Within just five minutes, the extent and scope of Chinese culture is given a vivid presentation in China Bouquet, a bilingual documentary which will be for viewing on several online platforms.
The 20-episode show, a production of China Internet Information Center due to hit the screen in November, zooms in on a glorious civilization that spans 5,000 years. Each episode focuses on a dimension of Chinese arts and culture — one of the most sparkling jewels in this treasure trove — and tells a unique story of China that has been told throughout centuries to provide a panoramic picture of Chinese civilization.
China Bouquet was shot in 4K high resolution, and is narrated with Chinese and English subtitles. It promises to be a visual-and-audio treat, digging into the subjects in terms of history, customs, social life and cultural implications.
The documentary embarks viewers upon a journey transcending time and space to the ruins of Liangzhu City, a UNESCO World Heritage site in East China's Zhejiang province that dated to around 3,300 BC and reveals the early stage of urban civilization, and to the locations of the Maijishan, Dunhuang and Yungang Grottoes, all in North China, which, together with the Longmen Grottoes, are hailed as the 'Four Great Grottoes in China', in testimony to the brilliance of cultural exchanges between China and the world since the Ancient Silk Road.
Through the lens, one would navigate the course of tea and silk rising to two symbolic commodities to represent the Middle Kingdom, in a time when the world trade system was taking shape. Meanwhile one gets to see how these two products have been influencing the day-to-day routines of ordinary Chinese since the ancient times.
Of a variety of works of art being depicted in this series, there are archaic bronze vessels, intricately patterned and offered at ritual ceremonies, which create a weighty and majestic atmosphere; and there are smaller objects such as the purple zisha teapots and chopsticks which embody the wisdom of a quality life.
The production also introduces some of the most intriguing aspects of the Chinese's philosophy of food, for example, one episode talks about how people developed the art of steaming into an integral part of their eating and drinking, and another episode uncovers the secrets behind the idea of traditional Chinese medicine to use the food therapy as an important remedy for diseases, physically and mentally.
China Bouquet builds a connection between the past and the present: it investigates on how cultural traditions and sets of etiquette were created, and have been preserved and revived in modern society, by which the Chinese seeks self-cultivation and self-reflection, as well as a harmony with other living things, the nature and the universe.
The documentary sheds light on the architecture of values and morality built by the Chinese throughout centuries, and in both peaceful time and chaos. It is a celebration of those fine qualities held dear to by generations after generations: hard work, benevolence, inclusiveness and intelligence. It is a key to open the door of the material and spiritual worlds of Chinese people. And it is to evoke in the hearts of people nowadays the feelings of warmth, awe and pride.
In the episode of 'The Oldest Scent in China', viewers will be presented with the making of Huangjiu, literally 'yellow liquor', which is one of the oldest of its kind in the world with a history of over 2,500 years. It is made of rice, grain and millet to thereafter take on a shade of amber, manifesting the smartness of ancient Chinese to utilize the power of nature for an improved material life.
'Chinese Mega Paper' will provide stunning scenes of more than 50 workers in a joint effort to produce a piece of the traditional Xuan Paper which will extend about 11 meters in length. This type of paper with a long history is still widely used, especially by artists of classic Chinese painting and calligraphy, and the episode pays tribute to the craftsmanship which has made the technique a long-standing one.
The idea of sustainability is at the center of 'New Scenes in Yungang', an episode which compares the ways of ancient constructors of Yungang Grottoes and modern builders of Datong of Shanxi province, where Yungang caves are situated, to recycle excess materials.
The great power and mysteries of Kung Fu have fascinated the world, thanks to those action movies starring Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. While the episode 'Redefinition of Kung Fu' will take a down-to-earth approach: it will tell the stories of Kung Fu practitioners from the grass roots, allowing the audience to understand the truth of kung Fu, that is, an accumulation of energies in the passing of time.
The project of China Bouquet was launched with the hopes of communicating the Chinese stories well, making the Chinese voices be heard clearly, and explaining the Chinese characteristics reasonably.
The shooting began in 2019 and it took the crew team some 18 months to complete.
The promotional trailer was rotated on outdoor screens in Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan, Hubei province, during the Spring Festival break earlier this year. It was also on view at the Chinese Culture Palace at the Dubai Expo to reap good reviews.
Jay Xu, the Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, commented that as a short documentary on Chinese history and culture, China Bouquet has a fine quality, and the content is brief and clear.
A member of American Academy of Arts and Science, Xu said the show provides academic insights and meanwhile, are easy to understand for ordinary viewers; and the English narrations and subtitles are precise for international viewers to catch the ideas.
Ren Changzhen the prominent documentary director says the production has achieved excellence in compositions and techniques, and is abundant with scenes and details. She says the topic of saving and not wasting addressed in 'New Scenes in Yungang' is a good one, the reinterpretation of the chopsticks is captivated, the scenes of making the mega paper is astonishing, and the beginning of the Huangjiu chapter is moving deeply.
Meng Jian, vice-chairman of Chinese Collegial Association for Visual Arts and director of Fudan University National Center for Cultural Innovation Research, says that the documentary is giving a multi-layered, multi-facet demonstration of the unique charm of Chinese culture.
In his book The Essence of Chinese Culture, late modern philosopher Liang Shuming wrote that culture is the all of what Chinese people live on. China Bouquet tells a series of stories to reflect the aesthetics, philosophical thinking and ethnics of the great nation. It has put forward a question: What makes China the way it is? And the answer not only lies in the massiveness of classic texts and historic sites but also, in the many aspects of everyday life.
China Bouquet will premiere on Chinafolk.org and Tencent Video, as well as international platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebookon Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from November 7, 2022.The documentary will later be broadcast on other Chinese video-sharing websites, too.