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YAN JINGMING: National Treasures program makes relics come alive

| 2018-01-04
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Following the lead of successful cultural programs, like The Reader and Chinese Poetry Competition, a new large-scale cultural exploration program titled National Treasure was aired on CCTV. The show, pleasant and exciting to watch, added new momentum to the cultural brands of CCTV.

Compared to previous cultural programs launched by CCTV, National Treasure is characterized by a distinctive style. Cultural connotation, variety show, and documentary language—these aspects constitute a new way of expression. With a sleek, modern presentation, China’s profound ancient history is explored, making historical treasures come alive.

CCTV in cooperation with the Palace Museum and eight other key national museums pursues high quality and standards. Altogether, as many as 27 national artifacts were selected to be presented and appreciated in the program.

Unlike other treasure appraisal programs, there is no arbitrary or casual appraisal and no randomly judged price. The treasures’ identities are recognized for their value as the most crystallized conveyors of culture. What the audience obtains is the cultural code embodied and the cultural symbols attached.

National Treasure, from start to finish, tries to combine traditional and contemporary culture. This can be detected from the first episode of the program. Three cultural relics housed in the Palace Museum were displayed on the stage, and each of the relics has a legend, as well as an inheritor who guards, protects and is emotionally bonded with it.

Through miniature historical dramas portrayed in a stage performance, a rationally imagined story based on an abundant amount of historical materials is performed to recount the relics’ history, which allows the audience to feel the historical warmth deep inside the national treasures. In the “story of this life” part, people whose lives are interrelated with the national treasures are invited to tell stories of protection one after another.

This form of expression that combines the legend of the relic with the “story of this life” is innovative. To clearly introduce a national-level relic, the stories told should be professional, knowledgeable, plain and artistic. Integrating the relic’s historical value and the contemporary ethos is not easy.

These relics that have laid silently inside the glass-frame cabinets of museums are revitalized on the stage of National Treasure, turning into things that are lively and warm with a story and personality.

By narrating the past and present of each national treasure one after another, it enables the audience to read a history and get to know the political, cultural and artistic connotations behind the relics, stirring the public’s interest in traditional culture and knowledge about relics.

Today, most of the museums at different levels in China are open to the public free of charge, and the number of visitors to museums is growing year by year, which indicates a new phenomenon of cultural renaissance. Therefore, it is important to research ways relics housed in the museums can truly come alive and become accessible, sensible and knowable to the common public.

Relics do not mean dust-laden antiques. The program presents a process that connects the past with the present, that allows yesterday to interact with today through dialogues, that integrates the historical splendor with contemporary civilization, and that allows national treasures to come out from the cold showcases so people can feel their vitality. Showcasing the real, unique value of the treasures is also a process that inspires pride in traditional Chinese culture among the public.


This article is translated from the Guangming Daily. Yan Jingming is the vice-president of the China Writers Association.