For fans of Chinese TV dramas in Mongolia, Chinese President Xi Jinping's trip to the country last week no doubt brought some great news.
With the signing of a joint declaration Thursday, China and Mongolia announced that they will deepen cooperation in fields such as education, health and culture. According to the terms of the agreement, over the next five years, China will provide translated versions of 25 Chinese movies and TV dramas for free, while the two countries will work together to enhance cooperation when it comes to producing and broadcasting movies and TV series.
"In Mongolia, the production quality of TV series is still relatively low," noted Wang Jintao, director of the China Radio, Film & Television Programs Exchange Center. He explained that Chinese TV dramas shown in Mongolia are still at the stage where they just provide translated subtitles, without any dubbing or extra explanations.
While Chinese TV dramas did not start enjoying a broad international audience until the last decade, they had already began proving popular in Mongolia as early as 1996 when local Mongolian TV stations began importing Chinese shows.
Enjoying a large market share in Mongolia, many Chinese TV dramas includingPrincess Pearl,Journey to the West,Genghis KhanandLegend ofBruce Leehave all been brought to Mongolian audiences over the years since then.
In an interview with China Culture Daily, Qiqi Gema, a Mongolian graduate from China Foreign Affairs University, pointed out that previously there used to be relatively more Japanese or South Korean TV dramas in Mongolia, but recent years have seen an increasing amount of Chinese TV series.
She added thatPrincess Pearlhas become a household name in her country and that such interesting dramas cultivate a large number of fans among high school students who have time for TV series.
Wang explained that most Chinese dramas exported to Mongolia are period and martial art dramas. "Those containing content related to Confucian culture have all proved popular among audiences," he added.
For example, in 2009, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Mongolia, Mongolia's TV9 translated subtitles for Chinese TV dramaMy Ugly Motherand played it during prime time.
The show tells the story between a son and his ugly mother from a rural area and usually contains complicated and touching plots. The son refuses to acknowledge his widowed mother because she's so ugly in fear of scaring his girlfriend away.
Even after he gets married, his wife still doesn't find out the old woman is her mother-in-law until near the end of the series when the elderly woman lies dying of cancer.
The drama was a huge sensation among Mongolian audiences and remained at the top spot of the ratings for quiet some time.
"The drama teaches a lesson for everyone. It shows, particularly young people, how one should care about and respect their parents and elders," commented an official with the publicity arm of Mongolia's Great Khural, as reported by the Xinhua News Agency.
According to Wang, while the number of exported Chinese TV series, movies and cartoons is on the rise, two thirds of them are presently being exported to the Asia-Pacific region where audiences have a similar cultural background as China.
Back in early 2010, while China was busy celebrating its Spring Festival holidays, many Mongolian TV Stations introduced the Tang Dynasty (618-907) period dramaThe Story of Zhenguan, which became a huge hit among audiences.
Like in other countries, the types of Chinese TV dramas that prove popular in Mongolia are usually period dramas and martial art dramas.Princess Pearl,Bruce LeeandThe Story of Zhenguanall fall into this category. However, things have been changing over time.
According to Daole Geer, director of the Department for Film and TV at TV9, Mongolian audiences are currently expanding their tastes when it comes to Chinese dramas.
For the most part they will appreciate a number of different types of shows so long as production values are high and reflect actual history and reality.
According to local critics, the reason whyMy Ugly Motherbecame so popular was because it "reflects the lives and emotional worlds of contemporary Chinese people."
Chinese TV dramas are enjoying an increasingly large global market, which like Mongolia is no longer limited to period and martial art dramas anymore.
Chinese idol dramas likeMeteor GardenandOld House Has a Joyhave proved popular in Vietnam and Thailand, and many Chinese actors have loyal fans there.
In South Korea, modern dramas likeIn Time with YouandFamilies with Kidsthat reflect the lives and families in contemporary China are also popular.
"The production of Chinese TV dramas used to fall behind international standards. But in recent years, the distance between Chinese dramas and overseas audiences is shrinking, very much due to the improvement of Chinese drama production," noted Liu Dehong, general manager of Beijing Hualu Baina Film & TV Company, as quoted by the China Culture Daily.