Extreme sports enthusiast Tina Qian Haiying's love of the great outdoors began in 2000 when she climbed her first mountain in Sichuan - over 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) high - after her friends invited her to join their expedition.
"I had been running for many years so I was in good shape. Unlike my friends, I didn't have any high-altitude reaction. I waited for them for an hour (at the summit)," says the 45-year-old.
"I loved the feeling of climbing a mountain, testing my limits and overcoming challenges. After that, I started serious mountaineering training involving rock and ice climbing, and set out to climb a mountain every year."
Besides mountaineering, Qian took up other extreme sports, on land, sea and in the sky: kayaking, scuba-diving, skiing and skydiving among them. She also took up marathon running in 2003, and joined China's first 24-hour non-stop adventure race with a partner in Guilin in 2005. They were the only Chinese team among the award winners.
In 2010, a decade after her first foray into mountain climbing, the former finance analyst from Beijing decided to introduce the Banff Mountain Film Festival to China. The annual festival originated in Canada's Rocky Mountains, and presents short movies and documentaries about outdoor sports and nature - films of which are not generally available in mainland China. The project was readily accepted by China's national film censors.
"Many of my friends in China love outdoor sports. They have spent a lot of time looking for films on rock climbing and skiing. When we sent our movies to national film censors, they had never seen such movies. They loved them and asked what genre they belonged to," Qian says.
China is now among the 50 countries in which the Banff festival has a local chapter. Banff China organises roving screenings and exhibitions around mainland cities every year and introduces about 20 films to China annually.
The China chapter has since branched out into stand-alone film events on running, skiing, mountaineering, and rock and ice climbing. It also holds training classes for budding Chinese documentary producers.
Banff China has also made seven short outdoor sports films of its own. In 2017, it released Searching for Christmas Tree, a 15-minute film chronicling a Chinese ice climbing team's discovery of a frozen waterfall in Shanxi province, and their climb up it. It became the first China-produced documentary ever to be nominated for the Banff Mountain Film Competition.
Qian says overseas climbers are stunned by the spectacular scenery portrayed in the film.
"I have waited many years for a China-made film to be selected for the competition. Such films allow outdoor landmarks in China to have global visibility," she says.
"When I held the Banff China film tours (before), audience members often asked why there were no China productions among the screenings. I had to explain to them that China's development of outdoor sports and standard of sports filmmaking lag behind (those in the West)."
A 2013 report by the China Outdoor Association said that 9.5 per cent of China's population - 130 million people - have taken part in outdoor sports at least once. That compares with 49.2 per cent of the US population, according to 2013 statistics released by the US Outdoor Foundation.
After we screened films on slacklining and invited slacklining masters to perform in our carnivals, the sport's popularity in China grewTina Qian
Qian says taking part in outdoor sports as a lifestyle is a nascent phenomenon in China.
"In places like the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand which have had strong economies for a long time, children do things like biking with their parents in the wild when they are young and start climbing mountains when they are older. That's how they spend their weekends.
"In China, outdoor areas represent hardships which should be avoided. It's only after the Chinese started getting more affluent over the past two decades that they started talking about going back to nature to challenge themselves. Doing outdoor sports is not only about nurturing a healthy lifestyle, it is also a luxurious spiritual pursuit."
For Qian, a mother of two, outdoor sports participation has boosted her confidence and resilience.
"People who love outdoor sports are often open-minded, vibrant and curious about the world. My years of experience in exploring the great outdoors help with my entrepreneurial venture (of running Banff China). The outdoors is filled with uncertainties. Unexpected changes might come from the weather or your travel companions' condition. You have to prepare for all the scenarios and have backup plans ready."
Qian regularly gives talks on her outdoor sports experiences. Last month, she gave a talk on extreme exploration as a successful female entrepreneur at the Another Planet Science Fiction Convention, held last month in Beijing by the Future Affairs Administration, a body that promotes sci-fi writing. Talking to the Post at the convention, she said that although she has less time for sports after starting her own business, her family ventures into the great outdoors whenever there is time.
"I have been taking my son skiing ever since he was three years old. Whenever we spend time in our seaside (holiday) house in Australia, I go scuba diving and skydiving with my husband."
Qian says that when she established Banff China a decade ago, outdoor sports such as skydiving, slacklining and white-water kayaking were minority pursuits in China.
"Once we showed a film on longboarding. People only knew about skateboarding then. After the film screened, one of our sports equipment sponsors thanked me for boosting their sales of longboards. After we screened films on slacklining and invited slacklining masters to perform in our carnivals, the sport's popularity in China grew."
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