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The Ming

   2016    History
The tale of one of China's most famous dynasties begins with the amazing story of Hongwu, a peasant rebel who founded one of greatest eras in Chinese history. The film takes us to his great capital Nanjing, with its 21 miles of walls, each brick stamped with the name of the village that made it. Following the trail, we go to the Bao family village and see the villagers act a Ming murder story.
Like many authoritarian states, the Ming were obsessive about architecture. We see the giant fortifications of the Great Wall, the ritual enclaves of the Forbidden City in Beijing and travel with bargeman Mr Hu down the Grand Canal, China's great artery of commerce right up to the present day. We then hear about Admiral Zheng He's voyages to Africa and the Gulf decades before Columbus, watch the construction of an ocean-going wooden boat 250ft long, and hitch a ride on a replica Ming junk in the South China Sea.
As state prosperity grew, so did a rising middle class. Wood looks at Ming culture in Suzhou, the 'Venice of China'. Staying in a merchant's house, he discovers the silk, ceramic and lacquer-making industries, and visits one of the most beautiful gardens in the city. Then on to Macao and the arrival of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, who hoped to convert China to Christianity. In the cathedral in Beijing, we learn more about these fateful exchanges with the west. Finally in Shaoxing, we visit the house of the 'Ming Proust' and at grassroots the Zhao family in Fujian where the film ends in an elegiac mood with the fall of the Ming in 1644.
Series: The Story of China

The Golden Age

   2016    History
This episode tells the tale of what's broadly considered China's most creative dynasty - the Song (960-1279). Michael Wood heads to the city of Kaifeng, the greatest city in the world before the 19th century. Here in Twin Dragon Alley, locals tell him the legend of the baby boys who became emperors.
He explores the ideas and inventions that made the Song one of greatest eras in world culture, helped by China's most famous work of art, the Kaifeng scroll, which shows the life of the city in around 1120. A chef makes Michael a recipe from a Song cookbook, while a guide to 'how to live happy, healthy lives for old people', published in 1085 and still in print, is discussed with local women doing their morning exercises. The Song was also a great era for scientific advance in China. Michael steers a huge working replica of an astronomical clock, made by China's Leonardo da Vinci.
Then at a crunch Chinese Premier League match, Michael tells us the Chinese invented football! The golden age of the northern Song ended in 1127, when invaders sacked Kaifeng, but they survived in the south. At their new capital, Hangzhou, Wood joins locals dancing by the West Lake, while in the countryside he meets Mr Xie with his records of 40 generations of ancestors. The final defeat of the Song took place in a naval battle in the estuary of the Pearl River in 1279. When all was lost, rather than surrender to the Mongols, a loyal minister jumped into the sea with the young boy emperor in his arms. 'So ended the glory of the Song', Wood concludes, 'but a new age would arise... as in China, it always has!'.
Series: The Story of China

Silk Roads and China Ships

   2016    History
Michael Wood tells the tale of China's first great international age under the Tang Dynasty (618-907). From the picturesque old city of Luoyang, he travels along the Silk Road to the bazaars of central Asia and into India on the track of the Chinese monk who brought Buddhism back to China. This tale is still loved by the Chinese today and is brought to life by storytellers, films and shadow puppet plays. Then in the backstreets and markets of Xi'an, Michael meets descendants of the traders from central Asia and Persia who came into China on the Silk Road. He talks to Chinese Muslims in the Great Mosque and across town hears the amazing story of the first reception of Christianity in 635. Moving south, Michael sees the beginnings of China as an economic giant. On the Grand Canal, a lock built in 605 still handles 800 barges every day! The film tracks the rise of the silk industry and the world's favourite drink - tea. Michael looks too at the spread of Chinese script, language and culture across east Asia. 'China's influence on the East was as profound as Rome on the Latin West', he says, 'and still is today'. Finally, the film tells the intense drama of the fall of the Tang. Among the eyewitnesses were China's greatest poets. In a secondary school in a dusty village, where the Chinese Shakespeare - Du Fu - is buried in the grounds, the pupils take Michael through one famous poem about loss and longing as the dynasty falls. And in that ordinary classroom, there is a sense of the amazing drama and the deep-rooted continuities of Chinese culture.
Series: The Story of China

Libraries Gave Us Power

   2012    Art
The story of the British Library's Royal Manuscripts collection reaches its end with the last great flowering of illumination, in the magnificent courts of the Tudors. Dr Janina Ramirez investigates astrological texts created for Henry VII, and unwraps his will - still in its original, extravagantly-decorated velvet and gold cover. She hears music written for Henry VIII, which went unperformed for centuries; and reads love notes between the king and Anne Boleyn, written in the margins of a prayer book. Nina also visits Bruges, the source of many of the greatest manuscripts, where this medieval art form collided with the artistic innovations of the Renaissance.
Series: Illuminations: the private lives of medieval kings

What a King Should Know

   2012    History
Dr Janina Ramirez shows how medieval manuscripts gave power to the king and united the kingdom in an age of plague, warfare and rebellion, discovers that Edward III used the manuscripts he read as a boy to prepare him for his great victory at the battle of Crecy and reveals how a vigorous new national identity bloomed during the 100 Years War with France. In the British Library's Royal Manuscripts collection Dr Ramirez finds out that magnificent manuscripts like the Bedford Hours, taken as war booty from the French royal family, were adapted for the education of English princes. She also explores how knowledge spread through a new form of book - the encyclopaedia.
Series: Illuminations: the private lives of medieval kings
Top Gear
Top Gear

   2012    Technology
The Secrets of Quantum Physics
The Secrets of Quantum Physics

   2014    Science
U2 Live at the Rose Bowl
U2 Live at the Rose Bowl

   2010    Art
Space Race
Space Race

   2005    Technology
Vietnam in HD
Vietnam in HD

   2011    History
How the Universe Works Season 4
How the Universe Works Season 4

   2015    Science
Himalaya with Michael Palin
Himalaya with Michael Palin

   2004    Culture