Chinese audiences and actors paid tribute to Yang Jie, the renowned director of the hit TV adaptation of Journey to the West, whose work influenced generations.
Yang died of heart failure on Saturday at the age of 88, Beijing News reported on Monday, citing confirmation from Yang's husband, Wang Chongqiu.
With a tight budget and poor logistical support, Yang and her production team began shooting in 1982. The series was adapted from the classic novel by Wu Cheng'en that fictionalizes the travel adventures of Tang Dynasty (618-907) monk Xuan Zang.
Journey to the West director dies at 88
The TV series became a sensation after it premiered on China Central Television in 1986. It has been rebroadcast more than 3,000 times over the past three decades and watched by audiences from several generations.
In 1988, Yang won best director at the Golden Eagle Awards - the China Television Artists Association's equivalent to the Emmys - for her work on the adaptation, which also won the prize for best long series at the eighth Flying Goddess Awards, China's governmental recognition of excellent TV programs.
Zhang Jinlai, known by his stage name Liu Xiaolingtong, portrayed the popular character Monkey King in the 1986 series. He posted a message on his Sina Weibo account on Monday paying tribute to Yang. His own achievements wouldn't have been possible had there been no Journey to the West, he said.
"The passing of respected director Yang is a sad moment and a big loss for China's television industry. She was not only my teacher in my acting career but a mentor in my life. We will always remember you and wish you a peaceful journey," he said.
Liu Dagang, one of the actors who played Sha Wujing in the series, said he was surprised by the news.
"Last year when I met her, I thought she was physically well. It's too abrupt to accept the fact that she had left us," he said.
On Sina Weibo, the hashtag #director Yang Jie passing away# received condolences from more than 62 million viewers as of Monday afternoon.