The original meaning of drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. Actually, television drama is a comprehensive art, which combines multiple elements including film, theater, literature, music, dance, and painting. With the development of television production, the narrowly definition of television drama only refers to TV series drama, which we are going to discuss in this article.
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As a special administrative region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong not only inherits traditional Chinese customs, but also retains British culture because it became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War. "Nowadays,while their political identify seems rather settled, their cultural identify continues to undergo complex and contradictory process of transformation"(Ma, 1999). Hong Kong TV drama is one aspect to show the complex cultural emotion for Hong Kong society since television drama in Hong Kong has developed in tandem with development of the capitalist economy, embracing international ideas as well as celebrating tradition. Therefore, Hong Kong TV drama is one of most obvious mass entertainment that representative of Hong Kong culture, which is very popular within the Chinese community to attract audience from all over the world.
1.1 Research Motivations and Purposes
1. Enduring of Hong Kong TV dramas
The history of Hong Kong TV drama should trace back to 1960s. In 1968, the first television drama Days of Heaven produced by Television Broadcasts Limited, which well known as TVB today. In 1976, TVB produced the first Cantonese long series Hotel, which presented the characteristics of capitalist society at that moment. Another trend during late 1970s and 1980s was martial arts television dramas, which were adapted from Chinese novels such as The Legend of the Condor Heroes, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, and The Book and theSword. During this time, TVB and other television stationsproduced different version of television dramas but based on the same novel because martial arts television drama was super popular and the guarantee of ratings. For example, The Legend of the Condor Heroeshas been adapted to television drama and movie for more than five times only in Hong Kong, excluded mainland China and Taiwan. Some masterpieces were also produced during 1980s such as Shanghai Beach, Looking Back in Anger, and Police Cadet.
During 1990s, along with the development of economic, Hong Kong television drama entered a new prosperity stage that a lot of excellent and well-known television dramas with different genres were produced including Healing Hands, The File of Justice, and Detective Investigation Files.Over 40 years of development, Hong Kong TV drama has become a model of industrial, which produced around fifty television dramas yearly including modern series, costumes drama, historical drama, and melodrama. Nowadays, Hong Kong TV drama is popular all around the world especially in Chinese community. By presenting the Hong Kong case, this article is in order to explore the reason why Hong Kong TV drama can be such successful in narrative aspect and it could give some inspire on creating attractive narrative of TV drama to Chinese TV drama industry in Chinese community such as mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia.
2. Narrative is the foundation of TV drama
"Evidence strongly suggests that humans in all cultures come to cast their own identity in some sort of narrative form. We are inveterate storytellers."
--------Owen Flanagan of Duke University
As with many words in the English language, narrative has more than one meaning and the word "story" may be used as a synonym of "narrative". Actually, Many works of art and most works of literature tell stories; indeed, most of the humanities involve stories. Story is a recounting of a sequence of events and it could base on historical events, our real life, or imagination. Narrative is the communication bridge between readers and storytellers in the field of literary.
TV Drama Narrative refers to the ways in which the story is shown to the audience.As we know, narrative is the soul of TV drama, therefore,same as literary fabrication, narrative in television drama should have some appropriate fictional. In other words, on the one hand, narrative in television drama should close to our real life as much as possible to create anintimacy with audience. On the other hand, in order to make the story more exciting and attractive, dramatic and conflict story plot is necessary in television dramas as well, which means a wonderful narrative or story plays a more important role than other elements for attracting audience in TV drama.
As Jerome Bruner (2003) wrote in his book Making Stories: Law, Literature, Lifethat "through narrative, we construct, reconstruct, in some ways reinvent yesterday and tomorrow. Memory and imagination fuse in the process. Even when we create the possible worlds of fiction, we do not desert the familiar but subjunctivize it into what might have been and what might be."TV Drama uses narrative styles and techniques to structure the story so as to keep the audience interested and engaged.For making a good television drama, characters are often in conflict with one another - the audience enjoys the relationship between fictional characters.All in all, narrative is the fundamental of TV drama and we should pay more attention to narrative in TV drama.
1.2 Literature Reviews
Research of television drama was never a new topic and it began along with the birth of the first TV dramaThe Queen's Messenger in 1928. Since the book Play For Today: The Evolution of Television Drama was published in 1975, it has become a leading for academic to research television drama. This book from a unique survey of British television in its golden age, describe the role of the producer in the making of an original television play, from initial discussions with writers to broadcast. TV Drama in Chinais a comprehensive book, which was published by Hong Kong University Press. This book not only focus on culture, history, genre and characteristics of Chinese TV drama but also provides an international and cross-cultural perspective with chapters on Taiwanese TV drama in China, the impact of South Korean drama, and trans-border production between the Mainland and Hong Kong.TV Drama in Chinaprovides insightful and wide-ranging reflections on the themes, styles, and social significance of China's most popular TV shows. From these two books, we can get some general information about narrative and culture in TV drama.
The Indigenization of Japanese Elements in Hong Kong TV Dramawas published in New Zealand journal of Asian studies in 2005. This article through case study methodology to introduce how Japanese elements play a role in Hong Kong TV drama to help create and complete drama narrative. Another representative article is How To Tell a Hong Kong Story: the Narrative Studies of Hong Kong Drama, which iswritten by a Chinese scholar and he analyses the narrative of Hong Kong TV drama from narrative style and rhythm. Nowadays, the research of television drama has reached a mature stage, including research of television drama for some certain countries, depth analysis of genres, and production guidance. However, the current situation is not too much academic works focus on researching Hong Kong TV drama, especially the narrative characteristics of Hong Kong TV drama. Culture, Politics and Television in Hong Kong is a book written by JieWei Ma. The author focus on Hong Kong situation and specifically analyses at the relationship between television ideologies and cultural identities and explores the role of television in the process of identity formation and maintenance.
Apart from a few studies of the distribution of Hong Kong videos in diaspora markets, and occasional book chapters and journal articles, many of which refer to analysis the relationship between culture, politics, and television in Hong Kong. The pre-eminence of television drama consumption in Hong Kong contrasts sharply with the scant academic attention accorded Hong Kong TV drama. Overall, the lack of research on narrative of Hong Kong TV serial drama is the most important reason for writing this article and it will highlight on depth analyzing the narrative characteristics for different genres of Hong Kong TV drama.
1.3 Research Methodology and Scope
According to research method, qualitative researchers aim to gather in-depth information, not just what, where, when. Hence, this study will employ the qualitative research method to analyze samples. Firstly, literature review will give general knowledge about culture, history, and politics of Hong Kong TV drama. After summarizing and analyzing, this article will find out the root causes of narrative characteristics of Hong Kong TV drama. Secondly, this article wills emphasis on using case study method to analyze the narrative characteristics. The history of Hong Kong TV drama could trace back to 1960s. However, during 1980s, Hong Kong TV drama reached its peak stage. Therefore, samples will be the TV drama, which shootduring 1980 to 2012.Furthermore, comparative approach will be used to highlight the special and unique narrative characteristics of Hong Kong TV drama.
As we know, Hong Kong television dramas mainly made by two local television stations --- TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited) and ATV (Asia Television Limited). ATV is the first television station in Hong Kong and it produce certain classic and well-known Hong Kong television dramas such as I Have a Date with Spring, My Date with a Vampire, and Ten Tigers ofGuangdongat beginning. However, during the process of competition with TVB, ATV has shift its focus to entertainment programs and news, which means the number of television dramas are produced by ATV after 1990s is reduce gradually. Hence, this article will focus on and research television dramas, which are produced only by TVB.
General speaking, this article will use qualitative research method to analysis the famous and popular Hong Kong TV drama that was made during 1980 to 2012 by TVB to explore the narrative characteristics of Hong Kong TV drama.
Chapter 2: Unique Culture in Hong Kong TV Drama
"On the one hand, Hong Kong people identified with traditional Chinese culture in an abstract and detached sense, but one the other hand, they discriminated against particular cultural practices."
--------- Culture, Politics, and television in Hong Kong
Culture is the most important element for producing and developing television drama, which means different cultural identity can produce different style of television drama. Chatman (1980) explained narrative and culture in his book Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, "what constitutes 'reality' or 'likelihood' is a strictly cultural phenomenon, though authors of narrative fiction make it 'natural'". In other words, television drama is the art with obvious regional characteristics because the major audiences for TV drama are mainly local people. Therefore, the primary task of the TV drama is to meet the entertainment needs of local TV audience. That is why we can apperciate different cultural identity in American, Korean, and Hong Kong TV drama.
"The culture of Hong Kong can best be described as a foundation that began with China, and became more influenced by British colonialism. After the 1997 transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong continues to develop an identity of its own" (Rozanna, 1998). The culture of Hong Kong is a special case because it had become a colony of British Empire for over 100 years since 1842. However, Hong Kong is a part of China now. At the same time, Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest international metropolises, and one of the third largest financial centers in the world. Consequence, Hong Kong fused both Western and Eastern culture, however, these two different cultural patterns also collided for over one century in Hong Kong. Explore the unique culture of Hong Kong is the fundamental to study the narrative characteristics of Hong Kong TV drama.
2.1 Traditional Chinese Values InHong Kong TV Drama
Hong Kong has been a part of China from ancient times, since Qin Dynasty. Obviously, traditional Chinese values have deeply rooted in everyone's heart for more than 2000 years and that cannot be totally transformed in a short period of hundreds years. Actually, Hong Kong maintains more traditional Chinese cultures compare to mainland China such as religion, concept of Social class, and diet. Traditional Chinese values are dominant ideology for Hong Kong people irreplaceable and those values have been delivered to audience through Hong Kong local television drama unawarely.
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First of all, same as all the Chinese, family is an important concept for Hong Kong people as well. One of the symbols to measure happiness life for a people is according to his family. Namely, contributing to the family even scarified owndream and future is a virtue that will be recognized by the community. In contrast, destroy the happiness of family and abandon the wife would be condemned by society. This traditional Chinese family value has been highlight on almost all the Hong Kong television drama, no matter modern themes series or costume theme dramas. Moonlight Resonance is a classical family ethics drama that produced in 2008 by TVB and a high audience rating soap opera in Hong Kong, which presented how important family is in Chinese community.
The main clue describes how a broken family has a reunion again and lecture the audience that the support from family is the best way to solve problems. Generally, the plot of this drama is about the rise and fall sentiment of different members in a big family. At the beginning of this drama, Chung Siu-Hor, discovered that her husband Gan Tai-Cho was having an affair with their employee Yan-Hung. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Yan-Hung forcedSiu-Hor and Tai-Cho to declare divorce. Each of them gained half the custody of their kids. After ten years, their children have grown up and Gan Tai-Cho had become a boss of bakery chain stores. However, after series things happened, Gan Tai-Cho bear the consequence of his mistake and recognized how happiness with his original family. Moreover, the final episode reached the highest rated TVB episode ever at 50 points, which means thattraditional Chinese family moral values are also the main moral guidance for Hong Kong people.
Secondly, another traditional Chinese moral value that extended from family, which is also emphasized in Hong Kong television drama, is filial piety. Compare to the relationship between parents and children in Western culture, Chinese community prefer obedience, which means children cannot go against with their parents. Hong Kong inherits the filial piety moral value and reflects it in television series. Examples of filial piety can be found in almost every Hong Kong television drama. In Moonlight Resonance, even the couple divorced and their children don't have a complete family since they were kids; however, the children still obey their parents and spend time with the parents as much as possible. That is why Gan Tai-Cho can realize how important the family and children for him at the end of the drama.
As we discussed before, drama narrative is according to reality. Filial piety has been deeply rooted in everyone's mind and it is a natural thing for Hong Kong community. Consequence, when TVB creates a character, even is the most heinous people, he should at least has a moral-filial piety. Yang Kang in The Legend of the Condor Heroes(1983)is a greedy vain, cruel and ruthless people. However, he never disobeys his mum and takes care of his mum very well. Even more, in a new television drama Season of Love(2013),which is playing in TVB Jade, Ho Chan San is a pretty and success hairstylist but her husband divorces with her because she cannot get along with her mother-in-law. By presenting this case, we can learn that filial piety is as important as family in traditional Chinese moral values.
Finally, Apart from theme regarding to life that present the culture connotation and living conditions related to local people, martial arts costume dramas thatare adapted from Chinese literature, also a popular theme for Hong Kong TV series productionsince late 1970s, where we can appreciate lots of traditional Chinese hero images with loyalty and merciful morals. Actually, Confucian thought is still the guiding ideology for Hong Kong society, the popular of traditional hero image in Hong Kong television drama is the reflection of social value orientation. The most important ideology in Confucian thought is loyalty, especially to emperor. The historical background of drama The Legend of the Condor Heroes and The Yangs' Saga are all happened during Song Dynasty. As we know, the emperors during Song Dynasty are incompetence and oppress the people. However, when armed rebellion happened, the heroes all choose to protect emperor even sacrifice themselves. Merciful is the essence of Confucian thought. In costume drama Justice Pao, government officer Pao was loved because of his merciful to common people. All in all, by studying these cases in Hong Kong television drama, we can aware that traditional Chinese cultural values are dominant cultures in Hong Kong.
2.2Western Individualism In Hong Kong TV Drama
After 1842, Hong Kong absorbed Western culture and capitalist ideology from United Kingdom and became an international metropolis. On the one hand, Hong Kong received a lot of advanced technology and opportunities from UK, however; on the other hand, capitalism changed the lifestyle including food, language, education, law, and the way of thought of Hong Kong people. For example, the legal system in Hong Kong is similar to the common law systems used in England. Therefore, the legal framework of Hong Kong is based on the English common law, supplemented by local legislation. As Zhang (2006) described in his book Hong Kong: The Pearl Made of British Mastery And Chinese Docile-Diligence: "the society, under British control, has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly in pursuing material life and society status. As a result, profit seeking in generally regarded acceptable". Influenced by Western cultures, which is different from collectivism in Mainland China, individualism is generally accepted by Hong Kong society. "Individualism is the moral stance, ideology, and social outlook that emphasize the moral worth of the individual" (Wood, 1972).
Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires through independence and self-reliance, which means personal effort is the key to success for Hong Kong people. For example, The Hippocratic Crushis a Hong Kong television medical drama serial produced by TVB in 2012. This drama follows the lives of young housemen, residents, and their mentors working in Mercy Hospital. One of the main characters Fan Chi Yu is a specialist trainee in the third year. Meanwhile, she is a daughter of a famous doctor as well; however, she never mentions this to anyone. She works hard and wants to get recognize by others with her own effort. Some other characters are specialist trainee in the first year and every one of them may meet some setbacks at the beginning such as examination failed and concentration difficulties. Finally, they all overcome their shortcomings and pass the intern successfully. This drama delivers a message of achieving the dream can only rely on our own efforts. The Season of Fate is a costume drama produced by TVB in 2010. In this drama, in order to save the restaurant, which is about to close down, Leung Kau-mui tries his best and overcome lots of troubles to learn cooking and finally he cooked a dish inspired by life, which is called five flavors of life. This dish includes five flavors; they are the sweet means happy times; the sour involves trouble times; the bitter represents sad times; the spicy is exciting times; and the salty signifies difficult times.
Seeking freedom and equality is another aspect to present individualism for Hong Kong people, which absorbed from Western culture as well. "Feminism is a movement end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression" (Hooks, 2000), which aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women including seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. Female are not only the housewives at home, but also have the equal opportunities with male in workplace. La Femme Desperadois amodern drama series broadcast in April 2006. The series contains many realistic elements relating to the life of a woman in today's modern society, particularly in Hong Kong. This drama describes a typical strong and independence woman, who is serious and committed to her job. In some other Hong Kong occupationaltelevision dramas such as doctor, police, and lawyer, we can also appreciate some excellent image of professional woman, who may do better than man characters.
"Hong Kong is a legal society" is one of the most common dialogues in Hong Kong television drama and some popular justice television dramas such as File of Justice in 1992, Survivor's Law in 2003, and The Other Truth in 2011 introduced the freedom and equality society culture in Hong Kong. Friendly Fire is the newest justice television dramas produced in 2012. Same as all the Hong Kong television drama, emotional entanglements are main plot in this drama; however, after series things happened, lawyer Kam Cho Chan and his girlfriend Director of Public Prosecutions Fong Tin-Lam work together to handle a murder case involving a wealthy businesswoman and put the businesswoman into the jail finally. Western individualism culture plays an important role in Hong Kong society and "its secular and commercial outlook proved more popular than the nationalist and moralistic cultural products of many Asian countries" (Ma, 1999).
2.3 Unique Culture of Hong Kong TV drama
"Hong Kong television in the late 1960s and 1970s provided the local population with great cultural resources. It absorbed Western ingredients, transformed Chinese cultural particulars, articulated local experiences, and crystallized a distinct Hong Kong way of life."
--------- Culture, Politics, and television in Hong Kong
At the beginning of being occupied by United Kingdom, which we call it colonialism culture period, Hong Kong residents were forced to accept Western habits, customs, and cultures. It was a difficult phase for Hong Kong because traditional Chinese values and western cultures are totally different. However, culture conflicts disappeared in modern times and Western civilizations are accepted by residents and become popular in Hong Kong society. From traditional Chinese cultures to Western civilizations, Hong Kong transformed Chinese cultural particulars and absorbed Western ingredients to crystallized a brand new local culture. As we have seen, the elements of traditional Chinese culture combining Western influences have shaped Hong Kong in every facet of the city spanning involving law, education, politics, food, language, and the way of thought."There is a special culture in Hong Kong: although Hong Kong people mostly speak Chinese (Cantonese dialect), they have not completely absorbed traditional Chinese culture. The culture in Hong Kong evolved in a special compromise that wandered between Chinese and British culture" (Cui, 2007). Thus, Hong Kong formed a uniqueculture phenomenon, which we defined it as cross-cultural. "Cross-cultural research is any type of research on human behavior that compares behavior of interest across two or more cultures. The definition emphasizes on the culture-comparative research" (Berry, 2011). In short, cross-cultural is dealing with or comparing two or more cultures, is the movement of cultures, which refers to understanding, adapting, and accepting the different cultures to resolve the culture conflicts.
During 1960s, along with the development of economic, Hong Kong absorbed more advanced systems in economic and cultural field from Western countries. At the same time, they strengthened their native consciousness, which means they recognized that local culture would play a more and more important role in Hong Kong. This period can be seen as the development of cross-cultural in Hong Kong, which combining traditional Chinese culture with British culture since colonial period, and American consumer culture as well. As Bittner (2006) described, "Hong Kong has a culture that can be characterized by a blend of Western (largely American and British) and Chinese culture". Because of unique historical and cultural background, Hong Kong television programming especially the narrative of television drama presents a unique characteristic of Hong Kong, which describes a reality Hong Kong society. "Hong Kong television programming has become a part of the programming menu of broadcasters in Taiwan, China, and Southeast Asian countries" (Chan. J. M., 1996).
1. Familial Commercial Culture in Hong Kong TV Drama
According to the billionaires 2013 released by Forbes, Hong Kong has lots of very successful enterprises and rich people such as Li Ka-shing, Lee Shan Kee, and Kwok family. However, one of the common characteristics of these successful enterprises is most of them are owned by a family, which means the ownership of the company follows inheritance system. In other words, thetop positions in the company are all from one family and children should assist father and learn how to manage the company. This is a common system in Chinese community and it has been shown in Hong Kong television drama since early 1990s. For example, Cold Blood Warm Heart (1995), Secret Ofthe Heart (1997), At the Threshold of An Era(1998), Heart of Greed(2006), The Drive of Life(2006) are all very famous family commerical related series drama made by TVB.
Actually, inheritance system is a traditional commercial management system in Chinese community, not only in Hong Kong. For those heirs, they have complex emotions to their family enterprise. On the one hand, they desire to develop and enlarge their enterprises. However, on the other hand, they may meet some situations such as heirs may into lawsuit for property and become enemy. In No Regrets(2010), Cheng Kau-mui is the eldest daughter from Cheng family, which is the most powerful gangster family in Guangzhou in 1930s. Cheng Kau-mui takes over most of business from his father such as Ballroom, Casino, and Opium dens. Emotionally, she desires to help her father manage this huge family. However, she hates Opium and wants to save opium addicts. So she burns down all the opium in the storehouse. Meanwhile, she struggles with other heirs, her brothers and aunt. During that period of time, even Cheng Kau-mui tries her best; she cannot save her family finally.
2.UrbanCulture in Hong Kong TV Drama
Urban culture is the most obvious unique culture in Hong Kong TV drama. Usually, urban culture is a culture of towns and cities and it refers to the common ideologies, values, and living customs of urban residents. Different from agricultural civilization in Mainland China, commercialize filled in every corner of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an international metropolis. Influenced by Mercantilism thought, run a business is a common phenomenon in Hong Kong. Every street in Hong Kong is full of shops vary from grocery stores to luxury chain stores. Consequence, a small business owner is a common character in Hong Kong TV drama compare to TV drama in China and Western country. Moreover, all these small business owners may have somecommon characteristics such as no worries about daily expense and belong to middle class family. They mayhave some troubles in daily life with family members but can settle down finally, and they all care about their family and children. For example, Ko Yi-man, a good daddy and an owner of a pawnshop in Daddy Good Deeds (2011), Dai Koo-tung, a boss of a tea restaurant in The Comeback Clan(2010), and KamPou Cheung, a boss of a tea restaurant in Friendly Fire(2012). Hong Kong tea restaurant culture is a unique and special cultural phenomenon. In The Comeback Clan (2010), a loving father Dai Koo-tung runs a tea restaurant to support his family and provide assistance for unemployed people. Boss Dai is good at making pantyhose milk tea and his tea restaurant is well known. In Ghetto Justice (2011), having an egg tart in tea restaurant to spend his high tea time has become a living habit for L.A law. One reason that tea restaurant has become one of popular elements in Hong Kong serial dramas is tea restaurant in Hong Kong belong to civic culture and it can present real lives of Hong Kong people. Tea restaurant is the product of the combination between Chinese and western culture. Thus, we can find both Chinese and western food from Hong Kong tea restaurant.
White collar is another symbol of urban culture and they are the mainstream population in Hong Kong. The location of office is the first aspect about white collar-urban culture. Central is the central business and the most advanced district of Hong Kong. Working at the office in Central means a higher income and social position in Hong Kong. In Ghetto Justice(2011),the barrister Kris, who comes from a poor family in Shamshuipo, tries her best to work in the law firm in Central. Friendly Fire and The Other Truth also deliver the message of working in Central distinct means a higher level for white collar. The second aspect is shopping, specifically in pursuing of brand. In the street of Hong Kong, we can notice that almost everyone wears at least one luxury brand item. For Hong Kong people, branding item represent their reputation and glory, no matter white collar or students. Inbound Troubles is a new serial drama played in 2013. Ng Ka-yee is a boss of a travel agency, which focuses onChinese tourists from Mainland China. However, his girlfriend forces him to buy a luxury bag, even she knows Ng have been bankrupt and owed a huge debt after being cheated. In Reality Check(2013), a Form Four student Sky, whose father is an owner of a tea restaurant, one of his hobbies is to collect limited edition sneakers and show off to his friends. Lastly, nightlife such as happy hour during every weekend and some farewell party in LanKwai Fong is necessary for white collar and it has been shown in almost every serial drama and movie. In Healing Hand (1998), after finishing one-day job in hospital, main characters would like to gather in the pub in LanKwai Fong, where is the second appearance rate location in this drama.
3. Competition Culture in Hong Kong TV Drama
As an international financial center, competition is an essential in Hong Kong. Competition could exist in everything including studying, working, and even in relationships. Fast-paced and competition is the portrayal of reality life for Hong Kong residents. In Life Made Simple (2005), Angel and Catherine are cousins; they are also housemates during study period in America. However, angel steals Catherine's project when they are seeking a same position. Although this story is not based on real scenario, but it still presents the competition culture in Hong Kong. In Wax and Wane (2011),two cousins competed for more than 20 years for a noodle brand, which owned by their family. Another example is the drama When Lanes Merge (2009) describes how taxi drivers seize passengers on the road. The competition in commercial is a common behavior in Hong Kong. Even more, we can appreciate competition narrative in customs drama. In 2004, a famous customs serial drama War and Beauty was produced by TVB Jade. This is a story about power struggle between women in Qing Dynasty. In order to secure the favor from emperor, royal concubines compete by using various tricks such as murder and b
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