Documentary focuses on the youth of prominent Chinese academics in wartime

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Li Zhong (2nd L, front), a 99-year-old alumnus of National Southwest Associated University, a wartime union of universities that included Peking University (PKU), attends a ceremony marking the 120th anniversary of PKU at Beijing University Khoo Gymnasium Teck Puat in Beijing, capital of China, May 4, 2018 (Xinhua / Shen Bohan)

A documentary film focused on the youth of Chinese academics at the Associated National University of Southwest China, such as Nobel laureate in physics Yang Zhengning, has received high praise from moviegoers since its release on Friday in cinemas in mainland China. The stories of these national treasures, which are all now over 90 years old, moved the public.

The film has a rating of 8.0 / 10 on the Chinese media review platform Douban and ranked second in the site’s popularity index for the week, behind A quiet place: part II.

During the war of resistance against Japanese aggression (1931-1945), a special university was established in Yunnan province (southwest China). The university, a combination of three top Chinese universities, only existed for eight years, but its influence over the country has been immense as it produced two Nobel Prize winners, five Chinese Best Science and Technology Prize winners. and over 100 master’s degrees in the humanities.

The documentary, One day when we were young, remembers the time spent by 16 exceptional university students as the flames of war ravaged the country.

These scholars, such as Yang and the well-known translator Xu Yuanchong, who translated Marcel Proust’s masterpiece In Search of Lost Time in Chinese, all appear in the documentary.

Although war was a constant threat, their time at university was always fruitful and enjoyable. They once visited an entire city to listen to “the best Chinese lesson in history,” debated national and social issues among themselves at local teahouses, and even applied to help with the war effort. by working with the American Volunteer Group.

Whether in the works of famous Chinese writer Wang Zengqi or in the documentary, young audiences were shocked by the hot-blooded youth of these scholars.

In a post on Chinese social media platform WeChat, Tencent Pictures, one of the production companies behind the film, wrote that the film seeks to inspire audiences to rediscover the reasons we are investigating, to reflect on the meaning and value of life, to explore the nature of education and universities, and to reflect on the key to creating a great nation.

Some internet users have said they were inspired by these scholars, whose minds contrast sharply with today, a time when a discouraged lifestyle called grab (or lie down), has gone viral among Chinese youth.

“I highly recommend the film, and it’s definitely worth buying a ticket to support it,” a viewer in Beijing named Xu told the Global Times on Monday.

Xu said that each era has its confusion and contradictions. “However, when you watch the movie and see this group of wise and time-hardened people, you will surely start to think about the meaning of your life and become more determined to follow the road you have explored from the start,” despite more and more today. frequent grab culture. In the film we see not only the strong will of these masters, but also the extraordinary life that a young person should have.

Several national heroes were lost one after another in May, including “father of hybrid rice” Yuan Longping and top Chinese hepatobiliary surgeon Wu Mengchao.

Some viewers said they came to appreciate these pioneers while watching the film. Another young film enthusiast living in Shanxi Province (northern China) said she hopes the longevity and health of these elderly masters.

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