Exploring ‘Chinawood’

The world’s largest film studio in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province is a popular destination for filmmakers and tourists alike

Visitors take pictures with actors at the Palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties at Hengdian World Studios

By Wang Junnan, Xu Xiaoming, Wang Conghang

Located in Dongyang, a city in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, Hengdian World Studios spans more than 800 acres. It is home to more than 10 vast life-like outdoor shooting bases, 40 sophisticated indoor studios and 700 film and television production houses. As China’s only national experimental zone for film and television industry, Hengdian has now earned its reputation as “Chinawood” around the world.

So what is the secret behind Hengdian’s success?

1.6 Million Visits a Year

Stepping into the Palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties at Hengdian World Studios, visitors might feel as if they have been stumbled into the Forbidden City in Beijing. All palaces and gardens here are full-sized replicas. Magnificent buildings like Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony) and Qianqingmen (Gate of Heavenly Purity) look exactly the same as those found in the Forbidden City. The Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties is the movie set at Hengdian most sought after by filmmakers.

Hengdian is the largest film studio in the world, as well as the most popular shooting base in China. It houses a variety of elaborate sets depicting places across China, including Guangzhou Street, Hong Kong Street, the Palace of Emperor Qin, the Riverside Scene of the Northern Song Dynasty, the Palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties, Fantasy Valley, the Dazhi Buddhist Temple, the Chinese Cultural Garden, the Ming and Qing Folk Houses and the National Defense Garden. These sets have been used to shoot an estimated 1,800 films and TV shows produced by both Chinese and foreign filmmakers. At present, there are a further five sets under construction, including Old Shanghai, the Palace and Street of the Tang Dynasty, the Nine Dragons Canyon, Lovers’ Valley and Dream World.

In addition to being the world’s largest film studio, Hengdian is also one of China’s largest tourism attractions. Tourism accounts for 90 percent of its total revenue. On April 18, 2010, Hengdian World Studios was approved as an AAAAA National Tourist Attraction by the National Tourism Administration of China, and the total number of visitors reached 550,000 in 2001. Since then, the number of tourists has continued to rise. Hengdian received more than 10 million visitors per year from 2011-2015. With an accumulated number of visits exceeding 100 million, tourism has become a pillar industry in the local economy.

As the largest film studio in China, Hengdian has produced one third of the country’s period dramas.

As the once unknown small town has been transformed into a well-known tourism destination, many related businesses have also begun to thrive, such as hotels, restaurants and catering companies. Hengdian Group, Hengdian World Studios’ investor, achieved total business income of 58 billion yuan (US$8.4 billion) last year and its total assets reached 63.4 billion yuan (US$9.2 billion).

Upgrading China’s ‘Film and TV Capital’

In October 2015, Hengdian launched its urban renewal project that includes downtown road reconstruction, highway and road construction, upgrading underground pipe networks and utility poles and wiring renovation. Different government departments of Dongyang, mainly those involved in environmental protection, road construction and power supply, have made joint efforts in the urban planning and infrastructure upgrading of Hengdian.

“In the process of improving the overall environment of Hengdian, we also take tourism development into consideration,” explained Huang Min, secretary of the CPC Dongyang Municipal Committee. “So we began constructing unique villages to attract interested tourists. This is the ultimate goal of our reconstruction project.”

Shanglunzhuang Village sits along the route from the New Old Summer Palace to the Riverside Scene of the Northern Song Dynasty.

Thanks to a reconstruction project launched last May, the village has taken on a brand new look. A 10,000-square-meter wasteland has been transformed into an adventure playground amid shades of green. A primitive but elegant pavilion stands aside a newly-paved slab stone pathway. Visitors to the village can enjoy beach volleyball and fishing.

In October 2016, 127 towns including Hengdian were listed as the first batch of Unique Chinese Towns by the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

Renewed Power Supply

As the largest film studio in China, Hengdian has produced one third of the country’s period dramas.

“It’s a pity that there are sometimes mistakes in films and TV shows filmed here,” said Wang Zhiyi, general manager of the Zhejiang Dongyang Power Supply Company, part of the State Grid Corporation of China.” For example, sometimes utility poles are visible in period dramas, which is quite awkward.”

To solve problems like this, Wang’s company embarked on a power equipment renewal project, which involved installing underground transmission lines, removing waste utility poles and billboards, installing new electric meter boxes and cleaning exterior walls of power distribution rooms.

The total electrical output of Hengdian has doubled since 2010, which is indicative of a rapid growth in electricity demand. Therefore, the construction of local grids has been strengthened with an investment of more than 159 million yuan (US$23 million) in 2016. Now, the old low-powercapacity transformers have been replaced by highly efficient ones. Newly insulated transmission lines provide extra security for wiring near buildings or trees. Electric meter boxes made from fiber-reinforced plastic have been used as a substitute for iron boxes that rust easily. Above all, a well-organized operation and maintenance system ensures a stable supply of electricity for the entire town.

As introduced by Huang Yangming, secretary of the CPC Working Committee of Hengdian Film Industrial Park, there are an average of 30 crews working in different bases everyday. Diesel generators, which are noisy, inefficient and a source of pollution, power most of their shooting equipment. To solve this problem, the local power supply company presented a specially formulated plan in 2016. At present, measures like the construction of supporting equipment and rental services of mobile power supply devices have been widely implemented at 35 shooting bases at Hengdian.


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