Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang
Power struggles, family sagas… Stories with these themes are being told in China and all over the world. The hit TV show, Game of Thrones, made everyone catch epic fantasy fever. China has produced its own historical or epic fantasy shows, some of which are as popular as European and American shows.
In 2016-2017, two shows, Novoland: The Castle in the Sky and Xuan-Yuan Sword: Han Cloud, were the first experimenters of the genre. The former told of a world where the human tribe and the feather tribe battle after a brief truce. The latter show described the warriors of three ancient kingdoms, their fight over an ancient magical sword, as well as their fight against evil.
At the end of 2017, another epic fantasy show began airing on many online platforms: Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy, which was adapted from web writer Jin Hezai’s novel of the same name. The story takes place in a fantasy world known as “Jiu Zhou”, where, at the end of the Duan Dynasty, the Muyun royal family and the Muru family had a falling out due to a 300-year-old prophecy. The prophecy foretold of a disastrous future should the Sixth Prince Muyun Sheng become king, and that Muru Hanjiang, the son of a general, would instead be the leader. Meanwhile, the half-human-half-spirit Muyun Sheng was also predicted to be everyone’s enemy. How would Muyun Sheng, who does not believe in fate, who would rather sacrifice himself than give up on true love, overcome the challenges and endless battles in Jiu Zhou? The suspense kept a lot of audience watching.
There has also been a lot of controversy over Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy. The show required a huge investment, took over two years to shoot, had a production team of over one thousand people and more than 50 thousand actors. Distance traveled for on-location shoots amounted to 20 thousand km, show props took up more than 60 thousand sqm, needed more than 12 thousand weapons and more than 500 horseback riding accessories. Over 36 thousand hours were spent to create makeup, props, and scenic design. Most online viewers commented that the show was well-made, had a beautiful look, was grand in scale, and could be known as China’s own Game of Thrones.
But there’s also viewers who believe the show is too long-winded. The slow pace makes it good for casual viewing but exhausting to watch seriously. The fans also made fun of a line in the show, when the queen said, “I’m just an aging woman no one wants anymore,” a statement that’s very unconvincing. Inspite of the controversy, the show is still popular, racking up more than 10 billion online views so far.
In 2018, another epic fantasy, Legend of Fu Yao, is about to start airing. Adapted from the novel Queen Fu Yao by author Tianxia Guiyuan, the show features the land of Wuzhou divided into three kingdoms: Wuji, Taiyuan, and Xuanji. The heavens cultivated a magical lotus flower via Fu Yao, the daughter of the king of Xuanji. Fu Yao honed her skills in the House of Xuanyuan Sword in the Taiyuan Kingdom, and embarked on a dangerous mission to collect secret orders across the land. Fu Yao eventually fell in love with the prince of Wuji, and the two joined together to fight enemies, battle conspiracies, and protect the land of Wuzhou.
While epic fantasies are still in the beginning stage of development in China, they have already built a good reputation. Compared to European and American shows of the same theme, Chinese myths, fantasies, and supernatural shows have richer content and depth, with unique elements from Taoist culture. It is certain that this new genre of TV, movie, and online shows will have robust growth in the future and bring us more visual entertainment than ever.