Fog City Night Tales

For many years, Chongqing Television has run a program with several episodes a week called ‘Fog City Night Tales,’ or Wuduyehua雾都夜话.

Chinese people nationwide know Chongqing as both ‘Mountain City’ and ‘Fog City.’ Indeed, the low elevation of Sichuan, locked in on all sides by mountain ranges, plus the humidity from its extensive waterways, often combine to produce fog that envelops the city anytime out of the summer.

So it became the title for one of CQTV’s best known exports to the rest of China, Fog City Night Tales, broadcast late in the evenings for a true in name, true in nature piece of entertainment programming.

From the outset, the twenty minute long episodes have always filmed by local amateur performers on an obviously low budget. However, despite the constraints of resources, the TV program does possess a cetain charm that appeals to enough of an audience to keep the show running. That is, the light Chongqing dialect the actors speak, the down-to-earth plots that depict the tough daily rigeurs affecting the less affluent portions of society, the conflict between pre and post Mao era generations, and the portrayal of Chongqing ladies famous for their ‘spicy’ temperaments.

Sometimes, epsiodes are run as a short series based on the same plot, while others are produced individually, so this doesn’t class as a continuous soap opera, a popular format in countries like the UK where Eastenders and Coronation Street have run uninterrupted for many a decade.

For readers unfamiliar with Chongqing and its dialect, you can still take a fairly realistic glance into people’s way of life, society, cuisine, and even famous city locations from time to time.

Unfortunately, there are only Chinese subtitles, making the show a rather incomprehensible for most foreign viewers, but for learners with access to the TV channel or Youku, the actors speak in a light version of Chongqing dialect, where Mandarin speakers can pick up words and turns of phrase, whilst not having to necessarily follow the subtitles all the time.

I came across Wu-du-ye-hua very early into my days in Chongqing, and it certainly helped me come to grips with the local dialect to some extent. Since those early days, I have never watched the program on a regular basis, and barely even watch TV at all nowadays, in fact.

Nevertheless, I would recommend you take a look for yourself. I recorded a twenty minute episode this morning to share with you in this blog post.

In a nutshell, this episode portrays a poor married couple who are considering whether to have a child. The husband, under great pressure from his mother, is keen to have one, but his wife is highly reluctant because of their tight financial situation. Also, her work colleague reminds her every day about the pressure and tribulations of child rearing, that only add to her feelings of reticence.


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