translating the local Shaanxi dialect into English.

But the most likely suspect comes down to copyrights.

In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency in 2013, Chen himself said that when he signed the contract for the French version of the novel, he gave the publishing house the English rights as well, a move he later regretted.

"When signing the contract, the French side told me they also wanted to publish translations in other languages and asked for the copyrights. I thought it would be good for Chinese literature to have my work published in other countries and thus signed away the rights," Chen said.

"Over the years at least six or seven other publishing houses have approached me about publishing an English version, but I am still stuck in that contract," Chen told Xinhua during the 2013 interview.

Sadly, Chen never got a chance to see an English version of the novel. On April 29, 2016, the author passed away in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province.

Newspaper headline: Mysterious disappearance

Posted in: BOOKS,TV

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