TV Series on Relics Gives Viewers an Easy Way to Understand History

September 9, 2019
Editor: Sandy Zhu

Members of the TV production team and the publishing staff with readers at the book launch in Beijing last month.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Most regular viewers of Chinese television are familiar with this line: "You have received a message from a national treasure, please check." This is because it is the first sentence of every episode of Every Treasure Tells a Story, a hit documentary series which introduces cultural relics of ancient China.

The series, which began airing in 2018, is a big success thanks to its vivid explanations about cultural relics. Namesake books have also recently been published in Chinese, English, French and Spanish by China International Communication Center.

The documentary series is expected to run for four 25-episode seasons, with each five-minute-long episode introducing one cultural relic. Now that the first two seasons have been aired, books related to the series and the relics featured have also been published.

Chen Lujun, the director of the center, says it was an honor to publish this series of books.

According to Chen, the books are loyal to the documentary. The production team tried their best to be faithful to the scenes and language of the documentary. Also, the books have more content than the documentary did.

"Books and documentaries are different kinds of media. When we adapt a documentary into a book, we try to add some background information so that readers can better understand the subject," says Chen.

Chen also says that the cultural relics bore the weight of a rich Chinese culture, which attracted not only the Chinese, but also foreigners. So, the books had also to be published in foreign languages.

New books adapted from the documentary series Every Treasure Tells a Story are published in Chinese and foreign languages.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Speaking about the length of the episodes, Xu Huan, the general director of the documentary series, says: "Although each episode is only five minutes, it is made using skills usually found in blockbusters."

She recalls the difficulties when she and her colleagues tried to select just 100 cultural relics from over 3.8 million, through studies and visits.

So, Xu set a standard for their choices.

"We wanted to tell stories about relics that showed important turning points in Chinese history and represented the creations of a great culture."

After they decided on the specific relics, they still had to read a large number of documents before filming began. Also, they consulted experts in archaeology, the fine arts and photography to find the best way to showcase cultural relics.

It took at least two or three months-sometimes a year-to film one episode, says Xu.

But their efforts have paid off. The first season earned 9.4 points out of 10 on China's most popular film review site Douban, and the second got 9.5.

According to Douban user Xiaowuwu, this documentary series explains the meaning of the cultural relics in an approachable way.

Xu also says that the team used new forms of expression in the documentary series, like cartoons and 3D technology.

"We wanted to enliven the national treasures through new angles, new expressions and attractive stories," she explains.

She adds that the books were a conclusion of the work they had done, and they also inspired her to make the third and fourth seasons as good as possible.

The third season will begin airing in November.

(Source: China Daily)

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