Author: Li Zhi
In recent years, a number of traditional cultural programs have been popular on the screen, which has aroused enthusiastic response from the audience, media and society, and has become a highly regarded cultural trend phenomenon. From Chinese Character Dictation Conference, Chinese Poetry Conference and Reader, to National Treasures, Classical Poems, China in Stories, China in Classics and China Festival Series, it can be said that traditional cultural programs mark the development trend of industry culture turn for us, and they are "speaking well" in the new era.
Henan Satellite TV’s "Wonderful Tour of Tanabata in 2023" dreams of returning to the Red Chamber, showing romance.
The scene telling the story of Sanxingdui in the third season of National Treasure.
New national style: a distinctive feature as a trend phenomenon
Despite the different themes and forms, the new national style is the most distinctive style label of these excellent traditional cultural programs. The new national style, that is, the emerging China style, is manifested in the popular fashion that generally uses traditional cultural elements in popular culture. On the basis of spreading Chinese excellent traditional culture, traditional cultural programs explore the greatest common denominator with youth culture, network culture and other cultures of the times, and become a popular program type with the new national characteristics of integrating the old and the new and aesthetic mutual learning.
In fact, looking back at the development history of TV programs in China, as early as the 1960s, Beijing TV Station had launched cultural programs such as Cultural Life and Life Knowledge. In the 1980s and 1990s, traditional cultural programs with distinctive features emerged, such as "Bookstore Painting Garden" and "Kyushu Theater". However, although traditional cultural programs have always been an important part of the TV program sequence in China, they have long been caught in an embarrassing situation of applauding and not being a hit. Especially in the wave of TV industrialization, faced with the arduous journey of viewing, traditional cultural programs have always been difficult to become realistic choices and symbolic programs that TV stations are keen on.
Fortunately, in the past ten years, traditional cultural programs have gradually explored a new national style innovation road of "entertaining" and become popular in the whole network with a gesture of "cultural return".
Looking at the present through the long lens of history, the valuable question is how traditional cultural programs change and jump. What is more worth asking is, why is it that traditional cultural programs continue to "break the circle" to form a trend phenomenon of the times?
The method of "double creation": the leap of butterfly as an artistic creation
Since the policy of "promoting the creative transformation and innovative development of Chinese excellent traditional culture" was put forward, the artistic creation of traditional cultural programs has a fundamental methodology, that is, adhering to the integration orientation of "thought+art+technology", refining Chinese excellent traditional culture in a flexible and diverse way, and achieving a deep image description of "cultural China".
5,000 years of Chinese traditional culture is extensive and profound. Traditional cultural programs regard it as a treasure house of creative inspiration, and select representative cultural symbols to describe it. This kind of "metonymy" strategy can be seen only from the program name: China in Classics, which tells the story of selecting classics, Chinese Poetry Conference, which relives the beauty of Chinese poetry, and China, which shows the extraordinary skills of intangible heritage. With the continuous excavation of Chinese excellent traditional culture, the theme of this kind of programs has been subdivided from the popularization of general knowledge such as poetry quiz, idiom quiz and Chinese character contest to the interpretation of professional contents such as cultural relics and archaeology, intangible techniques, piano, chess, calligraphy and painting, which highlights the vertical thinking of program creation.
With the help of this kind of program, the audience stepped into the historical Milky Way, which is separated but in the same strain, and picked up brilliant cultural treasures. Traditional cultural programs deeply rooted in different fields appeared one after another, and a polyphonic "cultural suite" was compiled.
When the Internet platform becomes the infrastructure of the digital age, "brush" has become a common way of life, and attention has become the object of competition for programs. Based on the audio-visual communication ecology with diverse supply channels and overloaded information content, traditional cultural programs do not stick to the existing model, but follow the platform thinking and innovate the program model with light program duration, modular program units and strong narrative program content. Take a series of out-of-the-circle parties of Henan Satellite TV as an example: "Wonderful Tour of the Dragon Boat Festival" takes the astrological meaning of "Long Xing Zhongzheng" in the Dragon Boat Festival as the theme, and invites the "Mahua FunAge" team to join in the dragon boat race, and the dramatic chapter story of fighting for tokens is connected in series with modules such as Feng Wang Caige, Flying Dragons in the Sky and wormwood Qingqing, so as to show the traditional customs of the Dragon Boat Festival, and the duration is controlled within one hour. The relatively independent and distinctive special programs are very suitable for the communication logic of the Internet platform. The classic is The Banquet at the Tang Palace, which can trigger a hot discussion on the whole network. It is precisely because of its short, pithy and eye-catching features that it grabs the audience’s attention with colorful clips on the Internet platform, and then it plays a role of diverting from short to long, improving the popularity of the whole series of programs.
In addition, the new model increasingly pursues that a single work can produce the climax effect of visual wonders and soul shock, and puts forward higher requirements for the quality of the program. Based on digital technology, traditional cultural programs form an ultra-real virtual-real space and construct a dynamic perception field of "audience-work-artistic conception", which not only makes traditional cultural elements come to the fore, but also moistens the Chinese aesthetic spirit. For example, "Poetry and Painting China" refines the scenery into a single element and draws it in layers in the presentation of "Journey to the West Mountain", and strives to retain the natural Chinese painting texture in the special effect reorganization of later modeling. During the lens push and pull, the mountains with high peaks and steep peaks echo each other with the waterfalls flowing with silver lines, outlining the magnificent mountains and rivers with long mountains and thousands of images, so that viewers can truly feel the character of the ancients "the mountains stand on their backs and the scenery stops" Another example is the interpretation of "Imitating Yang Dazhang’s Painting of Jinling in Song Courtyard", in which the program gives the picture a 3D animation effect of ink and wash. In the painting, when people wander from the countryside to the city, the audience seems to have crossed back to the prosperous Jinling, where "the king is full of gold and beautiful", and feel the beautiful painting meaning of "people are happy in the rich years, and they walk on the streets in Gansu".
The visual presentation from the real to the virtual makes poetry and painting break through the limitations of physical laws and live in the way of reappearance of image wonders. The surreal artistic spirit not only extends the imagination boundary of the audience through the visual impact, but also brings the immersive experience by capturing the details that must be present, thus realizing the virtual reality of traditional classical aesthetics in the audience’s psychological level in the spiritual immersion that is also true and illusory.
Subjectivity and Identity: Deep Logic as Cultural Practice
An era has an era of literature and art. The reason why traditional cultural programs can stand out from numerous literary and artistic creations and form a phenomenon of "cultural program fever" that lasts for several years is not only because of the renewal of creative ideas and the improvement of production ability within such programs, but also because program production is a typical cultural practice with reflective experience that germinates in social culture and will respond to it interactively.
In other words, artistic production is deeply connected and mapped with the collective mentality and common emotion of the times, and the common emotion of each era will also give birth to the cultural trend belonging to that era.
Then, in order to further clarify the deep logic of the popularity of traditional cultural programs, it is necessary to base on the vivid experience of the times and explore the active and tense potential text structure of programs that are outside the text structure and coupled with the current collective emotional psychology.
Facing the globalization context of comparison and communication between Chinese and Western civilizations, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation cannot be separated from the realization of Chinese modernization. However, in the world discourse system about modernization, "western modernity" once monopolized the definition of modernization, and western modernization was even directly equated with the only model. Therefore, only by reflecting on the western paradigm, establishing China’s legal expression and establishing his subjective position in the global pattern can we endow "China modernity" with Chinese modernization and realize the reinterpretation and rewriting of the discourse system of "modernity". In this process, both the country and the people are experiencing the thinking of "what is China", and the questioning of "who am I" reflects the collective mentality and common emotional demands of contemporary China society eager to consolidate cultural subjectivity and condense identity. Excellent traditional culture is the "root" and "soul" of the Chinese nation, and it is an important way to distinguish "the other" from "self" and gain subjectivity and identity.
Indeed, the top-down policies at the national level, such as "inheriting and carrying forward the Chinese aesthetic spirit" and "telling the story of China well", and the bottom-up cultural consumption at the public level, such as the craze for Chinese studies and Hanfu, all indicate the effectiveness of answering "China" with Chinese excellent traditional culture.
Returning to traditional cultural programs, whether the theme is to pay attention to festival culture, to focus on the art of poetry and painting, or to focus on historical archaeology, is a useful exploration of the policy of "double innovation", and the underlying logic it follows cannot be separated from "two combinations". The media performance of "Cultural China" gives the audience great imagination. In the auspicious film feather with traces of civilization, the cultural relics restorer makes the old things new and shows the distant and gorgeous history to future generations. In the endless stretch of Tang poetry and Song poetry, countless stars shine in it, writing the most vivid footnote for "Why China"; In the intangible skills that bear the context of a thousand years, the inheritors have persisted for decades to realize the identity of the nation as a nation … On the one hand, these traditional cultural programs have stirred up the national cultural genes in the same strain by excavating and presenting the cultural memories behind cultural symbols, greatly satisfying the imagination needs of the audience to gain a sense of historical relevance from the long-standing Chinese civilization, and effectively enhancing the national self-esteem and cultural self-confidence of the audience. On the other hand, following the principle of "keeping the right and not being old-fashioned, respecting the past and not restoring the past", we should reconstruct Chinese excellent traditional culture in the times, and integrate the spiritual concepts attached to traditional excellent culture, such as the unity of family and country, the common good of the world and the coexistence of all things, with the core values of contemporary socialism, so as to consolidate the cultural subjectivity in the deep echo of China in the past, China in the present and China in the future.
It is true that traditional cultural programs are highly in line with the common feelings of the times, and with the unparalleled communication power of audio-visual media, they produce and spread the cultural power that condenses collective sensibility, which is the deep motivation to harvest the emotional resonance of the audience and generate a huge emotional community. However, it still needs to be emphasized that the audience’s aesthetic needs and appreciation ability continue to grow and improve. In specific creation, traditional cultural programs still need to stimulate imagination and creativity, be innovative in content, form and other aspects, and fully demonstrate the essence and charm of Chinese excellent traditional culture to meet the audience’s aesthetic expectations, so as to avoid homogenization and stand on the forefront of the highly competitive mass cultural products track.
(The author is a doctoral student at Shanghai Film Academy of Shanghai University)
Source: Wen Wei Po