History

Story of China

Travel from the Silk Road to the Yellow Sea with host Michael Wood as he explores the history of the world’s newest superpower. A thrilling and moving epic of the world’s oldest continuous state with the landscapes, peoples, and stories that made today’s China.

The Last Empire

55m 48s

In the 18th century China was the biggest economy in the world, and with that prosperity came a fabulously rich culture. From China's favourite novel, to opera and storytelling houses, and all-women's mosques, it's an age full of surprises. But then came the fateful clash with the British in the First Opium War, the beginning of the end of the empire.

Episodes

  • The Age of Revolution: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Age of Revolution

    S1 E6 - 55m 18s

    Michael Wood visits Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel, jewel of the Jazz age, and follows Mao on the Long March to Yan'an, the base of the communist revolution. He meets a survivor of the Japanese massacre of Nanjing, describes the communist victory, and ends with Mao's death and the boom time of the last thirty years. The series ends as it began at home with the warmth of the Chinese family.

  • The Last Empire: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Last Empire

    S1 E5 - 55m 48s

    In the 18th century China was the biggest economy in the world, and with that prosperity came a fabulously rich culture. From China's favourite novel, to opera and storytelling houses, and all-women's mosques, it's an age full of surprises. But then came the fateful clash with the British in the First Opium War, the beginning of the end of the empire.

  • The Ming: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Ming

    S1 E4 - 56m 48s

    In Nanjing Michael Wood sees the building of a huge replica of a Ming ocean-going junk. In Suzhou the 'Venice of China', he explores the silk industry, ceramics and lacquer-making, and visits one of China's most beautiful gardens. Then in Macao, the arrival of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci begins China's fateful modern exchanges with the West.

  • Golden Age: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Golden Age

    S1 E3 - 55m 18s

    In the alleys of Kaifeng, the world's greatest city before the 19th century, Michael Wood hears legends, samples the cuisine and explores printing. We see a huge working replica of an astronomical clock made by 'China's Leonardo da Vinci', one of the inventions that made the Song a great era of science. And at a crunch Chinese Premier League match, we learn that the Chinese even invented soccer!

  • Silk Roads and China Ships: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Silk Roads and China Ships

    S1 E2 - 57m 33s

    From picturesque old cities on the Yellow River he travels to the bazaars of the Silk Road in Central Asia, and on to India in the footsteps of the Chinese monk who brought Buddhist texts to China. He uncovers the coming of Christianity, sails the Grand Canal, and tracks the spread of Chinese culture across East Asia, an influence 'as profound as Rome on the Latin West'.

  • Ancestors: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Ancestors

    S1 E1 - 55m 18s

    Starting with a family reunion, when 300 relatives gather to worship their ancestors on 'Tomb Sweeping Day,' Michael explores ancient myths and archaeological sites to uncover the origins of the Chinese state; he examines the first Chinese writing, and tells the dramatic tale of the bloodthirsty First Emperor, before an amazing climax with a million pilgrims at a festival on the Yellow River.

Extras + Features

  • "Why Can't Women Be Heroes Too?": asset-mezzanine-16x9

    "Why Can't Women Be Heroes Too?"

    S1 E6 - 1m 44s

    Michael Wood visits the monument to Qiu Jin in Shaoxing. This feminist poet and political activist founded a radical journal for women's voices and campaigned for the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of a republic. She was executed in the middle of her home town. Local women in the street enthusiastically and movingly explain to Michael why she is still a hero today.

  • The First Meeting of the Chinese Communist Party: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The First Meeting of the Chinese Communist Party

    S1 E6 - 2m 50s

    Michael Wood visits the room in Shanghai where the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party took place in 1921. Among the twelve delegates (from only fifty-seven members!) was the young Mao Zedong, the future Chairman Mao. Meanwhile, outside in Shanghai. the Jazz Age was in full swing. Michael takes tea in the fabulous Peninsula Hotel, one of the centers of Westernization in 1920's China.

  • The Last Communist Collective in China

    S1 E6 - 2m 37s

    The age of communism is over now in today's free market China, even though the Communist Party still runs the country as a one party state. Now there's just one place which is still communist in a sea of capitalism. Michael visits this strange throwback in rural Henan, where they still sing, "The East is Red" before work, and where pictures of Mao, Stalin, and Lenin still adorn the town square!

  • Preview: The Age of Revolution (Episode 6): asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Preview: The Age of Revolution (Episode 6)

    S1 E6 - 30s

    Survey the three great revolutions that gave birth to today’s China. Wood visits wild mountain villages; describes the fall of the empire; visits Jazz Age Shanghai; and stays in the last communist commune—before a celebration on Chinese New Year.

  • Preview: The Last Empire (Episode 5): asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Preview: The Last Empire (Episode 5)

    S1 E5 - 30s

    Discover the splendors of China’s last empire, the Qing. From China’s favorite novel to story-telling houses and all-female mosques, it’s an age full of surprises. Then came the fateful clash with the British in the First Opium War.

  • China's Last Empire: A Rich Age for Muslim Culture: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    China's Last Empire: A Rich Age for Muslim Culture

    S1 E5 - 2m 24s

    In the Great Mosque in Xi'an, Michael Wood shows us inscriptions in Chinese, Arabic and Farsi, which reveal the multi-cultural world of China 300 years ago under the Qing Dynasty. In Kaifeng, he is welcomed into a women-only mosque with a female imam – a Chinese tradition that originated in the Qing dynasty. After the ceremony, it's time for laughter and 'selfies!'

  • The Show Must Go On!: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Show Must Go On!

    S1 E5 - 3m 23s

    Michael joins a traditional acting troupe on their bus to a tiny village near Yangzhou. They are going there to perform a traditional drama for a local woman's 90th birthday - in the icy outdoors! We watch the actors and musicians prepare the set, put on their makeup, and get into costume as the whole village turns out despite the freezing cold and snow –with Granny in the front row!

  • The Opium Trade in China: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Opium Trade in China

    S1 E5 - 3m 16s

    Michael Wood talks to Prof. Zheng Yangwen about the crippling social effects on China of the opium trade run by the British. "Where is your conscience?" the emperor asked Queen Victoria. In the late 1830's, the Chinese decided to do something about it and ordered the destruction of all the opium held in British workhouses. There would be tragic consequences for China in the First Opium War.

  • Power Politics in the Ming Dynasty: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Power Politics in the Ming Dynasty

    S1 E4 - 2m 24s

    Harvard University's Dr. Lik Hang Tsui tells the tale of the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, the ruthless Yongle who kills his nephew to take power. In a purge of his enemies, a loyal minister speaks out and receives the cruelest punishment: Death by ten degrees.

  • Preview: The Ming (Episode 4): asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Preview: The Ming (Episode 4)

    S1 E4 - 30s

    Hear the story of China’s most famous dynasty. Michael Wood visits the Great Wall and the Forbidden City; sails the South China Sea on a junk; visits a fabulous Chinese garden; and travels to Macao with the first Jesuit missionary to China.

  • The Chinese Voyages of Exploration: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Chinese Voyages of Exploration

    S1 E4 - 2m 16s

    We all know about Columbus, but what about the great Chinese ocean voyages that took place before his time? Michael Wood tells the story of the Chinese Admiral Zheng He and his voyages to the west. He asks too, why were they stopped? "Some say it would be like stopping moon exploration after Apollo 8," says Michael. "But the Chinese had a different view."

  • Get a Taste of the Good Life under the Ming Dynasty: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Get a Taste of the Good Life under the Ming Dynasty

    S1 E4 - 3m 29s

    Michael Wood visits Suzhou, "the Venice of China." Five hundred years ago during the Ming dynasty Suzhou was the symbol of China’s "Embarrassment of Riches." Staying in the house of a Ming merchant family, Michael explores China's new world of private wealth and fashion, when porcelain, lacquer making and silk weaving reached new heights to meet consumer demand.

Schedule

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