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According to the experiments, all of our theories are wrong.


All of them. All of the physics of the past 60 years is wrong.


Hello, and welcome to the three Body podcast, the official companion podcast for Netflix, three Body problem. I'm Dr. Maggie Adarin Pocock, space scientist, educator, and true Sci-Fi fan.


And I'm Jason Concepcion, a writer, a podcaster, as well as just generally being a huge, huge nerd.


Welcome to the I'm a nerd, too.


So we're going to get on by you do it more professionally, in a more academic sense. I'm just kind of a lay person nerd.


Together, we're going to be guiding you through the mysterious and wonderful multi layered world of Netflix's three body problem.


On this podcast, we'll hear from the creatives behind the scenes to get insight into the story and production of this epic Sci-Fi series, from the showrunners, the writers, to the VFX team. We'll also be hearing from yourself, Maggie, as well as some other experts who have deep science knowledge. Because for those of you who don't know, aren't familiar with this story, this show is based on a legendary Sci-Fi trilogy. That's what they call in the biz, a hard Sci-Fi story. Hard Sci-Fi what does that mean? Hard Sci-Fi means underline the science in the fiction. There is a lot of science here, folks, and it is wild, mind blowing stuff. And you're going to need a guide through that. And we have got the guides for you, including Maggie, thankfully for me, yourself, because I need you. I need you to take me through this, through the dimensions, through the worlds, across the galaxy, all of it. Help us, Maggie.


Well, think, Jason. I need you because I'm not used to productions on this scale. And so there's going to be terms and things like that that I don't understand. But as a space scientist, this is my bag. There's science in here that you can really get your teeth into. I mean, we're talking about the really big stuff.


The big stuff. And it's science that you can't believe is real, but is real. That's the really exciting thing about this show, is you'll watch this and you go, okay, but that's Sci-Fi. No, this is stuff that people are working on. And there are some really, really fascinating science based questions that are posed to the audience throughout these first couple of episodes. For instance, what might the reaction be amongst the world scientists if suddenly they can no longer trust their data, their hardware, their equipment, if it was giving back garbage, what would happen?




Because I wonder what we might do as governments or individuals if mysterious technologies that seem to be way ahead of anything we have today suddenly start to appear.




Or what would you do if you saw an ominous countdown appear in front of your eyes there, wherever you looked, what would you do? We'll be delving into all those questions and more as we take you through the three Body Problems series. But for now, on this first episode of the three Body podcast, we're going to be setting the scene and getting right into this incredible world. I'll be speaking to three body's legendary showrunners, writers David Benioff, Dan Weiss, and Alexander Wu.


And we'll be hearing from bestselling author.


Yung chang as she shares her firsthand.


Experience of life during China's cultural revolution and gives us insight into this historical period where our three body problem story begins.


I can't wait. Shall we get into it, Maggie? Three body podcasts, episode one.


Let's do this.


In this episode, spoiler warning, we'll be covering content from episodes one and two of the three body problems show. So if you're not there yet, stop now, go watch the show on Netflix. We'll be waiting for you when you get back. You. So, Maggie, the first episode, just as in the books, opens with a scene from the cultural revolution which gripped China.


Beginning in the 1960s.


And we see this shocking scene of a scientist beaten to death in front of a crowd. What were your thoughts as an opener?


I was shocked by it and quite horrified by it. And just to do that to a human, how did you feel?


Well, as a book reader, I was expecting this. On the other hand, it is, of course, so much more visceral to watch this scene unfold. And as a person who has only a kind of surface level knowledge of that period of history, it was quite bracing, quite shocking to watch. And I can't imagine the heartbreak of watching someone you care about perish in that way. It was just so brutal, and it was almost as if the show is grabbing you by the collar in that opening scene and saying, okay, you're going to pay attention now. It's very effective.


Yeah, I mean, this scene is devastating. It's really hard to watch, but it's even harder to look away.




And also, this is the moment where we meet one of our main characters, ye Wenji, and she's there. She's been restrained by sort of two fellows as she watches her father beaten up on stage. And, yeah, it's just a terrible thing to actually observe.


And the ultimate betrayal.


When her mother comes on, there's almost a hope, oh, my mom, she'll say something and save him. And she sort of just throws him under the bus, literally. And sort of hearing the justification that they're denouncing this theory because Einstein helped make the nuclear bomb. As a scientist, it's just quite terrifying to see this scientific theory branded as sort of dangerous work. And, yeah, it's just quite mind boggling. And one of the other things that makes this scene so disturbing is that ye's father is being attacked by the very students that he taught. So he knows these people who are doing this to him.


Yeah, that's something we'll be discussing a little bit later in this episode with our expert guest, Yung Cheng. She'll be discussing how such brutality could be so normalized and telling us what it was like to witness the cultural revolution firsthand. We should know. Two of our three children, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, created Game of Thrones, the television hit television show Game of Thrones. So they are certainly no strangers to shocking scenes, shocking episodes, brutal violence in the service of story. And this is yet another one, the spectacle of it, too. This is a Sci-Fi show. You're expecting Sci-Fi, and it really throws you off to open in this way, kind of flashback to an epic moment in history that is so troubling and so really kind of like unknown and mysterious to many, certainly myself in the west. So, wow. Very memorable and very eye opening.


Wasn't what I expected at all. Well, because I listened to the books, but yes, to see it and yes, the mob mentality and that fervor, it is quite terrifying.


So, Maggie, after the brutal opening scene, we fast forward to present day, where we see another kind of disturbing scene, except this time it's in the form of a crime scene. We see a bloody room. Apparently a scientist has taken his own life, cut out his own eyes. We soon discover, and this crime is part of a pattern of similar events that is the driver of a lot of the events of the early episodes of three body problems. I can't wait to talk more about that in upcoming episodes. But for right now, let's talk about the ops for five the former students and current friends who we meet in episode one. They all met at uni, and they are obviously brilliant, a diverse collection of people, successful in their own ways. What were your impressions of them? Is there anyone that you find yourself immediately gravitating toward?


One of the things I like about this group is they feel real. And I remember especially my first watching scene, because as I've watched the episodes more, I've grown to like them more. But on my first sort of watching, I thought of Jack. Jack's just such.


It worked.


I'm not looking that. It's just he throws things into conversations.


Just to stir things.


I know people like that. So he does seem real, but still a bit annoying. I think my favorite is probably Jean. I really like her. Will seems a bit flip floppy sometimes. I just want him to have a bit more backbone. But then again, I do like them all because they are flawed characters. They're not sort of heroes.




You're getting everything right. They feel like real people. And I think that's what makes the dramas just so enticing. And I think just like in real life, it's wonderful to see the interaction between them. It's the different webs in the relationship. Some are quite complicated, like Auggie and Saul. Some are unrequited love, like Will and Jin. It is all quite messy, but all.


Very, you know, it reminds me a lot of my own relationships that I have with friends that I've met during that time of my.




They know you in a way that.


Almost no one else does.


So in a minute, I'll be chatting with three body problems, three super talented showrunners, David Benioff, Dan Weiss, and Alexander Wu, who I was fortunate enough to sit down with at their offices in Los Angeles. It was a fascinating talk that delves into some of their past work, including, of course, Game of Thrones and what it was like putting this incredible Sci-Fi show together.


Yeah, I'm really looking forward to hearing this. I actually wanted to ask you what the role of a showrunner is. It's not a term I'm familiar with.


Oh, that's a great question. Essentially, like, the person in charge, in the same way that a director is the kind of general of a feature film, calling all the shots, making creative decisions and organizational decisions. The showrunner is doing the same thing, but for television, and the people who can really run that in an efficient way are. It's incredible because it's very complex and.


Chaotic, but the output is joyous. Yes, we hope.


And in this case, yes. Dan, David, Alex, congratulations on the show. Welcome to the pod.


Thank you.


Thank you, Jim.


Thank you very much.


Thanks for having us.


Alex, we'll start with you. How did this project come together?


I think Netflix played matchmaker on this. Peter Friedlander, one of the executives at Netflix called me up and know we have this project. We can't tell you what it is, but you're going to love it. And it turns out he was right.


Dan, how did this story first come to your awareness?


Peter Friedlander mentioned it, sort of in passing at dinner one night that we should check these books out. And they sounded familiar, and I realized they sounded familiar because the first one was on my Kindle. And I remember when we wrapped Thrones and we went for a decompression, like a weekend, seeing it in my library and almost opening it and then choosing something that just looked a little bit less complicated. My headspace. After finishing Game of Thrones, I had.


Heard of the book only because President Obama had blurbed it. Right, which was unusual because you don't really think of Obama blurbing science fiction books. So I remember that, and that's. That's interesting. I'm kind of curious what kind of science fiction president Obama likes. And yes, as Dan said, Peter Frieder talked about them to us. And then we were on a trip to Japan, and we both finished the third book probably within five minutes of each other. And Dan came over to my seat and said, do you finish? I'd literally finished it just then. And I said, yeah. And he said. He said, what do you think? And I said, we got to do this, right? He's like, yeah, we got to do this. So it's a pretty mind blowing trilogy, and it ends so spectacularly and so beautifully imagined. And we were both looking for something big and epic in genre, but we didn't want to do fantasy again after thrones. And so there was just something about this. It was so different from everything we'd done before, and it was so intimidating because it's a hard adaptation. It's a really tricky one. And I think that kind of the fear and the excitement of it made us feel like this might be the one.


What were some of those challenges in the adaptation?


Well, I guess, for one thing, you think of stories that span decades, and that seems like, well, that's a big story. It spans decades. So that's a tricky thing. It's a great thing. I mean, it's part of what lured us in, but it makes things challenging. And then I think just the nature of the genre. I mean, it qualifies as hard science, science fiction. And I don't think you would call either of us or any of the three of us hard scientists or any kind of scientist. Or any kind of scientist. Yeah, that was definitely not my best subject in high school.


The story, as you mentioned, is really marked by how hardcore the science part of science fiction is. It's really rooted in actual science. How much did you nerd out on all of that stuff, Alex?


In the reading of the book?


A lot.


And that story is ideally suited to the novel form. You can put it down, you can go back, you can look things up, you can go down a rabbit hole for 3 hours researching some of the concepts that you had no idea had even existed prior to him introducing them to you. So that makes it perfect for the form that he chose to tell that story in. What we're doing is fundamentally different form of storytelling, and you don't want people to stop, hit pause, and then go research or rewind or anything that you would do in a novel with a television show. Ideally, you just want the thing to be dictating the pace for you. So that was one of the big challenges in this adaptation.


How do you walk an audience through some of the really insane concepts, scientifically that are brought up in this show in a way that doesn't leave them.


Feeling at a certain point? There are places where you have to make a choice, like, are you going to stop the forward momentum of a sequence, actually explain what quantum entanglement is, or are you not going to do that? Spoiler alert. There's quantum entanglement physics student. Spoiler alert. Major plot point. I think in some places, we chose to let the images speak for themselves and not dig overly deeply into the deep science of it, only because it just doesn't jibe with the medium we're working in.


Love to dive into episode one, which really knocked me out, the scenes of the cultural revolution to the really, I think, cool structure of the episode where you're seeing Dr. Ye at Red coast base bookended with the blinking sky, which is really cool. Had that wonderful hook to keep you going. Tell us about that. The cultural revolution scenes in particular, so bracing and vibrant. It must have been a real challenge to bring that to the screen.


Yeah. So that was a lot. It's the scene that starts the book, at least in the english translation, and it's always the scene. There was never any discussion on our end, the three of us. It was always our absolute desire to start the series that way and trying as much as possible to make it as accurate as possible, because so much of the series is science fiction and does go beyond the real, but it starts absolutely real. I mean, it starts with something that's completely grounded in history, and that's what drew me into the books, to be honest. I mean, I remember reading that first scene and just immediately caring about her, caring about the story and being fascinated that what was billed as a science fiction novel started with something completely historical. And as far as I could tell, completely devoid of any kind of science fiction.


You're good 50 pages in before anything science fiction even appears. And it is arguably maybe the strongest character arc in the books. And that's something, as writers for screen format, that's the most important thing to us, is the integrity of the characters, especially if we are building a journey of many weeks and hopefully many years. It's the relationship between the viewers and the characters that is the foundation, I think, of really great, at least the kind of television I like. And the character of ye, when the action she takes would not make as much sense. And you might not feel the same empathy for her were you not along with the journey with her in those opening scenes. So it was crucial to have the emotional impact so that we could have that anchor of Yewenji's character.


Yeah. And as you're talking about it, it reminds me, I mean, one of the most critical things of all was the casting. Yewen Jae is such an important character. She's the big bang that really starts her story. Like, everything comes from her decisions. So the casting of that role was pivotal, and it's a tricky one, because even though she's so important, she doesn't have that much screen time over the course of the season. And we had a really hard time finding anyone. And then we had this Zoom audition with zine, and the three of us and Derek were in London, zine was in Los Angeles, and we had a really bad connection. She was doing these incredibly emotional scenes, and then everything would freeze, and we'd have to apologize and. Oh, so sorry. Hold on, let's try to get this. And she would just sit there patiently waiting for all of us to get back online, and then she'd do it again. And this happened three or four times. I mean, it was a really unpleasant auditioning environment, I'd say, for her. And the fact that she kept her cool and not only that, but just got better and better each take.


It was one of the more extraordinary auditions I've seen, and all three of us have seen quite a few over the years. I mean, she's really a phenome as an actor.


Let's talk about that casting process, because it must be difficult to find folks who feel authentic as these genius scientists like your Oxford Five. What was it that you were looking for with those roles, the thing that jumped out of you, where I think this is where we're going to go.


Well, it's hard because you come into it with a certain preconceived notion of what a character is like in your head. When you're writing the scenes, you have someone in your head, even if they're, like, a vaguely defined someone. When I was reading the books, character of Dashi in my mind was Benny Wong by, like, page two of Dashi's appearance. I was like, yeah, that's who that's got to be. It became impossible to think of anybody else doing it. So then it became terrifying because maybe he won't want to do it and we'll have to settle to get our heads around someone else. But we got very lucky that Benny agreed to come and work with us. But that was with some of the other characters. That wasn't the case at all. Just as well, especially because the other characters, the books, are centered almost entirely in mainland China, and our show is more global. So that opened things up right from the start, and it kind of made us more receptive to just what people were bringing to their initial auditions.




We'Re just saying.


What did you call your company?


The nanotechnology research center.


That's probably the most boring name I've ever heard.




Since the guy who named his company, Jax. Will.


How's teaching going?


I don't know. I have about one kid in every class who actually listens to what I'm saying, and the rest are just there for their mandatory science course. We were all that one kid.


Yeah, that's true.


Are you two fighting right now? Fighting and fucking. Jack, shut your mouth.


You want to know as well, Jack, I love you, but I swear to God, if you don't shut the fuck.


Up, I'm going to punch a hole straight through your head.


How did you create the dynamics of each character? What were you looking for with each of them?


I think it was born out of one of the big challenges of the novels, where many of the major characters don't intersect with one another. They don't know each other. Even though they are contemporaneous with one another. They are often just on their own islands, and it's difficult in a dramatic narrative format to make that work. You'd just be intercutting between completely separate storylines that have no bearing on one another. And to us, we felt you would care more if these people knew each other and cared about each other. So that's what that was born out of. And we were all attracted to the idea of the major characters of this story, all having a shared history together and having a connection to one another. Then the challenge was, well, what were they going to be like?


I think one of the things that really spoke to me at any kind of university friend group is there's that successful one, and there's the one that maybe didn't quite get there, and maybe there's the one who all of a sudden took a complete left turn from their career track.


Yeah, that was really, like, kind of the. Because the operating principle when you've got these group of people is they all started in a very similar place, because when you're at school together, you all start in more or less the same place. You're doing the same thing in literally the same buildings. And then outcomes over time diverge. And so when they come together in the present, you've got people who are distinct in those different directions.


And in any of these friendship groups, inevitably you're going to have different tensions and also just different connections. So you might have, Augie and Jin might be best friends, and Jin and Jack might be very close friends, but Jack and Augie don't get know. It's just like, that's just we all are in friendship groups like that, where you have to deal with the kind of awkwardness of when the group gets together for something like, oh, God, I hope these two don't tear each other's heads off.


One of the scenes that really leapt out at me was Saul complaining that he has not discovered some game breaking law of physics yet by age 30, something which Einstein apparently had said, if you haven't figured it out by this age, just forget it. You're just going to be, I guess, a regular brilliant scientist. And it says so much about his character, tells you so much about him in that moment. What was kind of the genesis of.


That, a lot of the heavy lifting for us was to find a way to quickly engage with this core group of people. And we put five of them out there. You had Rod six. And to find an efficient way to connect with these characters was maybe the primary task in episode one for us. Some of these characters don't necessarily even have direct analogs in the books, so we need to find a way for the audience to be able to relate to something they don't have to even like them, but understand, okay, I get that. I know someone like that, or I see that in myself. And that one observation from Saul is, I think, something that you can connect with because not everyone necessarily knows a particle physicist, but everyone has some connection to the idea that, okay, maybe something's passed you by. So that, I think, was the impetus behind building that part of Saul's character as quickly as possible.


The show looks wonderful, and I was thinking, watching it, it must be more difficult to create the kind of, I guess, seamless VFX that you would need for a story like this, where, again, grounded in real science, even though the sci-fi aspect is really wild, but this is real world events, the cultural revolution and everything sprouting from there. How did you manage know, make it feel like, oh, this is a world that I recognize. I can touch and feel.


I think a lot of it. I think back to this interview that Quentin Tarantino did years ago that I saw that always stuck with me, where he was talking about how nervous he was making his first movie and walking around the set and not knowing what to say to people, and then having this revelation that he didn't need to know everyone's job. He just needed to be able to communicate to those people who knew their jobs, what he was looking for, communicate his vision. And so I think a lot of it is just finding the right people to work know. You talked about the visual effects, and I think they're spectacular, and we don't create any of those effects. So we brought in people that we knew and loved who we think are amazing, namely Steve Colback, the head of the department, who we'd worked with for the last seven seasons of Game of Thrones. And I'm glad to hear you say seamless, because sometimes with effects, it's about the spectacle of it all. And there's some of that here, but a lot of it is really just trying to make this feel as grounded as possible, as real as possible, so that this maybe could happen.


The universe was just slightly different, and you never wanted that thing where it's like, oh, that's a cool effect. You never want to be thinking about a visual effect when you're watching it. For us, anyway, we're lucky to have.


Steve and Stefan Fangmeier, who is the supervisor, who had also worked with us a lot on thrones. In some ways, there are elements of this show that make that harder only because there are things that get kind of out there, and it becomes more challenging to make that feel like it's real than, say, the cultural revolution. But the cultural revolution was very visual effects heavy because we didn't have access to those buildings. We didn't have access to a lot of the realities of that world. And so that's really where you're calling upon them to make something artificial feel completely natural and real. And I think they did an amazing job.


Dr. Shadiq Mohamed, born in Karachi, studied.


Cosmology and theoretical physics at MIT.


Strange suicide note. Another countdown.


One of the betting sites had him.


Pegged as the favorite for the next.


Nobel Prize in physics.


You can bet on that. You can bet on anything, boss.


I'd like to return to the structure of episode one again because it is a wonderful feel of a police procedural for much of the episode until all of a sudden it takes that turn. Was that conscious to lean into that kind of genre?


I think part of it. Know, when we got Benny signed on and once we saw what he could do with that character, it was kind of like, let's write more for him because we just want to see him more. Like every time he's on screen, I just want more of this character and this actor. So structuring it a little bit more around him and his investigation just made a lot of sense.


Yeah. Also, one of the challenges is pulling people into something that is the kind of thing they don't think they like and explaining to them that it is the kind of thing they like as long as they're receiving it in the right way or you're presenting it in the right way. And the police procedural element would give them more of somebody they are going to love. And it would also give them somebody who understands about what they understand and not what the scientists understand, which is going to be stuff that you or I don't totally get, but someone who's trying to find his way into what's going on through a more normal person's understanding of the way the world works. And he was perfect for that.


Looking ahead, I know that this whole show is your baby and the baby of everyone who's been working on it. At the same time, you've all worked on stories where there are these massive moments where I'm sure you're thinking, God, if we get people here, we got them. Without trying to spoil anything. As we look ahead, are there moments like that for all of you where you think we get them? There, we got them.


Actually, I would start just right out of the gate with the cultural revolution.


Yeah, that's a good point. That was the ultimate, especially for this genre. That was the ultimate kind of surprise hook where you're starting this world in that world. That was like a what? But then once they're hooked in with moments like that, you're kind of making an unspoken agreement with the audience that that hit that you give them, you're going to keep on delivering those and they're going to get habituated to it. So you're going to need to keep on delivering bigger doses of it. And that's a really difficult thing to do in a book, in any story in a way that's organic to the story. But what was kind of great about the books is that they provide some of those up front, but they don't dole out the really crazy stuff all at once. They don't spend it all at once. It would be hard to describe them without ruining everything, but there are at least two or three really big ones in this season. And then second season, there would be more and bigger.


Yeah, I feel like on Thrones, I remember saying when season one came out, if we can just get the audience, if we can just get to the red wedding, if we can survive as a show, because it was hard to get the pilot picked up. And then when season one comes out, our ratings were meh. And you're just hoping like, please pick us up for season two. And then I remember saying, at some point, I don't know if it's at Comic Con or whatever, if we can get the show to Red white, if we can survive that long, we'll be fine to get to the end. And for me, with this one, there's a scene in the second season which I won't spoil, but I feel like if we can get to that scene, then the audience will be along for the whole ride.


Dan, David, Alex, thanks so much for joining us.


Thank you for having us.


We'll see you again soon.


It was so interesting to hear about the beginnings of this epic Sci-Fi series. And a big thanks, of course, to through body problem showrunners Dan Weiss, David Benioff, and Alexander Wu.


Now it's time to hear from our expert guest, best selling author and historian Yung Chang, as she answers all our questions about how the cultural revolution came to be, what life was like during it, and what legacy it left behind. So Jung, welcome to the three Body podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself to our audience?


I'm Yong chang. I'm the author of Wild Swans, three daughters of China, a book about my grandmother, my mother, and myself, our lives in 20th century China. I also wrote a biography of Mao, Mao Teton.


Fantastic. Thank you. Now, have you been watching the three body problem episodes? And so I was going to discuss episode one because episode one starts with a shocking scene depicting the cultural Revolution which ran in China from 1966 to 1976. Can you please explain to our listeners in broad terms what this was and what life was like under that regime?


The Cultural Revolution was Mao's great purge, and he wanted to purge his party. And the reason was that he had created the biggest manmade famine in the history, probably of mankind. Between 1958 and 1961, around 40 million people died of starvation and overwork. And the reason was that Mao wanted to build China into the number one superpower in the world so he could dominate the world right from the beginning when he took power. And to do that, China needed to buy a lot of military industries, and Mao was buying these industries from Russia and eastern Europe. But what did he have to pay for those expensive purchases? At that time, China was poor. So Mao's answer was to export food to those countries, to buy these military industries, which, by the way, laid the foundation for the military power of China today. But his people were dependent on for this food to survive. And Mao knew this, but he didn't care. He said, for all his projects to take off, maybe half of China will have to die. I came from a privileged communist family, so we had privileges, and I didn't starve too much.


But people were starved to death in the villages, so people like my parents were against it. So even the communists were against Mao's policies. So they got together and managed to stop Mao's policies at the beginning of 1962. And Mao was furious. He didn't want to be outsmarted, so he wanted his revenge. And the cultural revolution was Mao's big revenge, which is why his number two died the most tragic death in the cultural Revolution. And all the communist party was purged, and the whole population were made to suffer most appallingly.


Speaking of the violence, in the first scene of the three body problem, we see Ye Wenzhi standing with a large mob and watching her father, a professor of physics, being humiliated on the stage. Now, the perpetrators are encouraging him to deny some of the fundamental theories of physics, but because he doesn't capitulate, they beat him to death. Now, this is a really traumatizing thing to watch, but I think these activities were known as these disenunciations or these struggle sessions. And if you're okay to talk about it, I think your parents were targeted in this way as well. What impact did this have on them later?


I think the series had this most extraordinarily authentic opening, because that was what the denunciation meeting was like in China in 1966. And for years, I myself have witnessed similar scenes when I was a child, I was 14 when the Cultural revolution started. My mother was put on the stage very much like the character. And my mother's hands were ferociously twisted to the back and her head was ferociously pushed down, and she was made to kneel on broken glass. She went through over 100 denunciation meetings like that. My father also, I would say all my generation was brutalized for witnessing that sort of scene, which was everyday life for a long time, starting from 1966.


But the fact they went through it again and again and again, it's mind.


Boggling, yes, but that the sort of denunciation meetings went to about 1969, and then it stopped. But of course, repression went on and terrible things going on. But just for a few years, there were no schooling. Schools were closed, no universities, no museums, no theaters. China was a cultural desert. And this sort of denunciation meetings was a kind of like almost entertainment for some people. We were told that communist China was paradise on earth. And I thought myself, if this is paradise, what then is hell?


Jung in our show, we see that the people who are brutalizing Ung's father are members of the Red Guard. Explain to our listeners what the Red Guard was.


When Mao launched his cultural revolution in the summer 1966, he encouraged China's youngsters, teenagers and young adults to join the Red Guard. It was just the young people banded together and call themselves Red Guard. And everybody could also go and have a Red armband made. And everybody of my generation, myself included, at least my urban contemporaries, were all red guards. It's not an elite group organized like the party or the Communist Youth League. Everybody could call themselves commander in chief of a particular red guard group. I mean that there was one red guard group which my brother, my twelve year old, belonged in, which everybody was an officer. There was a marshal general, there was a chief of staff. There was no.


Everybody has titles, no foot soldier.


And so that was the kind of. And people felt compelled to join in. I think one reason was because Mao had asked us to be a member of Red Guard, and Mao was like, our God. Yes, and the other is the peer group pressure. If everybody else was a red guard, you better call yourself a Red Guard. All the horrible things were done, of course, in the name of the Red Guard. But in fact, we're thinking of a very small number of any Red guard group.


Young people seemed particularly excited by the movement. And we see in the first episode that the people taking part and the denunciations were primarily young. What was it, do you think, that got them so animated about the movement.


Mao said when he's ordered the stop of schooling young people, teenagers, if they are fed, if they have energy, they want to make trouble, they want to go into action. So a lot of people were really not inspired by any ideology or ideals, and they just loved that sort of scene. And also, Ma wanted this young generation to create that kind of chaos. He designed. He then condemned school teachers by saying that school teachers had designed the books and exams to poison their minds.




I mean, those who did badly in exams, you really should take revenge on the teachers. In my class, the pupils who were the most active, the most vicious, were those who didn't do well. I remember there was a scene I was forced to witness because I was doing well, so I was made to see how they beat her up. My gosh. So that's how Mao generated hatred and those violent, vicious scenes.


In one of our scenes from the show, a military official reprimands ji for suggesting that they fire their super antenna, bounce a signal off of the sun, which was symbolically important for Mao and for the chinese government at that time. Did that ring true to you, this kind of reliance and importance of symbolisms, and particularly the color red?


Yes, well, absolutely. My mao was compared to the sun, so I found that bit was so science fiction, but it was true. In China, people couldn't make a reference against the sun because the sun was Mao. And there were many other bizarre things. Newspapers on the front page, every day, they have a red sun like sun with beams and mouse portrait, and someone inadvertently scribbled something on the back, on the other side of the newspaper. And then this was denounced for attacking the red, red sun in our heart, which was the standard reference to Mao, and he was imprisoned. Horrible things like that happened all the time. It was a bizarre thing in everyday life. Here again, we are reminded that in.


Nature, nothing exists alone.


Hirokano Boshashi.


Tara, tasha.


Um, in one of the scenes, ye win G is given a copy of Rachel Carlson's book silent Sprint. Now, it's seen as quite a controversial book today, but why would a book like that have been banned at the time of the revolution?


Well, Mao banned all books in 1966 for ten years. And there were his writings, I mean, writings of even Marx and were rarely available. There were a few other couple of other writers, and one writer basically had mouse quotations in red on every page. What sort of book is that?


Not entertaining.


Exactly. And Mao said Starling made a terrible mistake. He allowed western classics to exist in Russia, but none of the chinese classics were available. I have read over 1000 foreign and chinese classics during those worse years. And the reason was that I had a very entrepreneurial 13 year old brother who spotted a black market selling these books because in those initial years of the cultural revolution, the Red Guards constantly raid people's houses and they carted away the books to be burned and they beat up the owners of the books. So people who love their books didn't want them to be burned or didn't want to be beaten up, then sold these books to the recycling shops. As a result, recycling shops then wanted to make some money and sold some books to people like my brother.


But dangerous. It must have been dangerous.


It's very dangerous. And the police concentrated the black market, but people were so thirsty of books and they just kept going back.


So in episode one, we see scenes of mass decimation, forests of being torn down and things like that. And so the cultural revolution, I guess it had a big impact on the environment.


Yes. And before the cultural revolution, the devastation of the environment had already started way back, as soon as Mao came to power. I mean, China needed wood. Traditionally it was a timber import country. So these huge trees and old, old trees filled that need. And in the cultural evolution, I was exiled to a village and I saw the mountains in the village were bare of trees.




And every morning me and some other women had to get up at dawn to go and find some fuel for the day. And the peasant women told me ten years ago, before 1958, there were forests. Right. Incredible. It just makes me so angry.




Especially on such a scale, to have.


Things like that done in the chinese government acknowledged that the cultural revolution was a mistake or that mistakes had been made for the people that took part and that were affected, what is the view of the cultural revolution now? How do people feel about it?


I think for anybody who's lived through the cultural revolution or who knows something from their parents to their grandparents, I mean, the cultural revolution is really the other word for hell. I think nobody in their true mind want to return to the life of the cultural revolution. But basically what Mao did was to give license, really, license to torture, license to kill, license to abuse. So I guess a lot of them missed that thrill, which is no longer allowed.


So I want to go back to it, which sounds terrible, but all that sacrifice.


Yes, a lot of waste. That's the thing. Huge waste.


Thank you so much for speaking to us today. It has been a revelation in so many ways. Your candor in talking about these tough times. Thank you so much for sharing them with us and our audience.


Yeah. Thank you so much.


Well, thank you. Thank you very much.


What an extraordinary conversation. I just learned so much and to have lived through such a brutal regime and has such a painful personal history but also to be so open and sort of share it with all of us. So once again, a huge thank you to our guest Yong Chang for sharing her knowledge and insight. And another big thanks to the three body problems amazing showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss, and Alexander Wu.


That's it for the first episode of the three Body podcast. Thanks so much for joining us. Come back next time when we're hearing from the brilliant minds behind three body problems VFX world, Steve Colback and Stefan Fangmeyer. And we'll be hearing from the seasoned science advisor, Dr. Matthew Kenzie as he digs into all the really intricate real world science that forms the foundations of three body problem. It's going to be amazing. For now, take care. Happy watching. See you next time.