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TV Serial Portrays Swordsmen's Adventures

When Hong Kong director Tsui Hark adapted "Seven Swords of Mount Tian (Qi Jian Xia Tian Shan)," one of the most widely read martial arts novels in China, into a film last year, he complained of not being able to tell the whole story. The 153-minute movie's original version actually ran for more than four hours, far exceeding the time that movie-goers are willing to sit in theatres, and thus had to be cut short.

He does not have such regrets anymore, with the TV edition of "Seven Swords" slated to premiere on China Central Television (CCTV) tomorrow. With 40 episodes, the TV soap opera provides enough space for the director to freely describe his kung fu world.

It is the first TV production of the renowned movie director, who established his fame with martial arts classics such as "New Dragon Inn" and the "Wong Fei-Hung" series in the early 1990s.

It was shot almost at the same time when the movie was made, but with another completely different cast and crew.

"Actually we were only planning to make a TV drama at first. But while preparing for that, the director felt that there was enough stuff to make a big-screen version. So we just extracted a part of the screenplay and made a movie," said Ma Zhongjun, producer of both the movie and TV drama.

"Seven Swords" tells the story of seven Chinese cavaliers with outstanding kung fu skills in the 17th century China. They united together to overthrow the ruling Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to protect the people from its cruel persecution.

While the movie solely focuses on the early years of the seven swordsmen, giving full and vivid descriptions on how they save a certain village, the TV drama follows their adventures within a time span of nearly two decades.

"Compared with the movie, the TV drama is much more detailed and emphasizes the storyline much more. Its theme is the good fellowship of the seven heroes and heroines, so I spent a great deal of time describing their relationships in daily life," said Tsui.

One of the stereotypes of most martial arts novels, movies and TV dramas is the portrayal of kung fu masters who help the needy, rob the rich and give to the poor.

The director said this time he has some new understanding of the spirit of Xia, which corresponds to chivalry at large.

In "Seven Swords," he intended to stop the "either-white-or-black" approach. He wanted to tell a story more fit for the modern philosophy: No one is completely good, or completely evil.

To make the story more credible, he arranged some scenes to explore the inner worlds of the main characters.

"Seven Swords" has a star-studded cast that dwarfs most TV dramas and mega-budget movies. It includes Taiwan's Zhao Wenzhuo, one of the best Chinese actors, the mainland's rising star Wang Xuebing and Hong Kong's dazzling actress Choi Ada.

Another highlight of "Seven Swords" is landscape. It was shot on location in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which has very different scenery from the other regions in China.

The TV drama has already been shown in some countries and regions including South Korea and Taiwan Province, and the audiences' reaction was very positive. In Taiwan, its viewers rating ranks first among all the Chinese TV productions that have been shown this year.

(China Daily March 16, 2006)

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