#1 Best Guide: Cantonese Media

Movie clapper board on Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong - Cantonese media Ling app

An avid fan of the films and dramas can never stay away from the vibrant world of Cantonese media! Be it heartwarming movies and thrilling dramas that have you clutching onto the edge of your seat or catchy Cantopop tunes on repeat, Cantonese culture shines through all kinds of media.

In this article, I’ll be offering you a window into the heart and soul of Hong Kong and beyond. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

An image of Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung from In the Mood for Love

#1 Hong Kong Cinema

Did you know? Hong Kong once had the third largest motion picture industry in the world, behind just the USA’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood! It was also the second largest exporter of motion pictures. However, an industry crisis started in the mid-1990s, with Hong Kong’s transfer to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong cinema or Xiānggǎng diànyǐng (香港電影) remains distinctly Cantonese and continues to play an important part on the world cinema stage, significantly promoting Chinese culture and its understanding through its films. This is evident in how Hong Kong’s pop cinema, specifically Hong Kong action cinema starring famous Hong Kong actors like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, has long had a strong cult following.

Cantonese movies, together with the value added of other cultural and creative industries, also contribute to around five percent of Hong Kong’s economy, reflecting just how important Hong Kong cinema is in Cantonese media and its role in the promotion of Chinese culture. Without further ado, here are a few renowned Cantonese movies that you should totally watch. The diversity of Chinese culture remains vibrant and diverse as depicted in these films, showcasing a wide array of traditional Chinese cultural themes that connect audiences worldwide with the rich tapestry of Chinese culture.

1. Kung Fu Hustle (功夫)

Famous Hong Kong filmmaker and former actor Stephen Chow’s masterpiece might just be the epitome of the perfect Cantonese action comedy film. Featuring a tale of hidden kung fu masters outsmarting petty criminals trying to scam the residents of a slum, coupled with special effects and well-choreographed fight sequences, there’s no doubt that this classic Cantonese movie is one of the greatest of all time.

2. In The Mood For Love (花樣年華)

Famous Hong Kong filmmaker and director Wong Kar-wai’s romantic drama – called Huāyàng niánhuá – is so powerfully heartwarming that it’s universally considered as one of the best movies of all time. The electrifying chemistry between the lead actors, famous Hong Kong stars Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, perfectly encapsulates the touching story of a man and a woman dancing around their feelings for each other after discovering their spouses’ illicit love affair. Their actions speak louder than words in this romantic film about a romance that tragically never quite comes into fruition.

3. Ip Man (葉問)

This biographical martial arts film series follows the life of Ip Man, a grandmaster of Wing Chun martial arts or Yongchun (詠春) and the eventual teacher of Bruce Lee. Famous Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen stars as the titular character battling the circumstances of the Sino-Japanese War while living in his birthplace Foshan (佛山市). Ip Man wields his formidable prowess in martial arts, which strongly contrasts against his gentle soul, as he clashes with menacing Japanese soldiers throughout the film.

An image of a Hong Kong drama TV series

#2 Hong Kong Cantonese Dramas

Hong Kong television dramas or Xiānggǎng diànshìjù (香港電視劇) are produced mainly by the territory’s two free-to-air TV networks: Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) or Diànshì guǎngbò yǒuxiàn gōngsī (電視廣播有限公司) and Asia Television (ATV) or Yàzhōu diànshì yǒuxiàn gōngsī (亞洲電視有限公司). The Cantonese dramas made by these two networks have undoubtedly helped contribute to a cultural identity that is uniquely Hong Kong and tailor-made for the Cantonese Chinese-speaking community all around the world, playing a significant role in constructing Chinese cultural identity among viewers.

By the 1980s, Cantonese dramas had emerged as a Hong Kong cultural icon throughout East and Southeast Asia. Moreover, the success of the Hong Kong television industry later served as a major influence for Mainland Chinese television, as well as for the Taiwanese and South Korean television industries. These dramas not only entertain but also enhance Chinese cultural identification within the global Cantonese-speaking community by reflecting and reinforcing cultural values and norms. Without further ado, here are a few renowned Cantonese dramas you should check out.

The importance of Cantonese dramas in maintaining cultural identification for overseas Chinese cannot be overstated. They serve as a vital link to heritage and tradition, fostering a sense of belonging and community among ethnic Chinese living abroad.

1. Police Cadet (新紮師兄)

This action Cantonese drama – Xīn zā shīxiōng – revolves around a group of young police cadets as they learn the ropes of their job and navigate their way through their training. Led by a star-studded cast, including Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, and Sean Lau, this drama features a plethora of not just action, but also romance, jealousy, and tragedy amidst fighting crime and seeking justice. 

2. Line Walker (使徒行者系列)

This 2014 Cantonese crime thriller – called Shǐtú xíngzhě xìliè in Cantonese – is so successful and popular that it was followed up with sequels in 2017 and 2020. Filled with shocking plot twists, intense fight scenes, and even heartfelt scenes that might just make you shed a tear or two, this series is a must-watch. Moreover, the star-studded cast of Michael Miu, Raymond Lam, and Charmaine Sheh makes the series even more appealing. 

3. Triumphs In The Skies (衝上雲霄)

The Cantonese romantic drama, Chōng shàng yúnxiāo, features, quite literally, the ups and downs of working in the aviation industry. Aside from a rather detailed glimpse into the aviation industry, be it the pilots in the sky or the ground control staff on the runway, this drama also depicts complicated love triangles and situation ships that make it an absolute must-watch.

An image of the four heavenly kings of Cantopop

#3 Hong Kong Cantopop

Cantopop, pronounced as Yuèyǔ liúxíng yīnyuè (粵語流行音樂), started in the 1970s and reached the height of its popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. Written in standard Chinese and sung in Chinese, Cantopop is prevalent in East and Southeast Asian countries like Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and more. Its appeal to ethnic Chinese globally has played a significant role in connecting them, fostering a sense of belonging and cultural affinity across borders.

Aside from being influenced by Western pop music, Cantopop also takes inspiration from other international genres, such as jazz, rock and roll, R&B, and more. Songs typically feature one singer, sometimes accompanied by a band, along with instruments such as a piano, drum set, and guitar. And one interesting fact would be that pretty much all early Cantopop songs feature a descending bassline!

Through its widespread popularity, Cantopop contributes to the global Chinese cultural community, enhancing the cultural identity and emotional connection among overseas Chinese. It plays a crucial role in constructing a transnational Chinese cultural community, linking Chinese cultural memory and identity across time and space.

Four prominent singers stand out amidst numerous Cantopop acts. Dubbed the “Four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop”, famous Hong Kong pop stars Andy Lau, Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok, and Jacky Cheung undoubtedly rule the Cantonese music scene with their catchy tunes and devoted fanbases. Now, without further ado, here are some Cantopop songs you should add to your playlist.

1. The Days We Spent Together (一起走過的日子)

This Andy Lau classic topped the Hong Kong music charts when it was first released. It is pronounced as Yīqǐ zǒuguò de rìzi. It was so popular that it was put on repeat in not just Hong Kong, but all over different parts of Asia. As a result, this song emerged as one of Andy Lau’s most famous songs. Featuring a melodic erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument, and the contemporary sound of 90s pop music, it’s clear why this song is pretty much regarded as the national anthem of Cantopop. If you like to memorize more Cantonese instruments, then you can spot them in some of the scenes!

2. Glorious Years (光輝歲月)

This legendary Cantopop cult classic – Guānghuī suìyuè – pays tribute to someone you might not expect – Nelson Mandela, the beloved South African revolutionary leader! The song praises the former, his love for his people, and his dedication to fighting for humanity. This song rose to fame almost immediately at its release in 1990 and soon dominated the Cantopop scene. It’s become a song representing Hong Kong’s socio-political aspirations ever since.

3. From The Heart Of A Loafer (浪子心聲)

Beloved Cantopop singer Sam Hui’s heartwarming song (Làngzǐ xīnshēng) is endearingly dubbed the ‘God of Songs.’ Released in 1976, the lyrics reflect the sentiments of many Hong Kongers during this period, when the city was still recovering from the war, and many people were struggling to make ends meet. This song has since come to encapsulate a special meaning close to the heart of older generation Hong Kongers who have experienced this difficult period in life.

How Do You Say Media In Cantonese?

The word “media” is known as Méitǐ and written as 媒體.

Easy Phrases For Cantonese Media

Now that you’ve learned about Cantonese media, it’s time for you to get to know more about the Cantonese language. Here are some simple conversational Cantonese phrases related to Cantonese media.

English TranslationCantonese PhrasePronunciation
I want to watch Cantonese movies.我想看廣東話電影。ngo5 soeng2 hon3 gwong2 dung1 waa2 din6 jing2.
Which Cantonese drama do you recommend?你推薦咩廣東話劇集?nei5 teoi1 cin1 me1 gwong2 dung1 waa2 kek6 zap6?
What is a popular Cantopop song?有冇流行廣東歌推介?jau5 mou5 lau4 hang4 gwong2 dung1 go1 teoi1 gaai3?
I want to know about Cantonese media.我想知道有關廣東話嘅媒體。ngo5 soeng2 zi1 dou6 jau5 gwaan1 gwong2 dung1 waa2 ge3 mui4 tai2
What is interesting about Cantonese media?廣東話嘅媒體有咩有趣嘅地方?gwong2 dung1 waa2 ge3 mui4 tai2 jau5 me1 jau5 keoi3 ge3 dei6 fong1?

Frequently Asked Questions About Cantonese Media

What Is The Hong Kong Film Industry Called?

The Hong Kong film industry is called Cantowood, similar to Hollywood (American cinema) in the USA and Bollywood (Hindi cinema) in India.

What Country Is Cantonese From?

Generally, Cantonese is the language spoken by the people of Hong Kong as it is the official language there. It is also one of the official languages of Macau. Cantonese is the lingua franca in Guangdong province, particularly in cities like Guangzhou (Canton), Shenzhen, and other parts of the Pearl River Delta.

Does Cantonese Have 6 Or 9 Tones?

Cantonese has six tones, and each tone is numbered from 1 to 6. For instance, the word “media” in Cantonese is 媒體, and its pronunciation is written as mui4 tai2 in the Roman alphabet. It shows the use of two tones in this single term.

Ready To Explore The Cantonese Language Via Media?

There you have it, Cantonese media! Of course, that’s not all to it – there’s also loads of other stuff like Cantonese news, Cantonese podcasts, and more. Nevertheless, I hope you’ve been inspired to find out more about the intriguing world of Hong Kong cinema, television dramas, and Cantopop!

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