Series captures five decades of changes

Xu Wei
"A Lifelong Journey," which tells the story of an ordinary family in northeast China over the course of five decades, gained widespread appreciation from reviewers and audiences.
Xu Wei

The epic series "A Lifelong Journey" gained widespread appreciation from reviewers and audiences when it recently aired on China Central Television and streaming platform iQiyi.

The series has the highest average viewership rate of any series broadcast on CCTV in the previous five years. More than 370 million people have watched the series on iQiyi, and the majority of them praised it for its story and aesthetics.

The 58-episode series is based on Liang Xiaosheng's novel of the same name, which won the 10th Mao Dun Literature Award in 2019.

It stars Lei Jiayin, Xin Baiqing and Song Jia, and tells the story of an ordinary family in northeast China over the course of five decades. Heart-warming and nostalgic accounts of their life changes and feelings reflect the tremendous societal changes and development of the country over the past 50 years.

The drama depicts a number of significant historical events from various periods of time, including the country's reinstatement of the national college entrance exams, the introduction of reform and opening-up policies and people's excitement about entrepreneurship.

The crew built a set spread over 8,000 square meters in Changchun, Jilin Province, to film the scene of Guangzipian, where the Zhou family lives. To recreate a past era, many ancient artifacts were collected, including old sweaters, posters, calendars and vintage televisions.

Series captures five decades of changes
Ti Gong

"A Lifelong Journey" tells the story of an ordinary family in northeast China over the course of five decades.

The series received an 8.1 out of 10 rating on Douban, a Chinese film and television review website. Many viewers expressed their gratitude to the older generation, as well as numerous ordinary families in China who have made significant contributions to the country's prosperity and power.

One netizen, "Dangafei," said the series makes viewers reflect on the ultimate purpose of life.

"All the characters in the series are ordinary people who make mistakes and pay the price for it," he explained. "They do not, however, lose their goodness and virtues. The light in their hearts never dims, and it empowers them to tackle any difficulty."

Li Lu, the 56-year-old director and producer of the series who is known for his anti-corruption series "In the Name of the People," said that his generation has observed China's significant transformations.

He said the thought of depicting the working class had been on his mind for years, and he was not particularly surprised that the series had attracted and made an impact on viewers under the age of 30. They account for around half of all viewers.

"Today's young people have good tastes and they are easily moved by the honesty of artists," Li remarked. "As long as the story is heart-warming, the characters vivid, and the emotions genuine, epic dramas will always attract them."

Disney also announced the acquisition of the series for an international release on its platform Disney+, citing its high quality and original content. The success of the series boosts the confidence of writers and artists in adapting novels for television and film.

Series captures five decades of changes
Ti Gong

A 1970s photo of the Zhou family in the epic series

Liang, author of the book, said the series features dramatic locations and in-depth depictions of the characters. It is also a tribute to realism and ordinary people's commitment to the country's reform and opening-up over the years.

Another realistic series, "Life Is A Long Quiet River," will premiere on Dragon TV and iQiyi later this month, based on a novel by Teng Xiaolan. The series directed by Teng Huatao focuses on Shanghai residents' efforts to improve their lives despite a variety of obstacles.

"The Heart of Genius," directed by Shen Yan and based on a novel by Chang Er, aims to shed some light on the lives, passions, and scholastic goals of young people in China.

Industry insiders also noted the overseas success of the suspense series "The Bad Kids," "The Long Night," and the current costume drama "Luoyang," as well as the fact that an increasing number of domestic projects are aimed at an international audience.

According to Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi, the stories of the most well-received original series have roots in people's real lives and reflect the era's evolution. The Internet's technological innovation and big data will help incubate and spread good content in the future.

Professor Zeng Xiangmin of Communication University of China said that homegrown dramas should continue to explore subjects of universal interest, improve storytelling and develop an international perspective in order to appeal to a worldwide audience.

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