When China aired HBO’s first season of Game of Thrones in 2014, the viewers were furious. The version that the Chinese got to see was different from what the rest of the world enjoyed. The fictional period drama was heavily edited, ripping out the violence and nudity. While the chopping of scenes was well-intentioned from China Central Television’s ‘moral’ point of view, the mindless editing, however, took away with it the drama’s essence and continuity. It was like watching a documentary of European castles on the History Channel.
Thanks to the many video streaming sites online, today viewers in China are able to download the series with Mandarin subtitles and are able to watch it at will. Many are waiting with bated breath to watch the episode 6 of Game of Thrones.
But why is Game of Thrones popular among the Chinese? The reasons are aplenty. While its writer George RR Martin has emphasized that the drama locations were inspired by the castles and fortresses of England and Scotland, the Chinese feel that they are revisiting their own history and heritage while watching the series.
Apart from the dragons, there is The Wall. Although the author has clarified that the inspiration for The Wall was Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland, several fans on social media often compare it to the Great Wall of China. Needless to say, the Chinese certainly are convinced that the inspiration is from the mammoth grandeur.
Other primary characters too seem to have been ripped off from Chinese history. This includes the most-hated Joffrey Baratheon, his scheming mother Cersei Lannister and his beautiful and brainy wife Margaery Tyrell.
Joffrey was in his early teens when when he ascended the throne of Westeros. Joffrey is sadistic, arrogant and has put many a good man to death, including the good-natured Ned Stark. His own uncle Tyrion Lannister suffered pain and agony in Joffrey’s hands.
Much to the relief of many, Joffrey was poisoned. His story is similar to that of ruler of the Liu Song Dynasty. Liu Ziye ascended the throne of the Liu Song Dynasty when he was seventeen. Seemingly predisposed to psychotic acts of violence, he would frequently have high officials and family members killed. About a year later, he was assassinated.
The rivalry between Cersei Lannister and Margaery Tyrell has a striking parallel to that of Chinese empress Lady Lu and the emperor’s favorite concubine Lady Qi. In ancient China, unlike medieval Europe, the rules of succession to the throne were different. While the Chinese emperor has numerous wives and concubines, his favorite son becomes the heir. His mother, in turn, becomes the empress. If an heir fell out of favor, a new heir is chosen. Being in the good books of the emperor involved tact and cunning and, sometimes, cost people their lives.
Lady Lu and Lady Qi constantly plotted against each other. When the emperor died, Lady Lu gained an upper hand and she saw to it that Lady Qi’s son was poisoned. Like the sadistic Cersei Lannister, Lady Lu tortured her rival. According to Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity Through Sui, 1600 B.C.E. – 618 C.E, written by Lily Hong Lee and A.D. Stefanowska, “The empress cut off Lady Qi’s hands and feet, gouged out her eyes, burned her ears, gave her a potion which made her dumb, and threw her into the lower part of the privy and brought visitors to see the ‘human pig.”
Inspired by the Game of Thrones, a Chinese liquor brand Jian Nan Chun used the show’s intro by subtly altering the architecture.