Period drama explores rise of prominent merchant group in Hunan
Published: Apr 06, 2022 05:15 PM
Promotional material for the TV series <em>Yidai Hongshang</em> Photo: Courtesy of Lee

Promotional material for the TV series Yidai Hongshang Photo: Courtesy of Lee

A period TV series focusing on the struggle of merchants in Hongjiang, western Hunan Province, has been airing on China Central Television and Mango TV since March 27, showing a snapshot of "Hongshang" (merchants in Hongjiang) starting their business and creating local prosperity.

Hongjiang has been an important station and prosperous commercial port in western Hunan since ancient times. It is rich in high-quality China wood oil, also known as Hong Oil. Hongshang have been a classic example of Hunan business culture for more than a thousand years.

The TV series Yidai Hongshang (lit: A Generation of Hongshang) stars veteran Chinese actor Zhang Fengyi as Liu Yunxiang, a prestigious leading figure among Hongshang. 

The drama is about how Hongshang struggled to develop during the Republic of China (1912-49) period, and how to contribute to the country during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Zhang said he considers his role very "patriotic" and the script very realistic. Although he was born in Hunan Province, he said he had never heard of these merchants, so filming the drama helped him to understand the history of his home province better.

When filming a scene during which he had to be submerged in cold water, Zhang refused to use a stunt double and insisted on doing it himself. As a result, he came down with a cold right after finishing the shoot. 

"I have taken on this role in the drama so I must do it myself," Zhang said.

As a veteran actor in the entertainment industry, Zhang offered some counsel to up-and-coming young actors and actresses. "The industry gives you acting opportunities. But if you do not practice and improve your acting skills nor strengthen your knowledge, you cannot enter the mainstream," Zhang said.

Zhang also emphasized that good actors and actresses should not be "kidnapped" by fans or audiences, meaning that they should not just pander to the market. Instead, they should live for artistic pursuit in the heart and their roles, not for themselves or fans.