“Armenia – The Great Chinese Journey”

By Alena Rasi

China’s ties with the western civilization has long been a topic for debate. A documentary film by a 26-year-old Armenian director offers a new perspective. Will it prove to be a sensation?

Based exclusively on scientific research, the latest archaeological findings and archival data, “Armenia – The Great Chinese Journey” is a new documentary that promises to present previously unknown historical artefacts.
Radio86 interviewed director Ruben Gini to find out more.

What makes it unique?

“It is not a story of one nation. My purpose is to make the documentary equally interesting for a broad audience, from different countries, and also for different ages, from respected scholars to schoolboys,” explained Gini.

The history of the ancient East still retains many secrets. What century saw the first contact between the East and the West? Who was the first Westerner to reach Tibet? Who was the first Chinese person to travel westwards and visit Rome? The answers to these questions are buried in time.

“However, in our new documentary “Armenia – the Great Chinese Journey ” we will try to find the answers by relying on the latest archaeological data, international publications and interviews with Western and Asian experts. This is what makes it unique,” said Gini.

The documentary uses three periods to explore the history of Chinese-Armenian relations, beginning with antiquity and the Middle Ages, then the 20th century and finally the modern age and the Shanghai 2010 Expo.

Viewers will head on an exciting and educating journey back in time to see major historical events with their own eyes and make new discoveries.

Accessing archives: Mission possible

A couple of decades ago, accessing Chinese archive materials would have been an impossible mission. However, today, all the doors are open to this young film director.

Working on the documentary script, he felt like a detective investigating the mysteries of the past: “I think that now is a convenient time to work with archives in China because, after 100 years of communism, this country is open again. Now a Westerner can get access to these unstudied historical records and resources.”

“The script is mostly ready but we are constantly receiving new data and making final changes. For the shooting, we are planning to visit five countries and 14 cities, such as Shanghai, Harbin, Lhasa (Tibet), Samarkand, Singapore, Macao and Hong Kong,” said the director.

Truth or legend?

Ruben Gini was born in Erevan, Armenia, and studied film directing at the All-Russian State University of Cinematography (VGIK). He moved to China in 2004 to work as a creative director in an advertisement company. Now at age 26, he communicates in four languages: Russian, Armenian English and Chinese.

China could not but arouse his curiosity, which soon evolved into deep interest and passion: “The experience I got in China was as valuable as gold,” admitted Gini. Being fond of history and archaeology, he participated in several scientific expeditions in Armenia and China.

“What intrigued me most was the fact that Chinese history is so different and closely intertwined with legend. Sometimes it’s not easy to define truth from the legend,” observes Gini.

Unknown artefacts

Contemporary archaeological research shows that China and Armenia were in contact in the second century BCE. To prove this, the documentary will feature convincing artefacts, such as ancient Armenian coins found in China and an image of the Chinese dragon on Armenian engravings.

Armenia is important in this respect due to its geographical location on the crossroads of cultures and trading routes. Gini says, that Chinese-Armenian relations have not been studied very extensively.

For example, not many of us know that Armenian costume served as a sort of pass to the Eastern trade routes: “Europeans disguised themselves in Armenian clothes to see the wonders of China,” says Gini.

“It’s important to understand that the first contacts with the East were the first steps towards globalisation, a process which began in ancient times and is continuing to the present day and to the future… So the film intends to show these connections,” concluded Ruben Gini.

The film will be released during 2012.

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