Liam Bates (Chinese: 李牧; pinyin: lǐmù) is a performer, television host and adventurer from Switzerland. Bates’ first appearance on Chinese television was during the 2010 Chinese Bridge language contest, a world-wide competition for students of Chinese, in which he received first prize and the eloquence prize. The show aired in front of a TV audience of almost 300 million.
Following Bates’ Chinese Bridge success in September 2010 he joined The Travel Channel China as their newest host, where he began a regular travel series filmed throughout the Chinese countryside. His first shows focused on rural life in Hunan, Guizhou and other Chinese provinces. Each show had Bates spending a week living with farmers and learning about their local cultures.
In 2011 Bates and ‘The Travel Channel China’ team spent two weeks in his home country of Switzerland, filming several aspects of Swiss life: chocolate-making, Alpine cowherding and cheese production, Swiss military. The resulting television show broke numerous records in China, with the first 30-minute episode registering 1.5 million views on video-sharing website Youku alone. Bates became more widely known in China than in his home country.
In early 2012 Bates began a new series, A Love for Adventure (我爱大冒险). In this show, he travelled around China seeking out groups who have maintained their traditional lifestyles in order for Liam to learn their survival techniques.
In 2013, after a return to Switzerland to complete his military service as a Mountain Specialist, Bates began work directing and presenting a new series, The Last Tribe (最后的部落). In this series he travelled around the globe searching out indigenous peoples whose traditional lifestyle is on the brink of extinction. The first season was filmed on the Indonesian island of Siberut, with the Mentawai tribe, and broadcast in May 2013.
Bates was formally invited to begin the study of xiangsheng (a traditional form of “crosstalk” comedy) by famous Chinese comedian Ding Guangquan after his success in the Chinese Bridge contest. In February 2012, in a traditional ceremony at the Confucius Institute, University of Hawaii, he was formally accepted into the xiangsheng hierarchy when he took Ding Guangquan to be his Shifu. A deep understanding of xiangsheng and the Chinese sense of humour gives Bates a unique perspective on both Chinese culture and psyche. Today xiangsheng is still a large part of Bates’ work, and he performs regularly on China Central Television.
Bates became known publicly through Chinese Bridge and his travel shows, but he gradually expanded into other activities, including hosting live events and leading outdoors activities and courses. Bates is jokingly referred to in China as “the most famous Swiss person after Roger Federer” and regularly hosts live events for the Swiss Tourism Office, Swiss-China Chamber of Commerce, as well as other bilingual events.