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  • Drama and storytelling

    Posted on September 10th, 2014 hungyin No comments

    Today after class, while walking out of the building, I suddenly realize why the term “drama” caused misunderstanding. In Chinese, “drama” contains every kind of drama and “TV series” is called “TV drama”. Interestingly, the term “TV series” in Chinese usually refers to foreign TV series, not local TV series. So, terrible sorry for that. I think that is even an issue of philosophy of language about how different languages categorize dramas.

    Speaking about drama and storytelling, I would like to add something under this topic: model opera. Starting from 1952, a new kind of drama, model opera, emerged in Mainland China. During Culture Revolution 1966-1976, model opera was an important channel for political education and advertisement. Model opera was not a kind of historical drama, but it changed audience’s sense of history. Traditionally, Chinese dramas were either romances or historical stories about ancient elites, emperors and generals. Ordinary people, especially those illiterate persons (about 57% people were illiterate in 1964), learned history from dramas. Most people used to think themselves as descendants of ancient emperors. For the first time, farmers, craftsmen and soldiers became visible in dramas as that was a time of communism. Thus, although model opera was to promote current political leaders at that time, it shaped how people thought of their history and themselves.


    They are “revolutionary opera” on wiki but we usually call them as model opera.

    Some people said time-travel-dramas and historical fantasy were so popular, because model opera made people unfamiliar with traditional Chinese history. As traditional Chinese dramas “educated” people about history, time-travel-dramas and historical fantasy, as TV series, also served that purpose. However, time-travel-dramas were banned in 2012 because they were so popular but too far away from real world and real history. For laypersons, historical fantasy is still a channel of historical education now.



    8 responses to “Drama and storytelling” RSS icon

    • Thanks for this follow-up Hung-Yin. I think I was confusing things further in class as well, because I thought the “historical dramas” you were referring to might be folkloric sagas or epics (traditional oral forms of historical and communal memory). So glad we figured that out and now we know what we are not talking about! ;-).
      The issues are different here of course, but I think most of us recognize the advantages as well as the problems with historical dramas, whether as films or TV series.

    • Does the term drama have a different history in every country?

      • Thank you for the comment. I can’t remember the context of this discussion in class(sorry…) but, yes, I believe the term drama refers to different things in different historical periods and countries.

        For example, traditional Chinese dramas are more like operas and musicals. There was no “drama” which contains only dialogue until western dramas were introduced into China around the 19-20th century. Today this term includes western dramas as well as traditional ones. So the term “drama” refers to different forms of stage plays in different time and location.

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