Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

The initial attraction to "The Story of Suzhou" was its poetic poster. The ancient city’s flowing water, misty bridges, and a beautiful woman standing on a stone slab, separated from the bustling city, captivated many. The poster featured a couplet: "In spring, Suzhou's greenery spans the river, stone bridges and red towers remain unchanged." As the premiere approached, this poetic atmosphere only intensified. The official social media account wrote: "Unveiling the splendor of Suzhou's intangible cultural heritage, weaving a new chapter of millennia-old cultural lineage." Lead actress Xiao Yan said, "Within the opening and closing of scenes, one sees the beauty of intangible heritage, and encounters the vibrant life of Jiangnan in the streets and alleys."

In today's extensive audio-visual entertainment landscape, how should cultural and tourism micro-dramas position themselves? What role should these short dramas play in promoting local culture and tourism? "The Story of Suzhou" provides the answer: a key, that fully unlocks the audience's curiosity and desire to explore. Literature once played this role. Wang Anyi casually wrote in her book, "The moonlight in Suzhou seems especially cool and smooth, people feel refreshingly clear, even sleep is clear and bright," sparking readers' longing.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

"The Story of Suzhou" mainly tells the story of Zhu Yiran, the inheritor of Suzhou fan intangible cultural heritage, and Shen Feng, a returned overseas engineer specializing in ancient city protection. They join hands to dedicate their youthful energy to preserving intangible cultural heritage. The series is set against the backdrop of Suzhou's historical and cultural city and the thirty-year development of Suzhou Industrial Park, with themes of ancient city protection and renewal. It innovatively incorporates intangible cultural heritage elements such as Suzhou embroidery, Song brocade, Kesi, Pingtan, and Kunqu opera. This blend showcases the unparalleled beauty of contemporary Suzhou's "double-sided embroidery," which seamlessly integrates ancient elegance with modernity, and highlights the creative transformation and innovative development of China's outstanding traditional culture.

"The Story of Suzhou" possesses such charm. The costumes and settings are exquisite and lively, the narrative and camera work are meticulously crafted. The ancient streets are picturesque, the alleys deep, fallen flowers drift with the wind, and water flows gently. Every scene offers sensory tranquility and comfort, making viewers yearn to visit in person. There's no need for elaborate travel plans; simply being on the local streets, touching the rows of doorways in the alleys, and imagining the stories behind those doors is enough. "The Story of Suzhou" captures the true essence of Suzhou's life and cultural heritage.


Immersive Experience of "New Suzhou Lifestyle"

The distinctive charm of Suzhou lies in its unique, everyday atmosphere. Many people's longing for the Suzhou lifestyle comes from a line in Jin Yong's "The Deer and the Cauldron": "Live in Suzhou, dress in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, and die in Liuzhou." But why live in Suzhou? What does the so-called "new Suzhou lifestyle" truly mean? Director Pan Yue says, "It is an elegant everyday life meeting delicate human interactions, creating a wonderful collision." He infused this observation into his creation.

In "The Story of Suzhou," Suzhou is not only pleasing to the ear but also visually stunning. Outside the door, lush greenery and bird songs abound. Zhu Yiran (played by Xiao Yan) opens the door, producing a deep and solid sound, full of the flavor of years gone by. Her footsteps on the stone slabs exude a beautiful and harmonious rhythm. When she opens the window, the wind that blows in stirs the bamboo shavings on the table and also stirs a ripple in the viewers' hearts.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

The opening of "The Story of Suzhou" is so beautiful that it fully satisfies your obsession with aesthetics and undying yearning. Elegance permeates daily life, and poetry intertwines with living; this is the new Su lifestyle. The term "Su lifestyle" translates to "comfort." Importantly, "The Story of Suzhou" fully utilizes the advantages of the series to materialize the concept of Suzhou living, often seen in tourism promotional videos and literature. It does not merely rely on the symbols of water towns, ancient cities, and garden districts but strives to explore the essence of Suzhou life. This essence cannot be discovered by simply living in ancient streets and alleys but requires integration with the local community and a keen sense of observation.

To restore a meaningful fan, every detail is meticulously considered - the material of the handle, the shape of the leaf, and even if the wood is temporarily unavailable, and the technique is lost, Zhu Yiran is not in a hurry. She patiently searches for materials and contemplates technical improvements. She sets up a stall to sell her handmade fans to tourists, but despite it being a profitable venture, she encourages them to take their time selecting, not rushing. This is the new Suzhou lifestyle, small, exquisite, and elegant. Anyone lost in the fast pace of modern city life should visit Suzhou to experience these deeply treasured aspects of life that have been refined over time.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

Like Shen Feng (played by Zhang Jiongmin), who, although born and raised in Suzhou, feels a sense of unfamiliarity with the land and neighbors after years of studying abroad. This ancient city, with its millennia-old history, possesses a complex cultural vitality. This vitality commands respect and an unconscious desire to blend in. From this perspective, "The Story of Suzhou" is a gentle prose poem. The details build the texture of life, and the story condenses profound meanings. The creators have poured their hearts into it.


From Life to Culture

When depicting Suzhou, one cannot ignore its four major cultural symbols: Suzhou gardens, Suzhou embroidery, Kunqu opera, and Pingtan storytelling. Yu Qiuyu once said, "Suzhou is the tranquil backyard of Chinese culture." However, as a micro-series, it is impossible to delve deeply into each of these aspects within just over a hundred minutes, as that would risk a superficial portrayal. "The Story of Suzhou" cleverly uses the professions of its protagonists to focus on two major themes: cultural heritage and ancient city preservation, balancing the abstract and the tangible.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

Zhu Yiran is an inheritor of the Suzhou fan intangible cultural heritage project, aspiring to be an artist of the fan. Shen Feng is an engineer specializing in the "anatomy" of ancient city cells, providing the most basic and detailed reference materials for the protection of ancient city relics through his meticulous work on ancient houses and alleys. The inclusion of Suzhou fans significantly enhances the narrative efficiency. As screenwriter Yin Wenjun explained, Suzhou fans combine many intangible cultural elements such as Suzhou embroidery and Kesi, allowing the series to showcase Suzhou aesthetics within its limited runtime. The fan-making process involves various steps, naturally creating a coherent action line for the characters and avoiding forced plot contrivances.

Additionally, as an important symbol of the recently popular "Chinoiserie culture," various styles of fans are familiar to young people. This familiarity helps bridge the gap between the audience and intangible cultural heritage, making it more relatable and understandable, thus promoting effective dissemination. For instance, to create a fan worthy of becoming a heirloom, what are the meticulous considerations in selecting the wood? How is the fan’s shape meticulously crafted? How are rare materials sourced? Understanding these aspects allows the audience to appreciate the dedication and artistry involved in fan-making.

Zhu Yiran aims to create a Tongye fan, which requires the use of warm and translucent rosewood for the handle, a material that is rare and hard to come by. Shaping the fan leaf to fit the desired form also poses significant challenges. Thus, the journey of sourcing materials and overcoming technical hurdles begins. "The Story of Suzhou" presents the complete process of a fan's creation through the perspective of intangible cultural heritage inheritors, illustrating the daily life and dedication involved in this profession.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

Regarding the role of an "Ancient City Cell Dissection Engineer," it leaves the audience in awe. While it's widely known that protecting ancient cities requires the participation of the entire society, the specifics of what to protect and how, and how the government undertakes this work, remain unclear to many. The term "Cell Dissection Engineer" is used because it treats each brick and tile of the ancient city as a "basic cell" of its structure. The engineer's task is to delve into the location of each cell, understand, and document its historical story, functional significance, and architectural aesthetics, thereby creating a detailed database.

Shen Feng and his team knock on doors, visiting each household, not for casual chats but to uncover the secrets of ancient residences and decode the living patterns of traditional Suzhou life. This process is both a quest for the city's past memories and an illustration of the meticulous efforts required for urban governance. Through this, the engineers gather data, the public learns about the reasons and details of ancient city protection, and viewers are educated through the screen.

From the inheritance of Suzhou fans to the protection of ancient cities, from the texture of life to intangible cultural heritage, the micro-short drama series "A Dream Under the Starry River" turns abstract heritage symbols into captivating, tangible stories through detailed portrayal. To achieve this creative vision, the production team has spared no effort. They invited renowned fan-making artisans, Sheng Chun and Wang Jian, as intangible cultural heritage consultants to oversee the script and train the actors, ensuring authenticity, sincerity, and accuracy.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

The director and screenwriter have a mature creative vision, blending traditional and popular elements, heritage, and innovation through the stories of young people, making the series both engaging and meaningful. Two young actors, through their understanding of the plot and characters, portray how modern young people in Suzhou, a city that intertwines tradition and modernity like a double-sided embroidery, realize their self-worth and find life partners. The series not only offers sweetness but also showcases the dream life young people aspire to.


A Small Screen for a Grand Stage

For some viewers, the aesthetic presentation and cultural depth of "The Story of Suzhou" have reshaped their perception of micro-dramas. Against the backdrop cultural tourism has become a trend, "The Story of Suzhou" has the potential to alter the promotional logic of tourist cities. These immersive, regionally rich, and aesthetically strong cultural tourism micro-dramas will become indispensable audio-visual representations of tourist destinations.

Take the scenic spots, for instance. In just the two episodes aired last night, the series showcased various attractions such as the Pingjiang Historical and Cultural Street, Panmen Scenic Area, Jinji Lake CBD, Media Square, and Niujia Lane Fang House in Gusu District. This approach of embedding travel guides directly into the series, serving the audience to the greatest extent (using camera angles as the best photo spots), might indeed be the optimal demonstration of the "drama+ cultural tourism" model.

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

The creation of "The Story of Suzhou" avoids formalism, fully integrates advantageous resources during filming, and effectively utilizes a comprehensive and multi-dimensional broadcasting methodology. This ensures the vitality of cultural tourism micro-dramas. According to reports, "The Story of Suzhou" premiered on Mango TV, Suzhou Social Economy Channel, Kan Suzhou APP, and Singapore’s new media. It will later air on Hunan TV and Suzhou News Comprehensive Channel in June.

This means that "The Story of Suzhou," while establishing extensive local dissemination in Suzhou, will also expand nationwide through Hunan TV and Mango TV, and even reach international audiences via Mango TV's international version and Singapore's new media platforms. In terms of distribution scope and efficiency, it sets an example for future cultural tourism micro-dramas, exemplifying how a "small screen can leverage a grand stage."

Drama to Destination: How The Story of Suzhou Boosted TV and Tourism

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