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'90s Shanghai blooms on the small screen

Popular TV drama directed by the legendary Wong Kar-wai is both love song and nostalgic salute to city and era, Xu Fan reports.

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-02 09:07

Blossoms Shanghai, one of the most popular TV series this year, features actor Hu Ge (right) as an opportunist-turned-business legend, and veteran actor You Benchang as the protagonist's mentor in the commercial world.[Photo provided to China Daily]

In late January, scriptwriter Qin Wen visited Beijing to attend a meeting about her popular TV series, Blossoms Shanghai. Staying at a hotel located near the East Third Ring Road, she experienced a funny moment during dinner at the hotel restaurant.

As a waitress handed her the menu, she made an unexpected suggestion. "Would you like to try the stir-fried beef with rice noodles? It tastes the same way Boss Bao prefers."

Qin couldn't help but laugh. Boss Bao, aka Ah Bao, is the handsome, charismatic protagonist played by A-list actor Hu Ge on the show, which is arguably the most popular TV series at the moment.

As the first television drama by Hong Kong's Wong Kar-wai, a legendary director known for classic movies like The Grand Master and Chungking Express, the 30-episode series concluded its first run on CCTV-8 last month, earning itself a huge fan base and becoming something of a cultural phenomenon.

Adapted from Shanghai writer Jin Yucheng's Mao Dun Literature Prizewinning novel, Fan Hua (Blossoms), the series — which primarily takes place between 1993 and 1994 — follows the journey of Ah Bao, an ambitious everyman opportunist who rises to become a legendary figure in the city's most elite commercial circles. Aside from emphasizing his ability to seize opportunities in the stock and foreign trade markets, the plot also follows his subtle, and ambiguously romance-like relationships with three women.

The craze the drama has stirred up has led to tourists flocking to the show's locations, such as the Fairmont Peace Hotel, which is where he rents a luxurious room to do business, and Huanghe Road, which was lined with the most high-end restaurants in the 1990s.

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