Since the invention of cell phone cameras, most of us take more pictures in a day than we used to in a week or sometimes even a month. We take pictures of ourselves, we take pictures of landscapes, we take pictures of friends, and we take pictures of cats. Many, many pictures of cats. The question, of course, is what are we doing? What desires do these pictures represent? What is the story behind a selfie or the truth capture in a photography of a sleeping kitten? Continue reading
Over the past 11 years, photographer Ma Hongjie’s (马宏杰) has been photographing Chinese families and all their possessions, like the image of a Home on the Yellow River, Huayuankou Town, Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, above. On his blog, Ma said that an album of this work, titled The Family Belongings of Chinese People will be available the end of his month. The blog is primarily in Chinese, but the images–mostly from rural areas and the west of China–speak for themselves. For example, his photo-essays on monkey trainers and their monkeys, or on how Guo Fucheng makes calligraphy brushes.
Went for a ride with Sarah.
Shenzhen’s largest and oldest new year’s flower market is located on Aiguo Road, which has been closed for the bustling street fair. For a good quarter mile, several hundred venders hawk fresh and artificial flowers, Brazilian turtles, Chinese medicine, and plastic bubble hammers that read “Diaoyu Island belongs to China”. To join the festive multitudes, take the Third Line Subway to the Cuizhu Station and exit onto Yijing Road. Follow the crowds one block to the Main Gate, where photo opportunities abound. So go and get your snake on! Portraits, below:
Xintang and Shang Baishizhou lie northwesterly to Tangtou within the larger Baishizhou neighborhood. Where the allies widen into roads, a vibrant, bustling urbanity hints at unexpected encounters. The Baishizhou Pedestrian Commercial Street, the Baishizhou Christian Church, and inadvertent plazas, for example, speak to the social possibilities that high density street life creates.
The Yaopi float glass factory hovers at memory’s edge, abandoned to ideology and chance encounters.
In 1987, the Shekou factory represented the highest level of float glass technology production in China. Today, it evokes nostalgia for the heroic romance of early industrial manufacturing. And that’s the rub. Even before it was built, the technology and mode of production used at the factory had been downgraded in terms of added value. In terms of global competitive advantage, Yaopi had been outdated even before it was built. Perhaps more telling of the ideological structure that ranks advanced and backward nations with respect to production capacity, the Yaopi factory elicits comparison with the Terracotta soldiers in Xi’an. This unhappy comparison relegates Shenzhen’s modernization efforts to the ancient past, even as it confers uncanny modernity on the First Qin Emperor’s army, which of course was mass produced on low-tech, but large-scale assembly lines.
This morning while touring an abandoned factory in Shekou, I encountered massive orange tubes. By themselves somewhat uninteresting, yet arranged beneath a banyan tree suddenly transformed into art. And that seems the way of it. As a new friend commented recently, “In a city, despite the buildings, ultimately the trees speak to the human soul.”
Visited the Suzhou style garden in Huanggang Village today. The Village axis runs from the arch on Fumin Road via a main street and the central plaza to the ancestral hall and temple. The garden is located behind the ancestral hall.
Also of note: in the main plaza, the village has crafted a self representation that mimics Shenzhen billboards, in which key buildings symbolize the strength and unity of the group. Nevertheless, unlike the municipal central axis, the village central axis runs east – west. Indeed, that’s the rub. If the central axis were opened up through the convention center, it would split Huanggang and plow through the garden.
This afternoon, I sat in Xiasha Plaza watching children and their caretakers. The plaza is vast and the people hug the edges, chatting in the shade. The coi pond is particularly popular.
Yesterday, Bao’an District organized the second annual pounded biscuit festival (沓饼节). Pounded biscuits are a traditional local sweet that are especially popular at Chinese New Year’s. It so happens that a Shenzhen brand, 合成号 has been making said biscuits since 1901. The company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011, and to kick off its next century, in 2012, it became the sponsor of Shenzhen’s latest festival.
Local historian, Mr. Liao Honglei (廖虹雷) invited me to join the celebration. Mr. Liao curated the event and has been active promoting local Chinese culture. He is particularly attentive to cultural differences between Cantonese, Hakka, and Chaozhou settlements. Shenzhen inhabitants from outside Guangdong, refer to Cantonese as “baihua (白话)”, or local language. In contrast, Mr. Liao makes a point of calling each of these cultural strands by their official names, Guangfu (广府 literally provincial capital of Guangdong), Hakka, and Chaozhou in order to draw attention to Bao’an’s heterogeneous roots.
Also present was special guest, Professor Wu Bing’an (乌丙安), an 86-year old specialist in Chinese folklore. Professor Wu began his discussion by explaining why he opposes calling Chinese New Year “Spring Festival”. On his analysis, festival (节 jie) refers to a date on the calendar. In contrast, year (年 nian) refers to a period of time. Thus, jie mark the passage of time within a given nian. Professor Wu said that in order to leave one year and enter the next, Chinese people need sound and color. After praising the reintroduction of noisy, pounding to make New Year’s biscuits, he mentioned that firecrackers were the traditional “sound” for sending off and greeting the new year. Professor Wu also complained that too many safety restrictions had made Chinese New Year too quiet.
Impressions of the pounded biscuit festival, below.