Universality of Chinese culture appreciated
Published: Nov 01, 2023 10:52 PM
Illustration:Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration:Chen Xia/Global Times

The increasing trend of remaking Chinese TV and film productions for international audiences reflects a growing interest in and demand for Chinese content worldwide. This phenomenon, where Chinese dramas and movies are being adapted for foreign markets, signifies an acceleration of China's cultural exports.

Hollywood's decision to remake Chinese time-travel comedy Hi, Mom and the Japanese adaptation of Chinese thriller drama The Bad Kids as Gold Boy showcased at the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival are recent examples of this trend.

Hi, Mom achieved tremendous success when it was released during the 2021 Chinese New Year holiday film season. It currently is the third-highest earning film in China with 54.13 billion yuan ($7.40 billion). Its success can be attributed to its skillful storytelling and heartfelt exploration of family relationships, combining elements of time-travel, female-centric themes, comedy and nostalgia. It resonated with audiences during a time when female-centric stories were receiving significant attention.

The Bad Kids is one of China's most successful suspense dramas, earning an impressive 8.8 rating on Chinese media review platform Douban.

Remaking TV and film productions is a manifestation of Chinese culture going global. For the mega investors, remakes can reduce investment risks and broaden the viewership of the same intellectual property (IP) in both the native and remake countries.

For example, Sheep Without a Shepherd, a remake of the Indian film Drishyam, garnered substantial box-office revenue in China, becoming a representative crime film. The original Indian film was also screened in Chinese cinemas due to its high popularity.

So, is the decision to remake these productions solely based on high box office and solid word-of-mouth? Well, it is not the most critical factor to consider.

A closer analysis reveals that the success of these homemade productions going abroad is due to the universality and commonality of the themes they convey, and these universal and harmonious values are inspired by China's profound traditional culture, such as benevolence, righteousness, propriety, intelligence and trustworthiness from Confucianism.

For instance, when Hollywood chose to remake Hi, Mom, it likely recognized the delicately expressed female emotions, filial piety and nostalgic artistic qualities that can resonate across cultural barriers.

Japan, being the birthplace of social crime novels, saw potential in The Bad Kids for exposing the darker side of human reality through crime. The series is adapted from a novel by Chen Zijin and follows the story of three children in a coastal town who inadvertently capture evidence of a murder during a trip.

Popular Chinese TV drama Go Ahead is set to be remade in South Korea. This show, often referred to as China's Reply 1988 (a 2015 South Korean TV drama), tells a story of three unrelated men and women who rely on each other and grow together, focusing on themes of love and family. The series showcases the ups and downs of a typical Chinese family, making it relatable to audiences of all age groups.

Currently, the international distribution or remaking of Chinese TV and film productions has become common practice. The remaking of Chinese content, including popular series, films, and animation, is gaining widespread popularity, not only in Hollywood but also in an increasing number of other countries.

In recent years, growing attention has been paid to the export of excellent Chinese TV and film IPs. In the realm of movies, the Chinese film Soul Mate, released seven years ago, was remade as Soulmate in South Korea, offering a fresh interpretation of this heart-wrenching youth story with its own unique flavor. The comedy film Goodbye Mr. Loser was adapted in Malaysia, attracting audiences with its humor. Popular series such as Go Princess Go, Find Yourself, My Heroic Husband and Under The Skin have been remade or are in the process of being remade for international audiences.

Behind the wave of remaking Chinese TV and film productions for foreign markets is the universal human values rooted in Chinese culture and conveyed in domestic works. Audiences can resonate with the values portrayed in these remakes, which is particularly valuable amid the unfriendly sentiment of anti-globalization and serves as a key to breaking down cultural barriers.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.