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China: A Century of Revolution (Three Disc Set)

4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

China: A Century of Revolution is a six-hour tour de force journey through the country's most tumultuous period. First televised on PBS, this award-winning documentary series presents an astonishingly candid view of a once-secret nation with rare archival footage, insightful historical commentary and stunning eyewitness accounts from citizens who struggled through China's most decisive century. China in Revolution charts the pivotal years from the birth of the new republic to the establishment of the PRC, through foreign invasions, civil war and a bloody battle for power between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. The Mao Years examines the turbulent era of Mao's attempts to forge a "new China" from the war-ravaged and exhausted nation. Born Under the Red Flag showcases China's unlikely transformation into an extraordinary hybrid of communist-centralized politics with an ever-expanding free market economy. Monumental in scope, China: A Century of Revolution is critical viewing for anyone interested in this increasingly powerful and globally influential country.

DISC ONE Part One: China in Revolution 1911-1949 (1989)

DISC TWO Part Two: The Mao Years 1949-1976 (1994)

DISC THREE Part Three: Born Under the Red Flag 1976-1997 (1997)


"Remarkable...a chronicle of achievement, misadventure, cruelty and havoc." --The New York Times

"The film provides exactly the sort of long-range socio-political context that Western news organizations seldom bring to breaking events. Moreover, it does so with a visual integrity that is simply stunning." --The Boston Globe

"A superb chronicling of China's history.... Fascinating and provocative." --Journal of Asian Studies

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Will Lyman
  • Directors: Sue Williams
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Chinese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: July 10, 2007
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000Q7ZOLC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,880 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By GLBT VINE VOICE on June 5, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This series consists of six one-hour episodes, and takes you through the beginning of the 20th century up until the present. The story that it tells is so incredibly bizarre and tragic and thought-provoking that at times it was difficult to believe it was all true. The 2nd DVD in particular, which focuses on the reign of Mao, really made me realize how different the Chinese culture is from my own (USA) and what a traumatic history they've had in the past 100 years.
One of the things I really appreciated about this series was how non-judgmental it was. At no point did I feel that the editor or producers had a political agenda. The point was not to demonize the Communists and also not to glorify them. Instead, it simply let you watch the events unfold and let you listen to the people who lived it as they attempt to explain to you (and to themselves) how all of these unbelievable things happened and how it felt to be in the middle of it all.
You could really understand why, after living through Chiang Kai-shek's corrupt Nationalist rule, the people were so eager to follow Mao and to embrace his idealistic vision of a Communist State built of equality and justice. And, too, you could see how the whole thing slowly went off-kilter. As Mao became more and more removed from the day-to-day reality of the peasants, his ideas became increasingly demented. In a sense, he reminded me of Marlon Brando's character in "Apocalypse Now," except that Mao was real and was in the position of leadership of almost one billion people.
By the time the documentary got to the Cultural Revolution (the fourth of the six episodes), it's like you're watching some insane Monty Python-esque satire about revolutions within revolutions.
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The basic Amazon description of this DVD is confusing -- and that's unfortunate because this is a terrific selection of three of Susan Williams' four PBS documentaries on China.

Contained in this set are "China in Revolution," shown on PBS in 1989; "The Mao Years," shown in 1994 -- and "Born Under the Red Flag," aired in 1997. However, if you're a PBS-and-China watcher, you should know that Williams' more recent documentary, "China in the Red," is not in this set. Personally, as a longtime journalist myself, I don't think this set suffers from its abrupt end with the decline of Deng Xiaoping. Williams' 2003 film, "China in the Red," examined the lives of a handful of Chinese workers -- but China is evolving so rapidly that I would think Susan Williams herself would want to make a completely different "Part 4" to her series in 2008 than she did six years ago when she was assembling "China in the Red."

Nevertheless -- this set is not, as the cover claims, "Definitive," about China. After six hours, the history comes to a screeching halt with Deng's decline. Plus, China watchers are likely to quibble over a whole series of points in the course of the six hours. For instance, the U.S. decision to establish full diplomatic ties with Beijing in the late 1970s is presented with a former U.S. ambassador saying, "All the Chinese were happy." Well, that certainly wasn't the case with the ethnic Chinese living in Taiwan. They were stunned and disgusted at that news. Perhaps Williams could have at least touched on that point.

Also -- if you watch this documentary at the same time you view "Manufactured Landscapes," a much more contemporary visual meditation on industrial development in China, your head will snap around at Williams' footage of workers in newer factories.
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Format: DVD
I bought this set for my husband, who has been doing a lot of business in China recently. He wanted to understand the background of the people he is getting to know; what motivates them and why; how their history affects their outlook and attitudes. China: A Century of Revolution definitely fit the bill! It's fascinating - lots of descriptions of events by people who were there when they happened help the viewer understand why China's relatively recent history has unfolded the way it has. You get the opportunity to hear many sides of each story: both leaders and common soldiers on both Communist and Nationalist sides; common people living in villages whose daily lives were impacted by change, etc. We would recommend this DVD set as a good overview for Americans looking for a basic understanding of twentieth-century Chinese history.
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Format: DVD
This is a wonderfully unbiased documentary on the 20th century history of China. It begins with the fall of an Empire and rise of Sun Yat Sen in 1911, and moves onto Chiang Kai Shek and Chairman Mao who are portrayed as leaders who participated in some of the most significant events that define the Cultural Revolution.
I remember Secondary School curriculae that portrays the Nationalist Chiang as the 'good-guy', and Chairman Mao as the 'bad-guy' of chinese 20th century history. However, this documentary remains ambivalent on both of these matters, presenting the facts without bias by the producers. They expertly weave a history with evenhandedness making it impartial and objective to the sometimes very subjective matter that is The Cultural Revolution. The entire six hour documentary spans approximately 70 years, from 1911 (Sun Yat Sen) through to the rule and capitalistic tendencies of Deng Xiao Peng.
While the objectivity of the documentary is laudable, the treatment of the subject matter is nothing short of exceptional. The intention of the documentary is to serve as an overview within a six hour time-frame. It is NOT intended as an in-depth political study of the times! Subsequently, the documentary does not getted bogged-down in too much detail, but simultaneously manages to adequately portray the events that defined 20th century China.
On the whole this documentary is highly watchable, offering historical footage and interviews with those who participated in the Cultural Revolution in one form or another. Any curriculum study of 20th century China would be greatly enhanced by including this documentary. The documentary also serves as a great introduction to China for anyone interested in the country and how it has arrived at being the country it is today.
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