At the moment when the story of "Blossoms Shanghai" is about to come to an end, "Like a Flowing River Season 3" welcomes its final chapter. Both dramas, set against the backdrop of China's society in the 1980s and 1990s, present different facets of that era from different perspectives and expressive styles. They both refine grand themes into the lives of individual characters, stories, and emotions, allowing contemporary audiences to resonate with the era conveyed in the drama.
Two interpreting of the sense of the times
Factors such as simultaneous airing, similar time periods, and top-notch production teams make it inevitable to compare "Blossoms Shanghai" and "Like a Flowing River Season 3." It is obvious that although both dramas focus on the background of Chinese reform and modernization, they present completely different sensations. They represent two variations in the torrent of the times, creating different styles of the sense of the times between realism and romance.
"Blossoms Shanghai" placing the power struggles of business and the emotional entanglements of relationships in the early 1990s urban Shanghai. Through the fluctuating lives of the young men and women in the business world, it reproduces the appearance of the Shanghai style in the early stages of reform and opening up.
As the earliest city in China to undergo the transformation of the times, Shanghai has a significant cultural blend of Eastern and Western elements. It can blend tradition and modernity, as well as coexist with both the grassroots and petite bourgeoisie cultures. Thus, in "Blossoms Shanghai," we are both amazed by the extravagance of Huanghe Road, where elites from all walks of life gather, and moved by the lively atmosphere of a bowl of rice and a meal of spare ribs and rice cakes. We are both impressed by the ups and downs of main characters such as A Bao, Li Li, Lingzi, and Miss Wang, and infected by the arc of ordinary people like Tao Tao, Linghong, and Teacher Ge.
On the other hand, "Like a Flowing River Season 3" portrays the lives of ordinary people in the interplay of the era in a more down-to-earth manner. It uses three characters, with different professions, social classes, and personalities, but equally unreservedly immersed in the torrent of the times, as the pivot to connect the countless ordinary people around them, weaving together an ever-flowing panorama of the era.
With the flow of the destinies of the three main characters and those around them in "Like a Flowing River Season 3," the transformations in various fields such as politics, economy, and social life in China from the late 1980s to the early 1990s gradually unfold. While basking in the spring breeze of reform, they also experience confusion, struggle, and awakening. Faced with their own limitations and the ups and downs of life, each person gives the most resolute answer to the times with unwavering and upward spirits.
The story of "Like a Flowing River Season 3" starts in 1993, depicting the story of the cross-border cooperation between Donghai Chemical and Luda Company in full swing. In this part, we can still see the development of several different economic forms represented by the growth trajectories of the main characters in the early stages of reform and opening up. After the accumulation and tempering of the previous two parts, this group of youth continues to rise and fall and move forward in the new story, braving the waves in the sea of the market economy.
After watching "Blossoms Shanghai" and then "Like a Flowing River Season 3," it always gives people a strong sense of disconnection. On one hand, there is the intoxicating and sophisticated world of bustling Shanghai, while on the other hand, there are the young people of Donghai, sharing the same sky but with such disparate destinies.
However, upon careful consideration, it seems not unreasonable. The 1990s was precisely the era of China's market economy reform, a time of great changes and opportunities. Some experienced "Blossoms Shanghai" in the 1990s, while others rode the waves in "Like a Flowing River Season 3." Instead of getting caught up in the controversy between suspension and reality, it is better to savor the rich sense of the times hidden behind these two works.
Mood of the times in cdrama
Every era has its own themes and trends, and every cdrama attempts to record and reflect the spirit of the times. A good period drama not only evokes the memories of the audience living in that era but also establishes an emotional connection with modern viewers through a more universal zeitgeist.
Both "Blossoms Shanghai" and "Like a Flowing River Season 3" achieve this by portraying a diverse range of characters and their embodiment of the vitality of the era, as well as the myriad of human experiences behind it, thereby evoking a resonance with contemporary audiences regarding the stories of the times.
For example, "Blossoms Shanghai" is not just a tale of the protagonist A Bao's entrepreneurial legend and romantic story. The various business people around him, such as Lingzi, Miss Wang, Li Li, Uncle Ye, Manager Fan, and Manager Qiang, are all intertwined in the Huanghe Road. Furthermore, the interactions between various minor characters like office workers, waiters, street vendors, and ruffians bring a certain brilliance to the play in terms of human nature.
A careful examination of the drama reveals that regardless of their social class, the underlying nature of each character is one of upward mobility. Whether it is A Bao, or the independent and distinctive female characters, or the lower-level employees represented by Min Min, Lucy, and Xiao Jiangxi, each fleshed-out individual forms a multi-dimensional aspect of the era. It is precisely the ordinary people who strive for upward mobility that touch the collective emotional memory.
The characters in "Like a Flowing River Season 3," on the other hand, are simple yet vibrant. The representative of state-owned economy, Song Yunfei, the representative of collective economy, Lei Dongbao, the representative of individual economy, Yang Xiaodong, and the representative of foreign economy, Liang Sishen, none of them can escape the influence of the times. It is in the sparks generated during their struggle with themselves and with the era, which is the process of facing and solving difficulties in the story, that the most inspiring aspects of this series can be found.
Based on the initial episodes of "Like a Flowing River Season 3," the main characters are all facing the lows of their respective lives, but they have clearly grown compared to the previous two seasons. Take Song Yunfei as an example. After experiencing a significant drop from Donghai to Pengyang, he was taken away by the police and had injured due to the pesticide poisoning incident at the Pengyang factory.
However, throughout the process of discovering the cause of the problem, he still upholds his initial professional integrity and has become more mature than before. Lei Dongbao, who has regrouped and returned to society, has become more steady, and Yang Xiaodong, who experienced the pain of losing his mother, has become more responsible.
All these characters and elements in the dramas are a microcosm of the changes and struggles experienced by individuals in the tide of transformation. They reflect society and the era. For the audience who personally witnessed the economic changes in the 1990s, whether it is the wealth accumulation depicted in "Blossoms Shanghai" through stock trading and foreign trade, or the temptations and persistence experienced in the process of reform depicted in "Like a Flowing River Season 3," they all more or less reflect the real-life experiences of their generation and are more likely to evoke their emotional resonance.
As for us, the younger generation of viewers, the reason why these two dramas can resonate with the thoughts of different generations and transcend the currents of time lies in their incorporation of the spirit of struggle and upliftment into the zeitgeist, making them the key link between period stories and contemporary viewers.
Now, "Blossoms Shanghai" will have its final episode, while the popularity and reputation of "Like a Flowing River Season 3" are still fermenting. As we bid farewell to the splendid and extraordinary tale of Shanghai in "Blossoms Shanghai," we eagerly anticipate the roaring and surging "Great River" story that will continue to address the themes of the times.