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The Greed of Man

The Greed of Man (Traditional Chinese: 大時代, "Great Era") was a Drama Series that was broadcast by TVB in Hong Kong during 1993. It is extremely controversial for its depiction of violence and is well remembered for its effects of the stock market in general, known as the Ding Hai Effect.

The entire series took place in the form of a continuing flashback.

Characters

The Ting Family

  • Ting Hai (played by Adam Cheng- A self-righteous brute who killed his best friend, Fong Chun Sun, with a single blow. He struck it rich in stocks due to sheer dumb luck in a bear market, but was eventually defeated by Fong Chun Sun's son, Fong Chin Bok, who engaged him in a 'battle of luck'.
  • Ting Hou Hai(played by David Siu Chung Hing)- The oldest son in the family, he is the head of a Hong Kong Triad. Initially considered the most compassionate son, and initial love interest of Fong Ting; eventually he becomes as cold and ruthless as his brothers.
  • Ting Yik Hai (played by Michael Tao Dai Yu)- The second oldest son in the family, he is a cruel, vulgar, and unforgiving member of his brother Hou Hai's triad squad.
  • Ting Wong Hai (played by Ng Kai Ming)- the third son, a lawyer who displayed none of his profession's required ethical scruples.
  • Ting Lei Hai (played by Derek Kwok Jing Hung),the youngest son, an unethical doctor who sells drugs to patients.

The Fong Family

  • Fong Chun Sun (played by Damian Lau)- A premier Chinese stockbroker, who initially tried to clean up the corrupt stock market headed by Chen Man Yien. Chun Sum later suffered from brain damage after been injured by Ting Hai (originally his best friend) over a woman. He was later killed by him as well.
  • Fong Chin Bok (played by Lau Cheng Wan)- Son of Fong Chun Sun who enjoyed a privilleged childhood. He was driven into despair and laziness by the death of his father and this family's fall into poverty. With the help of two extraordinarily women who loved him (for god knows what reason), the tutelage of his father's former righthand man, and Chen To-To (a young US-trained investment banker) he eventually fulfilled his destiny of defeating the Tings and his father's business enemy Chen Man Yien (who was also Chen To-To's estranged father) in several epic stock market battles. The price of success was high. He was the sole survivor of his family after everyone else were killed by the Tings one by one. The last 10 episodes of the series told how he re-paid them.
  • Fong Fun (played by Ng Wing Hung)- The eldest daughter in the family. Emotional but clear-minded, Fun was the most 'ordinary' of the siblings. She was the ordinary girl over-taken and overwhelmed by events far bigger then herself. She was clear-minded enough to see her approaching doom but was helpless to avoid it.
  • Fong Ting (played by Loletta Lee)- The second daughter of the family who has beauty and enough smarts to make a good life for herself. Unfortunately, like a moth drawn to the flame, she fell in love with Ting Hou Hai, the son of her father's killer. She realized her error and tried to break off with Ting Hou Hai but could not escape its consequence. This relationship inadvetently set off a chain of events which destroyed her and her family. Her tragedy was she always had a choice as she was hired by stockbroker Chen To-To who also fell for her. When Ting Hai was released from jail and returned to Hong Kong, she tried to do the right thing but was consumed by the subsequent show-down between both families.
  • Fong Mun (played by Yang Ling)- The baby of the family, she was the brightest and most innocent of the lot. She committed suicide by jumping off a high-rise flat after being raped by Ting Yik Hai, who promptly had the incident publicized.

Other characters

  • Lo Wei Ling (played by Lam Kit Ying, also known as (Yammie Lam)- Initially, she was Ding Hai's girlfriend. She sought protection from Fong Chun Sun after she discovers Ding Hai's brutal ways. Sun and her fell in love and Sun was on his way to propose to her after defeating Chan Man Yin when he was crippled by Ding Hai. After Sun's death, she became the a surrogate mother to his children bringing them up to the best of her limited abilities. She was eventually driven insane by the destruction of her family and later killed in a confrontation with Ding Hai. In a case of life imitating art, the actress who played this character became known in the years following this series for her repeated mental problems. It was speculated that she could not get out of character.
  • Yuen Mui (also known as "The Thrifty Girl", played by Vivian Chow)- One of Fong Chin Bok's two love interests. Playing a miser to the extreme, she was the "comic relief" in a very dark story-line. A neighbor of the Fongs, she was witness to their joys and tribulations and was drawn into their conflict as her relationship with Bok developed. After the destruction of the Fong family, she was instrumental in finding Bok, helping him regain his footing, and ultimately preserving his life by getting Chou Jai Sun to protect Bok, albeit by proxy. Yuen Mui did all this just by being her sweet, down-to-earth, pure, and faithful (albeit miserly) character. Vivian Chow played Yuen Mui so convincingly, that she almost stole the show. Almost every man who watched the series had a crush on her and she gained undying fame for this part to this day. Unfortunately, Yuen Mui was born with a congenital heart defect and eventually died in Bok's arms as they were planning the future together during the final minutes of the series finale.
  • Long Kei Mun (played by Amy Kwok Oi Ming)- One of the 23 children of Long Shing Bong, a corrupt former police officer in Hong Kong. She met with Fong Chin Bok by chance, and fell in love with him. Bok did not let on whether Kei Mun or Yuen Mui was his true love until almost at the end of the series and the love triangle between them was a major sub-plot. Kei Mun was emotional, implusive, educated, and smart - a clear contrast to Yuen Mui. However, both ladies were close friends in spite of (or because of) vying for Bok's affection. Together both fought to save Bok's life. To get her father to intervene on Bok's behalf, Mun swore to heaven that she would leave Bok for good and stayed to look after her father failing which she would be alone for the rest of her life. Her father intervened and Bok was saved. But encouraged by her father who did not want to see her misearble, she broke the promise. At the end of the series, she was left all alone by herself when Bok chose Yuen Mui and Bok's victory caused her father's death - her vow to heaven was fullfilled.
  • Long Shing Bong (played by Kenneth Tsang)- A corrupt former Chief of (Chinese) Police who escaped to Taiwan in the 1973 to avoid charges. While in power, he tried to bring Fong Chun Sun under his power by forcing Sun to launder money for him. Sun used the money to help honest businessmen and to finance his take-over battle against Chen Man Yien. When his daughter fell in love with Bok, Bong called in all his favors to get the current police chief to protect Fong Chin Bok from certain death in Hong Kong by the Ding family's triads. Ironically, Bong died from a heart attack brought on by Bok losing all his money in the final stock market battle with the Tings.
  • Chou Jai Sun (played by Liu Kang)- A drug cartel chief, triad elder, and close ally of Long Shing Bong. He escaped to Taiwan together with Long Shing Bong when he fell from power. His long dialogue with Long Shing Bong over Bok's fate is widely considered as a piece of classic drama. He initially refused to protect Fong Chin Bok from the Dings' contract because it was predicted that saving Bok's life would cost Jai Sun his own. But Yuen Mui's background and knowledge of Hangchow cuisine so reminded him of his own late wife that he was persuaded to step in. Together with the police, Sun forced the Tings to withdraw their contract on Bok's life. Jai Sun was assisinated by rivals when Bok lost all his money (and therefore power) in the final show-down with the Tings. Hence, the prediction came true.
  • Chen To-To (played by Bowie Lam)- A stock market expert and illegimate son of stock exchange chairman Chen Man Yien. He finally unseated Chen Man Yien with Fong Chin Bok's help in an epic acqusition battle. He had a crush on one of his employees, Fong Ting (Bok's second sister), but he was unable to compete with Ding Hou Hai. Leaving for America for a while, he returned to Hong Kong after the Fong family was murdered and vowed revenge. His first battle with the Ding bloc ended in utter financial ruins, but was employed by Fong Chin Bok after that and together they defeated the Dings once and for all five years later.
  • Yip Tien (played by Law Lok Lum)- An honest stock market guru, he was the right-hand man of Fong Chun Sun during Sun's battle to unseat the corrupt Chen Man Yien in 1973. After Sun's death, he became mentally unbalanced after he indirectly caused his son and grand children's death through a successful stock market battle. He sought out Fong Chin Bok and became his mentor, pasing on all his skills to Bok which enabled Bok and To-To to finally defeat Chen Man Yien. His final "guarantee to win in the stock market" formula (an anagram), which he gave to Bok with his dying breath, became a subplot that lasts until the end of the series.
  • Chen Man Yien (played by Kwong Knai)- The first chairman of the Asian Stock Exchange, was utterly corrupt and ruthless. He was the estranged father of Chen To-To. To clean up the corruption, Fong Chun Sun defeated him in a take-over battle 1973 but was crippled by Ding Hai before the task was completed. Fong's son Bok and To-To later defeated Man Yien again 14 years later and he was subsequently imprisoned on corruption charges. His insulting remarks to Ding Hai was somehow interpreted as valuable tips by Ding Hai himself, and transformed Ding Hai into a billionaire. Chen hung himself in jail when his remaining fortune was wiped out in the final show-down between Bok and the Tings.

Synopsis

The show is revolved around the intertwined fate of the Fong and Ting families whose heads were childhood friends. The Ting family was headed by Ting Hai (Traditional Chinese: 丁蟹), played by Adam Cheng who was a stubborn, uneducated, and pathologically self-righteous person. The Fong family was headed by Fong Chun Sun (played by Damian Lau), who was an educated, cultured, honest, and rich stock broker. Evenetually, they both fell in love with Lo Wei Ling and Ting crippled Fong in a fight. Hai finished off Sun a short time later while attempting to apologize to Sun for hurting him! Fleeing to Taiwan, he murdered someone else and was jailed there for fourteen years, though his four sons managed to grow powerful in the underworld during his absence.

After Sun's death, the story centered on the redemption and ascendancy of his son, Fong Chin Bok (played by Lau Cheng Wan), who struggled to climb out of hopelessness and despair. Just as the Bok's life started looking up, Ting Hai returned to Hong Kong even though he was still wanted for Sun's murder. He tried to meet Lo Wei Ling which led to his arrest and trial for the murder of Sun. Despite the repeated intimidations from gangters led by his Ting's sons, the Fong family secured the conviction of Ting Hai for their father's murder 14 years ago in no small part due to the grit and leadership of Bok.

In retaliation, Ting Hai's four sons ordered the death of the entire Fong family. Bok survived the asssination by sheer luck and disappeared. Ling became mentally unstable after witnessing the murder of her whole family and was institutionalized. Ting's sons later secure Hai's release from prison through bribery and by sheer dumb luck, Hai managed to become extremely wealthy through speculating on futures in the stock market.

In the meantime, Bok who had fled to Taiwan slowly rebuilt his life as a hawker and speculating in the stock market. With the help of his two girlfriends, he won a fortune from the share market and returned to Hong Kong with revenge in his heart. He sprung Ling from the mental hospital but she was killed in a confrontation with Ting Hai when he went looking for her. Bok's life hung in the balance until his safety was secured by the combined intervention of the police and the underworld forcing the Ting brothers to back down. Bok finally had the space to build his business and he eventually took on Ting and his four sons in an epic stock-market battle. The final showdown, inspired by the Persian Gulf War in 1991, had the Tings and Bok betting against their entire fortunes (and lives) in a winner-take-all, last man standing stock market battle. The Tings were financed by criminal syndicates, while Bok enlisted three of Hong Kong's wealthiest tycoons (whose fledging financial empires were nurtured by his father all those years ago and therefore owed him a favor) to help shift the market's direction to Bok's favor. As the Tings betted the wrong way on the stock market (which shot up 4,000 points when war broke out), their fortune was wiped out and they were tens of billions in debt. Since they had embezzled money from other crime lords to finance their 'sure' bet, the Tings were doomed. The Tings jumped to their deaths from the top of the stock exchange building rather than faced the more gruesome ends awaiting them. Ting Hai survived (again by luck) and spent the rest of his days in jail on fearing the crime lords would catch up with him.

The show, which is centered around the bustling stock market during the early 1990s, has been studied by international stock brokers for its peculiar effect on the global stock market trend. It is said that every time an Adam Cheng series is aired on TV, the stock market would inexplicalby dropped. The effect, known as the Ding Hai Effect, is a hot topic among stock brokers in general.

Stock Market Tip

In the middle of the series, Fon Chin Bok received a prophetic "Tip for Stock Market Invincibility" from his mentor, Yip Tien, who has since turned mentally unstable. The words were at first arranged in an incoherent manner, and it was not decipherable. Not until the end of the series did viewers, and Bok, notice what the tip was.

The original "Tip for Stock Market Invincibility" was re-arranged into a poem and then translated to :
"The original intent of the stock market is to allow a place for people to gather capital, which leads to a prosperous society where everyone gains. However, human instinct tends towards the greedy, and many will go to no end to gain unearned wealth. Thus, a paradise turns into hell, complete with ceaseless violence and killing. Countless people become penniless, even lose their lives. The winners lose all conscience and become inhuman. I have been in the stock market for years, and I have never seen a true winner. A smart person should know that this is a battlefield where no winners will emerge. There is only one way to win: leave the market early."

Controversies

The show was (and still is) the subject of many controversies amongst Hong Kong people. Indeed, after this series was aired, few (if at all) TV shows made by TVB or ATV featured such extreme plotlines.

Many people believe that the part where Ding Hai's sons had their triad thugs throw Fong Chin Bok's three sisters down to their deaths to be "over the top" and pushing the boundaries of broadcast acceptability. Some also considered this as where the series jumped the shark, as they found it unbelievable that the Ding brothers' triad were so outrageous that even the police could not stop them. Indeed, the personality of Fong Chin Bok did change to that of pursuing outright revenge, while the remaining friendly ties between the Fong and Ding families - including a potential love relationship between Fong Ting and Ding Hao Hai - were severed.

In addition, many believe that the final part of the finale, where Ding Hai pushed his four sons off of the roof of the stock exchange headquarter, was too violent and unacceptable for a TV broadcast. This resulted in complaints made against the TV station to Hong Kong's government broadcast commission.

Also, there are those who pointed out that the stock market portrayed in The Greed of Man does not resemble real-life stock market operations. However, as the show is only meant for pure entertainment, and not for educational purposes, the issue is often dismissed as irrelevant.

Inspirations for Ting Hai

The inspiration for Ting Hai, if there is one, was never revealed. However, two main theories as to his inspiration are touted. These theories were never proven, and will quite likely remain unproven for some time.

Communist China

Some have said that Ting Hai is a hidden reference to the Communist People's Republic of China, for the following reasons

  1. The name "Hai" (蟹) translates to "crab" in English. In Cantonese culture, a crab's movement (sideways) is often portrayed as a sign for unyielding and unreasonable behaviors.
  2. When cooked, a crab turns into a red colour
  3. One big crab (Ting Hai) carrying four tiny crabs (his sons) somewhat resembles the arrangement of the five stars on the flag of the People's Republic of China.

Scarface

Another suggestion is that Ting Hai is based upon Tony Montana in Brian De Palma's Scarface.

Supporters of this theory point to the following similarities:

  1. Both Montana and Ting Hai are hot-headed and dead set on their ways, with no room for reason to prevail.
  2. Both characters believes that they, and they alone, are righteous, even though the other characters, along with most, if not all, of the audience clearly disagrees.
  3. Both characters have a slight sense of morality, refusing to partake in dirty tactics when advised to do so.
  4. Both lack character refinement, and are very obnoxious.
  5. Both lose control of their fortune and empire when it grows too big. Ting Hai's financial backing near the end is relying increasingly on organized crime, which will prove to be a double-edged sword. Tony's business grows so big that he looses control of his money laundering, Manny and associates, his wife, and his own addiction.
  6. Both character's mothers have warned others of their son's ability to wreak much havoc.
  7. Both characters have an amazing amplitude for withstanding pain, and as such, they consequently do not understand the impact on their actions on others.

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