Regionalization of Taiwanese Post-Confucian TV Dramas: A Case Study of Tsai Yueh-hsun’s White Tower and Black & White

  • Jocelyn Yi-hsuan Lai
Part of the Creative Economy book series (CRE)


This essay explores the mediation of ideas and values of Taiwanese film and TV producer-director Tsai Yueh-hsun’s regionally oriented productions, in particular, White Tower and Black & White. Tsai’s career has been conditioned by the globalization and regionalization of film and TV consumption and production in Taiwan. His films and TV productions are not related to Taiwan’s national politics. They are set in non-discernible, hence, denationalized urban societies. They appeal to audiences in both the Taiwanese and East Asian markets, with their post-Confucian presentation of personal and social issues of urban subjects. These productions stage the problems of Confucian patriarchal authority and highlight the significance of democracy in modern capitalistic East Asia. They make use of star power and take advantage of specific national markets at different times (in particular, Taiwan, Japan and China).

Tsai’s earlier works were not approved by Chinese censors smoothly and relied financially on Japanese appreciation of the works. As he started making more adult-oriented dramas that engaged serious political issues, his markets multiplied. Yet these markets lacked consensual (geo-)political viewpoints; thus, Tsai altered the settings of his works to be more conceptual and abstract, so as to appeal to more diverse audiences. He removed the political viewpoint commonly perceived in Taiwan, but not to the agreement of Chinese officialdom in the works.


Black & White Chinese-language film and TV Confucianism Co-production East Asian pop culture ECFA Idol drama Meteor Garden Post-Confucian TV drama Taiwanese film and TV Tsai Yueh-hsun White Tower 


  1. Bai, R. (2015). “Clean up the screen”: Regulating television entertainment in the 2000s. In R. Bai & G. Song (Eds.), Chinese television in the twenty-first century: Entertaining the nation (pp. 69–86). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Black & White to broadcast on China Entertainment Satellite TV before its movie prequel starts shooting (组图:《痞子英雄》华娱开播 电影版开拍在即). (2009, June 24). Sohu (搜狐娱乐). Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  3. BlacknWhitetw. (2013, December 28). 「痞子英雄2」幕後花絮–國際團隊篇 [The making of Black & White 2 – An international team]. YouTube. Retrieved from Accessed 4 Dec 2017.
  4. Chang, Y. K. (1994). Special 301 and Taiwan: A case study of protecting United States intellectual property in foreign countries. Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business, 15(1), 206–230.Google Scholar
  5. Chan, J.M. (陳韜文). (2004). 社會互信與專業主義的貧乏:對台灣大選的觀察 [Short on mutual trust and professionalism: Observations on the presidential race in Taiwan]. Chinese Journal of Communication Research (中華傳播學刊) 5, 11–14.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, H.-c. (陳慧貞). (2005, March 11). 大S仔仔東京掀戰神熱 [Barbie Hsu and Vic Chou generating a craze for Mars in Tokyo]. Dacheng Daily (大成報), p. A3.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, Y.-H. (2008). Looking for Taiwan’s competitive edge: The production and circulation of Taiwanese TV drama. In Y. Zhu, M. Keane, & R. Bai (Eds.), TV drama in China (pp. 175–186). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chen, K.-H. (2010). Asia as method: Toward deimperialization. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. China Entertainment Satellite TV to broadcast Mars: Barbie Hsu and Vic Chou co-star. (华娱卫视首播《战神》 提前看大s和仔仔飙戏). (2005, May 10). Sohu (搜狐娱乐). Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  10. Chu, P.-j. (褚姵君). (2009, April 13). 痞子英雄被批不敢用台灣警徽 [Black and White being criticized for not adopting the official emblems of Taiwanese police forces]. United Daily (聯合報), p. D1.Google Scholar
  11. Chu, P.-j. (褚姵君). (2010, August 20). 劇本趕修送審痞子英雄首部曲大陸改名全面開戰 [Black & White Episode One modifies its title and screenplay to apply for the shooting approval from Chinese government]. United Daily (聯合報), p. C4.Google Scholar
  12. Chua, B. H. (2004). Conceptualizing an East Asian popular culture. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 5(2), 200–221 Retrieved from Scholar
  13. Cremin, S. (2013, March 20). Taiwan cinema: North or south? Film Business Asia. Retrieved from Accessed 22 Feb 2017.
  14. Curtin, M. (2007). Playing to the world’s biggest audience: The globalization of Chinese film and TV. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  15. de Bary, W. T. (1984). Neo-Confucian education and post-Confucian East Asia. Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 37(5), 7–17 Retrieved from Scholar
  16. Deppman, H.-C. (2009). Made in Taiwan: An analysis of Meteor Garden as an East Asian idol drama. In Y. Zhu & C. Berry (Eds.), TV China (pp. 90–110). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dong, Y.-l. (董育麟). (2007, December 5). 蔡岳勳與他夢想的影視101 [Tsai Yueh-hsun and his dream of film and TV 101]. Taiwan Cinema (台灣電影網). Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  18. Fang, N.-h. (方念華) (Presenter), & Tsai, Y.-h. (蔡岳勳) (Guest). (2009, April 4). 偶像劇教父級導演蔡岳勳 [Idol drama’s birthfather director Tsai Yueh-hsun] [TV broadcast]. In N.-h. Fang (方念華) (Producer), 101高峰會 [101 Summit]. Taipei: TVBS.Google Scholar
  19. Feng, C.-s. (馮建三). (1995). 廣電資本運動的政治經濟學:析論1990年代台灣廣電媒體的若干變遷 (The political economy of the movement of broadcasting capitals: Analysis on changes of Taiwan’s broadcasting media in the 1990s). Taiwan Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, Taipei.Google Scholar
  20. Feng, Y.-x. (馮議賢). (2006, March 1). 白色巨塔劇情大綱網友批舔共 [Netizens criticize White Tower for appealing to PRC]. Liberty Times (自由時報), p. D1.Google Scholar
  21. Gao, Q.-x. (高啟翔). (2004). 全球與本土的連結:以文化融合理論檢視台灣「偶像劇」[Hybridization of global-localization nexus: The case of Taiwanese trendy drama]. Master’s thesis, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu.Google Scholar
  22. Hong, X.-y. (洪秀瑛). (2007, September 22). 白色巨塔登陸 [White Tower broadcasting in mainland China]. China Times (中國時報), p. D2.Google Scholar
  23. Huang, Y.-f. (黃玉芳). (2006,September 3). 白色巨塔劇情影射台大? [White Tower alludes to National Taiwan University Hospital?]. United Evening News (聯合晚報), p. 4.Google Scholar
  24. Huang, S.X. (黃識軒). (2011). 登陸准證難產《痞子》試拍130天燒1億 [Black & White Episode One has not obtained the approvals for shooting and screening from Chinese government after 130 days of shooting with the expenditure of NT$ 0.1 billion]. China Times (中國時報), p. D2.Google Scholar
  25. Iwabuchi, K. (2002). Recentering globalization: Popular culture and Japanese transnationalism. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Iwabuchi, K. (Ed.). (2004). Feeling Asian modernities: Transnational consumption of Japanese TV dramas. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Jiang, Z.-l. (江芷稜). (2011, December 19). 《痞子》沒批文兩岸撤資 [Black & White Episode One has not obtained Chinese approval and its funding is withdrawn]. China Times (中國時報), p. D1.Google Scholar
  28. Kim, B.-K. (2008). Between China, America, and North Korea: South Korea’s hedging. In R. S. Ross & Z. Feng (Eds.), China’s ascent: Power, security, and the future of international politics (pp. 191–217). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kuo, D.-w. (2012). Tsai Yueh-hsun and Black & White: Making Hollywood-style blockbusters. Taiwan Panorama, 37(3), 40–49.Google Scholar
  30. Lai, Y.-h. (2016). Articulating East Asia: Inter-Asian packaging of Taiwanese idol drama in the twenty-first century. Dissertation, King’s College London.Google Scholar
  31. Lan, Z.-w. (藍祖蔚). (2009, June 29). 痞子英雄:專訪蔡岳勳 [Black & White: Interview Tsai Yueh-hsun]. 藍色電影夢 [Blue Dreams of Film] [Blog]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  32. Liew, K. K. (2011). Post-Confucian East Asian television dramas: Staging medical politics inside the White Tower. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 14(3), 251–264. Scholar
  33. Lii, D.-T. (1998). A colonized empire: Reflections on the expansion of Hong Kong films in Asian countries. In K.-H. Chen (Ed.), Trajectories: Inter-Asia cultural studies (pp. 122–141). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Lin, E. (2002). You’ve got to have beauty: Angie Chai. Sinorama, 27(9), 90–95.Google Scholar
  35. Lin, M.-r. (林蔓繻). (2006). 從塔底到塔頂:侯文詠談改編《白色巨塔》 [From bottom to top: Hou Wen-yong on adapting White Tower]. 劇作家 [Dramaturgist Quarterly] 2, 18–25.Google Scholar
  36. Lin, Z.-x. (林志勳). (2012, December 3). 李行中斷化療開兩岸合拍片活路 [Li Xing discontinued chemotherapy to find a life line for Taiwanese film industry’s cross-Strait co-productions]. China Times (中國時報), p. D1.Google Scholar
  37. Liu, W. (刘玮). (2005, November 13). 台湾电视金钟奖揭晓《战神》夺电视剧最高奖项 [Mars garnered top award on Taiwanese Golden Bell Awards]. 人民网 [The People’s Net]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  38. Liu, H.-c. (劉現成). (2007). 美國及其電影業介入台灣電影市場的歷史分析 [An historical analysis of the entry of American films into Taiwanese film market]. 電影欣賞學刊 [Film Appreciation Academic Section] 130, 40–46.Google Scholar
  39. Lo, K.-C. (2005). There is no such thing as Asia: Racial particularities in the “Asian” films of Hong Kong and Japan. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, 17(1), 133–158 Retrieved from Scholar
  40. Lo, S.-H. (羅世宏). (2008). 自由報業誰買單?新聞與民主的再思考 [Who pays for free press? Reconsidering media and democracy in Taiwan]. 新聞學研究 [Mass Communication Research] 95, 213–238.Google Scholar
  41. Maple. (2015a, February 3). 叫好不叫座,叫座不叫好:2014國片票房榜看台灣電影的難題 [Critically acclaimed but poor box office, successful box office but poor reviews: The conundrum of Taiwanese filmmaking observed in the 2014 Taiwanese box office]. Punchline [娛樂重擊]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  42. Maple. (2015b, April 30). 出走是為了更好的明天?台灣導演在中國大陸的夢想與賭注 [Leaving home market for a better tomorrow? Taiwanese film directors’ aspirations and bets in mainland China]. Punchline [娛樂重擊]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  43. Nian, C.-y. (粘嫦鈺). (2004, April 7). 偶像劇過剩 製作人唉唉叫 [Producers worrying about the over-supply of idol drama in the market]. United Daily [聯合報], p. D2.Google Scholar
  44. Qiu, L.-l. (邱莉玲). (2012, February 2). 導演蔡岳勳用片子養產業打造夢工場 [Director Tsai Yueh-hsun nurtures the industry and develops a dream factory in Taiwan by making tent-pole films]. Gongshang Times [工商時報], p. D1.Google Scholar
  45. Samuels, M. S. (2012). Banned in China: The vagaries of state censorship. In N. Otmazgin & E. Ben-Ari (Eds.), Popular culture and the state in East and Southeast Asia (pp. 162–176). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  46. Tsai, E., & Shin, H. (2013). Strumming a place of one’s own: Gender, independence and the East Asian pop-rock screen. Popular Music, 32(1), 7–22. Scholar
  47. Tsai Yueh-hsun promoting Black & White Episode One in Japan and planning to have more computer-generated imagery effects in the second prequel. (蔡岳勳赴日宣傳《痞子英雄》擬拍續集玩特效). (2012, August 24). Liberty Times [自由時報]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  48. Wang, Y.-l. (王雅蘭). (2011, December 21). 痞子英雄兩岸合拍可望元月通過 [Black & White Episode One’s PRC co-production approval to be issued in January]. United Daily [聯合報], p. C2.Google Scholar
  49. Wang, Y.-l. (王雅蘭). (2012, September 21). 蔡岳勳獲資金2年衝4部戲 [Tsai Yueh-hsun is funded to produce four works in two years]. United Daily [聯合報]. p. C2.Google Scholar
  50. Wu, S.-r. (吳素柔). (2004, November 16). 日劇白色巨塔叫好叫座 中文版小說將上市 [The Chinese translation of the original novel of Japanese TV drama White Tower to publish]. Epoch Times [大紀元]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  51. Wu, J.-m. (吳介民). (2009). 中國因素與台灣民主 [China factors and Taiwanese democracy]. 思想 [Reflexion] 11, 141–157.Google Scholar
  52. Wu, Y.-l. (吳月玲). (2012, June 29). 做沒有界限的華語電影—專訪電影《痞子英雄》導演蔡岳勳 [Making Chinese-language movies that are not constrained by national boundary: Interview Black & White director Tsai Yueh-hsun]. China Federation of Literary and Art Circles [中國文藝網]. Retrieved from Accessed 4 Dec 2017.
  53. Wu, J.-m. (2015). Taiwan after the colonial century: Bringing China into the foreground. In S.-m. Shih & P.-h. Liao (Eds.), Comparatizng Taiwan (pp. 278–294). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  54. Xi, G.-j. (膝關節). (2012, December 3). 李行導演衝衝衝 [Director Li Xing go go go]. 愛護你的膝關節! [Care for Your Knee!] [Blog]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  55. Yang, W.-j. (杨文杰). (2004, December 22). 周渝民、大S携手《战神》偶像剧可以是“灰色” [Vic Chou and Barbie Hsu co-star in Mars: Taiwanese idol drama can be very dark]. 東方網 [The Eastern Net]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  56. Yang, J.-t. (楊景婷). (2012, December 8). 《陣頭》吸3.1億奪台灣票房王,舒淇《愛》No.2穩坐女神 [Din Tao harvested NT$0.31 billion in Taiwan, Shu Qi’s Love came No.2]. Apple Daily [蘋果日報]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  57. Yang, R.-j., & Xie, M.-f. (楊濡嘉&謝梅芬). (2009,October 18). 痞劇跨國播高市跟著宣傳 [Kaohsiung is highlighted in Black and White’s transnational broadcasting]. United Daily [聯合報], p. A1.Google Scholar
  58. Ye, Y.-x. (葉宜欣). (2004, October 23). 戰神今晚終戰 [Mars comes to an end tonight]. United Daily (聯合報), p. D2.Google Scholar
  59. Ye, Y.-x. (葉宜欣). (2007, April 5). 蔡岳勳白塔攻日海撈四千萬 [Tsai Yueh-hsun’s White Tower receiving NT$40 million from Japan]. Liberty Times [自由時報], p. D5.Google Scholar
  60. Yeh, E. Y.-y. (2006). The disappearing act: Taiwan popular cinema. In A. T. Ciecko (Ed.), Contemporary Asian cinema: Popular culture in a global frame (pp. 156–168). Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  61. Yeh, E. (2014). Bentu: Marketplace and sentiments of contemporary Taiwan cinema. Asian Cinema, 25(1), 7–13 Scholar
  62. Yichuangqingshu. (2016, March 1). 扒扒捧红释小龙郝劭文的导演朱延平之传奇人生 [The legendary life of director Chu Yen-ping who brought fame to Shi Xiao-long and Hao Shao-wen], Sohu [搜狐娱乐]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  63. Yu, H.-h. (Producer), & Tsai, Y.-h. (Director). (2009). Black & White [痞子英雄] [DVD]. Taipei: Prajna Works Entertainment.Google Scholar
  64. Zhang, J.-r. (張嘉容). (2006). 蔡岳勳×于小慧:造夢雙人組 (Tsai Yueh-hsun and Yu Hsiao-hui: Two dream-makers). 誠品好讀 [Eslite Reader] 66, 55–57.Google Scholar
  65. Zhang, S.-t. (张世韬). (2012, July 8). 从魏德圣到蔡岳勋:台湾商业电影的传奇与野心 [From Wei Te-sheng to Tsia Yueh-hsun: The legend and ambition of Taiwanese commercial films], Mtime [时光网]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  66. Zhu, Y. (2008). Television in post-reform China: Serial dramas, Confucian leadership and the global television market. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  67. Zichuan (子川). (2015, May 22). 專訪易智言導演:台灣電影需警惕香港前車之鑒 [Interview Director Yee Chih-yen: Taiwanese film industry must learn from the experience of Hong Kong film industry]. BBC中文網 [BBC Chinese News Website]. Retrieved from Accessed 2 Dec 2017.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyn Yi-hsuan Lai
    • 1
  1. 1.Fujian University of TechnologyFuzhouPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations