Published: 14:38, April 18, 2024
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A cast of castaways' celeb island intrigue
By Xing Wen
Taiwan singer-actor Nicky Wu joins the outdoor reality show, This Is My Island. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The Chinese term chuang hai, which directly translates as "venturing across the sea", evokes a grand narrative of daring migration, particularly in the late 1980s in China.

When Hainan Island in South China formally became a province, around 100,000 people from all corners of the country, driven by aspirations for a better life, crossed the Qiongzhou Strait and flowed onto this island teeming with promise and opportunity.

These pioneering venturers paved the way for Hainan's transformation from a remote island to an international tourist destination over the past three and a half decades.

Their audacious spirit of exploration and resilience laid the foundation for the island's development trajectory.

A new reality show set in Hainan channels the indomitable spirit of chuang hai, highlighting its enduring relevance and resonance in today's context.

This Is My Island aims to reignite this spirit of daring exploration and resilience by tasking a group of celebrities with building an experimental home from scratch on a secluded island in Hainan province.

Pop idol Liu Yaowen, 18, looks for food during the show on a deserted island in Hainan province. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The program has invited participants from different age groups, including 56-year-old singer Cai Guoqing, 37-year-old anchorman Yang Di, 33-year-old actor Hou Wenyuan and the seven members of the boy group, Teens in Times. Tasked with the challenge of self-sufficiency despite scarce resources, they are required to embark on a journey of exploration, and coexist with one another in the wilderness.

The show's chief producer, Gu Chaofeng, emphasizes that regardless of age, individuals should not fear challenges and should dare to step out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves. In this program, every participant bravely does exactly that.

"We want to convey the spirit of chuang hai and allow more young people to understand that period of history and practice this pioneering spirit in their lives," he adds.

He stresses it's not solely a hardcore wilderness-survival reality show but rather an enriching island exploration program.

Apart from constructing shelters and searching for food on a deserted island, participants engage in boat-building competitions using materials found on the island. They also undergo military training, underscoring the importance of the navy, and even organize a sunset concert on the island.

The show is filmed on Shenzhou Peninsula in the southeastern part of Hainan province.

"I find Shenzhou Peninsula to be a particularly fascinating place," Gu says. "It's half developed and half undeveloped. It transitions from bustling tourism resorts to desolate islands and unexplored sea areas by just climbing over a mountain. It's a perfect place to film this show."

Actor Hou Wenyuan, 33, tries to set up a shelter on the beach during the reality show. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The production team has also partnered with Chinese National Geography magazine, which brings in experts to provide useful knowledge on wilderness survival, geography and botany during the program. The experts include Zhou Weiqiang, a wilderness adventurer who is often hailed as China's Bear Grylls, and nature photographer and plant enthusiast Zhong Xin.

In the first episode, which premiered on Friday on the video-streaming platform Youku, the participants divided into groups and built shelters on the island using materials such as wood and palm leaves.

The aforementioned experts then provided constructive advice for improving the shelters, enhancing their ability to withstand rain, retain heat and repel insects.

In addition, the participants made water-filtration devices using sand, charcoal and pebbles.

They also demonstrated ingenuity by using foil from chewing gum wrappers to connect the terminals of batteries, creating a short circuit to generate enough heat to ignite the foil and successfully start a fire.

Pop idol Ma Jiaqi, 21, scours for materials that might be useful. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

"The most enjoyable aspect of participating in outdoor programs is that each experience is unique, and you must face many uncertainties," says 53-year-old Taiwan singer-actor Nicky Wu, who is one of the show's participants.

"When there is sunshine, perhaps we can use a mirror to start a fire, but on rainy days, all the wood might be damp, and just starting a fire can drive us crazy. However, these are all precious life experiences."

Yang adds that the experiences are teaching him to not take everything he normally has in daily life for granted.

As the eldest participant, Cai says the show has given him a newfound respect for young people.

"The seven members from Teens in Times, all of whom were born after 2000, grew up in the country's most affluent era. I thought they might be accustomed to comfort and averse to hardship, but they handled dirty and tiring work without complaint," he says.

"I believe that seeing us start from scratch in such an environment will provide inspiration to more young people."

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