Fake footage lands 'A Bite of China' in hot water

Experts catch docu-series faking scenes of people climbing up trees to gather honey

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 3:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 6:45pm

Watch: Chinese director cheats in popular documentary "A Bite of China"

One of mainland state television's most popular shows, a documentary series on food history and cooking called A Bite of China, has left a bad taste with viewers due to misleading footage.

The first episode of the second season shows a young Tibetan man purportedly climbing a 40-metre tree to extract honey. But following an outcry the director admitted two trees of different height were used.

The discrepancy was noticed by a post-doctoral fellow at Peking University.

Gu Yourong, 33, who holds a doctorate in botany from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, made the allegations about the programme in an article penned for Guokr.com, a Chinese-language science website.

Gu said the camera angles were deceptive. It appeared the honey-gatherer was climbing 40 metres off the ground. But a different tree was used, he said.

A bough seen in one clip was clearly a Q uercus, from the oak family, and not the white pine as the show contended.

"Are you kidding me?" Gu wrote. "The leaves of a pine tree look like this? This is obviously a Q uercus tree", which belonged to the oak family.

According to Wang Wencai, a fellow botanist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said trees in that family were incapable of growing to such a height.

" Quercus trees can grow in the Yarlun-Tsangpo river valley to [only] 20 or 30 metres in height," Wang said.

"There is no doubt that it is an evergreen defoliate broad-leafed species.

"The leaves obviously differ from those of a pine, and it is easy to differentiate between the two," he said.

Gu alleges the show's director filmed the man climbing both a two-metre tree and a 40-metre tree and edited the footage together to make it appear there was only one.

Gu further accused CCTV of lax ethical standards and for unnecessarily risking human life.

The director of the episode, Li Yong, responded yesterday, telling The B eijing Times the camera crew was concerned about the climber's safety and used a two-metre tall tree.

"The point of a documentary is … to reflect the truth," a blogger from Shandong wrote.

The first season of the programme aired on China Central Television in 2012 and was hugely successful, setting prime-time records for the state broadcaster.