Heady Hunan

魅力湖南

CHANGSHA

长沙

How Mao Zedong’s home province has become a font of popular culture

湖南何以成为流行文化中心地


Making waves is what Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS) does best. It is the most-watched television network after China Central Television (CCTV), the state broadcaster—and occasionally surpasses its ratings. That is striking for an outfit run by the government of a province that is better known as China’s largest producer of rice and the birthplace of Mao Zedong— “red tourism” centred on Mao’s formative haunts draws devotees of the chairman from around the country.

制造声势是湖南广播电视台的拿手好戏。它是位列中央电视台之后拥有最多观众的电视台,有时收视率还会超过中央电视台。湖南是中国生产大米最多的省份,也是毛泽东的出生地——以毛泽东家乡为宣传的“红色旅游”从全国各地吸引来了毛主席的崇拜者。对于由该省政府管理的电视台来说,能取得这样的成绩是一个引人注目的现象。


Changsha’s standing has turned its biennial “Golden Eagle” awards into one of China’s three most prestigious prize-giving ceremonies for TV stars. By GDP per person, Hunan ranks 16th among China’s 31 provincial-level regions. But its 67m people are the country’s fifth-biggest spenders on culture, education and entertainment. Hunan’s journey to national pop-culture prominence began in the 1990s when the provincial broadcasting authorities created a satellite TV station with licence to try something new. It produced lively news reports, a celebrity-led variety show called “Happy Camp” and even a matchmaking programme. By 2000 hotels in Beijing were luring guests with placards boasting, “We have Hunan Satellite TV”, the New York Times observed at the time.

长沙的地位使其两年一度的“金鹰奖”成为了中国最具声望的三大电视明星颁奖典礼之一。在中国的省市区中,湖南的人均GDP排名16,但湖南的6700万人口在文教娱乐方面是国内第五大消费者。湖南成为全国流行文化中心地的历程开始于上世纪九十年代,湖南省的广播电视部门建立了一个新的卫星电视台来进行一些新的尝试。这个电视台制作了生动的新闻报道节目、综艺节目《快乐大本营》还有相亲约会节目。到了2000年,《纽约时报》观察到,北京的宾馆会在标语牌上写“我们有湖南卫视”来招徕客人。

Much of that early success was the work of a Hunanese bureaucrat, Wei Wenbin. When he took over as director of the Hunan Radio and Television Department, Mr Wei read up about America’s entertainment industry. On land once used by a state-run rose farm, he built a vast park for television and film production and moved the new satellite TV station there. The area, Malanshan, has since grown into a cultural powerhouse, drawing media giants such as iQiyi and Tencent. In 2017 eight of the ten most-streamed variety shows on the Chinese internet were hatched there.

早期的成功多归功于湖南省的官员魏文斌。当魏先生接任湖南广播电视部门的领导时,他仔细研究了美国的娱乐产业。他在过去是一片国营玫瑰农场的土地上打造了一个巨大的园区,用来进行电视和电影制作,并把新的卫星电视台搬迁了进来。这片叫做马栏山的地方自此发展成了一个文化中心,吸引了爱奇艺和腾讯等媒体巨头。在2017年,网络上播放量最多的十档综艺节目中,有八档都是在这里制作的。

Hunan TV was the first network in China to try broadcasting for profit. That led it to focus on entertainment, a priority which helped it avoid political mistakes, as Wu Changchang of East China Normal University has noted. According to Mr Wu, Hunan TV struck a delicate balance between winning the love of viewers and approval from the Communist Party, which is a “prerequisite” of commercial success in China.

湖南卫视是中国第一家尝试通过节目来盈利的电视台。华东师范大学的吴畅畅老师指出,为此该电视台专注于娱乐领域,以防发生政治错误。吴老师认为,湖南卫视在赢得观众喜爱和获得政府认可之间取得了微妙的平衡,这是在中国实现商业成功的前提条件。

The government has occasionally winced. In 2011 it took “Happy Girls”, a fantastically popular singing contest, off air. The official explanation was that the show was too racy for its prime-time slot, but many wondered whether its huge excitable fan base worried the party. In 2004 a forerunner of the show, “Super Girls”, had let spectators vote for contestants by text message—a first in China. That smacked too much of democracy for the government. After a few years Hunan TV limited voting mainly to a studio audience. These days the network strives even harder to please the party. In 2017 it launched a series about ideology called “Socialism is Kind of Cool”. It included a quiz show on the life and works of , China’s leader.

政府有时也会有所退缩。在2011年,一档非常热门的歌唱比赛节目《快乐女声》被停播。官方的解释是,这档节目不适合在黄金时段播放。但许多人猜想是否是由于该节目巨大而狂热的粉丝群体令政府产生了担忧。在2004年,该节目的前身《超级女声》让观众通过短信为选手投票——这在中国是首创之举。对政府来说,这有着太强的民主意味。几年后,湖南卫视对投票进行了限制,主要由演播厅内的观众来投票。近年来,湖南电视台更是努力取悦政府。在2017年,他们推出了一档有关意识形态的节目,叫做《社会主义“有点潮”》。

Yet Hunan’s stations still have “political space to explore new things”, in the view of a manager at Mango TV. The government wants to get “closer to its audience”, he says, in particular to the young who spend hours glued to their smartphones. Internet broadcasters such as Mango TV, with 18m subscribers, help it to do so.

但在芒果TV的经理看来,湖南卫视仍有“探索新事物的政治空间”。他说,政府想要“更靠近观众”,尤其是每天会使用手机几个小时的年轻人。芒果TV有着1800万订阅量,像这样的网络平台帮助政府实现这个目的。

Hunan TV’s ability to experiment matters for the development of Chinese broadcasting. Li Shuwan, a former presenter at the station, says the province is a training ground for much of the country’s television talent. Industry insiders call Changsha the “West Point” of China’s cultural-entertainment industry, a reference to the American army’s elite academy.

湖南卫视的实验能力对于中国广播电视事业的发展至关重要。一位湖南卫视的前主持人李书婉(音)说,湖南省是中国许多电视人才的培训基地。业内人士将长沙称作中国文化娱乐行业的“西点军校”。

It is just as competitive. In 2013 Ms Li was one of only two students from Hunan University who were admitted to Hunan TV’s graduate programme. This year some 30,000 people applied for 100 spots on Mango TV’s trainee scheme. Mango TV encourages young recruits to speak up and suggest fresh ideas. They can receive funding to implement their proposals.

这里的竞争十分激烈。在2013年,李女士是湖南大学仅有的两名经湖南卫视的研究生项目录取的学生之一。今年,大约有30000人申请芒果TV实习生计划的100个名额。

Yang Tianhao, a co-founder of Erka Media, which manages 600 social-media influencers from its offices in China (including Changsha) and Los Angeles, says that young people in Hunan’s capital are risktakers, with parents who are more willing to let their children try their luck in a fickle industry than counterparts in richer Chinese cities. Well before Hunan’s “Sisters” filled smartphone screens, a Hunanese woman was making them: Zhou Qunfei, the founder of Lens Technology. Born to a poor, rural family, she was named the world’s richest self-made woman in 2018.

二咖传媒在中国和洛杉矶的办事处(包括长沙)管理着600名社交媒体红人。其联合创立人仰天浩说,长沙的年轻人敢于冒险,比起中国富裕城市的父母,长沙年轻人的父母更愿意让他们在变化无常的行业里碰碰运气。早在湖南卫视的“姐姐们”亮相于手机屏幕之前,一位湖南女性就在制造手机屏幕:她叫周群飞,是蓝思科技的创立人,出生于一个贫穷的农村家庭。在2018年,她被评为全球最富有的白手起家的女性。

People in China like to point to character traits which they believe are shared by natives of a particular province. The executive at Mango TV detects “a cultural gene to break the rules” among Hunanese. For evidence, he points to Mao and Liu Shaoqi, who was born in Changsha and served as Mao’s prime minister. Hunan’s broadcasters certainly have an interest in cultivating the stereotype: an edgy feel is crucial to the success of their brand.

中国人喜欢指出他们认为的某一特定省份的人共有的性格特征。芒果TV的主管认为湖南人有着“打破规则的文化基因”。为了证明这一观点,他提到了毛泽东以及刘少奇。湖南的广播电视公司显然想要塑造这种刻板印象:前卫先锋的形象对他们品牌的成功至关重要。