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Popping out trivia tidbits like a historian-shaped Pez dispenser, Michael Wood was back on our screens last night with this suitably sprawling new series on a sprawling new superpower.
In a nutshell
So China, then. It’s big news. In fact, if the suited soothsayers are right, this will be the century of China, with the world poised to undergo a vast geopolitical shift, and China replacing the United States as the major player on the world stage. That’s if terrorists or climate change or asteroids don’t end everything first (well, the 21st Century hasn’t exactly boded well so far, has it?). Anyway, now is the time to brush up on our China knowledge, so that we may – in the words of Kent Brockman – welcome our new overlords.
What’s great about this show is that it avoids the predictably linear narrative of most history docs. Instead, it’s a more energetic, free-wheeling sort of thing, with Michael Wood delighting in various aspects of Chinese culture and heritage, whether he was visiting ancient temples, mingling through colourful crowds, or hanging out with a family numbering over 300 people, carrying out a ritual in honour of one of their ancestors who passed away in… 1049. Now that’s how you carry on a family tradition.
What's the verdict?
Masterfully mixing the intimate insights of real people with grander analyses of vast historical epochs like the Shang dynasty, this is just the primer we need for the most exciting country on Earth. Next up, learning the language…