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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

What is the World Made of

   2010    History
In this episode, Michael demonstrates how our society is built on our search to find the answer to what makes up everything in the material world. This is a story that moves from the secret labs of the alchemists and their search for gold by the stone of the philosophers to the creation of the world's first synthetic dye - Purple - and onto the invention of the transistor. This quest may seem abstract and highly theoretical. Yet it has delivered the greatest impact on humanity. By trying to answer this question, scientists have created theories from elements to atoms, and the strange concepts of quantum physics that underpin our modern, technological world.
Series: The Story of Science

The Last Empire

   2016    History
China's last empire, the Qing, lasted from 1644 to 1912. It began in violence and war as the Manchus swept down from the north, but invaders became emperors, with three generations of one family ruling the country. Among them, Michael Wood argues, was China's greatest emperor - Kangxi. Under the Qing, China doubled in size to include Xinjiang in the far west, as well as Mongolia and Tibet, creating the essential shape of China today. The new dynasty tolerated a diversity of cultures and religions, including Islam. In Kaifeng, Michael visits a women's mosque with a female imam, a delightful scene that ends with laughter and selfies! The Qing also undertook huge cultural enterprises. At a traditional printing house where the wood blocks are hand-carved, we see how the Complete Tang Poems were reproduced - all 48,000 of them. We travel through the wintry countryside to a remote village where a hardy audience watch open-air opera in the snow and visit a painter's studio, and 'storytelling' houses in Yangzhou. In the 18th century, China was arguably the greatest economy in the world, and we get a fabulous sense of the rich culture that came with prosperity. But then came the clash with the British, in the first Opium War, when a British expedition destroyed the Qing navy and extracted territory and trading rights. We leave with a glimpse of the future. 'Every dynasty has risen and declined,' says Michael, 'and has needed new life to regenerate, and this time the catalyst was the British.' Among the ports China ceded was an almost uninhabited island, Hong Kong, one of today's greatest financial centres, and Shanghai, a small town then but now one of the greatest cities in world.
Series: The Story of China

Steve Jobs Man in the Machine

   2015    History
Directed by Alex Gibney, it follows the life and work of ex-Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Gibney starts the doc by showing how much people around the world worship Steve Jobs as if he were an idol. He then provides you with a wealth of background information about Jobs' childhood, teenage and college years including how he formed Apple Inc. Fortunately, not all of the doc is hagiography because Gibney does briefly delve into the darker side of Jobs, particularly how selfish he was and mistreated those around him including his ex-wife. Jobs comes across as a charming, intelligent narcissist who knows how to captivate an audience whenever he speaks. In other words, like all great narcissists, he's a very good actor. Gibney certainly knows how to choose the right subject because Jobs' complexity makes him all the more captivating and worthy of a feature-length film. As is usually the case with Gibney's docs, this one is slickly-edited and has just the right amount of comic relief, mostly in the brief video of an young boy joyfully lists all of Apple's technological devices that Steve Jobs created. You'll catch a glimpse of what makes Jobs fallible, and find a little mildly provocative food for thought about the advancement of modern technology, i.e. how technology helps to connect us to one another yet alienates us at the same time.

Building the Great Pyramid

       History
The Great Pyramid of Giza's construction is still shrouded in mystery, despite it being the only survivor among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In Building the Great Pyramid, travel back 4,500 years with the BBC as they re-create the circumstances under which it may have been built, as well as the daily life of the population at that time. Expert archaeologists, Egyptologists, and scholars share their latest theories on what may have happened. The film combines dramatic reconstruction, location shooting and state-of-the-art CGI computer effects. Directed and written by Jonathan Stamp.
The Human Body
The Human Body

   1998    Medicine
The Last Dance
The Last Dance

   2020    Culture
Human Universe
Human Universe

   2014    History
Human universe
Human universe

   2014    Technology
How the Universe Works Series 8
How the Universe Works Series 8

   2019    Science
Woody Allen A Documentary
Woody Allen A Documentary

   2011    History
Space Deepest Secrets
Space Deepest Secrets

   2020    Technology
Bronze Age
Bronze Age

   2016    History