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The Story of China airs on PBS

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-20 13:23

The Story of China, a six-part documentary covering 4,000 years of Chinese history and culture, premieres on PBS on Tuesday.

Produced by the Public Broadcasting Service, the six-hour series explores the history of China from its ancient roots to the present day.

"The aim of the series is to provide PBS viewers with an accessible popular overview introduction to Chinese history," said Michael Wood, writer and host of the series, "and meet the people we all should try to know better."

Wood said he got the idea for the series in 2009 and started the filming in November 2013. It was edited in the spring of 2016 and was shown in the UK. He said that over the past year they had done some re-cutting and editing, putting different things in.

On June 13, PBS provided a screening of selected clips at the Asia Society in New York, giving audiences the chance to hear some of the stories behind the series.

The series is chronological, but it begins with the Qing Ming festival — or Tomb-Sweeping Day — as a family surnamed Qin goes to Wuxi, a city in southeastern China's Jiangsu province, to offer sacrifices to their ancestors. "I wanted to begin with the living culture," Wood said.

Wood had a broad pallet of locations to choose from. "Obviously, if you do a story of China, you have to film in Beijing, Nanjing and Xi'an," he said, "but we went to a lot of other places as well — Yangzhou, Huizhou, Suzhou, Shaoxing, Guangdong, Qufu, many different places."

Wood said they focused on individuals in rural villages as well as the big cities. "It's not only the big story, but some small stories as well," he said.

"The phenomenon of change in China is so significant as to make a new era in the history of the world," Wood said.

"I spent 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 thinking about China, traveling China, talking to Chinese people," he said. "I travelled a lot in China at an earlier time, and there's a big change between the 1980s and now."

When he first traveled there, Wood said, it was a difficult time for the Chinese people. "But even so, the people were fantastic, very welcoming, very hospitable, very sociable. I really enjoy being in China with Chinese people."

The documentary witnesses these changes, and much more profound than that.

The thing that Wood wants the audience to take away from the series is the "sense of warmth of the Chinese people."

The screening was a success. "I just want to see more," said Janet Ross, philanthropist Arthur Ross's wife. "I want to learn much more."

Wood said the reception in the UK was good too. "Audiences really liked it," he said. "So many people said they just didn't know about Chinese history, culture, and this gives them some sense of it."

The series was also well received in China. "Xinhua said the film transcended barriers of ethnicity and language, and created something very powerful and moving," Wood said.

Xiao Jiaqiao in New York contributed to this story.


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