China Beat Archive



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December 6, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright December 6, 2010. Used by permission.


In October, CCTV’s high-definition channel broadcast a new six-hour, eight-episode documentary on the famous husband-and-wife duo Liang Sicheng (梁思成, 1901-1972) and Lin Huiyin (林徽因, 1904-1955). Liang is renowned as a pioneering architectural historian, Lin as a writer, but their presence in China’s historical consciousness defies easy categorization. Both came from prominent families (Sicheng’s father was Liang Qichao, the scholar and reformer of the late Qing and early Republican period) and they left multifaceted legacies (their son, the noted environmentalist Liang Congjie, died in Beijing on October 28; American artist Maya Lin is Huiyin’s niece.)

Titled “Liang Sicheng Lin Huiyin,” the documentary was directed by Hu Jingcao (胡劲草), a 42-year-old video journalist. Like her subjects, Hu (who spent the 2000-01 academic year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University) seems compelled to cross cultural and national boundaries. She previously made “You Tong” (幼童), an account of the 120 boys sent by Qing officials to study in the United States in the 1870s. Like that documentary, this new work draws extensively on previously unexplored materials from both the United States (where Liang and Lin studied for several years) and China, as well as Japan. It tells much of their story through the lens of their long and close friendship with John King Fairbank and Wilma Fairbank. Their photographs and their voluminous correspondence are drawn on extensively, along with interviews of their children (Holly Fairbank and Liang Zaibing as well as Liang Congjie) and many other people who knew them. The documentary’s official site has all eight episodes available for viewing; this page has an index of YouTube links for all the episodes, most in high-definition.