Born to be Bold

Born to be Bold

“Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!” Coco Chanel stated. True elegance is embodied by those who strive for a future. With a family heritage on her shoulders, the grandniece of Zhou Enlai, then PRC Premier, Zhou Ling maintains her modest nature. Taking her family background as a challenge. Zhou Ling reveals her passion for traditional cultures. She shows her heartfelt concern for society through her influential motion pictures.

Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize winner for literature, once stated, “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” Zhou Ling was raised by Zhou Erjun, nephew of Zhou Enlai. Along with the Department Head of Politics of the National Defense University, and famed television director Deng Zaijun, renowned as a “a generous, righteous, and artistic professional”, they reared a personality. A pioneer of television art and the initiator of the celebrated Spring Festival Gala are other titles that Deng is known for.

Her identity as Zhou Enlai’s grandniece had little impact on her childhood, as she was not told of her family origins till she turned thirteen. However from a young age, she considered Zhou Enlai as her role model. She described Zhou as “a brilliant man”. He simply stood out amongst a crowd of millions. Always polite and charismatic, he even appealed to his enemies.” Zhou continued, “Even though I am part of this family, I would live to uphold our heritage rather than make a living out of it; so I always remind myself of living up to Zhou EnLai’s level.” Zhou Ling is always determined not to take advantage of her heritage. “I have always been in the middle of society, as one of the masses.”

Life amidst the Beijing Hutongs is a vivid part of Zhou Ling’s childhood. “It was a great blessing to have such jovial time in my life,” she said. After years in the Central Academy of Drama, Zhou Ling left for the United States in the early 90s . After several years, she worked as a fashion model in Spain. More than a decade of globetrotting has taught her the values of life. This showed her the purpose of living: “Painting and design enrich my life, but it is patriotism that makes my life complete. Some say only on foreign soil, can travellers learn to be patriotic. My ventures taught me how important my country is. Only upon travelling did I start to desperately search for my national identity.”

Throughout her career, Zhou Ling always pursued creativity instead of fame and fortune. In 1993, she founded the Golden Rose Advertising Company, named after Konstantin Paustovsky’s Golden Rose. Following shortly, she started directing television programs, “I am always concerned about our era, and I cherish my right to do so. For every project, I always aim for excellence,” Zhou Ling believes television creates visions. With the power of image, it brings about changes to its audience. As a professional in documentary art, she strives to reveal social issues of the era through the screen. With due respect for original creativity and cultural multiplicity, her works attempt to unveil people’s deep emotions. Bainian Enlai, an award-winning biographic television documentary commemorating Zhou Enlai, is the kind of work she aspires to.

“I learn to think on the shoulders of history. The history is never dormant, continually exerting influences over the present and the future. Zhou Enlai is a historical figure commanding love and respect. That’s why I decided to include art and music in my documentary production. I feel grateful for the awards given to this project. The joy, however, of making this documentary lies in the unwavering pursuit of finding our peoples’ roots”

Text: Kenneth Lin
English translation: Lee TinSum

Published in Issue 31 CHINA, 2010