New TV series sheds light on life in China’s cities after dark

A recently aired TV program titled Night Dreamer aims delve into the personal and intimate moments that unfold when most of the world is asleep, by inviting celebrities to embark on nocturnal city tours.


Writer Xu Zhiyuan (right) meets Hu Huan, a bookshop owner in Changsha, Hunan province, in the program Night Dreamers. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

January 10, 2024

BEIJING – Vincent van Gogh once provided a poetic insight into the essence of the night, describing it as “more alive and more richly colored than the day”.

This perspective, viewed through a unique lens, continues to resonate in various forms of artistic expression.

A recently aired TV program titled Night Dreamer aims to not only explore the vibrant nightlife of different cities, but also delve into the personal and intimate moments that unfold when most of the world is asleep, by inviting celebrities to embark on nocturnal city tours.

“The night unlocks inner forces usually restrained by reason in the daytime, fostering a more pronounced release of emotions,” says Wang Shengzhi, the program’s director.

In the seven-episode program, notable personalities, namely, writer Xu Zhiyuan, actress Gao Yuanyuan, singer Hu Xia, anchorwoman Fang Qi, scriptwriter Wang Xiaoshuai and singer-songwriter Lao Lang guide viewers through the intriguing nooks and crannies of cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha in Hunan province, along with Fuzhou and Xiamen in Fujian province.

The first episode follows Xu’s exploration of Changsha, a city blending deep historical roots with modern, trendy vibes.

In the ancient lanes of the city, he visits drummer Wen Feng, who resides amid historical landmarks, and listens to his original compositions. At a quaint bookstore tucked away in an alley, Xu encounters its young owner, Hu Huan, a former teacher who left her job to open the store. Hu enjoys the lively atmosphere of Changsha while finding solace in the tranquility of her bookstore. She has made friends with many interesting individuals, and Xu has the chance to meet some of them. Together, they play mahjong, take a leisurely stroll with a dog and delve into the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

“Such scenes are deeply moving. They get together to create a small yet powerful spiritual community where members recognize and uplift each other. Such connections empower each of them to continue their respective life journeys,” says Xu.

“These communities contribute to the city’s richness and diversity, making it a more vibrant and interconnected place,” he adds.

Along the banks of the Xiangjiang River, a crucial tributary of the Yangtze River that runs through Changsha, Xu met Dong Shuntao, a 66-year-old woman who sells deep-fried stinky tofu during the daytime. As night falls, she takes to the streets as a DJ, providing music for square dance enthusiasts.

During their conversation, Xu discovers that for Dong, who lost her husband, her passion for working as a DJ served as a lifeline, pulling her out of her grief and enabling her to recapture a love for life.

Xu says that wandering through the city and connecting with different people makes him feel at ease. And he hopes to create a program that captures a grander narrative by taking a glimpse into the lives of ordinary individuals.

“A lot of people I know exhibit a distinct shift in their mindset during the night, compared with their daytime demeanor,” says Wang, the director. “During the day, there seems to be a certain restraint among people, as if there’s a wall surrounding them. However, come nightfall, many are eager for that barrier to vanish, craving understanding. I aim to film individuals who resonate with this experience.”

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