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Online TV drama portrays idyllic ancient rural life

By Bi Nan| chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: October 27, 2023 L M S


Tian Xiwei and Zeng Shunxi star in the TV drama Romance on the Farm. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Romance on the Farm, an online novel adapted into a TV drama, recently became a hit on the video platform iQiyi. It combines farming, planting, online gaming, family conflicts and romance, to create intriguing storylines.

The online drama follows the story of a girl who travels back in time while playing an online game. She meets a young man, and together they fight against oppressive relatives, while also working together on farmland to build their fortunes. Along the way, their adventure leads to a blossoming romance.

By blending elements of ancient architecture, farming culture, rural landscape, folk customs, culinary traditions and local crafts, the drama portrays an idyllic rural life and conveys an Oriental aesthetic.

As modern life places increasing pressure on people, there is a growing desire for a slower pace of life and a return to traditional farming. "Farming is not just about labor; it is more about the stories between people and their connection to the land," Hong Ling, the director of the TV drama Romance on the Farm, told China Daily.

"I aimed to create a grounded, true-to-life costume drama, emphasizing the concept of 'city orphan'. It portrays the journey of someone who has experienced the isolation of city life, and then finds warmth in a big family, ultimately developing a stronger character", Hong explained.

She also added that the drama is quite different from others, as it focuses more on rural life and narrates stories of ordinary people against the backdrop of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

To enhance the authenticity of the scenes, the production team finally selected Jijiazhai as the main filming location. Situated in Yongjia county of Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province, Jijiazhai is an ancient village dating back to the Song Dynasty and is honored as "China's landscape village".

The village has eight well-preserved wooden houses and is home to over 40 households, all bearing the common surname Ji. It's a prime example of a traditional mountainous bloodline village. Nestled amid lush green mountains, dense forests, waterfalls and deep valleys, the village boasts picturesque natural landscapes. Furthermore, it also retains a wealth of ancient architecture and settings, such as old walls, historic pathways, ancient rock paintings and ancient wood structures.

"The village's pristine architecture, along with its residents still inhabiting these old houses, made it an ideal location for our filming", Hong said, "Some local villagers even participated in our production as extras."

In addition to showcasing the village's natural beauty, the drama also highlights various local arts and crafts, such as traditional architectural craftsmanship, costume dyeing, embroidery, the crafting of ancient farm tools, Kunqu Opera, as well as traditional food making passed down through the ages.

"We are committed to presenting the ancient-style farmhouse as authentically as possible. The protagonists' house in the drama is constructed entirely from solid wood and employs the traditional Chinese architectural technique of mortise and tenon joint structures, without using a single nail", explained Xie Jinqi, the art director of Romance on the Farm.

In recent years, with the quality of online novels significantly improved, there are a growing number of TV dramas adapted from online literature. According to the 2022 Research Report on the Development of Chinese Online Literature released by the Institute of Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in April this year, the market scale of online literature in 2022 reached 38.93 billion yuan ($5.32 billion), with a user base of 492 million. Moreover, nearly 50% of the top 10 hit TV dramas on mainstream video platforms such as Tencent, Youku and iQiyi in 2022 were adaptations of online literature.