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UK Historian Professor Michael Wood (L) on location for his new six-part BBC2 series 'The Story of China'. [Photo by Gerry Branigan/ Provided to China Daily]
A new six-part television series celebrating stories of China's ancient history has begun showing on the UK's public broadcasting service, BBC Two.
Written and presented by British historian, Professor Michael Wood, 'The Story of China' explores the development of Chinese civilization over more than four thousand years.
"China is the country we all want to know about today, and if you want to understand China you have to know about its history," Wood told China Daily.
"People have such set ideas about China, all you see on the news is high rise, mass industry, Gucci and Armani and yet what you don't realize is the amazing vitality, energy and diversity of the culture, and our job is to try and unfold that."
The six hour series, which took two years to make, takes Wood through some of China's most historic sites, including ruined cities of the Silk Road, desert oases and ancient capitals.
In the first episode, which aired on Thursday night, Wood meets the Qin family in Wuxi who trace their ancestors back to at least 1049.
"The TV audience in the West gets this privilege of being welcomed into a Chinese family before they even set off to think about the history," Wood says.
"Then when you start looking at the history things start coming up that you realize are still alive like family, the rituals and the food."
Throughout his travels, Wood visits temple festivals and ancestral celebrations, traditional storytellers and Buddhist musicians; uncovering some of the most remarkable stories about what makes China what it is today.
"One of the themes is how the Chinese, who invented so many things, teases a Western audience with the idea they invented football," Wood says.
"We have a bit of fun with that and we go to the crunch Premier League match of the season in Beijing."
'The Story of China' series debuted just six months after a ground-breaking three-part documentary on Chinese education which sparked a heated debate in China and the UK.
'Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School', which aired on the BBC last August, put 50 students from Bohunt School in Hampshire, southern England through their paces by being taught by five Chinese teachers in the Chinese way for a month.
Pupils were required to wear a special uniform, start school at 7 am, clean their own classrooms and focus on note-taking and repetition – a stark contrast to what they were used to.
The first episode was watched by 1.8 million viewers in the UK, almost ten percent of that evening's TV audience.