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What makes 'A Bite of China' so popular?

By Fan Zhengwei (People's Daily)

07:55, May 24, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

A Bite of China, a mouth-watering late-night documentary television series featuring delicious Chinese food, has attracted countless viewers, and moved many to tears.

Given its subject matter and time slot, A Bite of China was initially considered a "weak player" on TV. Surprisingly, the documentary became popular immediately after airing, and has made viewers go beyond thinking about delicacies.

"Man is what he eats," said Ludwig Feuerbach. From its very beginning, A Bite of China is not just a documentary about food. "The scenes of digging for bamboo shoots, hanging hams, catching fish using a net, opening a steamer filled with white steamed buns, and pulling wheat dough into thin strands for noodles move us to tears. What a lovely China!" a viewer said.

A Bite of China is a serious documentary providing a unique view of Chinese as well as the relations between people and food and between people and society from the perspective of food.

The touching documentary reminds some people of their mother, and makes some realize that every grain comes from hard and laborious toil. Some people see patriotism in the documentary, and some consider it a great cultural export.

How did this documentary achieve a tremendous influence beyond its subject matter in such a short time?

"It is not empty propaganda about China's splendid food culture. Instead, it shows the techniques used in making food and their production process as well as the lives of ordinary people, thus striking a chord with the audience," an Internet user said. The success of the documentary should be attributed to sincerity and reality. Nowadays, many works of art that have high investment, high technology, and magnificent scenes lack nothing but sincerity and reality.

It is said sarcastically that Americans like to shoot sci-fi films because they have no history, while Chinese like to shoot time-travel dramas to the past because they have no future. The correctness of this arbitrary conclusion is debatable, but it has raised a thought-provoking question. Works that are created behind closed doors and fail to reflect reality or that only focus on the luxury lives of a few people and ignore ordinary people's desire for ample food and clothing will not touch people's hearts, be they about traveling to the past or the future.

A Bite of China shows that a commercial documentary promoting patriotism can be full of touching details, that the emotions of ordinary Chinese people should be exhibited even in publicizing China overseas, and that even a completely commercial program can achieve both artistic and commercial success.

"We made this documentary with our respect and love for food," said director Chen Xiaoqing. Being sincere is the most important thing for artists because they cannot move others unless they themselves are first moved, and cannot convince others unless they themselves are first convinced. Sincerity is the "secret" for making this documentary so popular, and every cultural creator should learn from its success.

Read the Chinese version: 《舌尖上的中国》何以走红

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