Where’s Wang: When The Cranberries Open

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And we are back with “Where’s Wang” in Asia! Where is our special Asian male lead now in East Asia? Well, luckily, we have another Chinese drama, however, not as famous as “My Natasha”!

TV drama poster from nicpic.com

This drama is called 红莓花儿开, Red Berry Blooms, or When the Cranberries Open. It is another historical drama in which came out in 2009, taking place in the 1950s. This time the focus is on Soviet-Sino Relations and a WWAM couple named Shen Yan and Valiya. Valiya’s father was in the Soviet army during WWII and helped Manchuria defeat the Japanese. So, her knowledge of China and love of China in the future is partially because of her father’s influence.

Shen Yan and Valiya meet at Moscow University. He was an exchange student for about a year with some other Chinese students. They were in Moscow University to study aviation, but more specifically, how to make airplanes.

Shen Yan and Valiya, photo from tudou.com

At first, when Valiya and Shen Yan met, their relationship was not good. Valiya hated Shen Yan. And they would play tricks on another. It was because Shen Yan had accidentally run into her when he was jogging. And to make worse, he bumped into her at the hallway at school. Their tricks on another was cute and made you feel like they were going to end up together.

screenshot from a Sina Blogpost

However, while watching the show so far, the Chinese students at Moscow University were discouraged from dating the Russians. I thought this was unfair due to Valiya’s and Shen Yan’s developing relationship. Also, it makes sense. They are only there for a short period of time and would have to return home in the future.

Shen Yan and Valiya sharing a kiss. Photo from tudou.com

When Valiya and Shen Yan started dating, they were in trouble. However, they finally got approved of their relationship. While watching it, you can see their relationship was developing slowly. They were not kissing each other and leaving public displays of affection behind until Shen Yan had to go back to China.

A few episodes later, Valiya and Shen Yan had to separate because he returns to China. Eventually Valiya and some other Russians come to China to help work in the airplane factories.

Although I have enjoyed watching what I have so far of When Cranberries Open, but, there are still some things that bother me with WWAM couples in Chinese dramas.

They’re almost always historical.

Why is that?

Could it be that modern day stereotypes of Western Women are not prevalent in China during the early to mid-20th century?

Also, why always Russian women, Chinese men? Where are our other Europeans? American? Black women, Asian men couples?

Hoping for someday to have more representation, especially in a modern setting for WWAM couples in future Chinese dramas.

So far, some comments from the show:

  • Unlike “My Natasha”, there is no Russian spoken. Therefore, I feel a little strange watching it whenever Russian are speaking Chinese, although their voices are dubbed. There was one point in the show that a Russian was in Songjiang (south of Shanghai, but not part of Shanghai then) getting in an argument with one of the Chinese workers of the factories. The Russian was “speaking” Russian and someone had to translate…but everything was in Chinese!
  • Valiya’s voice is dubbed over. I don’t know the Russian actress’s Chinese level, but it seems unnatural still.
  • I really enjoy that in Moscow University, there were Soviet-Sino propaganda posters. (the internet was  abuzz a few years back about it being of homoerotic tendencies, even though not on purpose, of course). If you’re someone who loves history, then this drama is worth watching.
one propaganda poster featured in the drama. photo from Bing.com


Holly Hollins
Latest posts by Holly Hollins (see all)


  1. It’s quite interesting to read that they were both in school to build airplanes. I’m sure during that time, there were very few women that were enrolled in a program of that sort. It’s great to see how women were marking their place in the world at that time!

    I wonder if the reason for the Russian Woman/Chinese Man pairing is because China wanted to build better relations with Russia therefore, decided to create a drama where both countries were featured. Interesting thought! And yes, definitely we don’t see any European/Black/American couples as featured in the lead roles within these dramas. Would love to see that in the future!

    1. Oh yes, for sure! Women’s roles in China during the 50s were becoming much more important than before the establishment of the PROC. The 50s were a good time for women in China as they were making their way up in politics (but still, not at the Politburo Standing Committee).

      There are a large majority of Chinese women in the show that are involved in politics. I think maybe the next discussion could be on women portrayed in this drama, especially Valiya. Also keeping a closer eye on how people view Shen Yan’s and Valiya’s relationship.

      You know, that could also be it, the 50s as well was a blooming time for the Sino-Soviet relations. And this drama could be a way to positively show that. However, it’s kind of repetitive with the Russian/Chinese WWAM. (I mean, props to any of those couples in real life! But there is a lot of stigma for Russian women in China anyway.)

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