Chinese TV series ‘Nirvana in Fire’ sets South Korea aflame

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-12 18:58:01

Chinese actor Hu Ge in Nirvana in Fire Photo: IC

Just as female audiences in China are being charmed by South Korean actor Song Joong-ki in Descendants of the Sun, South Korean fans of Chinese TV series Nirvana in Fire are falling head over heels for the show's leading character Mei Changsu, played by Chinese actor Hu Ge. 

Nirvana in Fire, adapted from the novel of the same name, tells the story of Lin Shu, who infiltrates the capital of the Liang Dynasty in the guise of Mei Changsu to get justice for his family, who were wrongly accused of treason 12 years prior, and help his childhood friend gain the throne.

South Korean hit

Many Chinese drama fans can still recall the nightmare that happened to popular drama The Legend of Zhen Huan was edited from its original 76-episode version into a six-episode series for its release in North America. Fortunately for Nirvana in Fire, the 54-episode series is being shown in its entirety with Korean subtitles in South Korea.

First premiering on South Korean Zhonghua TV on October 19 last year, the series didn't have as big an impact as was expected at first. However, after South Korean fans got used to the similar sounding names of the characters and began figuring out the complicated relationships between them, they soon became crazy about the period drama.

In December, Nirvana in Fire became the most searched daytime TV show in South Korea, surpassing some American dramas such as Games of Thrones season 6.

It's worth noting that unlike the Chinese mainland, the show is a pay-per-view series in South Korea. The current price for Nirvana in Fire is 1,200 won ($1) per episode. So in total, fans must spend a total of $54 to watch the entire series. That same month, the show ranked seventh on the list of top-selling foreign dramas in South Korea's fiercely competitive TV market. 

The show has been well received critically. So far, Nirvana in Fire holds a 9.6 on South Korean web portal 

"Both the acting and cinematography are really great. It is a hundred times better than some domestic dramas with their strange scenes," South Korean netizen Butterfly2ya commented on the site. 

Discussing every detail of the show has become a favorite pastime among fans. Some fans may ask about an ancient vase that appears only for a few seconds in one scene, and still get a really detailed and professional answer from enthusiastic netizens along with detailed historical illustrations.

The show has done well when it comes to merchandising, with fans buying items related to the show such as capes modeled after the one worn by Mei Changsu, the dessert favored by Prince Jing or fluorescent lamps with the drama's name printed on it.

Even K-pop super stars have been bitten by the Nirvana in Fire bug. Jung Yong-hwa, a singer in South Korea who is well-known for interacting with Chinese netizens, posted a group photo with actor Wang Kai on his Sina Weibo in which he referred to him as Prince Jing, the character Wang plays on the show.

Recently, a South Korean travel agency has established Nirvana in Fire-themed tours that take fans to Hengdian, a movie and television studio in Zhejiang Province where the show was shot.

Actually, this is not the first time that mainland series have performed well in South Korea. Return of the Pearl Princess, Chinese Paladin and Scarlet Heart also performed well there over the years, but Nirvana in Fire can be said to be the most successful of the bunch.

Local tastes

On closer inspection, the success of the show probably stems from how it fits in with the tastes of the South Korean TV market.

All the main characters are very capable and have chances to show off their abilities. Mei Changsu is both intelligent and wise and uses the political power he gains to help others. 

Secondly, the show features the ups and downs of a great bromance. The relationship between Mei and Prince Jing is a highlight of the series to which audiences have paid the most attention.

The cinematography has also been one of the show's strengths. After the show debuted in the mainland, many netizens spent hours discussing how each scene was shot. One netizen even wrote a blog post that delved into the different compositions such as "the V Shape" and "golden spiral" used in the show.

A similar attention to cinematography can be seen happening now among South Korean fans. 

A hit in South Korea, Nirvana in Fire seems to have received a warm welcome in other countries as well such as Canada, the US and Japan. It seems that it won't be long before the show is able to establish a global following. 

Newspaper headline: International drama

Posted in: TV

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