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NANNING - It is 3 am and Ngo Linh Chi, from Ho Chi Minh City, is still up watching TV.
The 56-episode Chinese drama Ngo is watching, Lost Love in Times, - starring Cecilia Liu and William Chan - tells the story of a witch, Feng Qingchen, and Yuan Ling, a prince from the Western Wei Dynasty (535-556).
"I watch Chinese TV shows whenever I have spare time," said the 26-year-old Ngo. "I stay up until 3 or 4 am if I don"t have class the next day."
In a studio, Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen is dubbing a Chinese animated program called Little Ji Gong.
Nguyen Thi, 43, has been working as a voice actor for foreign films for 22 years. And since playing her first role in the Chinese drama Qianlong in 2006, she has done voice work for more than 1,000 Chinese films and TV dramas.
In May, Nguyen Thi visited the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in southern China, as she has for the past four years. But this year, she had a friend, Vietnamese actor Nguyen Trong Phan, with her.
Expressing his love for Chinese TV, the actor from Hanoi said: "I have been watching Chinese TV series and films since I was young, and dubbing them for 15 years."
Chinese movies first became popular in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. And in the 1990s, dramas such as Journey to the West and My Fair Princess were engraved in the memories of many Vietnamese.
On his fondness for Chinese dramas, the actor Nguyen, 67, said: "Watching Chinese programs while chatting with family after dinner was the daily routine for our generation."
Agreeing with him, his friend Nguyen Thi added: "I have watched Journey to the West at least six times. And it is still broadcast in Vietnam every summer holiday."
Back then, the dubbing for all characters in a Chinese film or show was done by one person. And it was not until the 1990s that Chinese TV production companies began making Vietnamese-language versions.
Nguyen played Feng Jingyao, a character in Shanghai Bund, a 2006 Chinese TV program. And he said the theme song of the drama was so popular in Vietnam that many couples used it for their wedding ceremonies.
Now, the internet enables many Chinese TV series, such as The Journey of Flower and Once Upon a Time, to be available in Vietnamese shortly after they are released in Chinese. The latter was streamed more than 30 million times on a video-streaming platform in Vietnam, while the former has been adapted as a local series in the Southeast Asian country.
TV has become a cultural ambassador for China in the country.
In the past four years, the provincial TV station of Guangxi, which borders Vietnam, has translated and dubbed more than 130 episodes of Chinese TV series, 196 documentary program episodes and 104 episodes of animated Chinese shows into Vietnamese.
"TV drama is a window into Chinese culture. And Shanghai will definitely be my first destination if I have a chance to travel in China in the future," Nguyen said.
Commenting on the Vietnamese love for Chinese TV programs, Phung Thi Hue, a researcher with the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said: "China and Vietnam share similar cultures. And many of the social issues highlighted in Chinese TV series also resonate with the Vietnamese.
"Also, the passion for Chinese TV dramas has encouraged many Vietnamese to learn Mandarin."
Ngo is among them.
Since falling in love with a Chinese TV program in 2011, she grew interested in Chinese and visited China to learn Mandarin three years ago.
"Many of my classmates decided to learn Mandarin for the same reason. Some even said they are more familiar with Chinese history than our own, because every historical figure in Chinese history can be put into a drama," said Ngo.