Maybe due to the rainy and bleak sky in this late spring in the Netherlands, recently I have been in a nostalgic mood. “From the green moss” is a series of curfew for my good old days. I looked at the internet, was astonished that actually many have similar feeling/memory patterns. This series also serves as my 2 cents to document our childhood, before I do not care about those trivials at all.
I was born in early 1980s, China mainland. The cultural environment when I was in elementry school was like this: China’s Great Cultural Revolution had ended for 10+ years and cultural products from Hong Kong and Taiwan started to get spreaded in the mainland. I had my first Nintendo-compatible video game console around 1992 and my first x86-compatible personal computer in 1996. Yet later internet got into my daily life. So, before video games and computer/internet addressed all my need for entertainment, I watched quite a few TV series and films made in Hong Kong, from 4 or 5 years old to around 1992. (I watched some TV series made in Taiwan too, but most of them were not my cup of tea. Too slow pacing, too much lame dialogs, too much crying.) In this entry I’m going to document some Hong Kong TV series made in late 1970s and early 1980s, which were imported to China mainland in late 1980s and early 1990s. Another entry will document some video games which brought me great fun as well as tons of tears. In yet another entry, I’ll document some cartoons I watched as a kid. There was not much emotional things going on with the toons, I want to mention them because of their exceptionally high quality, which seems have disappeared in today’s Chinese toons.
So, some dated memory is getting sharpened in this late night…
The Legendary FokIt was almost 20 years ago. Grandma in the countryside took care of me when my parents were really busy. The TV set at my grandma’s house was still a small b&w. Many in the village did not own any TV set yet. In the summer evenings, grandma and uncle would set the TV out in the big yard and at least 20 people would gather in our yard and watch a TV serie called The Legendary Fok.
I was too little to understand/remember what the story was about. Three things impressed me very much: The theme song as in the video clip above; The stunning martial arts and a beautiful gal Michelle Yim(米雪) (You can see Michelle in the video clip).
Humid summer evenings, a full sky of sparkling stars, a small village with small brick houses, two or three brown barking dogs, orange lights, smell of the mixture of fresh grass, mud and rains, hospital grandma, 20+ young and old guests in the yard, a small black and white TV set, flocks of mosquitoes, grandma’s tireless flipping of a paper-made fan for me and the martial artist Master Fok. The most tender memories.
The actor of Master Fok in this serie, Mr. Yun Seng Wong(黄元申) chose to become a monk many years ago. Fok is gone for ever. Michelle is as beautiful as 30 years ago.
The Legendary Fok was actually the first TV series which the P.R.C imported from Hong Kong. It was extraordinarily well received. Before long some successors of The Legendary Fok were also imported. One of them was led by Bruce Leung: The Fist.
Somehow I managed to understand that both The Legendary Fok and The Fist were about heroes who were very active in the anti-Japanese movement in early 20th century. Japan invaded China in early 20th century. In those Hong Kong TV series, our martial artists beat the Japanese invaders by their courage, wisdom and fists. Implicitly, the main idea of those TV series was something like “China is not invadable”. (Remember a weird note in Sid Meier’s Civilization 4: Never fight a land war in Asia. Now I understand why….:-) ) So actually my very first education of patriotism was made by some Hong Kong Kongfu series.
The leading actor Bruce Leung (梁小龍) was very active in many TV series at that time. He was also the director of martial art in many series. Now look back, late 1970s till mid 1980s was really the golden age of the martial art TV series. No matter gals or guys, the body movements in the fights looked so handsome, extremely well rhythmed and well connected. Aesthetically very satisfying. There was a little bit artificial effects made at the post processing stage, but not too much. After 1990s, most martial arts in TV series became cheesier and cheesier. The fights in the Chinese martial arts looked either like laser powered wars or like ball dancing. If you want to see something really authentic, original and beautiful, you’ve got to dig some Hong Kong TV Series made between 1975 and 1985.
Back to my post toddler era. One or two years later, another Hong Kong martial art series The Legend of the Condor Heroes was zealously discussed in my kindergarten.
This serie has 60 episodes. The producers grouped them into 3 parts, 20 episodes in each part. The three video clips above are the three theme songs of every part. This play was so beloved in Asia that after 25 years after it was made, people uploaded almost every episode to Youtube. I was still too little to understand such a complex story at that time, but I liked the Barbara Yung(翁美玲). In this play there was an alien-like role called Mei Chaofeng, she always appeared with several human skulls flying around in the play. I had great fear for skulls, when I was naughty at that time, mama often tried to scare me like this: “Well you gotta be nice, otherwise the Mei Chaofeng would come to find you.” It worked very well! There was a great love story in this play but I hardly had any impression, many times I fell asleep while my parents were watching the play or startled to cry out loudly when the Mei Chaofeng came out. Many years later I knew that the actress Barbara Yung suicided in year 1985. The cause was that her boyfriend betrayed her. That might be the first time I got the feeling that sometimes real life is much more dramatic than drama.
Many years later I was told Stephen Chow(周星馳) appeared in this series for less then one minute.
Almost around the same time as the The Legend of the Condor Heroes was played in my town, another Hong Kong TV serie The Eight Immortals was also on:
As a little kid I loved the theme song so much (the incredible Youtube really has everything I could possibly imagine, many thanks to Youtube for aiding my memory!), but fell asleep very soon when the real content of each episode started so I could hardly remember anything else from this play. The song, as in the video clip, was sung in Cantonese, which I could neither understand nor speak. But for quite a while I was humming this song all day long and tried to imitate the pronunciation of the words. Inaccurate pitches and the Cantonese wannabe confused my parents and the kindergarten aunties a lot.
Before long I was able to remember things clearly and was able to read text in both simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese (I finally lived with my parents after their jobs got steady in Ningbo. However I was usually locked at home all alone when they had to work during the daytime. There are a lot of books written in traditional Chinese at home. They looked interesting so I tried to understand the text.) But then I started to read books on my own and watched a few Chinese toons. From grade one to grade three in the primary school, I was trained 2+ hours per day in a swimming team after school, I do not remember I had much time for TV watching. Hong Kong TV series came back to my life a few years later.
Several Hong Kong TV series were really popular when I was not watching any TV. My little classmates had all kinds of stickers from those series. I have to mention them here for completeness.
The young Chow Yun-Fat looked charismatic in this series. It was no wonder that he would became popular in Hollywood after 20 years.
2. Wu Zetian
3. I failed to find the English name of this series. The Chinese name was: 万水千山总是情
When I was in grade three or grade four during the primary school, there started to be more choices than Hong Kong TV series on our screens. CCTV had made TV series for Chinese classics like Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, Journey to the West, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio and etc. However I do not remember I was that into TV watching. My elder cousin once lent me a pirated copy of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils by Prof. Louis Cha. From then on I was poisoned by the chivalry novels and day-dreamt about heros in Louis Cha’s novels a lot. The first TV series really attracted me very much was called Young Dowager. It however had nothing to do with Prof. Cha’s novels. It was made by Hong Kong ATV in year 1983, I watched almost all episodes of Young Dowager in Mandarin around 1991. Actually this series was not as popular as ones like The Legendary Fok or The Bund, nevertherless the opening can still be found on YouTube:
This serie was supposed to be based on the early life of the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi, who had ruled China for almost 50 years in late 19th century. The stories in this serie were miles away from the commonly accepted history. However the superb performance of the leading actress and actors really trapped me deep into this serie. According to the script, the young Cixi had affairs with the Prince Gong (!). Another fictional figure, Lee the businessman, had a very deep sneak for young Cixi as well. The actress Leanne Lau(劉雪華) played a poor but ambitious and beautiful young Cixi. She was 24 when played this role, had a lovely round face and a pair of very expressive eyes. From the point of the view of history, the script was pretty weak, but on the other hand, there were very little stupid or sour dialogs in this series, the actors had huge room to exhibite their performing ability. I watched it 15+ years ago but some details in this serie are still so clear (or maybe I watched too few TV series). For example in episode one: On a snowy day, the 15-year-old Cixi was hit by Prince Gong’s horse and fell down in the road. She quickly stood up by herself, picked up the scattered stuff into her basket and continued walking. Before she left, she turned back her head and had a look at the one whose horse hit her hard. She saw someone in a big black cloak. He stayed still, not knowing what to do for an appology. She smiled at him and left. Leanne’s smile was so friendly and natural, her eyes so big and beautiful. The young man looked at her, stunned. There was no single word in this scene. Leanne and Laurance (the leading actor Laurence Ng/Woo(伍衛國)) raised the chemistry to a high level soly with their body movement and expressions on face. I fell for this couple immediately and actively chased this serie till its end. Leanne was trapped in poverty in the first several episodes. She never overdid anything when expressing young Orchid’s(name of the young Cixi) helplessness and ambition. No rivers of tears and big glares or deep breaths, she simply got my sympathy. Orchid’s character was gradually developed in this series, Leanne’s performance also adjusted accordingly. Later because I liked her too much, I also searched for her other works. She led countless Taiwan TV series later, but I have to say, her very best performance is only in the Young Dowager. Most scripts by Ms. Chiung Yao were simply not my cup of tea, no matter how much effort Leanne had made in those howl-every-5-minutes series, I did not feel as much chemistry as in the Young Dowager. Laurance was in a great shape around 1983, he was one of the two all-time most beautiful actors in my mind (the other one is John Chiang(姜大衛)). His performance in the YD serie was pretty introvert and controlled. Those really added depth to the character of Prince Gong. There were so many very tasty subtle nuances. His movements and expressions were usually graceful and elegant. I thought it was because of the costume since he was playing a prince in the YD, however he also looked good in another serie Tiger Hill Trail in which he was just a plain middle class resident.
Here is another video clip of Leanne and Laurence in the YD serie. Music from somewhere else. Edited by a girl from mainland China (I guess also about my age). This clip is hosted on a Chinese video share website.
Last week I got the The Undercover Agents from the internet and watched some episodes again, since Michelle Yim, Bruce Leung, Laurence Ng and Lai Hon Chi are all in this serie. It was made in 1984, however Laurence was so much fatter than in year 1983, not as good looking. (My boyfriend said he looks like a gal in The Undercover Agents) Besides the fat face, he overdid a little bit when telling how his legs were broken to Ms. Gee, I think.
In a summer vacation I went to the countryside and watched Dynasty with my cousins.
I was happy to see Michelle Yim and Laurence Ng in Dynasty but the one enchanted me a lot was John Chiang. John’s fighting in martial art was one of the ultimates. He was also the star in an N-edge, networked love relationship in Dynasty. In the serie John loves Michelle, Michelle loves Prince No.4 but married another. Prince No.4 and Prince No. 14 (played by Laurence) were born by the same mother but they are enemies. Michelle’s husband fell for another girl after marriage, both of John’s maids love John, and on and on. John is Laurence’s strategy advisor but did not try to save Laurence when he saw the beautiful Michelle stealing Laurance’s emperor position for Prince No. 4. Such first-love-then-duty behaviour is not that heroic in fact, but I simply failed to hate John in the Dynasty. John exhibited great chivalry in an ultimately handsome and detached manner. His smile was simply heart-wrenching. John is not tall and and his eyes are not that symmetric like most people. But I believe man’s charm has more to do with something else. In the end Michelle killed Prince No. 4 and Laurence killed John, I felt very sorry for all of them. Years later many girls had crush for an actor called Tony Leung. At the first glance Tony looks a bit like John but I hopelessly prefer John. This video clip is John in Dynasty. The music is from somewhere else.
When I went to junior middle school, I had much less time for TV: More homeworks than ever before; I was singing in a choir in the middle school; Prof. Louis Cha’s novels became generally available in P.R.C; The revolutionary Nintendo was also introduced in China….I do not remember I watched any other Hong Kong series with a concentrated mind after the Dynasty. I watched a few Hong Kong films later, they were generally good. However, the later TV series, no matter made in Hong Kong or the mainland, degraded in one way or another in quality. Gradually I lost interest in any new TV series. When I am in a mood for TV series, I’d rather download some olddies and review them.
My next entry will be about the video games I played in my childhood.
(to be continued)