HOMAGE TO HE­ROES

A Chi­nese TV series on the Kore­anWar will be broad­cast na­tion­wide for the first time. Xu Fan re­ports on the emo­tional be­hind-the-scenes jour­ney of its mak­ers.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The at­mos­phere turned somber when ac­tor Zhan Shi­gang spoke of Chi­nese ca­su­alty fig­ures at a re­cent Bei­jing event to pro­mote his up­com­ing TV series, The 38th Par­al­lel.

More than 180,000 Chi­nese sol­diers were killed, 383,000 were in­jured and 25,000 went miss­ing dur­ing the Korean War that was waged for three years from 1950.

“They de­serve our homage to­day,” Zhan said last week, bow­ing to his knees.

Other mem­bers of the series’ cast and crew were also present.

The 38-episode series, which will be aired from May 28 on Bei­jing Satel­lite TV, fol­lows the jour­ney of two Chi­nese fish­er­men­who­live by the Yalu River in North­east China as they trans­form into fight­ers to pro­tect their coun­try and the neigh­bor­ing Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea dur­ing the war.

Wit­ness­ing Amer­i­can bomb­ings kill their fam­i­lies, the pro­tag­o­nists of the series join some 1.35 mil­lion Chi­nese sol­diers in the fight.

The United States was sup­port­ing the Repub­lic of Korea dur­ing the con­flict and was in­volved in the re­gion be­fore 1950 as well.

Although Chi­nese films about the war were made ear­lier, The 38th Par­al­lel is the first TV drama on the sub­ject to be broad­cast na­tion­wide in more than six decades.

Its scriptwriter Wang Haip­ing says he de­cided to write the story in 2013 and soon re­ceived sup­port from a top reg­u­la­tor for TV and re­lated sec­tors.

Wang did lots of re­search, in­clud­ing read­ing doc­u­ments and files from the US Mil­i­tary Academy and the mil­i­tary ar­chives ofROK. He says ev­ery char­ac­ter in the series is in­spired by re­al­ity.

“They (the sol­diers) were great men,” says Wang. “Each time I sat down to write an emo­tional part of the series, I couldn’t hold backmy tears.”

Speak­ing of Li Chang­shun, one of the series’ lead char­ac­ters, Wang says the role is based on a Chi­nese sniper and a fish­er­man whose fam­ily mem­bers were killed in Amer­i­can bomb­ing along China’s bor­der with DPRK in 1950.

The series’ sto­ry­line looks at three main ar­eas — fight­ing, trans­porta­tion and a field hospi­tal— and aims to re-cre­ate what hap­pened dur­ing the war.

Af­ter a few episodes aired ear­lier in selected prov­inces, footage of the series re­leased on the internet re­ceived viewer ac­claim, such as 8.9 points of 10 on the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar movie re­view site Douban.

Some on­line users also said the se­quences fea­tur­ing bat­tles re­minded them of the hit US series Band of Broth­ers. That war drama was pro­duced by Steven Spiel­berg and Tom Hanks in 2001.

Meng Ji, the Chi­nese TV series’ di­rec­tor, says up to 80 per­cent of the bat­tle scenes are based on his­tory. The crew hired an ex­pert team that spe­cial­izes onKore­anWar his­tory to guar­an­tee that props and sets closely re­sem­bled arms, equip­ment and other items used in that war.

Two repli­cas of theM4Sher­man tank— used by Amer­i­can forces dur­ing World War II — were among the series’ most ex­pen­sive props.

When asked if such themes could lure view­ers in an age now dom­i­nated by fan­tasy and ro­mance dra­mas, the di­rec­tor says his­tory de­serves to be re­spected.

“We didn’t make the series for money or en­ter­tain­ment.

“It’s our duty to let present­day au­di­ences know who sac­ri­ficed their lives for the peace and sta­bil­ity of our coun­try,” saysMeng.

He also crit­i­cizes TV pro­grams that tend to ex­ag­ger­ate his­tory, say­ing they­have a neg­a­tive im­pact on young minds.

Zhang Guo­qiang, the lead ac­tor who plays fish­er­man Li, says he couldn’t re­ject the role de­spite play­ing many mil­i­tary char­ac­ters be­fore. He learned the ac­cents of the two Korean coun­tries to make sure his di­a­logues were real.

“The Chi­nese sol­diers’ spirit and courage gave me in­spi­ra­tion, even at a per­sonal level,” says Zhang, 46.

He in­jured one of his knees dur­ing the shoot­ing. The doc­tor asked him to rest for a month, but he in­sisted on work­ing.

Zhang Hon­grui, an­other ac­tor in the series, says broth­er­hood and ro­mance that also fea­ture in the pro­duc­tion are in­spired from wartime hap­pen­ings.

It’s our duty to let present-day au­di­ences know who sac­ri­ficed their lives for the peace and sta­bil­ity of our coun­try.”

Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

TV series The38thPar­al­lel fo­cuses on Chi­nese sol­diers in the Korean War in the 1950s.

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