Having played with swords

Trajectories of Singapore-China co-productions of historical fiction television dramas

Authored by: Liew Kai Khiun , Yao Yiming

Routledge Handbook of Cultural and Creative Industries in Asia

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138959927
eBook ISBN: 9781315660509
Adobe ISBN:


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Between 1998 and 2000, the television drama adaptation of the Chinese folk mythology, Legends of the Eight Immortals (东游记), was screened to audiences across Chinese-speaking countries from China to Singapore (Teo 1999). The eight characters featured in the Taoist-themed narrative of the journey to immortality are not only worshipped in Chinese folk religion, but have also inspired literary as well as film and television adaptations (Seal and White 2016: 144–5). Although listed as a Television Corporation of Singapore (now Mediacorp) production, this serial was a transnational Singapore, China, and Taiwan co-production. The series’ co-production companies included China’s Sichuan TV Drama Production Center, and Jiangsu World Film and Television Production Center. Filmed in Singapore, Malaysia, and China, and fronted by then Taiwanese celebrity Steve Ma Jintao, the cast included both Singaporean and Chinese actors (The New Paper 1998: 19). The production’s continued popularity on social media 20 years after its screening shows that Legends of the Eight Immortals remains etched in transnational television’s collective memories. However, in light of the increasing independence of China’s television industry as well as its improved production standards, casting, and distribution over the years, such co-production arrangements now seem to be a thing of the past.

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