China’s Great Wall played a significant role in the rise and fall of empires and dynasties. This two-part documentary investigates the 2,500-year history of the Great Wall and uncovers the secrets that have made it one of the new seven wonders of the world. Breathtaking recent discoveries are brought to light, answering questions like: How long is the Great Wall really? How did changes in climate affect its course? What role did Chinese water reservoirs play? The films explore the secret cartographical knowledge that was required for the wall’s construction and examine the materials and building methods that have ensured the majestic Great Wall’s continued existence.
Both episodes use high-quality re-enactments to illuminate the lives of renowned emperors who played significant roles in the history of China and the Great Wall.
The first episode follows the life of unified China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang (260-210 B.C.). A member of the Qin dynasty, the emperor was able to unify China by waging bloody wars against neighbouring states and simultaneously establishing a completely new state structure. The young empire defended itself against marauding nomads from the north with a 5000-kilometre long wall. The establishment of the defensive wall came at a high price: innumerable forced labourers, soldiers and prisoners lost their lives during the construction of the eternal wall.
The Yongle Emperor (1360-1424 A.D.) of the Ming Dynasty is the second episode’s central protagonist. Gigantic construction projects along the borders of the “Middle Kingdom” were begun during his reign, and he moved his capital to Peking (now Beijing) along the southern edge of the Great Wall. This is where he established the world’s largest palace complex, the Forbidden City. The Yongle Emperor also laid the political foundations for the expansion and extension of the Great Wall, thereby creating a monument that remains fascinating to this day: an architectural masterpiece that attracts millions of visitors every year.
In an unprecedented co-operative effort, Chinese and Austrian camera teams spent weeks and months working on the ground-breaking documentary. The directors Martin Betz and Liang Renhong investigate the 2,500-year history of the Great Wall using narrative re-enactments, interviews with experts and archive material. Pre TV worked with the broadcasters CITVC
to make this ambitious project a reality, and “The Great Wall” is the second successful Austrian-Chinese co-operation following the three-part “Brahmaputra – Sky River of the Himalayas” documentary series produced for ORF
’s award-winning “UNIVERSUM
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
A PRODUCTION OF
Martin Betz / Liang Renhong