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July 7th, 2014

And the winner of our 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant is…

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use


Ricky Qi!


Ricky Qi Profile

Every year, it is not an easy task to choose a WildChina Explorer. This year we received piles of inspirational applications and fun videos, making the reviewing process a lot of fun! It’s exciting to see up-and-coming China explorers wanting to get their hiking boots dirty. However, with every contest, not everyone can be a winner (though I wish they could be!).

After a long deliberation among our judging panel, they chose Ricky and his continued pursuits in filming a feature-length documentary about the Mosuo people, China’s last matriarchal society. Hovering between the borders of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, his filming adventure will lead him on a month-long trek via horse caravan to some of the most remote and least documented places in the lower Himalayas.

Ricky Qi in Action edit

[Left: Teammate. Right: Ricky]

The son of Chinese immigrants, Ricky spent his childhood in Southern California. His travels have taken him to destinations from the fabled Scottish Highlands to the deep reaches of the Karakoram in Central Asia. He has devoted his life to film, exploring the medium’s ability to transfigure an audience’s perception of culture, place, and time. For the past two years, Ricky has been producing and directing a documentary. We at WildChina are excited to be a part of his journey into northern Yunnan and to follow his documentary’s story from remote villages into the beyond.

Check out his documentary’s teaser here.

Follow his expeditions on Instagram @supplythelight.


Congratulations on winning the 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant, Ricky!



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November 8th, 2013

Interview: Bill Bleisch, 2012 WildChina Explorer

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Bill Bleisch has been involved in environmental efforts in China and its neighboring countries for nearly two decades. One perennial focus of his work has been the way in which habitat loss stemming from patterns of resource management, industrial development, and environmental degradation has contributed to the rapidly declining state of wild gibbon populations. Once abundant throughout Southeast Asia, this family of apes has become critically endangered. Unfortunately, while much international attention has been given to other endangered animals,  very limited resources have been mobilized in the effort to protect these primates from extinction.
In his efforts to spread awareness about the existence and peril of southern Yunnan’s black-crested gibbon, Bill Bleisch spent time exploring their remaining habitat in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan. In 2012, he received a WildChina Explorer Grant to continue this research in hopes of establishing a trekking route through the Ailaoshan mountain range.
Bill on the trail
Bleisch on the trail

How did you first become interested in China?

Like many American kids, I was first introduced to China through the food.  My mother taught my sister and me to use chopsticks whenever we went to a Chinese restaurant.  People in China ask me how I learned to use chopsticks and I explain that my mother taught me.  Then I have to explain that she is not Chinese.  Later, she took a Chinese cooking class and we used to go to the Oriental market and gawk at all the interesting delicacies.   I had a collection of miniature figures from China – a fisherman, a nine-eaved padoda, an arched bridge, two scholars playing weiqi.

Later, when I was about 12, my father and I made a deal that I could stay home from Sunday school at church as long as I spent Sunday morning reading religious texts.  I happily agreed.  I read the Dao de Qing, the Analects of Confucius, Mencius, the Book of Changes, the Book of Songs,…   I took a Chinese course one summer, but it was too difficult.

It was not until I finished graduate school that I had the chance to come to China.  I received a grant from the Chinese Adventure Capital Fund, a fund managed by the Durfee Foundation and set up in honour of R. Stanton Avery, the inventor of the stick-on label, who had previously travelled in China in 1929 as a young man.  His family wanted others to have the chance that he had had to see China first hand.  I came to China in 1987, to survey gibbons in the Ailaoshan and Wuliangshan Nature Reserves.

BillBleischScouting a route along the ridge of the Ailaoshan range

What was the goal of your expedition in Yunnan’s Ailaoshan region?

My personal goal for these recent trips sponsored by WildChina, has been to bring something back to the Ailaoshan and its gibbons, 26 years after my first visit.  I had the idea that a trekking trail through gibbon habitat could increase public interest and commitment to protecting the gibbons and reconnecting their forest habitat.  The idea of a long trail in China came to me while my son and I were hiking the Appalachian Trail, which is a long trail along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains.  The AT, as it is known, was started by local hiking clubs, but is now a National Scenic Trail managed by the National Park Service.  I know that there would be interest in such a trail in China if could be opened. So the goal of the four trips this year was to map out a stretch of trekking trail and start building local support for the idea of a long trail on the Ailao Mountain ridge.


What role does exploration play in spreading awareness about social and environmental issues?

I think exploration, at its best, has always been the key to building awareness of the world beyond our own everyday lives.  European explorers brought back the news that China had an advanced civilization in the 13th  century.  Later, it was the  explorers that convinced people that the world was round, not flat.  In this century, opening people’s eyes to the environmental and social problems that exist in remote rural areas is one of the best things that exploration can do.  That’s why a real explorer must also be a good story teller – either through written word, photographs or film.


Bleisch team on the trailBill and his team blaze a trail through the forest

How would a new trekking trail contribute to the preservation of the black-crested gibbon’s habitat?

I have to tell you that this is controversial.  There are those who are dead-set against opening any habit of endangered species to tourism. There is certainly good evidence that noisy tourists inside nature reserves scare wildlife away from heavily used tourist trails.  That is why the Ailaoshan National Nature Reserve is still officially closed to tourism.  (We work with the Xing Ping Provincial Ailaoshan Nature Reserve for now.) There is another view, however.

Nature reserves need support, both from local people and from the general public. The reserves have a hard time winning that support unless people have first hand experience of benefits.  Trekking by well-informed hikers is a gentle form of tourism that can build that support.  Just look at the passion with which people fought for the completion of the Pacific Crest Trail and its protection in the USA.   Trekking can  also provide direct benefits to local people in remote areas, something they do not see from big hotels or scenic hot-spots.  Local people can sell food and supplies along the trail, or open a nongjiale-style hostel.  Also, in provincial nature reserves, which have little funding, trekkers can serve as the eyes and ears of the nature reserve, reporting illegal hunting or logging that they find inside the reserve.  Their very presence can be enough to scare off poachers.  And experience in the USA has shown trekkers will fight to have protection extended beyond the boundaries of the nature reserves, many of which are too small and isolated from other natural forest.

But it can do more than that.  The trekking movement also taps people’s desire to get bck to our roots, back to basics, back to the wildness.  On a trek, you learn very quickly how to get along without many of the luxuries that we take for granted.  If you don’t really need it, you don’t carry it.  Eventually you ease into a new standard of comfort and start to find joy in the simple beauties along the way.  Many even find a kind of spiritual fulfilment on a long trek.  Tibetan pilgrims do these long walks regularly, Europeans called it the “pilgrim way,” native Americans called it a spirit walk. Perhaps in this is part of the antidote to the pointless conveyer belt of consumerism that is driving unsustainable development, global climate change, and senseless destruction of wildlife habitat.


Group shot by cascadeThe group rests by a cascade

What other efforts are being made to help these primates recover from the brink of extinction?

Many people deserve a great deal of credit for turning things around for primate conservation in China over the last 25 years.  The State Forestry Administration and the Yunnan Provincial Forestry Bureau, and especially the staff on the ground – the nature reserve staff and also the poorly paid and poorly equipped forest guards (hulin yuan) – they are often the real heroes in primate conservation now.  Field researchers, mainly Chinese scientists, have contributed a great deal.  NGOs have also made a big contribution.  They all work together now.  For example, my friend Professor Jiang Xuelong and his students, with support from the China office of Fauna and Flora International, have worked with the nature reserves in Ailaoshan to carry out a complete census of the gibbons there and develop an action plan for gibbon conservation.

All of these efforts are adding up, but there is still more that needs to be done; to protect and restore the forest habitat, and to rebuild forest connections between isolated groups of gibbons, so they can find suitable mates and pair up to breed.  Some of that work must be done outside of nature reserves, and that means that local people and local government must be more involved.


western-black-crested-gibbon- Fauna and Flora
Western black crested gibbon (Photo Credit: Flora and Fauna International)

Have you been involved in any other conservation efforts outside of southwestern China?

WVB: I have had the great good fortune to work in over 25 nature reserves all over China, in Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou, Guangxi, Fujian, Hunan, Hubei, Hainan, Qinghai and Xinjiang.  I have also worked in Vietnam, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Malaysia at one time or another.  I have been part of teams for conservation research on the Grey Golden Monkeys in Guizhou and the Tibetan Antelope in Xinjiang, but most of my work has been helping local nature reserve staff to develop their skills and to write their own management plans.  That includes helping them to focus on the conservation problems that need the most attention.


What’s next? Do you have any upcoming adventures planned?

There are so many exciting things that need to be done, and I hope I have time for them all.

Right now I am on my way to Luang Namtha in Lao PDR were we have started a project designed to answer the question I posed above – is trekking tourism good for wildlife conservation, or does it just scare the animals away?  I think it may help. Lao is a very poor country that cannot afford the kind of patrolling that China has, so tourist guides and trekkers may be the best defence the animals have there.  The trekking companies provide payments to the villages, which should be an incentive to keep the forest intact.  Most of the trekkers are from Europe or the USA. They are not usually so noisy and they do not ask if they can eat the animals that they see.

I will be back in Yunnan for the official launch of the Ailao Shan Trail in Xing Ping County on November 26 – December 1.  Of course I want to hike the complete Ailaoshan Trail as soon as I am given the chance.  And I want to see it extended, to Dali in the north, where it can connect with the Ancient Tea Horse Trail, and to the south along the spine of the same ridge, where there is more gibbon habitat, but where much forest needs to be restored.  Those are Hani and Lahu minority areas, so very interesting culturally.

I want to be a part of mapping out the trail, and to hike as much as I can.  Perhaps eventually the trail and the forest can stretch all the way from Dali to Feng Shui Lin Nature Reserve and the Vietnam border.  Then China would have a National Scenic Trail to rival the famous long trails in the USA; the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  I may not live long enough to see the trail completed, but now I am sure it will happen.


Bleisch has been the Chinese program director for Flora and Fauna International, which works to protect some of the most endangered species in the world. He also spent time as the program director of The Bridge Fund, which works to improve the lives of Tibetan communities through their support of various educational, environmental, cultural, and economic initiatives. Now, as program director for the China Exploration and Research Society, he continues to promote the cultural and environmental protection China’s minority regions. 
Don’t forget to apply to the 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant for the chance to win $3000 of funding for your own Chinese adventure!
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November 4th, 2013

Li Bo Returns to the WildChina Explorer Grant Judge Panel

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

With less than one month to go before the deadline for 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant applications, we are excited to announce the return of Li Bo to the WEG judge panel. 

Li Bo has spent the better part of his adult life working with NGOs to advocate for social and environmental justice, tackling issues such as poverty alleviation, natural resource management, community-based tourism, biodiversity conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

As the director of Friends of Nature – China’s oldest NGO – Li Bo has dedicated himself to promoting awareness and calling for action in response to the challenges faced by his native landscape. One of the most important aspects of this work has been to generate the kind of public interest needed to spur community participation in these pressing issues. Friends of Nature has done this by fostering the development of a larger network of grassroots organizations that share the common goal of preserving China’s natural and cultural environment for future generations.

Outside of his work with Friends of Nature, Li Bo maintains a busy schedule. In addition to working part-time with the Stockholm Environmental Institute-Asia, he also works as a research associate at the Center for Human and Economic Development Studies at Peking University and as an adjunct researcher of environmental justice at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan. This will be the third consecutive year that Li Bo has brought his expertise to the WildChina Explorer Grant judge panel. We are proud to welcome him back!

libo Friends of Nature

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October 24th, 2013

Interview: Jeff Fuchs, 2011 WildChina Explorer

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Each year, WildChina celebrates its passion for adventure by awarding up to $3000 of funding to explorers who design expeditions within China.

To share our excitement for the ongoing 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant (application deadline December 2!), we have put together a series of interviews with past winners of the grant. Through their exploration of China, these individuals have set an awesome example of how adventure travel can shed light on the beautiful landscape and vibrant cultures that exist in the world.


Our 2011 winner, Jeff Fuchs, set the bar high when he and his friend Michael Kleinswort set out to rediscover the Tsalam Road in Qinghai province. Also known as the Nomadic Salt Road, this old trade route once held great importance to the communities of the Tibetan plateau. In recent history, however, this route had fallen into the most extreme obscurity and was at risk of being forgotten entirely. In the same way that he had traveled the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road to capture the remaining memories of that historic route, Jeff decided to track down some of the last remaining elders of the Salt Road to document their experience and shed light on the cultural and economic significance that this road once held.

We asked Jeff about his experiences on the Salt Road, as well as his earlier adventure retracing the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road: a twelve hundred year old trade route that allowed muleteers to carry tea from China to Tibet, Nepal, and India.

Jeff standing on the north face of Kawa Karpo near Shola Pass

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs)


What inspired you to explore the Ancient Tea and Horse Road?

Firstly, the fact that this ‘route through the sky’ combined two long held obsessions in my life: tea and mountains. Secondly – and sort of surprisingly – was the fact that so little of the route’s history and mention was made in documentation of the mountains and peoples. The most vital trade, migration, and conduit path in the Himalayas’ long and fabled past and yet barely a mention made beyond the same rehashed bits of information. It begged being done and it begged being done right, taking down as much of the locals’ and elders’ recollections as I could find and giving this great route some much needed light.


Why do you think this kind of expedition is important?

An expedition can bring back something and hopefully unveil a portion of a world that may not otherwise ever see ‘light’ or be understood. This idea of exploration for its own sake is great, but if something (anything really) isn’t brought back for a larger audience to engage in and savor, then it is more of an indulgence. So much of ‘exploration’ is simply racing up or across a terrain or summit in record time and while fantastic from a physical dynamic point of view, it for me holds little interest.

Tea, one of the globe’s timeless commodities, traveled along these overland routes and spread its liquid influence over much of the globe via these pathways. In the west we’ve typically read much of teas coming abroad by schooners but for much of Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, tea was hauled along on epic journeys that often took months to make, and were adventures and tales in themselves. I wanted to dig this up and give these daunting and linking journeys a physical context.

I also feel personally that the ancient ways of so many peoples on the planet of telling tales through oral narratives is something of huge value, so if one can not only engage in a journey itself, but also tell a tale through this old way, so much the better. It was one of the most daunting journeys ever taken that just happened to have a hugely significant cultural component.

Even today, along remaining portions of the old tea route, villagers will travel with caravans as the pathways are often more useful and efficient than the roadways

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs)


Adventures always seem to incorporate some element of the unknown. When you set off on this journey, did you have a good idea of what you would encounter? Was there anything that surprised you?

The extent of what I knew the expedition would incorporate was: mountains, more mountains, tea, more tea, and the elders that I’d hoped to track down to give flesh to the days of trade. I knew that our team was about to embark on a journey that wasn’t nailed down on any map, and that so much of our journey would have to be adapted to terrain, health, good graces, and the fates.

What surprised me was the vastness of the route and how the ‘Tea Horse Road’ was so much more than one road and so much more than simply a route of horses and tea. It was a pathway that ushered life, commodities, ideas, and culture along for 13 uninterrupted centuries. The last remaining traders and travelers of the route touched something in the very core of the soul and it was they and their words and passion that continued to motivate and encourage our own team. I hadn’t expected (but hoped) that I’d be so moved by the tales of the elders who remembered the route.

The face of a Tea and Horse Road nomad is weathered with stories from the route. Photo by Jeff Fuchs, 2010.

The face of a Tea and Horse Road nomad is weathered with stories from the route.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs)

What has been the most difficult thing you have had to deal with during your travels in China?

To remind myself to look twice at things and dig a little deeper before claiming any true ‘knowledge’. Learning too, to wait, is a something that time and again has frayed the nerves…just when you think something is set down in stone, it all changes and one must simply sit down and wait it out until something either happens….or doesn’t.


Spanning over 5000km, the Ancient Tea and Horse Road passes through a range of cultures. What differences or similarities struck you most about the people living on this route?

Without a doubt the similar reverence and way in which so many cultures along the route (two dozen) all saw the route’s inherent value. People shared a vision of the route as being something timeless, vital, and something to be cherished. Tea, salt, and the valued commodities all bound people to each other – even if they had never encountered one another. Languages, culture, DNA, and traditions may have been different but the route linked the peoples along the route. Often forgotten is the fact that the lifespan of the Tea Horse Road (called ‘gya-lam’ or ‘wide road’ in Tibetan) spanned 13 centuries.

It is amazing how peoples living thousands of kilometers away had impressions of one another along the route due to simple trade. DNA and genetics were also transferred along the length of the route so that Turkic blood, and that of ancient Persia flowed (and remain) in many of the mountain peoples to this day. Linguistics and habits were also affected and have carried over into the present, though this often is overlooked entirely.

Nomads along the route live simply and closely to nature Photo by Jeff Fuchs

Nomads along the route live simply, and close to nature

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs)


How do these communities relate to their history today?

Like so many portions of the globe, much of the young population wants to move forward out of the past. So many of the communities along the trade routes were (and still are incredibly) remote and strangely the more remote a community was, the more memories there were that had been transferred down and preserved. While there are usually members of households that recall the days of trade most youth that we encountered had little idea or interest in much of the past.


Apart from your exploration of the Ancient Tea and Horse Road, what other expeditions have you gone on in this part of the world?

Five other major expeditions in this part of the world including the most recent in India’s Himalaya along Pashmina wool route. Another, the Nomadic Road of Salt, a month long trek through southern Qinghai to one of the most remote salt lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, two other expeditions along other trade corridors through northwestern Yunnan – one of which was a previously undocumented portion of the Tea Horse Road that linked a series of villages to the main corridor into Tibet. One, last year was a fascinating and understated journey where I traveled with an old Tibetan herb collector to find two sacred lakes high in the mountains of Yunnan. Much of the journey was spent lost but it was a memorable journey because of the travel and time with this ancient.

The elevated altitude of the Tea and Horse Road allows for intimate views of some of nature’s greatest peaks

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs) 


What have you found most rewarding about your travels?

Inevitably the experience; being immersed and abused by nature’s force and beauty is a consistent infusion of good and tangible force. In time though, the human dynamic has become more and more crucial for me. So often it is the human element – whether it be locals or elders who remember a time of journeying – that gives a place lifeblood. Having said that though, the magnificent spaces of the mountains in their lonely purity and joy continue and will continue to be one of the prime draws for me.


The world seems to grow smaller each day. Your experiences show that there are still opportunities for real exploration and discovery in China.  How do you feel adventure plays into our understanding of this complex country?

Often the ‘adventure’ aspect, the actual doing, and grinding away over terrains and through communities gives one insights that no book or theory can.


jeff-and-yakJeff loads a yak during his trip along the Nomadic Salt Route

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs)

In 2011, you received a WildChina Explorer Grant that brought you to one of the most isolated portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai. Prior to your expedition, this salt trading route had been virtually unknown in the western world. How did you first find out about it?

Like so much in the mountains, one needs time to simply sit and listen and converse with the elders. It was during a research trip to scout a portion of the Tea Horse Road, that I came into contact with an ‘elder’ who spoke of another more remote, blizzard prone zone that was home to an ancient route of salt for the nomads. When I researched this route, I found nothing in the conventional data bases, so I pursued more elders to confirm and corroborate this information by tracking them down and simply questioning them. In time, several elders did support the salt route’s rough location and source. it is in such a way that oral narratives, and the oral tradition have fed and fueled much of my journeying.


How did your experience on the Nomadic Road of Salt compare to that of the Tea and Horse Road?

Summed up in two words: shorter, remoter. Many of the traders who are now very few had traveled both routes and others as well, and their descriptions were entirely accurate. The Tea Horse Road was a huge series of winding routes that converged, striated out, and converged again. Anything that had value was transported and the route itself was known by many in the Himalayas as the ‘Eternal Road’. It was a trade route, migration route…it was everything and known by all. The Nomadic Route of Salt was by comparison something much more localized and specific. It was a far more intimate, and desolate, thoroughfare that was almost entirely based on accessing the great salt lakes of the Tibetan Plateau.



Jeff and travel companion, Michael Kleinwort, high in Amne Machin Range during their exploration of the Tsalam Road

(Photo Credit: Jeff Fuchs)


Between the Salt Road, the Tea and Horse Road, and India’s Pashmina wool route, you have explored some of the world’s major trade corridors. What keeps bringing you back to such places?

It is always the same elements: mountains, trade routes, and the desire to record the fading human elements on these routes through the sky that provided so much more than simply commodities. That the routes were so physical in their dimensions and such utter adventures makes them – in my mind at least – some of the largely unheralded journeys of all time. Another aspect of these routes is how they acted as conduits for DNA, and all sorts of cultural intrigue across the top of the world….utterly fascinating.



If you would like the chance to win $3000 dollars to fund your own adventure in China, find more about the WildChina Explorer Grant. The application deadline is December 2nd.

Get your regular WildChina insights: subscribe to our newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook.


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September 18th, 2013

The WildChina Explorer Grant is Back!

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

When you were a kid, did you ever try to dig your way to China? Have you always dreamed of exploring the Middle Kingdom? Now is your chance to bring these dreams to life. For the fourth year running, WildChina is holding a competition that allows you to design your own Chinese adventure. The proposal that is most imaginative in pushing the boundaries of Chinese exploration will be awarded up to $3000. Anyone and everyone is invited to apply!


Photo Credit: Zhang Shanghua, 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant Winner

Here comes the nitty gritty

2014 WildChina Explorer Grant Application


Established in 2011, the WildChina Explorer Grant gives adventurers the chance to turn their outdoor visions into real advancements in China exploration. WildChina’s own story is one of exploration, self-discovery and challenge. High up on the slopes of Tibet’s Mount Kailash, WildChina founder Mei Zhang, braved the high altitudes and harsh landscapes to experience the beauty of snowcapped mountains alight with the sunrise. The breathtaking view brought Mei a sense of fulfillment—though she stood alone and exhausted from her journey. Disappointed by how little support was available for travelers looking to get off the beaten path in China, Mei was inspired to start her own travel company dedicated to offering stress-free and responsible travel to adventurous destinations. The creation of the WildChina Explorer Grant is one more way that WildChina supports other explorers in their quest for authentic and life-changing travel experiences, while continuing to protect local cultures and environments.

Eligibility and Logistics:

All applications must be submitted by 5:00PM Eastern Standard Time on Monday, December 2nd, 2013 to be eligible for the WildChina Explorer Grant of up to $3,000. After reviewing these applications, WildChina will interview finalists before their applications are presented to the judges. The final selection will be announced in January. An additional sum may be awarded to runners up, depending on their ability to excite or inspire the selection committee. The expedition is to take place by the end of August 2014. In the case of multiple individuals applying for the same expedition, one application may be submitted but it must contain personal statements from each applicant.


The final selection shall be made by a committee of experts in Chinese culture and exploration. They will assess each application based on its originality and relevance to the WildChina vision. In particular, we will be looking for:

  • Expeditions seeking to rediscover a long lost route, highlight a culturally significant issue, promote aid in a remote community, or otherwise deal with discovery or rediscovery.
  • A genuine excitement for exploration
  • A demonstrated interest in China
  • A risk management plan
  • A commitment to sustainable travel and the incorporation of Leave No Trace (LNT) principles
  • An explanation of how participation in proposed expedition will facilitate future contributions to the growth of WildChina’s expeditions
  • Expedition proposals that get people excited about adventure! WildChina has always been committed to supporting expeditions that our travelers are excited about. In light of this, the amount of support that each applicant’s video receives on our blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter, Weibo, Pinterest, Youku, and Youtube accounts will be taken into consideration, so do not forget to tell your friends to support your video


Only applications submitted in entirety by the December 2nd deadline will be considered. Applications should be submitted to explorergrant@wildchina.com for review and potential approval. Video submission will be either by Youku or Youtube. If a video is submitted in Chinese, it must be uploaded onto Youku and then the URL must be included with the rest of the application. For all other languages, the video must be uploaded onto Youtube and then the URL must be included with the rest of the applicant’s application. Failure to include both this introductory video and a corresponding link will result in an ineligible entry.


Each WildChina Explorer Grant applicant must submit a standard application including all of the following:


  • Purpose and goals of expedition (less than 1 page, 12 point font)
  • Specific budget requirements with an itemized breakdown of projected cost
  • An itinerary for the expedition
  • A risk management plan including expected risks
  • A brief statement regarding the experience level of the participants
  • A brief statement about how the applicant will share this experience, in a substantial and meaningful manner, with WildChina
  • A 90 second video that introduces your proposal. The theme this year is “Adventure: Define adventure and how your proposal seeks to create an adventure.” If the video is in Chinese it must be loaded onto Youku by the applicant. For all other languages the video must be loaded onto Youtube by the applicant. In either case, the URL for the video must be included with the rest of the application



  • Grant recipients will receive 70% of the approved budget in advance. The final 30% will be given upon submission of an expedition report. Recipients of the WildChina Explorer Grant will also be expected to give an oral presentation to the wider WildChina network as part of the WildChina speaker series’ Where the Wild Things Are. This event will be held in Beijing in honor of the expedition.
  • Grant recipients should additionally be prepared to make an oral presentation of their report to the Beijing WildChina office staff.
  • WildChina has the right to replicate and use all trip ideas and aspects to generate trip product material.



Are you the next WildChina Explorer?


Photo Credit: Bill Bleisch, one of our 2012 winners

To download the full application and find out more about past winners, visit the WildChina Explorer Grant homepage.

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March 5th, 2013

A hot pot for The North Face

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Last week, almost 30 of  VF and The North Face’s business leaders were looking to get together for a strategy session in Beijing. Since WildChina is partnered with The North Face for the WildChina Explorer Grant, they reached out to us for exciting, local dinner ideas in Beijing.

We recommended a hot pot (in addition to Beijing, hot pot is also extremely popular in Guizhou and Inner Mongolia) banquet next to Beijing’s peaceful Houhai Lake–it fit the bill for the perfect gastronomic adventure. Haidilao supplied the cuts, broths, and sauces, and WildChina rented out Nuage for the occasion, adding our own decorations here and there to spice things up. After the meats had been cooked, the noodles added, and the broth drunk, the group retired to a WildChina favorite: The Opposite House. Not such a bad way to end a work day in our book.


If you have a corporate event you are planning in China, or simply have questions about travel in China in general, send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.


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February 18th, 2013

2012 WildChina Explorer Grant Winner William Bleisch Returns!

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

In January, our 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant winner William Bleisch finally had a chance to set out on the first steps of his expedition. Difficulties with permits had delayed his departure and William was extremely excited to hit the trail. Check out the first installment of his adventure journal below!

This last week, with WildChina’s support, we took the first steps to Ailaoshan. We had a team of 8 people: Zhao Tianxiao – an expert on gibbon conservationism from Fauna & Flora International; Yang Xing – a local adventure travel leader from Yuxi; Liu Jian – an enthusiastic executive who is also a dedicated photographer; Li Bo – the Xinping Ailaoshan Nature Reserve Vice-Director; and 3 local forest guards (Chen Zhongping, Zhang Yuande and Li Derong, who is an impressive 59 years old). We hiked across the Ailaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve 50 kilometers (31 miles) from southeast to northwest.

The trip took us four full days, two of which ended with us setting up camp in the dark.  Starting at a forest station above Jingxing Township in Xing Ping County at 1,953 meters (6,405 feet), and ending at the Jinshan Yakou guesthouse on Rt. S307 in Zhenyuan County at 2,409 meters (7,901 feet), each day involved 7 to 8 hours of hiking with full packs, climbing up peaks as high as 2,644 meters (8,672 feet) and down to valleys as low as 2,000 meters (6,560 feet).

Though painful at times, it was well worth it. The trail was everything I had dreamed it would be.  It was just like the Appalachian Trail through the southeast USA, only with bamboo and gibbons!  Spectacular ridge-top views of distant peaks and cloud sea below, dark tunnels through dense jungle, carpets of moss underfoot, forests of giant rhododendron, gentians and fragrant mountain tea flowers, rocky cliffs, and waterfalls.

We found signs of the golden cat, Sambar deer, and large raptors. This time unfortunately, the gibbons’ calls eluded us. Since water was scarce in the dry season, we had to camp low down the valleys, out of hearing range.  But an early morning at any one of a number of listening posts gave visitors a chance to hear known groups calling. Definitely something I’ll try to catch next time!


If you have any questions about William’s expedition, our WildChina Explorer Grant, or travel in China, send us as email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

Photos by William Bleisch

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January 21st, 2013

And the winner of our 2013 WildChina Explorer Grant is…

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use


It was no easy task, but after much deliberation our judges chose this applicant and his journey to study the Tianshan Snow Lotus in Xinjiang’s Uighur Autonomous Region. An avid adventurer whose personal journeys have taken him all over western China and Tibet, Heli is currently a graduate student at Beijing’s Forestry University.

In addition to receiving WildChina’s 2013 Explorer Grant, Heli will be outfitted head to toe in gear provided by WildChina Explorer Grant sponsor The North Face. Our judges were particularly intrigued by Heli’s destination–remote, unexplored, and completely off the beaten path–and inspired by his genuine life-long interest in the Snow Lotus. Heli’s journey will not only push the boundaries for exploration, but will bring attention to the crucial issue of environmental protection.

We received some fantastic video submissions this year–our judges were impressed with the creativity and passion for exploration demonstrated and had a hard time reaching consensus. In recognition of this, we also have a runner-up this year, Zhao Jiang Bo who will receive a portion of the grant to support the furtherance of his bird research in Yunnan. We thank all our followers for their enthusiastic participation and hope everyone had as much fun with the contest as we did.

Once again, please join us in congratulating Heli, winner of the 2013 WildChina Explorer Grant.


If you would like to know more about our contest please click here. If you have other questions about travel in China send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

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January 17th, 2013

The North Face to Outfit WildChina Explorer Grant Winner

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

WildChina Travel and The North Face® are proud to announce their partnership for the WildChina Explorer Grant!

The WildChina Explorer Grant is an award of up to USD 3,000 given to adventurers seeking to push the boundaries of responsible, off-the-beaten-path travel in China. This year, the grant’s third year, The North Face® has generously signed on as the apparel sponsor for the lucky grant recipient. Winners of the 2013 WildChina Explorer Grant will be outfitted head-to-toe in The North Face® gear, tailored to the winner’s individual trip needs and climate.

With both firms committed to exploration and transformational experiences, WildChina Founder Zhang Mei says, “The North Face coming on board brings the WildChina Explorer Grant to a whole new level. We are honored to partner with them and cannot wait to announce the news to the applicants in this years pool .”  Jacob Uhland, General Manager of Asia Pacific at The North Face® says, “The North Face is interested in supporting the WildChina Explorer Grant because we heard about the inspirational people associated with WildChina, like Jeff Fuchs [2011 WildChina Explorer Grant winner] and Zhang Mei. We have built relations with both of these people and we feel they embody the spirit of exploration which is at the heart of The North Face brand and the purpose behind most of what we do and support.  We have tremendous respect for the efforts of WildChina and their efforts to raise awareness of the outdoors through their Explorer Grant.”

For those of you holding your breaths for the Explorer Panel‘s 2013 decision, we’ll be announcing the winner of this year’s WildChina Explorer Grant on January 21st!  To see the English-language submission videos on Youtube click here. To see the Chinese videos on Youku click here. If you have a favorite, show your support on our Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, Youku and Youtube accounts!


To learn more about our WildChina Explorer Grant click here. If you have other questions about travel in China send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

Photos by 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant winner Shanghua Zhang and The North Face

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December 26th, 2012

WildChina Explorer Grant Proposal: Searching for the Scholar’s Four Treasures

By: Mei | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Below is a blog written by WildChina Explorer Grant Applicant E. Briel about her idea for exploring China. If you think her idea is cool show your support on our Pinterest, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

I moved to China this year to explore art and to find people who make The Scholars’ Four Treasures (paper, ink, brushes, and ink stones) These artisans’ skills are not being continued by the younger generation. They’re in danger of extinction. I‘ve been recording the stories of the people who make them, and what they’re made from.

(Song Dynasty paintbrushes in Sichuan)

Song Dynasty paintbrushes

Next summer I hope to explore northern China and document how people make the Four Treasures, for a book and videos. How will I get there? Good question!Exploration is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

(Yellow weasel whose tail is used for paintbrushes)

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Because there’s a lot of pollution in China, I’m really excited to mix art with science in a travel experiment: working with engineers to design an electric bike that will push the limits of solar-powered travel.

(An artist paints at the Thangka Academy in Shangri-la)

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This will be a Pedelec-type hybrid electric bike with either a continuous solar self-charging battery trailer, or several solar charged batteries] Travel lets you get close to wildlife And meet some interesting people like artists who make their own brushes and paints from ancient recipes. I hope that by sharing their work, they – and we - can keep these arts alive for future generations in China.

(E. Briel sun burnt at Napahai lake in Shangri-la, Yunnan)

1 at napahai 1

The journey will begin on an electric bike in Beijing, and end on a train in far west China. I’ll skirt the deserts of Inner Mongolia, descend through Tibetan areas of Gansu and Qinghai provinces, and talk to papermakers in Xinjiang.

See you on the road!


To find out more about our WildChina Explorer Grant check out the contest’s official page on our website.

Photos by E. Briel

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