Ancient classic, modern tale

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From Daniel Lee's 2008 Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon to John Woo's 2008 and 2009 Red Cliff, the ancient story Romance of the Three Kingdoms and its modern incarnations have always proved popular. Now the hit TV series Three Kingdoms is enjoy similar success, topping the ratings charts since airing on May 2.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms written in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) by Luo Guanzhong, is based on the story of rival kingdoms Wei, Shu Han and Wu during the Three Kingdoms (220-280). The current Three Kingdoms spans 95 45-minute episodes and is a co-production by several major TV stations and production companies.

While attracting record numbers of viewers, the new version has caused controversy among fans; many commenting that the TV series has veered too far from the classic novel.

"We are all so used to Romance of the Three Kingdoms in favor of Liu Bei of Shu Han Kingdom and against Cao Cao of Wei Kingdom, Three Kingdoms seems to be the opposite, which I can't accept at all," said 32-year-old viewer Li Yi, who read the original text when he was 7.

"Three Kingdoms is mainly based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but not entirely, we took it as reference and also added our own ideology, we call it operating plastic surgery to Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but not gender changing surgery," laughed director Gao Xixi.

Characters Diao Chan and Lü Bu in Three Kingdoms. [Global Times]


Gao told the Global Times that Three Kingdoms is not supportive of Cao Cao or anyone in particular.

"Those who think we are in favor of Cao Cao, they must have seen very little of Three Kingdoms," he said and suggested viewers comment after they have watched the entire series.

There has also been much criticism on the choice of actors. "I don't like those actors, for instance, Lu Yi (playing Zhuge Liang) is too sweet-looking for a wise man," Li commented.

"I did a lot of research and preparation for Zhuge Liang's role, all this criticism means viewers care for our TV series," the actor in question, Lu Yi, told the Global Times. "After all, whoever plays Zhuge Liang will get criticized anyway."

"We chose our actors mainly on their similarity to the roles, but we also considered their popularity," Gao added.

Gao explained that the casting directors and scriptwriters thought carefully about the largely female viewership for the almost-all-male-character story. He said that with the audience in mind, they expanded romance sections, such as the relationships between Diao Chan and Lü Bu and Sun Shangxiang and Liu Bei, which were not talked about much in previous productions.

"Those who think there should not be love stories in Three Kingdoms, I hope they understand, after all, it is a fictional story, not authentic truth," he added.

Defying criticism and dominating ratings since airing at the beginning of the month, the nightly drama is already exceeding expectations.

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