This article proposes that a series of works can be seen as the origins of Chinese independent documentary. Due to an environment of independent creative work and artistic development in the 1980s, many authors started their own filmmaking. In my view, if we must identify the first Chinese independent documentary, it should be Nujiang, not Bumming in Beijing. This article analyses Nujiang’s narrative characteristics and cultural significance. It argues that we shouldn’t only focus on exploring the Chinese independent documentary movement and should attach more emphasis to early independent documentation activities, even when these did not result in finished works.