From snow leopards to South China Sea corals, hit series records China’s efforts to preserve endangered species
Invaluable assets
Published: Aug 24, 2022 07:49 PM
"Five people and nine provinces over two months. From the north of the country to the south, from freezing temperatures a few degrees below zero to regions over 30 C where the fierce sun hangs high in the sky, up mountains and down to the seas," Janis Chan, a Hong Kong Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) host, wrote on Sina Weibo in June after the filming of the second season of TVB documentary No Poverty Land came to end. The comment section was filled with cheers from netizens.

The second season, titled No Poverty Land: A Treasure Trove, began airing on Thursday. In the new season, the production team still focuses on the development and changes China has seen in recent years, but this time the main theme extends from the fight against poverty to environmental protection, Chan, who still acts as a guide for audiences in the documentary, told the Global Times.

The previous work's huge success in 2021 still remains fresh in Chinese audiences' minds.

The first season, filmed by only five people, has stirred wide discussion across the country. 

Janis Chan (right) in the documentary <em>No Poverty Land: A Treasure Trove</em> Photo: Courtesy of Maiduidui APP

Janis Chan (right) in the documentary No Poverty Land: A Treasure Trove Photo: Courtesy of Maiduidui APP

The crew, which includes Chan, crossed six provinces over three months to introduce the achievements of poverty alleviation to audiences nationwide.

The first season has a 9.5/10 from 17,000 reviews on major media review platform Douban. Chan touched audiences with her sincerity, faith and courage and was named one of China's 10 most inspiring people in 2021.

"I hope the documentary series and my work can become a bridge to take what I saw and heard to Hong Kong and overseas, and allow audiences around the world learn about China's development," Chan said.

Bright waters, lush mountains 

Chan shared her experiences filming the second season with the Global Times, noting that over three months she and the production team traveled to more places than the first season. 

They visited dozens of provinces, including Southwest China's Yunnan Province and Northwest China's Qinghai Province, and even went deep into uninhabited land. 

All these endeavors were aimed at allowing viewers at home to see China's national ecological reconstruction.

The first stop of the team was a village in Anji, East China's Zhejiang Province, the origin of the present popular environmental protection concept "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets."

"Before I went to this fishing village, I was very curious about how they gave up their original way of life and chose to protect the clear waters and green mountains," Chan told the Global Times.

The present situation of the village surprised Chan as villagers who once had worked in mines have successfully established a tourism industry that brings in more money than they could ever have previously earned. 

Talking with villagers, Chan gained a deeper understanding of their ideas on environmental protection.

For the production team, shifting their focus from people's quality of life to the ecological environment is an extension and sublimation of the theme No Poverty Land. 

Different places have gone about protecting the environment in different ways, all of which were captured by Chan and her team.

"We climbed up Tianshan Mountain in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to document how they protect endangered snow leopards, while we also dived in the sea off South China's Hainan Province and recorded the protection of the coral reefs."

The place that impressed Chan the most was Hoh Xil in Qinghai Province as it was always a very mysterious land in her imagination and the stories of protecting Tibetan antelopes from poachers moved her. This time they found and talked with successors of the hero Sonam Dargye who sacrificed his life to save Tibetan antelopes.

Encouraging communication

Chan said that filming the second season was more difficult than the first but that they were able to get some rare shots. 

She noted that the huge success of the first season has put her under increased pressure. 

She did note that she wasn't thinking about review scores when shooting the sequel, rather she only just tried to record what she saw and heard to share it with viewers at home. 

Amid the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, TVB has been working more closely with the mainland, focusing more on introducing the changes going on in the mainland to Hong Kong and overseas audiences.

Besides the documentary series, other TV shows such as the music program Infinity and Beyond have been grabbing people's attention both in the mainland and in Hong Kong.

Chan said that more communications between the mainland and Hong Kong is necessary and that these programs are a good opportunity to promote that communication.

"As part of the media, we need to spread some positive information and make some more positive programs to influence our audiences. More cooperation between us and the mainland is also in the pipeline, and I hope I can participate in it and play a role as a bridge," she added.