by Benevolentia , October 7, 2020
163

Starter Kit: China

~ Part One ~

A Starter Kit to get you kick-started on your C-drama Journey. To begin to start a whole new countries drama database can be daunting, so here I am, I have made a starter kit just for you, to help you get started. Featuring C-drama recommendation, including basics on language and culture understanding, and tips for when starting to watch C-dramas.

Chinese dramas are both cliche and original, they know what the audience wants and will deliver. Of all the countries’ dramas that I have watched, I somehow will always come back to C-dramas in the end, my classic comfort food.

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Dramas For Beginners

Here are my recommendations if you are a newcomer to Chinese dramas. I did so according to different troupe and genres that I believe to be very beginner-friendly as a gateway to Chinese dramas. 

*links provided, featuring GIFs and tags

Gender Blender:

 My Unicorn GirlTags: Prosopagnosia, Cohabitation, University, Ice Hockey, Hate To Love 

Youth:

Put Your Head On My ShoulderTags: Cohabitation, Smart Male Lead, Fluffy, Male Chases Female First, College Life, Height Difference

Contemporary: 

Go Go Squid!Tags: Cold Man/Warm Woman, Love At First Sight, Female Chases Male First, Older Man/Younger Woman, Gaming, DreamFluffy

Thriller/ Mystery: 

Bad KidsTags: Juvenile Delinquency, Gun Violence, Teenager, Teacher, Smart Male Lead, Death, Orphan, Psychological, Crime, Family

Historical Rom-Com: 

The Romance of Tiger and RoseTags: Bickering Couple, Funny Female Lead, Male Chases Female First, Crossworlds Traveler, Prince, Hate To Love 

Historical Xian Xia: 

Eternal LoveTags: Male Chases Female First, Deity, Second Chance, Strong Male Lead, Steamy Kiss, Strong Female LeadFate

Republic: 

Tientsin Mystic

Tags: Shamanism, Psychic, Mystery, Horror, Investigation, Thriller

Historical Wu Xia: 

Joy of Life

Tags: Action, Comedy, Romance, Political, Time Travel, Scheme, Power StruggleMartial Arts


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Know Your Actors

Get to know some great actors and actresses that have a reliable track record of always delivering on enjoyable stories and performances.

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Know Your Basics: Language

Chinese dramas are spoken in Mandarin, which is the language of Mainland China, based on the Beijing Dialect; there are various dialects in China.

Subbing and Dubbing

Due to the many different dialects in China, there will always be Chinese subtitles available on ALL films, including variety TV shows. I am a big fan of the Chinese subtitles and hoped all Asians dramas had them. (I’ve actually found it so uncomfortable now if the Chinese drama does not have Chinese subtitles (something is missing)). Another consequence of China’s many dialects is that when the actors have accents, most common are Taiwan or Hong Kong accent, which is considered strong, but some subtle accents will likely be dubbed as well. Dubbing is especially common in Historical dramas, but due to the skill of the voice actors, it does not often affect the quality.

Idioms 

Unlike Japanese and Korean, Mandarin doesn’t have a strong focus on formal or informal speech. Mandarin sentence structure is actually similar to English in many ways, but people will use many different idioms in conversation. Therefore you may or may not get some interesting subtitle translations. hehe

Some examples:

Chinese

Literal Translation

 Actual Translation

乱七八糟

Mess Seven Eight Bad

Horrendous Mess

八字不合

Eight Character Not Together 

Not compatible 

水落石出

Water through the rock 

Truth will be revealed


Buzz Words

*Words that don’t have English direct translation. 

“情 “Qing, meaning please, but more often is the word to add politeness.

“加油” Jia You, word of support or encouragement.

“武俠” Wu Xia, literally means “Martial Heroes”. It is a genre where themes of chivalry, tragedy, revenge & romance are common.

“仙侠” Xian Xia,  literally means “Immortal Heroes”. This genre features magic, demons, ghosts, immortals, and a great deal of Chinese folklore/mythology.

” 六六六 “Liu Liu Liu, Literally means Six Six Six, is colloquial for smooth, often will be accompanied with a hand sign.

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Know Your Basics: Culture

OH My Da Ma

China, like the other Asian cultures, will address people with “titles” instead of directly with their names. Commonly when meeting someone’s parents or even the local corner store worker, they can be addressed as aunty (A Yi/Da Ma), uncle (Jiu Jiu/Da Shu), or if they appear older will use grandpa (Ye Ye/ Bei Bei), grandma (Nai Nai/Po Po), to add closeness. When addressing seniors or mentors, they will be addressed as Qian Bei, this adds respect. Likewise, in a school setting, school seniors will be addressed as Xue Jie (school sister) or Xue Zhang (School senior (for males). 

Historical Corner

Chinese history is long and convoluted, tradition and knowledge surviving for over three thousand years. There are numerous dynasties, each representative of the reigning of the emperor, each dynasty will have renewed fashion styles, morals and traditions to the next. The most common dynasties setting in C-dramas is Tang, Song or Qing, they are the most popular dynasties and was when China was most prosperous.

It is a Chinese tradition to not cut your hair, as it is your connection to your ancestor, and to do so would be a great disrespect and dishonour. Additionally, hairpieces accessories, depending on the material, extravagance and details, is a display one’s power and status in the palace. 

ACHOO!

It is a superstition in Asian culture, that when you sneeze, it is because someone was thinking about you or saying bad things about you behind your back (it is never really taken seriously but jest). 


Chinese Censorship

There is an abundance of censorship hindering creativity and expression in Chinese dramas, not even all known to the public. Censorship can cause dramas to be held in limbo, where they are assessed before they can ever be released/aired. 

  • Time travel stories must be explained with scientific theories, and characters involved must be positive and cannot change the course of history. 

  • Gay stories are banned and should be replaced with friendship among characters of the same sex.

  • Dramas that glorify the republican government or warlords in the republican era are to be strictly censored. 

  • Crime thrillers will be subject to censorship by the police department. Plots must not reveal how the crimes are solved, though analysis of criminal psychology is allowed. Criminals must be punished. Police cannot be portrayed negatively.

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Where to Watch Your Dramas

In recent years Chinese Dramas available with English subtitles, have really kicked off, they were once only a small selection available on Viki and Dramafever, and have since found a stable footing with the many legal sites available. All the titles mentioned above will be available at one or more of these sites: IQiYi, Netflix, Viki and some youtube channels.

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My Quick Tips

  1. Watch the trailer, instead of reading the synopsis. C-dramas can be very misleading, which gives me so many unrealistic expectations (I thought it was a wuxia, but actually it was a historical rom-com). Watching the trailer will show you the vibes of the drama and give you a proper understanding of what type of drama it actually is. 

  2. Don’t sleep on the Historical dramas. No other Asian country utilize the historical setting as C-dramas do, and they do it WELL.

  3. Patience. Chinese dramas have unreliable airing schedules, they can be released on any day without any promotion. C-dramas can also be held in limbo due to censorship.

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Questions

If you are a veteran or causal watcher of C-dramas:

  • How did your C-drama Journey start, and do you have any Tips for any Newcomers?

If You are a newcomer to C-dramas:

  • Are there any questions for me that I can help you with?

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Thank you for reading! That’s all for now,!Continue your dramas watching. ^^


Edited by: Yuanwei (1st editor) & Jojo (2nd editor)

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