Poster of TV drama "Nirvana in Fire".
A hit mainland period drama is enjoying similar popularity in Taiwan, in the latest example of cross-Strait TV success.
"Nirvana in Fire," or "Lang Ya Bang," a tale of revenge and political struggle among the princes of an ancient Chinese kingdom, has begun airing daily on Taiwan's Chinese Television System (CTS).
Since the first of the 54 episodes was shown on Nov. 3, it has consistently had one of the top three primetime audience ratings in Taiwan. It even maintained that success rate on Tuesday and Wednesday, when it went up against live baseball matches involving a team representing the island.
"We expect the audience rating to continue to soar as the storyline unfolds," CTS chairman Frank Teng told Xinhua.
Such crossover successes are quite few and far between. The last was "Empresses in the Palace" in 2012, which not only earned high audience ratings on its premiere in Taiwan but has been rerun several times by Taiwanese channels.
CTS normally puts on four or five mainland TV dramas a year, said Teng, whose network approached the producer of "Nirvana in Fire" even before its debut in the mainland.
It began airing in Taiwan about two weeks after the last episode was shown in the mainland.
Many Taiwanese have already watched the whole of the drama online, and they have been busy discussing it on social media.
Taiwanese Twitter user "@RingDarkness_TW," for example, complained that the CTS trailers for the show failed to show how good it was.
Taiwan exported many TV dramas to the mainland in the 1980s and 1990s. The trade has reversed since then, as the quality of mainland programs caught up.
Teng said many Taiwanese TV stations have stopped producing period dramas because of the cost of costumes and settings, and the increasing difficulty of finding shooting locations on the much-modernized island.
Mainland productions have filled the gaps.
Cross-Strait interaction in the TV industry goes beyond buying and selling. Many Taiwanese actors, screenwriters and directors have developed successful careers across the Strait. One of the main characters in "Nirvana in Fire" was played by an Taiwanese actor.
Period shows have been more successful in crossover than ones set in modern times because they are more socially and politically compatible.
"People across the Strait share similar views on ancient China and history. We indeed have the same ancestors and traditions," Teng said.
Mismatches become more obvious when programs cover goings-on after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, when exchanges between the two sides stalled.
"The differences are about accents and language but also about social context. People need to be able to relate to contemporary dramas and feel included. That's where mainland productions are less appealing," according to Teng.
The two sides of the Strait resumed business and personnel exchanges in the late 1980s but free travel for ordinary people remained difficult. Bans on direct flights, mail and trade were only lifted about seven years ago.
It has been almost a week since the leaders on the two sides of the Strait met for the first time in 66 years.