Recently I was invited to be the host of an episode of a new Chinese/English tv show called Journey Through China. In this show various foreigners from different places travel around china, interact with the locals and learn various things about Chinese traditions and cultures.
My episode focused on the symbol of the dragon.
This was a really interesting experience for me and I was thrilled to have the chance to host a tv show which is something I had never done before. Strangely enough I got the honor because of one of my English Teaching advertisements on the internet. They read my ad, saw my picture and figured I would be a good fit for their next episode.
Filming took a day and a half and there were 3 main dragon related things I reported on.
On the first day we went to meet a tradesmen who was given the title of master when it came to creating silk embroidery or needle and thread art.
He created various beautiful pictures of dragons and other animals on picture frames, and in addition places his embroidery on robes such as the ones ancient Chinese kings used to wear. He taught me that all ancient Chinese kings would wear dragons on their robes because dragons are known as the symbol of power.
Second on my journey was an extremely expensive high quality furniture and decoration store. Here I met with an expert on the symbol of the dragon through ancient Chinese cultural decorations. We took a look at tables and chairs and tea sets and jewelry chests and wardrobes. They all contain extremely intricate details and solid craftsmanship. Most were a little too expensive for my tastes though, the wall panel decoration behind us in this picture was worth over a million RMB!
The second day was my favorite as I got to meet with a popular tv host and artist that even I had seen on TV during my time in China. In the past he hosted an art show and now hosts a popular cooking one. His works of art were quite beautiful and he had a very strong presence to him. For this segment he grabbed a blank canvas and drew and entire work of art featuring a dragon in front of me while I watched. He explained each feature of the dragon he was adding for each specific purpose and it was really interesting to see a famous artist create something before my eyes.
After completing the drawing he put his official artist stamp onto it, and I was told once that stamp was added it instantly made the work worth around 100,000rmb.
Next he taught me how to draw the Chinese character for dragon. After a quick lesson I gave it a shot and it turned out not too bad. The artist signed both of our names to the work and also gave it his official stamp before giving the work to me as a gift!
The challenging part of the filming was that my Chinese is less than optimal. I had to pretend I was following all of the lengthy conversations when really I had no idea what the people were explaining to me most of the time and in addition I had to ask some lengthy Chinese questions which usually took me 3 or 4 tries to get right if there were lots of words I wasn’t familiar with.
The most difficult thing I had to do was for the introduction to the show. I had to sing a 4 line ancient Chinese poem and then give a paragraph long introduction in English all in a single shot. The ancient poem was full of words I wasn’t familiar with and it took every ounce of focus I had for a full 25 minutes before I had finally memorized it. I compared memorizing something in your non native language to memorizing a long series of meaningless sounds that must be made in a specific order. In other words… it’s really hard!
All in all I had a great time filming the show and I feel really lucky I had the chance. The pay wasn’t great – 500RMB but the experience and the fact that they are going to send me the completed episode once it is put together made it more than worth it.
If you live in China look for me on CCTV in the future!