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Story of an artist who's creating a tribute to the princess who sought to link China with Tibet
A revered figure in the attempt to create harmony between China and Tibet is that of Princess Wencheng, a member of the Tang Dynasty who married the Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in order to build a bond between these two cultures.

In a modern effort to both pay tribute to the princess and understand the culture/art of Tibet, Chinese artist Jing Tingyao has been creating a mammoth painting of her and using influences from Tibet to achieve this. The process has been captured and displayed for Chinese audiences on Central China Television (CCTV) in a thirty-four-part documentary series.

As editor of Thousand Year’s Chasing: Princess Wencheng, Lou Shuai has been charged with assembling the story in a manner that honors the story and excites the audience. CCTV currently has the world’s largest television audience (available in more than 120 countries and regions via IPTV) with an incredible 1.2 billion viewers (of all TV networks in the US, none attained even eight million in 2017…a fraction of CCTV’s audience).

The sheer amount of viewers placed a heavy load of responsibility upon Shuai’s shoulders to deliver an emotional and exciting story about an iconic/long deceased figure and a giant Chinese ink painting. That sounds like a tall order and Lou more than rose to the occasion.

Thousand Years Chasing: Princess Wencheng is currently in the midst of its run on CCTV. With an incredibly large share of the TV audience, this says as much about how to communicate history and art as it does about modern day production techniques.

The documentary Thousand Years Chasing: Princess Wencheng is the story of famous Chinese Artist Jing Tingyao’s creation in Tibet of a three-hundred meters long by three-meters high Chinese ink painting of Princess Wencheng. Tingyao studied and incorporated many iconic locations from Tibet in his work such as the Potala Palace, Chagpori, Princess Wencheng Opera, Jokhang, Pa Beng Ka Palace, Bos Grunniens, and Kangrinboqe. 

In this very traditional story about an equally traditional part of the world, Shuai offset this with a number of drone shots. This effect both served the purpose of giving prime access in parts of Tibet’s difficult terrain and creating a bridge between the present and past for viewers. The perspective of seeing many ancient and remote areas in such an accessible way created a visual energy that linked to the work of Tingyao and the land he had gained such an affinity for.

While a documentary about painting might not seem to be an exciting prospect but rather one for quiet reflection, the artist himself added to the intensity of this documentary. Jing’s passion for the people and places of Tibet can be seen getting the better of him a number of times, such as when the seventy-year-old artist runs to meet native people dressed in traditional garb and the physical exertion is so overwhelming that he is forced to lay on the ground to contain himself.

The passion was stirring for Shuai, he concedes, “Mr. Jing’s enthusiasm is infectious. It was clear to me and I wanted to make sure that the audience felt it as I did. Even though he is overcome with excitement, the true spirit he feels from Tibet is peace. I’ve been there and I know exactly how it affects you. The soul of Tibet is peaceful. To convey this when I was editing the project, I used slow pacing and rhythm to convey the sense of peacefulness to the audience. Music of the region was key in achieving this. I carefully selected specific music that worked. I hadn’t worked on a Tibetan style documentary before. I spent a lot of time learning the history and culture of Tibet.”

Lou confirms that as an artist himself in the medium of television, using his talent to shine the light on an accomplished and respected artist like Jing Tingyao is the ideal situation for him. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his work was exposed to more than a billion people, leading to more jobs with both CCTV and others.

He remarks that his family at home was particularly proud seeing his name in the credits during the airing of Thousand Year’s Chasing: Princess Wencheng. While he is still taking part in a number of different productions, Lou Shuai has accumulated quite a reputation for himself in the documentary world. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, as well as the Tribeca film festival and others continually expand the space for documentaries in their bandwidth. The results are good for editors like Shuai as the age of the documentary is upon us.

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