Down memory lane

By Xu Lin(China Daily)Updated: 2020-08-27

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Wang Cunjin and his son, Wang Zixuan, are presented with a best performance award at the short video film festival held by videosharing platform Douyin last year, by director Ning Hao (left) and director-actor Xu Zheng (right). [Photo provided to China Daily]

A black-and-white TV set is broadcasting a scene with Monkey King from Journey to the West, a series first aired in the 1980s and adapted from a classical Chinese novel of the same name.

Back then, getting a good TV signal was not always guaranteed and aerials often had to be adjusted by hand to get watchable transmission.

Now the scene is being repeated as we step back in time. Wang Cunjin carefully turns a long pole attached to an old-fashioned TV aerial in the yard and holds it to get a strong and stable signal.

The black-and-white short video showing this long-lost ritual, filmed by Wang, which went viral last summer, is only one of his works that arouse feelings of nostalgia for the 1980s and '90s among Chinese internet users. They comment that these short videos made them "time travel" to the old days.

"It's all about authenticity, so that you can touch the viewers instantly. These videos make them recall their pleasant childhood memories and happiness," says Wang, 36, living in Jining city, Shandong province. He has over 1.27 million fans on short-video platform Kuaishou.

"It's a period when people's material living standards were lower than nowadays, but they knew that happiness was found in contentment and pressures were also lower."

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Wang Cunjin repairs an old-fashioned TV aerial. [Photo provided to China Daily]

His original inspiration was from a visit to a family, when he spotted an old TV aerial. "It suddenly summoned up my childhood memories. I visualized these scenes in my mind, but I had to search online to learn how to edit the video," he says.

In early 2018, he started to post different kinds of short videos, like funny jokes, on Kuaishou, but it's not until the sudden success of the TV tuning video that he decided to make nostalgic content reliving common scenes from the 1980s and '90s.

To create a perfect shooting environment, he rents a house with a yard in a less populated area of the city. He also collects daily use items from the 1980s and '90s from secondhand markets and recycling stations, as well as some pieces from his friends, neighbors and fans.

"Audiences empathize easily with old stuff, such as a cassette recorder," he says.

He, his wife and their 12-year-old son are the lead "actors" in the short videos, with common family scenes from the old days. Wang and his son are always dressed in traditional Chinese tunic suits.

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