The Art of Feeling a Script

The poetry of Xiao Ji Xiang Tian

Xiao Ji Xiang Tian
China’s most successful screenwriter

Putting pen to paper and writing that one special story that might grip the world can be a powerful impetus to try one’s hand at scriptwriting. It was this attempt that propelled Xiao Ji Xiang Tian to heights he never imagined he would reach.

Touted as China’s most successful screenwriter, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian, supervised and wrote the supernatural suspense drama, The Ferry Man, in 2014. It quickly went on to win the Best Internet Drama Award in the 2014 Internet Drama Research Conference.

The next year, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian supervised and wrote The Ferry Man II. The drama attained 100 million hits over three days, with a final hit rate of 1 billion. In 2016, he supervised and wrote The Ferry Man III and the theatre edition, The Ferry Man:Absolute beauty. It bagged the Best Screenwriter award at The iQiYi Scream Night.

Above all the frenzy and fan screams, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian remains true to his roots as an artist of the human condition. Speaking with iNSiGHTS magazine (ATF), Xiao Ji Xiang Tian describes his work on The Ferry Man in an almost poetic fashion, harkening to legends of the ancient Orient, expressed in classical constitution.


“The writing process is actually not difficult. The difficult part is before the writing begins; the difficulty of finding out that place of emotion. Writing a script for me is like talking about a love relationship. The feelings are abundant. If I don't feel it, then there is no way to start.”
-- Xiao Ji Xiang Tian

Getting in Touch with Self

For Xiao Ji Xiang Tian, a creator across the board is someone who is fatefully trapped in his own life experiences, thinking mode, and social environment. Thus, to declare where inspiration should come from can be difficult to generalize.

“I think every creator should have his own method. My personal life experiences have been relatively simple, so it is important for me to maintain emotional sensitivity.

“Emotions are one of the two most important core aspects of my creation. I think that people without emotions are not established. Works without emotions can only be called commodities, and they are relatively inexpensive.

“The other thing is to focus on the good things. I feel that film and television works must have a sense of responsibility; to give the audience positive energy, pass good things along, and deliver the correct values to the next generation.

“This is the most important facet and the foundation of a good story,” Xiao Ji Xiang Tian so eloquently explained.

And so, The Ferry Man itself did not take any incidences from his own life. What Xiao Ji Xiang Tian believes is that while there are no new stories in the world – “we have seen them all in the old stories” – he is more concerned with the method of storytelling.

“Film and television is a ‘transmission’. I am more concerned about the way in which a creator communicates content to the viewers. You can be very rational in creating a very finely-structured content; or completely give it to spirituality, and consider yourself as a pure output medium. I have attempted these methods and I have felt it to be very interesting.”

As well, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian was also quick to articulate that “Film and television dramas are not created by one person and they need the integration of various departments”.

In the end, Xiao Ji Xiang Tian is humbled and feels lucky to have had such success. He credits a single day as the teacher, and life as the father. And of course, he acknowledges his own part in the whole scheme of things.

“One must love oneself before he can love the world.”


The Ferry Man was produced by iQiYi and JianXin Picture (with Zhang Yu Xin as producer and Guo Jing Yu as art director).

Xiao Ji Xiang Tian will be at ATF 2018 as one of the on-stage judges for Mystic Asia, ATF’s exclusive Chinese language pitch. Enter now and catch him there!