The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

Content creators who consistently engage with the public's aesthetic preferences are quicker and more acutely aware of changes in audience demands, down to the finest details. Looking back at the content market of the past two years, blockbusters often resonate with real-life experiences or are born in the spiritual homeland of traditional culture. "The Double," an ancient costume drama about women's growth and inspiration, achieved over 10,000 views within three days of its premiere on Youku. It became the fastest drama to reach this milestone in 2024, with the highest first-day viewership and popularity on its launch day. The series has already secured its status as a national hit, driven by word-of-mouth among viewers.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

Starring Wu Jinyan, Wang Xingyue, and Chen Xinhai, "The Double (Mo Yu Yun Jian, 墨雨云间)" is a historical romance drama that tells the story of Xue Fangfei (played by Wu Jinyan), the daughter of a county magistrate who loses everything after a major upheaval. Under the request of her savior, Jiang Li (played by Yang Chaoyue), the daughter of the Zhongshu Ling, she returns to the capital under Jiang Li's identity. With the help of Duke Xiao Heng (played by Wang Xingyue) and others, she overcomes numerous challenges, fights against injustice, rescues her wrongfully imprisoned father, and helps Xiao Heng uphold justice and protect the common people, ultimately regaining a happy life.

If being a dark horse is the initial impression of "The Double," its success lies in capturing the audience's emotional needs by incorporating "drama + intangible cultural heritage" into its creation. Coupled with an inherent, stable, and collaborative talent cultivation mechanism and content creation ecosystem, the series manages to establish emotional connections with the audience immediately, mastering the key to activating new productive forces.


Emotional Resonance: Syncing with the Audience

In an era where audience attention is a scarce resource, content creators face the challenge of attracting and retaining viewers. "The Double" seizes attention with its pacing. The drama responds crisply and effectively to the audience's desire for strong plotlines and fast-paced storytelling. It achieves the best of both worlds with "short drama pacing, long drama content." As the plot progresses rapidly, a complex network of characters involving the Jiang, Ye, Xiao, and Li families unfolds, spanning from domestic affairs to court intrigues.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

The key here is that once viewers accept Xue Fangfei (Jiang Li) as a reflection of themselves, an emotional connection is automatically established. Themes of revenge, gratitude, awakening, and growth follow Xue Fangfei’s journey, from her adversarial relationship with Xiao Heng to their alliance and eventual love. Through a female perspective, the series reevaluates the villainy of her ex-husband Shen Yurong, the madness of the princess, the scheming of her stepmother, and the calculations of her grandmother, achieving a seamless resonance between characters and audience. This creates a virtuous cycle where the story captivates, emotions move, and the narrative lingers in viewers' minds.

From the early "The Palace: The Lock Heart Jade" series to recent productions like "Winter Begonia," "Royal Feast," "Delicacies Destiny," "Legacy," and "Scent of Time," Huanyu Pictures's works consistently align with the audience’s emotions. They break the barrier between "the person in the mirror" and "the real me," making viewers breathe and live alongside the characters, reaching peaks of emotional empathy. The underlying logic behind this emotional connection is Huanyu's half-step-ahead perception of audience emotion, maintaining a respectful distance from the public's emotions. They neither pander nor ignore but iteratively present "knowing me" over "acting me," standing with the audience on a spiritual level. This ability to resonate emotionally stems from a deep understanding of changing audience sentiments, ensuring that Huanyu's productions stay relevant and impactful, fostering a lasting connection with viewers.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value


Talent Cultivation: Inherent and Nurtured

When audiences become deeply entwined with the characters' fates, they start to question who their "mirror self" is. For Huanyu, which engages in both artist management and film and television content production, this can be challenging. The integration of high-quality content and young actors has become part of its ecosystem. Huanyu's long-term practices in talent cultivation have built a unique system for discovering, training, and gathering talent, forming a key component of its new productive forces. This has also established a distinctive brand identity and recognition within the industry.

In Huanyu's content creation spectrum, young actors often take on major roles, and new actors are frequently introduced. This approach helps young actors break the "no experience, no opportunity; no opportunity, no work" cycle. "The Double," starring Wu Jinyan and Wang Xingyue, showcases this. Both actors have rapidly grown in a practical acting environment, gradually moving to center stage. Wang Xingyue, who plays the deeply scheming Duke Xiao Heng, demonstrates maturity beyond his years. Additionally, Huanyu's talent cultivation is evident in giving young actors substantial roles. Liang Yongqi, who plays Shen Yurong, is a specially introduced newcomer, given ample trust and performance opportunities. Huanyu is evidently patient, allowing for a natural progression to the forefront.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

In Huanyu's ecosystem, new is never a barrier to actor development. Content production and talent cultivation form a complete loop: strong content foundations elevate young actors' recognition and public approval, facilitating their rise. Conversely, when young actors gain a foothold in the audience's hearts, their reputation and recognition enhance the content, raising audience expectations for the work.

If new summarizes Huanyu's actor lineup, then "new + stable" best reflects its creative core. Cross-collaboration within its in-house team has become a standard creative model in recent years: "Arsenal Military Academy" and "Winter Begonia" were directed by Hui Kaidong and Guo Hao; "Legacy" and "Royal Feast" by Wang Wei and Bai Yunmo; "Scent of Time" by Bai Yunmo and Guo Hao; and "The Double" by Bai Yunmo and Ma Shige. Notably, "The Double" marks Ma Shige's first time directing a long drama, where he also serves as a screenwriter.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

In an interview, Ma Shige discussed the concept of pleasant point, showcasing his innovative mindset and alignment with the story's spirit. He believes the degree of pleasant depends on the protagonist's initial grievances and the strength of their adversaries; the justice regained after many struggles brings the audience true satisfaction. As a director, he keenly captures the nuances between actors and their roles, dissecting and distinguishing the sense of pleasant with precision. He understands the fine line between charming and greasy in Wang Xingyue's portrayal of Duke Xiao Heng, and while Wu Jinyan already bears the label of a satisfying narrative heroine, her character Xue Fangfei is more grounded, driven by survival rather than contrived confrontations.

Huanyu’s method of intertwining content creation with talent cultivation, while maintaining a balance between novelty and stability, ensures continuous emotional resonance with audiences. This approach keeps the narrative engaging and the audience invested, making Huanyu a pioneer in integrating young talent into its creative processes.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

Huanyu's focus on the "film and intangible cultural heritage (ICH)" niche has concentrated their efforts on aesthetic departments such as art, cinematography, set design, costume, and styling. Art director Luan Hexin and stylist Song Xiaotao, representing the industry's top-tier aesthetics and quality assurance, are crucial components of Huanyu's content defense and sources of innovative talent.

While solo efforts might yield quick results, they often lack longevity. In the collaborative and interconnected film industry, no creator can succeed without partners. Huanyu’s approach spans from front-end actor training to mid-stage content creation and back-end production, with a high-density talent pool laying a solid foundation for efficient and orderly content production. For the industry, Huanyu’s in-house creative team offers a people-centric "new productive force," especially leading and unique in the film + ICH sector.


Traditional Cultural Innovation: Aesthetic in Daily Life

As mentioned earlier, contemporary young people create worlds that bring spiritual satisfaction, with a key indicator being their desire for a sense of belonging from traditional culture. In recent years, the popularity of Hanfu, flower hairpins, and horse-face skirts, along with traditional cultural adaptations like makeup and modern Chinese clothing in everyday scenes, signifies that under the backdrop of cultural confidence, the younger generation has unprecedented cultural consumption demands and a need for cultural value recognition.

Huanyu not only ignited a passion for ICH in the film industry but also ingrained the promotion of traditional culture into its creative DNA. As Yang Le, co-founder and general manager of Huanyu Film, has repeatedly expressed in public, their commitment is to be "creators of high-quality content, promoters of excellent traditional culture, and seekers of oriental beauty," which will remain their mission.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

For Huanyu, the form of inheriting and developing traditional culture is continuously evolving through creative practice. If "Winter Begonia" revitalized the essence of Peking opera, "Legacy" promoted the elegance of qipao, and "Hi Producer!" focused on ICH heritage in contemporary urban life by filming in Suzhou Museum and introducing nearly 20 ICH techniques and traditional customs through an episodic format, showcasing the beauty of ICH and cultural relics from a modern perspective to promote its spread among young people, then "The Double" has taken this consciousness to the next level: making aesthetics a part of daily life.

In the drama, the "pearl makeup" worn by highborn ladies during Jiang Ruoyao's coming-of-age ceremony is particularly unique. This style of makeup, traceable to the Song Dynasty, involved using fish bladder glue to attach pearls as decorative anchors on the forehead and dimples, with strings of pearls hanging from the temples downwards. The placement of these pearls mirrored the Tang Dynasty’s huadian, xiehong, and mianye. The pearl makeup carried forward the legacy of the Tang Dynasty while embodying the Song Dynasty’s preference for elegant and delicate aesthetics. This sophisticated style represented an innovative attempt at female beauty during that era. The creative team referenced numerous ancient paintings and materials, including portraits of Empresses from the Song Dynasty, to authentically recreate this historical cultural treasure on screen.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

Huanyu’s approach to the preservation and development of traditional culture has evolved through creative accumulation. This progression involves distilling cultural symbols and elevating the expression of traditional culture to a more everyday context. By integrating traditional culture into dramatic narratives, they make it a part of the aesthetic system rather than confining it to specific story backgrounds or particular ICH traditions. This transformation allows traditional culture to resonate with contemporary young people’s aesthetic values, making it a part of daily life and thus fostering cultural confidence and responsibility among content creators.

Huanyu's mission is to use high-quality audio-visual content to express and preserve excellent traditional culture. This commitment to cultural authenticity and innovation is evident in their meticulous practices and creative processes. By steadfastly integrating the beauty of tradition with the beauty of storytelling, they create distinctive works that highlight their unique artistic aesthetics while breathing new life into traditional culture in contemporary society.

In an industry calling for transformative new productive forces and seeking to resonate with audience emotions, Huanyu has once again positioned itself ahead of the curve with "The Double." On-screen, the captivating story continues to engage viewers. Off-screen, more inspiring than any narrative is the emergence of creative teams like Huanyu, who stay one step ahead of the audience. They skillfully meet aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual needs with quality content, reinforcing cultural confidence and fostering a deeper connection with traditional heritage.

The Double: Integration of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Emotional Value

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