'Nirvana in Fire' becomes a hit abroad

After the success of The Legend of Zhen Huan, Chinese drama fans now have a new favorite, the 54-episode historical drama Nirvana in Fire. But instead of being criticized as unintelligible by American audiences like the former, Nirvana in Fire crossed the cultural barriers successfully and became a hit abroad.

On mydramalist.com, an Asian drama and film website, Nirvana in Fire was rated 9.1 out of 10, tying for first place on the website. Zealous fans poured out their love for the show, with scant negative comments being registered on the site.

"When I saw the trailer I thought...ahhh just another historical drama with a sad ending…and wondered whether I should watch it or not. I can't tell you how glad I am that I did. This is the best Chinese historical drama ever," said Almonda at mydramalist.com.

Dramasparrow, another fan, said, "Gutted that this drama had to end. It could have gone on for forever and I would still be watching. It was that beautiful."

The overwhelming praise, which has led many curious people to start watching it; also begs the question as to what makes the drama stand out among the many Chinese historical drams in the overseas market.

"There are many factors that made the drama a success, among them, good cinematography and eye candy are the most important," said Wang Xin, a deputy director at China International Television cooperation.

According to Wang, the drama has beautiful scenes and was filmed in magnificent, specially-built sets, and each episode was of top quality material. Leading actors like Hu Ge and Wang Kai, with their dashing good looks and beauty, are also big attractions to the younger generations.

"The South Korean dramas have set a trend for popular drama, where the looks of the characters was emphasized and the plot of the drama became less important."

As to the comparison made by some American audiences, that Nirvana in Fire is a counterpart of the French classic The Count of Monte Cristo, Wang told China Daily Website that bridging the cultural divide was also part of what made it sell.

"Despite being a historical drama, the story doesn't require much historical knowledge. In other words, the revenge story could take place in any period of time in Chinese history. Basically it's a contemporary idol drama in fancy ancient costumes," Wang said.

Currently, the drama has been aired in South Korea and was recommended by the convention board of this year's Discop Africa to countries on the continent. Due to its popularity on Youtube, it will also be dubbed in English soon.

"Some episodes were dubbed in English by zealous fans overseas, we have watched them and think it's cool. Our company has been trying to contact the dubbers," Wang said.

Nirvana in Fire is the most popular drama in China right now. By weaving two storylines — one a betrayed general's revenge and the other about princes fighting for the throne, the drama presents a well-told story of strategist Mei Changsu.