Hengdian- largest film city of the world#
All photos were taken by the author 1999. They are part of the archive "Picture-flood Jontes
As part of the city of Dongyuan in Zhejiang Province, Hengdian is home to Hengdian World Studios. The Studios, called “Chinawood” following the American competitor, cover an area of 330 ha or almost 500,000 m² and represent the largest film city in the world. The private company was founded in the mid-nineties by the oligarch Xu Wenrong who bought huge agricultural space to implement his plans.
A total of 13 independent film-making zones with their replicas of historical architecture allow films to be made from the Qin to the Qing Dynasty, comprising a period of almost 2500 years. Movies were made and brought a turnaround in style and efforts in respect to Chinese history. In 2002, Zhao Yimou, a filmmaker of the film Hero, caused a sensation in the West. The problem of the hundreds of needed extras was solved in a brilliant way by using the population of some surrounding places.
Today, the film town attracts numerous tourists from all over the world who can visit the studios in guided tours. Short scenes of historical events are played for tourists. In addition, they can visit the exact replicas of palaces and temples from all over China in one place. There are also recreated roads from Kanton/Guangzhou and Hong Kong as well as the famous Beijing Buddhist Lamat Temple which contains an exact replica of the largest standing wooden statue of Buddha.
One of the largest buildings is the Imperial Palace in the style of the early dynasties Qin and Han, that is, the time when the first emperor Qin Shi Hungdi united China into a single empire and created the famous terracotta army of Xian for his last retirement. As a visitor, you can experience how he arrives in front of his mighty palace, guarded by warriors, gets off his horse and enters the throne room.
Flags, carried by warriors, with the emperor's motto border the way to the palace.
Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi arrives riding on horseback in front of his palace. He wears a head-cover typical for this period with a bead curtain in front of his face. When watching closely, one observes that it is a rather sloppy imitation of Emperor’s clothes. In daylight, everything looks a bit cheap but it shines with glory when a stream of light floods the scenes and people in the interior of a studio.
His accompaniment consists of numerous persons, especially the ladies of the court and many warriors of his bodyguards.
The equipment of the warriors, his bodyguards, is also calculated more for the sloppy eye of the tourist and can hardly withstand historical scrutiny.
When the visitors are gathered, a petitioner wants to acost the ruler. He wears a bunch of bamboo strips on which a request is written (paper was invented later). A dagger is hidden in bundle of the pettiton.However, the assassin is discovered and overwhelmed.
The replicas of historical architecture from all over China are impressive. The largest building is the imperial palace in the style of the early dynasties Qin and Han. The film Hero was produced in this palace. The palaces from the dynasties of Ming and Qing originate from the Chinese imperial era. They date from the 14th to the 20th century. Patriotic feelings in the Chinese people are stirred by the reconstructed copy of the Old Summer Palace near Beijing which was destroyed in the shameful Second Opium War of the European colonial powers of Great Britain and France against China. In 1860, their troops destroyed the Yuanming Yuan Palace with its gardens on purpose, after extensive plundering. It is still in ruins at the original location as a monument of shame and will never be rebuilt. In Hengdian, the palace can be visited again.
The amazed audience can follow and admire the spectacle at close range. Whether the audience will be concerned with the history and culture of the Middle Kingdom later-on is questionable. Masstourism has rarely contributed to education.
It is necessary to provide a thrill. If not the fighting as gladiators against each other, the tourists will at least enjoy a cockfight at the end of the guided tour. However, when carefully observing the fighting cocks one discovers that the two cocks miss sharp spurs, and the fatally hacking beaks of both are also shortened.