In East China's Zhejiang Province, Hengdian World Studios, one of the largest film shooting bases in China, has been used as locations for numerous movies and TV dramas. Being the only experimental base of China's film industry, it receives more then a dozen crews each day. In today's On the Road, our guide Damin will take us there and have a look.
Describing the era in the mid eighteen hundreds, "The Opium War" won six honors in 1998 at the 17th China Golden Rooster Award, which is known as the Oscar of China.
Along with the hot showing of the movie, Hengdian, the locations of the movie, attracted the attention of both industry insiders and visitors alike.
Today Hengdian has been used as a location for numerous movies and TV dramas. It is also one of the top class scenic spots crowded with visitors every day.
An area of roughly 330 hectares, Hengdian Studios houses more than a dozen different shooting bases like the Guangdong style streets, Palace of China's First Emperor, busy street scenes of the Northern Song Dynasty some 19 hundred years ago, and beautiful riverside towns in Southern China, to name a few.
However in the past, Hengdian was poverty stricken and people even didn't have enough food. Known in the surrounding villages as being able to afford no more than watery congee for three meals each day, young men in the village had problem finding girls who willing to marry into the village.
In order to survive the hard life and trying to be well-off, farmers in Hengdian managed to set up their own businesses which grew to be as successful as what is today Hengdian Enterprise Group.
After striking it rich, Xu Wenrong, founder of Hengdian Group, reached out to try something new. Inspired by some film shooting locations he visited, Xu invested three billion yuan，or some 4.4 billion US dollars, to set up Hengdian Film City.
"Hengdian is a small place and the landscapes are not at all beautiful. And we have no culture. So we have to create our own culture as well as beautiful landscapes."
In 1996, Hengdian Group cultivated a piece of land on the mountain slope and built a Guangdong style street, providing free locations for the movie "The Opium War". Along with the increasing popularity after the success of the movie, more and more investment came in to build large landscapes as movie locations.
Today the largest film locations in China and perhaps in the world, Hengdian World Studios has received a total of more than 500 crews from home and abroad in the past 14 years including Hollywood hit movie in 2001 "The Mummy Returns" and "Hero", directed by renowned director Zhang Yimo and nominated for a 2003 Oscar.
Meanwhile, as a hot tourist spot, Hengdian World Studios attract numerous visitors from home and abroad each day.
A: The Song dynasty scenes here make me feel like I've gone back to 1,000 years ago.
B: I've been here several times before. It improved and became even more popular.
C: I was looking forward to coming. The Palace Museum here is impressive. It's as big as the real one in Beijing.
D: I wish I would be able to look at everything here carefully.
The prosperous film industry accelerated the development of the local economy. Hengdian World Studios brought great opportunities for the economy with tourism and the service industries experiencing the fastest growth.
Ma Yuebin, who's been working in the film city as a tour guide for the past 14 years since it was initiated, says local people also enjoy the fun as extras to various film crews while making money as well. And local people engaged in various businesses.
"The businesses cover from running hotels and restaurants to driving rickshaws for tourists. A total of more than ten thousand people are engaged in such businesses in our village."
In 2004, Hengdian was designated by film authorities as a state level Experimental Base, the only one of its kind in China. Now it is striving to build itself into a film industrial chain focusing on playwriting, production, issuing, as well as bi-product development.
Meanwhile, as one of the top class scenic spots, Hengdian is building itself into a film industry theme park in the near future.
Thank you Damin for your story. The place is certainly worth visiting especially for those who love movies. I hope I will go there someday. Now I'll put the film city top of my travel list.