Essex historian helps Child Genius shine

  • Date

    Mon 21 Aug 17

Dr Xun Zhou

Essex historian Dr Xun Zhou helped a contestant on Channel 4’s Child Genius learn more about early Chinese history.

Dr Zhou from our Department of History was approached by the show’s makers when Dylan, one of this year’s finalists, chose the Military Campaigns of the Yellow Turban Rebellion 184-205CE as his specialist subject. The events of the Rebellion took place during the Han Dynasty. Dr Zhou was asked to help Dylan by providing reading material on the topic.

“It was challenging to find suitable English language reading material on such an obscure subject for a child,” said Dr Zhou, who then wrote 30 questions on the Rebellion for the programme.

“There is a limited amount of reading on this subject, so writing 30 questions was difficult. I also wanted to avoid using too many Chinese names so that the audience could follow the story.”

Dr Zhou was then involved in the filming of the final round of the competition at the Royal Institution.

“Though I avoided Chinese names as far as possible, there was one incident involving pronunciation. That's when the experts are useful. I over-ruled and gave Dylan the point as I thought his pronunciation was close enough. It might sound funny, but after three weeks of working on this, I felt close to him by the day of filming.

“It’s very exciting to see young children in this country interested in learning about Chinese history and culture.”

Dr Zhou specialises in modern Chinese history and is one of an increasing number of historians pioneering the use of oral histories and archival evidence to help reshape our understanding of 20th Century China under Mao.