Drama series ‘Luoyang’ takes first step into ‘Chinese Historic City Universe’
Published: Dec 13, 2021 06:23 PM
The street in the drama Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

The street in the drama Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

Luoyang, located in Central China's Henan Province, is a city with a history that can be traced back to more than 5,000 years ago. It was the capital city of 13 Chinese dynasties, making it a central figure in Chinese culture. Now the historic city is being displayed on screen and leading the way for a new concept in TV drama production - the Chinese Historic City Universe. 

The TV series Luoyang, airing on streaming platform iQIYI since December 1, has become one of the most attention-grabbing TV dramas of 2021 in China.

The 39-episode period drama telling the story of three people from different classes uniting together to protect the historic city has topped the trending chart for dramas in the Chinese mainland on Maoyan, a major database for films and TV series.

Overseas audiences are also showing strong interest in the show, which hit seven trending charts on Twitter in Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Before the announcement of its premiere, the show had already been distributed in seven countries and regions, including Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, according to iQIYI.

Show director Xie Ze told the Global Times that he had heard about the Chinese Historic City Universe before the series began to be filmed, which made him interested and motivated. Taking the first step into this universe, Xie tried to produce an unusual history-themed work to show off traditional Chinese culture.

The story, characters and setting of the series set it apart from other period TV dramas, earning it many compliments from audiences both at home and abroad.

What traditional culture is on display in the TV series? How will this drama with four years in the making contribute to the construction of the Chinese Historic City Universe?

The series' director and scriptwriters talked about the hit work with the Global Times on Monday .

Ancient Luoyang revived on screen

Twenty episodes of the series have been released so far.

Gao Bingzhu (Chinese actor Huang Xuan), a young man low on the totem pole of society, is searching for the murderer who killed his friends five years ago when he becomes a suspect in a new case. 

As Gao tries to prove his innocence by finding the real criminal, he meets Baili Hongyi (Wang Yibo) and Wu Siyue (Song Qian), who are from the noble class. The three unite together for different reasons to accomplish the same goal - arresting the rebels, who are trying to overthrow the emperor, and protect Luoyang.

Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

As the three leads track down and chase after criminals and rebels, scenes of the capital are rolled out for audiences at the same time. The scriptwriters Qing Mei and Wu Cong told the Global Times that the chase and fight scenes naturally take audiences on a tour of the ancient Luoyang the production team has restored on screen.

"I do not like using special effects," Xie said. "Most of the buildings, streets and rooms of the lead roles shown on  screen were really built before the drama began filming."

The props on display have stunned audiences since the series' debut. Gao's bed is a coffin to show the depression caused by deep hatred his character feels, and Baili's room is surrounded by a small stream as this shows Baili's unrestrained personality.

In addition to actual locations, the series introduces two fiction places: the information organization known as Lianfang and the slums of Buliangjing.

To make the two fictional locations believable, Xie said that he used his imagination to think up rich details such as the Buddha statues seen throughout Buliangjing, putting lotus lamps in Lianfang and having all the light sources in Lianfang come from candles instead of lamps.

Gao is like a "zombie" according to Xie, which is also one of parts that distinguishes the series from others. At the beginning, he just focuses on getting revenge for his friends and does not care about other people's lives - an atypical character in Chinese TV dramas.

Chinese Historic City Universe

The concept of the Chinese Historic City Universe encompasses a variety of content drawing inspiration from Chinese cities with long histories such as Beijing, Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province and Dunhuang in Northwest China's Gansu Province. It  aims to create a bridge between China's local cultures and global audiences, an iQIYI representative told the Global Times.

Luoyang was chosen to be the first stop on the road to creating this universe. The production team worked with local professional institutes to restore the prosperity of the ancient capital from its food and customs to its architecture.

The Luoyang Wenbao Group, mainly responsible for protecting the ruin sites in Luoyang and constructing historical and cultural parks, told the Global Times that they introduced the architecture in the ancient capital to the production team, and assisted and organized exchanges and discussions between experts in the history of the city.

Besides the TV series, other TV works about Luoyang also debuted or will debut as parts of the universe. The original documentary Shendu Luoyang premieres on December 9 and the original animated series Luoyang on December 17 respectively.