Cycling the Streets
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/450s, ISO 200
Many people have a fantasy view of Shanghai (or China in general for that matter) with bicycles everywhere. Sadly, while this may have been a real sight at the time The Blue Lotus was drawn, and still true when I first came to China in 1995, it no longer is. Electric scooters have replaced bicycles. Still, occasionally you see old people going down the streets on bikes, so it’s not all lost to modernity.
The Mixed-Gender Card Game
Fuji x100s, 35mm
We saw a number of card games ongoing in Liu Gong. This after all was a national holiday, and it was raining so it seemed like a legitimate thing to do on a rainy day.
Fuji x100s, 35mm
Despite the rain, the kids of Liu Gong were playing outside while the adults played cards inside. I managed to capture these two little girls. It helps to have a little blonde girl with you as she becomes the center of attention…
Fuji x100s, 35mm
Rain was pouring down when we walked through Liu Gong. This dog had found one of the few dry areas around, and lounged there waiting for better weather. It didn’t even move when we walked past. I loved the fact that the clothes were hanging above him and dripping down…
The Men’s Card Game
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/8, 1/60s, ISO 1250
The weather in Yangshuo was quite abominable, but the bamboo raft cruise on the river Li was booked, so we had to do it. Thankfully, our guide took us to a little village out of the beaten path which according to my notes was called Liu Gong. The guide said it meant something like « the husband cannot leave », so a shorter English name might be « Man Trap » ? Anyway, it was an eye opener, coming from Shanghai and having seem mostly touristy places in China so far to see how peasants truly live. It was dirty and run-down, but it was full of life as well, although an unusual life since this was the heart of the Golden Week and people weren’t working. They weren’t all playing cards… but not far off!
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 200
The second ethnic minority in the Longsheng area, after the Zhuang, is the Yao minority. The Yao women have a complex and intricate relationship to their hair. They only cut their hair three times in their lives: when they turn 18, when they are wedded and when they are 36. The keep the braids they cut and integrate then into their daily bun. How much hair is apparent also says something about marital status and the number of children. When we met this Yao grandmother, she agreed to show us how she does her hair, and it was quite fascinating.
The Chinese Sweets
x100s, 35mm, f/87, 1/60s, ISO 2000
On the long walk down from Ping An we stumbled upon these craftsmen. The woman is baking chili oil, but the men are slamming down on sweets with their mallets to mix them with nuts. Quite an amazing sight for our sadly too industrialized eyes. We bought some sweets, it was a kind of nougat, flavoured with osmanthus and it was quite good although it stayed stuck in your teeth for a long time. Just like French nougat.
Bamboo Rice Seller
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/4, 1/60s, ISO 1600
The speciality of Ping An and the neighbouring areas is Bamboo Rice. Sticky rice, mushrooms, herbs and sometimes meat are stuffed inside the end of a bamboo branch. A corn cob blocks the open end, and the bamboo has been cut so that there a bit of wood remaining at the end to grab the piece of branch with. It’s then cooked over an open fire. Of course, the bamboo starts to burn after a while, so every 10 minutes or so the piece of bamboo needs to be dipped in a water bucket nearby. My kids loved it, I thought it was a little bland, but it certainly was distinctive and fun to watch. As usual, I’m attracted in street photography to the clashes between traditional and modern, here the traditionally dressed woman cooking an ancestral dish in the traditional way and talking on her mobile phone at the same time.
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/11, 1/60s, ISO 400
Ethnic minorities are a big thing in China even though they only represent 8% of the overall population. During our trip in Guangxi, we encountered members of two ethnic minorities that coexist there, the Zhuang and the Yao. We didn’t see any men wearing traditional costumes, but the women did. Along the path to Ping’An (about two hours walk in the mountains) we saw many food sellers like this Zhuang woman. She sells (from left to right) dried bamboo, chilies, mushrooms (also in plastic bags), eggs and passion fruit. The passion fruit grow in the mountains, and in this season they are fresh and unbelievably good.
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/11, 1/60s, ISO 500
I’m not a landscape photographer. I just don’t have the skill for it and I can only admire the masters from afar and, once in a while, shoot what to them would be a snapshot but at least brings me nice memories of something I saw. We recently spent a few days as a family in Ping An, North of Guilin in China. The region is known for its remote villages and terraced rice paddies. Not since I went to Bali when I was 13 had I seen such verdant green, and I was compelled to shoot many landscapes, few of which are any good. I had high hopes for sunset, but it turns out the nearby mountains hid the sun very early, and sunset wasn’t what I expected. Still, I tried to make the most of the slight haze of pink on the horizon, and this is the result.