Thursday, 11 February 2021

Exploring Chinese Culture

Painting by Annie Sun Form 6
Stemming from one of the world's oldest cultures, with thousands of years of history, contemporary Chinese media is both rich and varied, with a plethora of TV shows, movies, books and music to choose from, so you can be sure to find something suiting your tastes. So, what better way to celebrate Lunar New Year than to immerse yourself into Chinese literature, programmes and films? Below, I’ve compiled a by no means exhaustive list, but a good starting point to introduce you and help you navigate Chinese media. I hope you enjoy! (Note: Most of the TV shows and movies can be found on some form of online streaming service, such as Netflix or even Youtube and of course, Amazon is a gold mine when it comes to books)

Movies 1. Lost on Journey /人在囧途  (Rated PG)

A 2010 comedy film starring Wang Baoqiang (one of China’s most influential comedy stars), this movie tells the story of two unlikely companions, businessman Li Chengong and migrant worker Niu Geng, and their amusing attempts to navigate the “Chun Yun” - a period of travel with extremely high traffic loads as everyone tries to rush home for the Spring Festival – perfect for Chinese New Year!

2. Dying to Survive / 我不是药神  (Rated 12)

A heart-wrenching and powerful movie (and based on a true story), a pharmacist sells cheap Indian “dupe” medication to leukemia patients who cannot afford to buy the expensive German drugs - touching on important societal issues that’ll really make you think.

3. Shaolin Soccer / 少林足球  (Rated PG)

Directed by famed Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow, this movie is a sports comedy about a Shaolin monk who reunites his 5 brothers to apply their spectacular martial art skills to play football and expose the public to Shaolin kung fu.

4. Eat Drink Man Woman / 饮食男女  (Rated PG)

A comedy drama directed by Ang Lee (also director of Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), this movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in 1995, and for good reason. Set in Taiwan, this film tells the story of master chef Mr. Chu, and his three unmarried daughters, as their family life revolves around an evening banquet prepared by Chu every Sunday.

5. The Final Master / 师父  (Rated 15)

A 2015 martial arts film, this one is different from the Hollywood blockbuster kung fu that you’re used to. Kung fu grandmaster Chen arrives in Tianjin in the hopes of opening a martial arts school but must overcome 8 others first. A riveting plot is accentuated by the realistic portrayal of martial arts fighting – a must watch if you’re interested in kung fu.


1. The Three Body Problem / 三体 by Liu Cixin

Written by novelist Liu Cixin, and translated by Ken Liu, this is book is a must read for any sci-fi fans out there. Dealing with the three-body problem in orbital mechanics, Liu weaves an imaginative, yet realistic story about extraterrestrial life and human beings. A brilliant piece of Chinese literature – take it from Obama, who said the book was “wildly imaginative, really interesting”.

2. Love in a Fallen City / 倾城之恋 by Eileen Chang

As the title suggests, this novella tells of a love story during wartime Hong Kong and Shanghai. Written by Eileen Chang (whom director Ang Lee has described as the “fallen angel of Chinese literature”, any romance novel fan would find this a thrill to read.

3. A Madman’s Diary / 狂人日記 by Lu Xun

A short story by one of modern China’s most influential and greatest writers and inspired by Nikolai Gogal’s “Diary of a Madman”, Lu Xun pens the story of a “madman”, who is convinced that the people around him are potential man-eaters. An allegorical piece of work, this novel is considered to be China’s first modern short story - truly a cornerstone of Chinese literature.

4. Red Sorghum / 红高粱 by Mo Yan

Red Sorghum's plot revolves around three generations of a family between 1923 and 1976. The narrator tells the story of his family's struggles, first as distillery owners making sorghum wine and then as resistance fighters during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The novel also details civil disputes between warring Chinese groups, including rival gangs and political powers, and tells of Sino-Japanese relationships during this time. Authored by Mo Yan, who received a Nobel Prize in Literature for his works.

5. Romance of the Three Kingdoms / 三国演义 by Luo Guanzhong

Known as one of one of the Four Great Classical Novels in Chinese literature, and whose influence in East Asia is comparable to that of Shakespeare’s on English literature, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a 14th century historical novel, set towards the end of the Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history and deals with military battles, intrigues, and struggles of three states to achieve dominance for almost 100 years.

TV shows

1. Meteor Garden / 流星花园  (Rated 15)

2. A Love so Beautiful / 致我们单纯的小美好  (Rated 15)

3. Love 020 / 微微一笑很倾城  (Rated 15)

4. Put your Head on my Shoulder / 致我们暖暖的小时光  (Rated 15)

5. City Still Believes in Love / 北上广依然相信爱情  (Rated 15)

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