Acting and Chinese History

Acting and Chinese History

Chinese History in Chinese TV

This blog covers some the things I learned about Chinese history through filming in China, and particularly about some of the foreigners who helped shape history there.

Elgin and Yuanmingyuan

HistoryPosted by Ben Thompson Fri, April 12, 2013 18:11:14
Yuanmingyuan (圆明园), otherwise known as the Old Summer Palace, was a magnificent park and set of palaces built by the Qing emperors on the outskirts of Beijing. The court spent most of the year there, only coming to the Forbidden City when protocol demanded that the Emperor gave audience.

In 1860 this magnificent garden was invaded by the Anglo-French forces who burned the palaces to the ground and took many priceless artifacts as booty.

In 2005 CCTV10, which is the educational channel of China Central Television, made a documentary about Yuanmingyuan. In order to give the viewer an impression of what the gardens were like in their heyday, significant use was made of expensive CGI technology, which was a first for a Chinese documentary. I played Lord Elgin, the leader of the expedition and the man who ordered the burning of the gardens.

More information about Yuanmingyuan and Elgin's role can be found here


The film had a grand premier at the Great Hall of the People, which I attended with some of the other foreign actors.