Wild China is a 2 Blu-ray disc 6 episode nature documentary part of the BBC High Definition Natural History Collection. The collection also includes the 6 disc Planet Earth, Ganges, and Galapagos. Those familiar with BBC nature documentaries know to expect not only informative but also visually stunning episodes. This is very much the case for Wild China. A different note here is the segments on how China is trying to establish a more conservatory relationship with nature.
Episode 1, Heart of the Dragon, focuses on southern China and especially on less accessible regions. The stepped rice paddies make for a gorgeous and interesting segment. Oddest and much too short is the Zhondong cave school in a cave also home to 18 families. Francois’ langurs are the focus animal in this episode. The most gorgeous scene is the fish catching bats: the scene is filmed in the dark and puts anything Matrix like to shame.
Shagri-la focuses on Yunnan province. Shagri-la comes from what the first Europeans thought they had found considering the region’s overabundance of flora and fauna. This episode tells the story of the Plant Hunters who would bring plants fron Yunnan to Eurpoe, of Gaoligongshan jungle, of bamboo, and somewhat of the peoples of the province.
Tibet is somewhat disappointing. There are only so many times you can hear “the elusive so-and-so” or “the highest living whatsit”. Though the images are superb, the information is, for a BBC nature documentary, almost as thin as the air in the Himalayas.
Disc 2 opens with Beyond the Great Wall. The wilderness north of the Great Wall is superb. Most interesting in this episode is the look at the wilderness that once was Xanadu, the Mongol people summering (watching a yurt being built is way cool), and the grape growers of Turpan, a city in the middle of the desert. Underexploited is the story of the two-thousand year-old underground canals that brought water this far into the desert.
Land of the Panda focuses on the China east of the Great Wall. It does not reveal anything new about the black and white bear and its struggles. The episode’s interest is really in the relationship the Chinese have with their environment and the growing nature protection policies.
The last episode in the Wild China set in the BBC High Definition Natural History Collection focuses on China’s relationship with the sea and the challenges an ever growing modern China has on the environment. The segment on tea is interesting, especially when it looks at the houses of the Kejia.