CCTV tries new out­reach through re­al­ity show

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - ByWANG KAIHAO

China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion’s Chan­nel 4 pre­miered a re­al­ity TV show on Satur­day in a bid to ap­peal to a broader au­di­ence.

The 12-episode China — Through My Eyes has picked 16 for­eign stu­dents to stay with or­di­nary Chi­nese peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent kinds of lifestyles. It is de­rived from Chi­nese Bridge, an iconic CCTV an­nual com­pe­ti­tion in which over­seas stu­dents are asked to take a Chi­nese-lan­guage test.

When that com­pe­ti­tion turned 15 this year, it was dressed in the new for­mat to bet­ter show­case Chi­nese cul­ture to the out­side world.

In the first episode, Pa­trick Ro­se­vear, 28, a stu­dent from New Zealand, joined seven other for­eign­ers to stay in ru­ral homes in Guizhou province for three days.

“Me­trop­o­lises are not enough to re­flect China,” he says.

“If it wasn’t for the show, per­haps, I wouldn’t have had the chance to find another side of the coun­try.”

Par­ents of the chil­dren with whom the for­eign stu­dents stayed are away from their vil­lages, work­ing in cities.

To Ro­se­vear, it is a rare op­por­tu­nity to know about Chi­nese so­ci­ety in this man­ner.

For­eign­ers are sel­dom seen such vil­lages, he says.

Ro­se­vear grad­u­ated from Bei­jingLan­guage and Cul­tureUniver­sity two weeks ago, and will soon work as a lawyer in the city.

Ear­lier, through the re­al­ity show, he spent time with folk mu­si­cians in Shaanxi province and also vis­ited theTaoist holy site, the Wu­dang Moun­tains, in Hubei province to learn tai chi.

“Cul­ture is part of lo­cal peo­ple’s daily life rather than be­ing a hobby or a stage per­for­mance,” he

in says, adding that places come alive.

To JongMay Ur­bonya, 20, the show isn’t just a per­sonal jour­ney. The US citizen stud­ies dance at Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity.

“We also have a sense of history par­tic­i­pat­ing in their daily life and en­ter­tain­ment,” she says of the chance to meet Chi­nese from dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the coun­try.

Although the show’s crew of­fer some rep­re­sen­ta­tive as­pects of each place where the stu­dents are taken, they do not pro­vide the par­tic­i­pants with de­tailed scripts ahead of time and al­low the stu­dents time for on-site ex­plo­rations as well.

What a for­eigner re­ally wants to know about China is prob­a­bly dif­fer­ent from what Chi­nese peo­ple would ex­pect them to ask, Ro­se­vear says.

“What makes me cu­ri­ous is why the vil­lagers are al­ways so happy and nice to us.”

Ac­cord­ing to Guan Zheng­wen, the di­rec­tor of China — Through My Eyes, the show is made for Chi­nese au­di­ences to bet­ter un­der­stand their own coun­try.

The dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­grounds of the over­seas stu­dents and their fresh per­spec­tive on Chi­nese cul­ture and so­ci­ety will also help Chi­nese bet­ter un­der­stand them­selves, he says.

When the 16 stu­dents were picked from among hun­dreds of for­eign can­di­dates, their “crit­i­cal think­ing” was im­por­tant to se­lec­tors.

“They may have some un­con­ven­tional opin­ions, but China now has enough con­fi­dence to face the world’s di­verse in­sights,” Guan says.

The show seeks to not just en­ter­tain TV view­ers or of­fer glimpses of Chi­nese land­scapes but also pro­ject the con­nec­tions the stu­dents make with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties through it, he says.

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