A landmark documentary series unlocking the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom, past and present.
Explore China's incredible natural and cultural diversity.
The series, which took seven years to create, gives a stunning, detailed perspective of China.
AP and college students and adults
Approx. 30 minutes each
These little pieces of heaven have resided in this town for generations, shaping its past, present and future, as well as forming the standard for Chinese garden landscapes. These elegant and delicate gardens and majestic waterscapes are nestled within Suzhou in southern China. They reflect China’s time-honored tradition of living in harmony and coexisting peacefully with nature. Disheartened officials, lovers separated and reunited, and melancholic poets and musicians attempting to capture the essence of nature in their arts, are all part of these unique landscapes.
Empire in the Underworld
A mammoth underground mausoleum built for a single man, became a subversive slave camp for artisans. This colossal crypt is filled with thousands of molded images and likenesses of soldiers, troops, officers, musicians, horses and chariots sculpted from clay. This massive collection was formed to preserve the wealth and status of the first Qin Emperor, in his afterlife. The account of the people who made these vivid, life-like sculptures is seldom told. Discover China goes deep underground to explore the abundant pits housing the terra-cotta warriors, where countless people lost their lives to realize this ambitious Empire in the Underworld.
This city holds within it a lot more than old buildings and tasty food. Macau served as one of the first bridges between Western and Chinese culture and ideals. Since the first Portuguese sailors set foot on Macau, it has been a sparkling gem in the South China Sea. Macau stands today, as rich in history as ever, while amalgamating people of many nations, religions and creeds; forging one of the most innovative and diverse cities in southeast Asia. Discover China looks at Macau’s past, its present, and its future.
The First Emperor
He is the most iconic and the most controversial figure in Chinese imperial history. He unified China in a way never before thought possible. He linked all parts of a defensive perimeter to form the Great Wall of China. Conquering, ruling, imposing and menacing, this man ruled China with an iron fist. But how did a beleaguered, abused child become one of the biggest influences on Chinese society, even to this very day? Discover China brings you the story of the man known in China as Qin Shi Huang, Shi Huang Di, or, The First Emperor.
Chengde Mountain Retreat
This magnificent palace, standing 300 miles from the capital of China, was the barometer of the nation’s state of affairs and its ruler. Seeking a place to unwind from the troubles of his postion, an emperor decided to erect this mammoth palace to serve as his summer retreat. Nestled in between the mountains of Hebei Province, Chengde became no mere imperial retreat; the emperor used this palace and its hunting grounds to train his soldiers, assess his officials, examine his political affairs and forge new ties with old enemies.
On the Red Mountain side in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, rests a magnificent palace complex. Over the millennia, this palace has served as the Tibetan center of religious and political power. It is a tribute to traditional Tibetan architecture and craftsmanship. 1,300 years ago, the cries of the newly born leader of this land echoing through the mountains and valleys, a new epoch began, marking the beginning of a civilization that has lasted to this very day. Discover China unlocks the secrets resting beneath and inside this splendid structure, opening the gates of The Potala Palace.
Mystery of the Thousand Hands
Within the Dazu mountain rock carvings, among hundreds and thousands of unique and beautifully carved Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian sculptures and statues, sits a mysterious figure, carved into the rock. Its gleaming appearance and its multiple arms hold a secret only a lone, unknown monk was able to finally solve. As years went by, tales of this mysterious monk were spreading, detailing how he was able to finally count the arms of the thousand hand Guanyin statue.
The Temple of Heaven
The massive Temple of Heaven, located in the southern Beijing, is one of the most impressive and best preserved houses of worship in the world. Considered one of the pinnacles in traditional Chinese architecture, its layout and construction are brimming with symbols and hidden meanings. However, this holy Chinese complex has undergone and overcome numerous changes. Discover China riffles through the pages of history to reveal forgotten images, why an emperor demanded it be changed and what misfortune befell this magnificent structure.
The Legendary Li Bing
Li Bing was tasked with converting a state into a staging ground for military invasion. During his mission, he encountered many difficulties, which prompted him to come up with some ingenious solutions. What Li Bing did not know was that his actions would affect countless lives for generations to come. From a simple irrigation project, Li Bing’s contributions changed the course of history and that of a nation. Principles used over 22 centuries ago formed a foundation of science that engineers still apply today. For his deeds, Li Bing is celebrated as The Ancestor of Sichuan.
The Tea-Horse Silk Road
Through China’s distant mountains and deep, cavernous valleys, these merchants and their horse caravans have carved a path that has become a vital cultural and economic trade and commerce route. These pioneering caravans helped forge lasting cultural and diplomatic relations between two nations for hundreds of years, led by valiant men and their hardened beasts of burden. From the far reaches of the western Chinese plains and distant Tibet, to the heart of the Middle Kingdom’s central plains, follow in the cultural footsteps of these horse caravans, along the Tea-Horse Silk Road.
The Land of Peach Blossoms
In the West, seeking the land of Shangri-La has long been a lost cause. In China, a similar story, written by a fourth-century poet, drove countless scholars, poets, writers and painters in pursuit of this magical utopia. This work of fiction, however, seemed to have its roots in the real world, as numerous locations around Southern China bear striking resemblance to the poet’s descriptive words. In the West, over one thousand years after the poet’s story was published, a novel with remarkable similarities introduced the concept of Shangri-La to the world. Discover China, as we set out on a unique journey, seeking the Land of Peach Blossoms.
Dong Ga - The Panda
Remarkably, the remains of an animal skull at JiuZhaiGou Valley in northern Sichuan Province brought about a change in mindset about the lush, green valley that is home to one of China’s greatest national natural emblems – the giant panda. With their food supply in sharp decline, natural calamities and mankind’s encroachment, these gentle, docile giants were nearly extinct from this magical valley. However, with the local government’s involvement, the population of this magnificent animal is finally managing to survive.
Mystery of the Hu Clan
In a slumbering village nestled in southeast China’s Guizhou district in Anhui province, sits a mysterious hall of the Hu Clan. The village’s residents, in their unique, picturesque houses, lead a peaceful and harmonious existence, unfettered by the troubles of the world. Yet the origins of this quiet, pastoral village belie an age old story of imperial intrigue and incredible perseverance, as generations living in the village continue to commemorate their ancestors.
Taoism and Buddhism
It is one of China's most revered mountains. A religious center to this day for numerous sects of Chinese Buddhism, Emei Mountain was once the battle ground where Buddhism clashed with one of China's leading religions at the time – Taoism. From the celestial revelations that led to the dawn of this religion, through the legends of the White Snake, and to the religious ceremonies that brought an Emperor his heir, Emei mountain remains one of China's most illustrious religious hubs, where pilgrimages take place to this day.
No one could have dreamed that from this baby boy, born to a noble family in financial and social decline, would grow one of China's most influential, iconic and important historical figures. From his early days, mimicking the religious rituals, to a young man who traveled throughout China, advising kings and emperors on how to rule, the man ultimately became a living legend whose teachings are revered and worshipped to this day in modern China and around the world.
A plethora of caves, caverns and grottoes, once served as the Chinese Nation’s gauge of political and religious stability. The sands of time are lifted to tell the tale of ancient nomadic tribes and their dominion over this land, near the city of Datong in Shanxi Province. The tribe leaders likenesses, etched for eternity onto the statues in the rocky caves, symbolize their once savage and absolute reign over China’s northwestern regions. The clans flourished and evolved into one of China’s earliest imperial dynasties.
Designs of the Forbidden City
An age old sketching of plans for an imperial garden design drew the attention of two prominent Chinese architectural scholars. From the blueprints, to small scale models, to the ingenious construction solutions conceived which brought a family generations of success and wealth, Discover China delves into the foundations of the Forbidden City and imperial architectural designs.
Wartorn Frontiers: The Great Wall
Looming across northern China, The Great Wall sits atop the crests, ridges and mountain tops, sprawling like a slumbering dragon, much of it rarely seen. The Great Wall has witnessed the waxing and waning of numerous dynasties and historic transformations of a burgeoning nation protected from marauding Mongolians. The secrets of constructing one of China’s most magnificent accomplishments are still being uncovered, as well as revealing the stories left behind by those who constructed it.
This ancient city stands proud as one of China’s defining economical centers, and one of the few to retain their original visage. The city’s remarkable architecture and history remain very much intact. Its urban fabric shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China over five centuries. The pioneers of the Chinese financial system came from Pingyao. Their influence swelled well beyond the thick city walls, leaving behind an impressive legacy of commerce, finance and business.
Stolen Treasure of the Imperial City
At the turn of the 20th century, a Child-Emperor ascended to the throne of the Chinese Qing Dynasty. Emperor Pu-Yi’s reign was short lived and mired with treason, corruption and external influences. After abdicating his throne, Pu Yi began plotting ways to smuggle the precious treasures of the Imperial City, priceless artifacts collected over 500 years of imperial reign. However, Pu Yi was not alone.
The Old Town of Lijiang
To escape war, the Qiang people settled down by the water at the foot of the Yulong Mountains. After centuries of development and integration, a new ethnic group was formed- the Naxi. Leading a peaceful life, the Naxi’s rare and enchanting culture has a strict belief in living harmoniously with nature. The Old Town of Lijiang, is a relaxed, graceful and tranquil setting. It is full of nature’s elegance, where the Naxi can practice their unique form of faith and enjoy the prosperity of their geographical location.
Dazu Rock Carvings
These mysterious ancient Indian deities are clad in the most unusual and startling attire: Chinese Warrior Armor. These unique and intricate Dazu rock carvings tell a fascinating and singular tale of how Confucius, Buddha, and the way of the Tao were once in the throes of war, later to come together in peace and harmony.
The Forgotten Towers of Dialou
The beaches of the southern city of Kaiping hold much more than these ancient guard towers called Diaolou. These regal structures stand as a symbolic reminder to all of those who left their families and country to seek better fortunes in America. Proving a safe haven to the families left behind, these ancient guard towers have stood for centuries as a silent reminder of the lives lost and the generations of Chinese who were saved.
Beloved Lu / Lushan Mountain
An inspiration for famous authors, poets and painters, the emerald mountain has evoked many images of utopia. Its surrounding landscapes have been revered and admired by people from all over the world. Lu Mountain’s attraction has created a melting pot of cultures and become a religious hub for those seeking enlightenment. It is no wonder that Lu is so beloved.
Dragon Gate Caves / Longmen Grottos
Over 2,000 caves dot the mountain side. The goddesses within bear a striking resemblance to one of China’s most ambitious, most arrogant and powerful rulers. The secret of these magnificent statues, standing with regal pride in the caves, is slowly being unfolded as Discover China plunges into the pages of history; looking for the answers that lie behind the Dragon Gate Caves.
Seeking The Peking Man
A single tooth shook the scientific community and changed the face of evolutionary science. The ultimate discovery of ancient ape-men skulls and burned bones, found in a Beijing suburb, potentially held the key to the missing link in Human evolution. Dozens of experts formed an international team in an attempt to uncover the tracks of this specimen, and find out more about his way of life. On the eve of World War II, these skulls suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving no trace. As history unfolds, scientists debate the origin of Peking Man, while the world wonders where his remains might be.