When veteran producer Bai Yicong occasionally "clicked" on a fantasy novel online in 2010, he could scarcely have thought that it would one day become one of his biggest-budget productions.
The work of fiction, titled Huangjin Yan, or The Golden Eyes, follows the adventures of a young pawnshop employee, who possesses the power to be able to see the past and future of every object he sees after his eyes are injured by a group of robbers.
Thus the protagonist becomes a legend in the antique world and an easy winner in gambling on stones, the practice of buying a raw rock and then cutting it open, with the hope of it holding some gems.
The story, penned by online writer Tang Yong, better known by his pseudonym Dayan, has accumulated more than 1000 million views since its debut on China's largest internet literature site Qidian in 2010.
"I was deeply attracted by the novel. It has a lot of riveting depictions about underground adventures, enriching my knowledge about antiques," says Bai, sitting in his office located in eastern Beijing.
But at that time, the adaptation rights for the novel were not available, and it wasn't until four years later that Bai managed to acquire the copyright.
Now, the 56-episode online series The Golden Eyes is running on streaming giant iQiyi, and has become one of the most-followed hits on the site, which saw its paid subscribers reaching 87.4 million by the end of 2018.
Led by singer-actor Zhang Yixing, a pop idol followed by over 46 million fans on Sina Weibo, the series also features actress Wang Zixuan, award-winning veteran actor Lee Li-chun and actor Wang Yuexin.
The series has also opened simultaneously in several overseas markets such as Malaysia, Singapore and India, and will be released in Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam in local languages.
For Bai, a veteran producer behind dozens of hits, launching a new project always means starting from zero.