Contemporary Chinese Historical TV Drama as a Cultural Genre: Production, Consumption and the State Power

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

418 Downloads (Pure)


From the mid-1990s, Chinese prime time television has witnessed the emergence of dramatic serials featuring legendary figures from China's past dynasties. These historical dramas, set during the era of dynasties, have played a significant role in articulating political and legal principles rooted in traditional Chinese culture influenced by Confucianism. This chapter aims to critically examine the genre of historical television drama in China, considering both the production and consumption perspectives.

The production of China's historical TV drama has gone through three stages of evolution: 1984-1992, 1992-2004, and 2004 to the present. Each stage has been shaped by various literary, production, scheduling, and regulatory factors, which have influenced the meaning and portrayal of 'the historical' in these dramas. However, an intriguing battle of historical interpretation has emerged among audiences living under different social and political conditions. This is a result of widespread suspicion and mistrust of the Chinese Party-state, which uses historical dramas as a medium to mobilize the public.

In conclusion, this chapter argues that the historical drama genre provides a televised platform for China's viewing public to reflect upon their Confucian cultural traditions and spiritual heritage. It also prompts them to reevaluate their position and orientation within the evolving political culture of contemporary Chinese society. By engaging with historical dramas, audiences have the opportunity to explore and reconsider their values, identities, and their place in the changing social order of China.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Chinese Media
EditorsGary Rawnsley, Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-52077-5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015

Cite this