“What’s your impression of Wuhan University?” Dou Xiankang, the new president of Wuhan University (WHU) gave a convincing answer to this question after his inaugural ceremony. “The campus is beautiful; the students are enthusiastic; and the alumni are ‘gelivable’ (a word coined by Chinese netizens, meaning ‘awesome’)”. With the beauty of the natural surroundings of WHU widely acknowledged, countless contributions show lasting affection of WHUers for their alma mater.
WHU has received various kinds of donations from its alumni: the Wanlin Art Museum, funded by Chen Dongsheng, the chairman of Taikang Group, who graduated from the WHU Economics and Management School; the Tech Building (under construction), funded by Lei Jun, the creator of Xiaomi Tech, a graduate who majored in computer science in WHU. There are also various scholarship funded by alumni aimed to award merited students.
This spring, however, Li Zhe, a 2004 graduate of the WHU Electronic Information School who owns a film studio, decided to make a different gift for his alma mater--to make a documentary for WHU.
What is it about?
The documentary, which is called Luojia, has filmed 6 episodes so far. It mainly focuses on the unique architectures in WHU constructed during the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949).
Free from any profit-driven regulation, the documentary Luojia gives full and pure depictions of the academic and historical recollection of the architectures. The six episodes are independent and listed chronologically, each depicting one aspect respectively.
The first episode is planned to be called “Zhaoshi (Initiate)”, in which a comparison is made between the universities built at around the same time as WHU. In the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republican period, modern education was believed to be a vital way to emancipate Chinese people from misery. Initiated by the central government, many predecessors of current day universities, including Wuhan University, Nanjing University and Peking University, were established.
The next episode is about the construction of the WHU campus. It tells a story about how the property to the land was obtained, how funds were collected, how materials were transported to Luojia Mountain with available vehicles, and how such a grand school was built from nothing. The founders of WHU overcame various difficulties, leaving later generations with an excellent environment for further academic excavation.
After so much hardship, the campus was finally built. But what do the buildings look like? This question is answered in the episode “Diantang (Palace)”, which evaluates the artistic value of the architecture in WHU.
The natural scenery of WHU--the East Lake and the Luojia Mountain, are depicted in the episode “Hushan (Lake and Mountain)”, in which the dynamic interaction between the changing seasons and WHU are exquisitely presented.
Interactions between constructions and people are the theme of the episode “Jiyi (Memory)”. The buildings in WHU have witnessed the founders who built this campus, the scholars who went in and out, and the leaders and soldiers who lived there and took part in the rebellion against Japanese occupation.
The last episode “Shouwang (Keep Watching)” pays attention to the relationship between the past and the future. New buildings rise up while old ones remain still. The history of WHU was continuously unveiled through the vicissitude of architectures. WHU witnessed not only the dramatic changes of the campus, but also the transformation of education in China.
How to make it?
“Actually it is very demanding to make a documentary. One problem is that the campus of WHU is very large and is easy for people to get lost.” said a member of shooting team. At first the team walked about ten kilometers everyday to decide the spots to be filmed. “We choose not to drive because we may miss one spot in the car.” Unfamiliar with the campus, they had to depend on GPS to tour around.
The documentary was started shooting in May 2016 and it is expected to finish shooting in May 2018. The two-year long filming is expected to include various scenes in all seasons: the flowers in spring, the trees in summer, the moon in autumn, and the glittering snow in winter. The buildings in WHU get decorated during different periods. To catch these beauties, patience is required.
The comprehension of Hamlet varies from reader to reader. When it comes to a campus, visitors will have views different from students; and a historian may also have understandings distinct from an architect. The team will interview different groups ranging from 19 years old to 90 years old. At last, the documentary will be presented in various perspectives. Most buildings have lived for more than 80 years and this documentary is meant to bring about vivid memories about them.
“Wuhan University is one of the most beautiful universities in China, and its cultural atmosphere is created from generation to generation.” said Han Song, the producer of Luojia. In Han’s mind, WHU is born to be a place for study and everyone here should be thankful for what has been left here.
“We want to show our gratitude through this documentary and give WHU a valuable video which recalls its own property and those historical figures who contributed to China’s civilization.” Han said. Hopefully, people will remember that eighty years ago, a group of predecessors built this university, enabling millions of young Chinese to receive first-class education; and eighty years later, another group of people make a film, passing the spirit and greatness of WHU on to later generations.
Edited by Li Minjia, Wu Siying, Edmund Wai Man Lai and Hu Sijia