Neha Patil (Editor)

When Heaven Burns

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Genre  Suspense drama
Composer(s)  Paul Wong
Written by  Chow Yuk-ming
Starring  Bowie Lam Moses Chan Charmaine Sheh Maggie Shiu Kenny Wong Elaine Jin Chan Hung-lit Queenie Chu
Opening theme  "天與地" (Heaven and Earth) by Paul Wong
Ending theme  "年少無知" (Youthful Ignorance) by Bowie Lam, Moses Chan and Kenny Wong

When Heaven Burns is a 2011 Hong Kong television serial produced by TVB and starring Bowie Lam, Moses Chan, Charmaine Sheh, Maggie Shiu and Kenny Wong. First revealed during TVB's Sales Presentation 2009 in 2008, filming took place in late 2009 to early 2010, with the first episode airing both in Hong Kong and TVB's overseas affiliates and partners on the 21st of November 2011. On December 27, 2011, the show was blacklisted by the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, making it the first Hong Kong television drama to be censored in Mainland China in more than two decades.


Despite being the second lowest-rated TVB drama of 2011, When Heaven Burns gained a strong cult following online and received critical acclaim in Hong Kong, winning Best Drama at the 2012 TVB Anniversary Awards.

Plot summary

Eighteen years after a tragic event drove them apart four friends reunite, and in coming to understand the strangers that they have become to each other and themselves, remember who they once were.

In their youth Joe (Bowie Lam), Angus (Moses Chan), Ronnie (Kenny Wong) and Ka Ming are good friends and band mates. During a mountaineering trip, the four are stranded on a snow bound mountain and Ka ming dies and gets eaten by the other three. This event has a traumatic effect on them, their friendship, and their friendship with Yan (Charmaine Sheh), Ka Ming's girlfriend, leading the previously close group to go their separate ways and abandon their friendship.

Eighteen years later, Yan remains haunted by the memory of Ka Ming, trying to regain what she had with him in part with her husband and in part with her lover, but finding neither a complete replacement for her lost love breaks with them both. Troubled she loses track of time while alone in the wilderness, sparking a missing persons alert which becomes the catalyst for the four friends to meet again. Though she was Ka Ming's girlfriend all four band mates were in love with her and the three survivors remain in love with her.

Of actions and choices there are consequences and the series ends with the authorities reserving the right to hold some one responsible for the unlicensed festival. The policeman investigating Ka Ming's death predicts that because they have broken a taboo each of the friends will suffer the comeuppance that karma demands, that Joe be imprisoned for financial fraud, that Ronnie be ostracised by his peers and go blind and asks of Angus what his comeuppance will be.

Learning that Yan has decided to leave Hong Kong and that she will no longer see the friends Angus predicts that his punishment will be that he will be lonely for the remainder of his life, never being able to be with the one woman who he has ever loved, the only woman he can ever love. Despite all his protestations that he is no longer a good person and that it is impossible for him to become one again, Joe cancels his contract to have Angus killed, and when faced with the sight of a child possibly being run over instinctively acts to save the child (revealed later to be also named Ka Ming), giving up his life in the process.

Theme songs

The opening and closing theme songs of When Heaven Burns were composed by Paul Wong, formerly of the Hong Kong band Beyond. Paul Wong is the guitarist for both songs and is the vocalist for the opening theme. The closing theme is sung by the three male leads and serves as the reconstructed lost song.

The plot line of a band returning home with one of their member dead has led to comparisons between the fictional band and Beyond.

Censorship in mainland China

On December 27, 2011, with four episodes to go, China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television ordered the sub-licensees to withdraw the video streaming on 11 websites based on the pretext of cannibalism, making When Heaven Burns the first Hong Kong soap opera series to be censored in Mainland China in over two decades. The real-time relay in Guangdong province was unaffected, however, and the remaining episodes were shown on television without hindrance in that province. The underlying reason for this withdrawal was thought to be because of the show's underlying allusions to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and non-mainland China media considered this move as censorship. The storyline and the characters demonstrated similarities to the Tiananmen Square protest. When interviewed by Hong Kong's Apple Daily, the show's screenwriter agreed that the story was inspired by the government crackdown on the student democracy movement.

Awards and nominations

On December 17, 2012, When Heaven Burns won the TVB Anniversary Award for best drama in 2012, the award was a result of a popular vote.

2012 TVB Anniversary Awards

  • Best Drama
  • Nominated - Best Actress (Charmaine Sheh) - Top 5
  • Nominated - My Favourite Female Character (Charmaine Sheh) - Top 10
  • My AOD Favourite Awards 2012

  • Nominated - Best Drama
  • Nominated - Best Actress (Charmaine Sheh) - Top 5
  • Nominated - Top 15 Character (Charmaine Sheh)
  • Nominated - Top 15 Character (Bowie Lam)
  • Nominated - Best Theme Song (年少無知 by Bowie Lam, Moses Chan and Kenny Wong)
  • CASH Golden Sail Music Awards 2012

  • Best Chorus Performance (年少無知 by Bowie Lam, Moses Chan and Kenny Wong)
  • 17th Asian Television Awards 2012

  • Best Actor - Moses Chan
  • Metro Radio Hits Music Awards 2012

  • My Most Appreciated Song (年少無知 by Paul Wong)
  • Ultimate Song Chart Awards 2012

  • WeChat Chit Chat Most Popular Song (年少無知 by Bowie Lam, Moses Chan and Kenny Wong)
  • My Favourite Song (年少無知 by Bowie Lam, Moses Chan and Kenny Wong)
  • RTHK Top 10 Gold Songs Awards 2012

  • Top 10 Gold Songs
  • Nominated - Top 10 Singers (Bowie Lam, Moses Chan and Kenny Wong)
  • References

    When Heaven Burns Wikipedia