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Mainstream Culture RefocusedTelevision Drama, Society, and the Production of Meaning in Reform-Era China$
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Xueping Zhong

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780824834173

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824834173.001.0001

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Re-collecting “History” on Television

Re-collecting “History” on Television

“Emperor Dramas,” National Identity, and the Question of Historical Consciousness

(p.47) Chapter Two Re-collecting “History” on Television
Mainstream Culture Refocused

Xueping Zhong

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the rise of Chinese dramas about dynastic emperors. These dramas have become an important subcategory of “history drama” on television. It argues that emperor dramas and critical responses to them reflect the changing and contradictory nature of contemporary Chinese mainstream culture, especially of its uncertainty about how to reaffirm China’s own historical agency, fully acknowledge its own historical choices, and examine their successes and failures without subscribing to either a postmodern nihilistic cynicism or a simple-minded nationalism. At the same time, emperor dramas, their popular reception, the debates about them, and various other related intellectual concerns continue to constitute the complexity of and agency within mainstream culture. In this sense, the emperor dramas, like the other subgenres studied in this book, function as “open-ended” texts that invite both cultural and historical readings not only into the texts themselves, but also into the social, economic, cultural, and political realities of market-reform-era China.

Keywords:   emperors, emperor dramas, history drama, dianshiju, Chinese television dramas, Chinese mainstream culture

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