Spiraling Down to Disaster

Maybe it is a personal genetic disorder, or maybe it is a reflection of the times in which we live, but I find tales where situations descend through bad to much worse to be quite compelling – if they are well made. And Chinese producers seem to have mastered that genre, which brings us to “Burning Ice”, set in the unfashionable, somewhat run-down, cold North East of China.

Chinese stories frequently include as elements the primacy of family & family obligations and the surprisingly high cost of medical treatment in that Communist country. “Burning Ice” ticks those boxes with a key character in the intricate plot being a beautiful young woman who makes the self-sacrificing decision to become the mistress of a corrupt married businessman in order to pay for her brother’s hospital bills.

That arrangement goes south when the corrupt businessman is murdered by a mysterious serial killer known as the Snowman because of his penchant for tying his victims to snowmen. With her husband dead, the businessman’s vengeful wife is then free to hire a sketchy lawyer to make the young woman’s life a misery.

A sympathetic junior lawyer in the office tries to help the young woman by putting her in touch with a thug with major underworld connections, in the hope that the thug might be able to frighten the vengeful wife into backing off. However, he was unaware the police suspect the thug in the Snowman serial killer case. In this spiral towards disaster, the thug quite predictably lures the beautiful young woman to an isolated location and tries to rape her. In resisting his attack, the young woman unintentionally kills him – and that is when the situation really starts to go downhill rapidly and the body count climbs along with the plot twists.

For afficionados of stories where good intentions lead to disaster, this is a prime series!

Interestingly, the version on iQiYi proudly boasts that the English subtitles were created by Artificial Intelligence. Sadly, this mainly demonstrates the limitations of AI. One example is the given name of the beautiful young woman – Hui-Ru. In Chinese fashion, she is often called by the diminutive Little Ru – “Xiao Ru”. However, “xiao ru” is also Chinese for the comparative expression “as little as”. Confused, the AI sometimes uses “Xiao Ru” in the English subtitles and sometimes inserts “as little as” even when it makes no sense.

Further, a human creating subtitles would recognize that sometimes (but only sometimes) some writing on the screen should be translated for the benefit of the viewer – for example, a name on a gravestone, or a text on a cellphone. However, that is beyond the capabilities of AI. It seems that human translators still have their place.

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One of the ways I like discovering content is through IMDB tags. See, for example, post-apocalyptic films:

Is there anything like this for Chinese content?

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Thanks for pointing out that IMDB search facility, Eggspurt. I had not been aware of it. It looks like the keyword search depends a lot on how whoever entered the data for a particular series chose to do it. For example, a search for “US TV series” turns up 94,991 hits (!); while a search within that for “drama” turns up 0 (!). The corresponding hits for China are a mere 4,824 TV series, but with 838 dramas. Strange!

I am not aware of any similar database specifically for Chinese content. I have mostly been relying on recommendations from various people, publications, and sources. Since the percentage of shows from any country worth watching is a rather low number, I find recommendations are the best way to go.

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