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CCTV tries new outreach through reality show

Wang Kaihao
Updated: Jul 23,2015 10:31 AM     China Daily

The reality TV show China-Through My Eyes features 16 young foreigners who travel to different parts of the country and get involved with local communities.[Photo provided to China Daily]

China Central Television’s Channel 4 premiered a reality TV show in July 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.

The reality TV show China-Through My Eyes features 16 young foreigners who travel to different parts of the country and get involved with local communities.[Photo provided to China Daily]

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 in such villages, he says.

Rosevear graduated from Beijing Language and Culture University two weeks ago, and will soon work as a lawyer in the city.

The reality TV show China-Through My Eyes features 16 young foreigners who travel to different parts of the country and get involved with local communities.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Earlier, through the reality show, he spent time with folk musicians in Shaanxi province and also visited the Taoist 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 says, adding that it makes such 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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