Creating and developing original factual, reality and wildlife based content in Western China and beyond
Adrian Bottomley discusses the region's huge potential and two of the many conceptual ideas that we are currently working on (and seeking collaboration for) in and around China.
Firstly, let me say that my head is full of ideas. The spectacular landscapes, esoteric Tibetan festivals and fabled plants and animals that inhabit our core Asian market in the wild west of China, offer a huge reservoir of inspiration from which to develop captivating content. From the colourful Cham dances and blue poppies of the Tibetan plateau, to the snow leopards that roam it's sacred peaks - the region is quite possibly one of the most misunderstood on the planet. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me how far removed the reality of this region is from most people's perceptions of it.
As an example, on one recent location scouting trip to a remote range along the Sichuan/Qinghai border we discovered a labyrinth of sacred peaks that are home to over 130 lakes, 700 varieties of flowers (including seven species of poppy, one of which is completely endemic to these mountains) and over 170 species of birds (including the rare Tibetan Bunting and Black-necked Crane). The range also has approximately 40 resident snow leopard - and in the pristine forests that fringe the southern end of the range - it's even more elusive and endangered clouded cousin.
Now to some nitty gritty. As you will appreciate, I would rather not divulge all the wherewithall with regards to all our ongoing projects but in the hope of sparking some interest and dialogue from potential collaborators, here are the basic conceptual frameworks for two of them.
Four Rivers | Three Weeks | Two Adventurers | One Expedition
In May 2018, Hong Kong based adventurer, Adrian Bottomley, has planned the first expedition to fully traverse all four of the great Asian rivers that roar down from the Tibetan plateau and carve their parallel, steep-sided river valleys through northern Yunnan.
Here, for around 100 km, the four mighty rivers run roughly parallel to one another, though separated by high mountain ranges with peaks over 6,000 metres. After this area of near confluence, the rivers greatly diverge: the Dulong and Nujiang Rivers become the Salween and Irrawaddy respectively and flow through Burma into the Indian Ocean, the Mekong heads south through Indochina to Vietnam and empties out into the South China Sea, and the Yangtze flows into the East China Sea at Shanghai.
According to UNESCO, the region "may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth". For decades the region has been a hot spot for plant endemism in Asia and was, for example, the botanical backdrop for many intrepid plant hunters of the past including George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward. The protected area is home to around 6,000 species of plants, over 300 of which are believed to be found nowhere else on earth. More than 200 varieties of rhododendron and more than 100 species of gentians and primulas are also to be found. The fauna found in the area includes the endemic black snub-nosed monkey, the snow leopard, takin; the Asian black bear and the red panda. There are also numerous rare bird species.
Culturally, the region is also a melting pot with many of the twenty-five minorities to be found throughout Yunnan represented here, including the Drung tribe, the smallest of all of China's minority groups, whose oldest women still have full facial tattoos. Some of the other minorities include the Tibetans, Nu, Yi, Lisu, Pumi and Naxi.
The aim will be to connect all four rivers in one expedition by traversing their steep sided valleys and crossing the three seperate mountain ranges that divide them. Starting at the Yangste River near Benzilan, we will first climb up through pine forested valleys and cross the spectacular Baima Snow Mountain massif before descending through Yi and Tibetan communities to the second of the mighty rivers - the Mekong.
From the Mekong River Valley we will climb once more up through spectacular rhododendron forest to cross the Se La pass, trek down into the beautiful Sekatong Valley before traversing a ridge of Bilou Snow Mountain and descending to the Nujiang River Valley. From here, the most challenging traverse still needs to be completed, a challenging one week trek through thick, untouched forests and high altitude passes to the remote Dulong River Valley. This final section of the expedition will explore arguably the most prolific single temperate biosphere in the world.
In total, the expedition will take approximately three weeks.
The storyboard for the expedition could be factual, reality-based, include a well-know adventurer (or two) or team of field experts. The factual backdrop would include diverse ethnographic, botanical, environmental, geographical and cultural issues that are affecting this unique and spectacular biosphere as development begins to encroach on its people, topography, fauna and flora.
Such an expedition could also be part of a broader series that could explore similar issues in other unique biospheres in western China, or Asia more broadly. To discuss and develop the idea further please do get in touch.
We are also in the process of developing a mega-transect of the Hengduan Mountains that cut a vast swath across the eastern Tibetan plateau and arguably make up one of the least explored wilderness in Asia.
Encroaching Tiger | Rising Dragon
As the most populous country in the world and third biggest in area, China has the largest number of neighbours (14) sharing its 22,000 km land border namely: North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.
The economic, political, environmental and cultural impact that the rise of China is having on the peoples and wildlife that inhabit the regions adjacent to its borderlands are both varied and immense. For the past two years, Whistling Arrow has been developing invividual backstories in each of these neighbouring countries to give audiences an interesting insight into the diverse issues that are at play with the awakening of the 'sleeping giant'.
Given the geographical and cultural diversity of its many neighbouring countries, the project ultimately lends itself to multiple part series, with each episode documenting a very different primary 'storyline' in most, if not all of the 14 countries, to give viewers a personal and initimate insight into the myriad issues at play.
The 'stories' could potentially highlight different issues including smuggling (both people and animals), environmental pressure on rare animal populations such as the snow leopard, the economic impact of new Chinese roads on remote villages on the other side of the border (for example opening a huge market for holistic shamanistic and Himalayan medicines), increasing Chinese cultural assimilation of neighbouring communities to the detriment of traditional dress and music - and so on.
Again, to discuss and develop the idea further please to get in touch.