Three Springs and Streams: Yuqi An on Producing this Epic Chinese Television Series

Yuqi An-Producer of Three Springs and Streams
Yuqi An-Producer of Three Springs and Streams

The artistic community tends to be the most curious. Due to this inherent nature, artists lead the way to discovering stories that are intriguing; tales of unfamiliar people yet who possess many of the same feelings and motivations as us. Storytellers have always offered an insight that can lead to connection. Americans still know so little about China, this vast country with massive cities and awe inspiring topography, but their films and television productions communicate the same ideas as those of the United States. Family, respect, conflict, joy and sadness. One of the most popular television productions in China is Three Springs and Steams. This series was the first Shandong drama to appear on CCTV (the country’s largest network/platform which reaches over a billion viewers) and became an instant megahit. Series co-producer Yuqi An was integral to this success, guiding the production every step of the way from preparation to gathering resources, screenwriting, revisions, and most importantly, financing. CCTV’s scrutiny of what it airs is immense, allowing for only fifteen dramas per year to be broadcast. Unquestionably, Three Springs and Steams is regarded as compelling viewing and communicates the best the industry has to offer.

  Three Springs and Streams is a story of family, politics, and community. Yes, it presents foundations of the Communist Party in China and the belief the people have in it but it’s about much more than this. The characters drive the narrative of this long running television series adored by so many of the country’s population. In Mexico it would be a beloved telenovela. In the US it would be a primetime soap opera like Santa Barbara but with political aspects. In the show, viewer’s see a daughter-in-law opposing her husband’s parents and in the next scene, a kindergarten is built to enrich the lives of families. The plot is a complex set of interwoven stories, which is exactly the reason it has become so beloved. There’s always a topic to discuss, to argue about, and to agree on with Three Springs and Streams

Producer Yuqi An was there long before Three Springs and Streams ever aired, an event which would not have occurred without her skill and efforts. This TV series faced creative and financing problems in its early stages. During filming, there were issues of how to coordinate a crew of two to three hundred people. As a producer, Yuqi had to ensure that everyone worked in a collaborative and safe environment. Work and play together, as the old adage goes. The show’s large cast (which includes actress Qinqin Li who was awarded Best Supporting Actress at the China Film Media Awards for Ka la shi tiao gou) and multiple plot points means a large crew. With financing in place, Yuqi began the daunting task of assembling the main creative team, director, and various cast members.

  Every production has unique aspects to its process. For Three Springs and Streams this was evident in the early stages of script development. A producer is a problem solver and expert in pragmatism. Making a television series is the fine art of getting the best out of all involved parties while keeping them happy. Yuqi communicates, “In the early stage of script development, we used the real stories written by the party members, cadres, and real villagers, which set the story under a motif as big as the construction of a new socialist countryside. The difficulty with developing such a work, however, stemmed from the fact that our show didn’t derive from any IPs. The challenge of telling a story that is clear and emotionally resonant for the audience had to be built from the ground up. This was a TV drama with a realistic theme; it also had to meet the requirements of reality and artistic value. After several revisions, the TV series was streamlined from thirty-four episodes to twenty-seven episodes. Finally, it was broadcast on the prime time of CCTV’s comprehensive channel.” Producer Yuqi An is proud to have played such a pivotal role in Three Springs and Streams, a show which has brought so much happiness to China’s TV audience.

Writer: Sharon Howe

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