These majestic, bird’s eye view images are of the remote Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces located in China’s Yunnan province. Small bodies of water are punctuated by the bold lines that create the terraces, and they signify the harmony of man and nature. Their brilliant colors and complex designs give them the appearance of abstract paintings rather than natural splendor.
The 1,300-year-old terraces cover 461 square kilometers, and are said to display the best-developed in three valleys. And although it’s hard to tell from these photos, they cascade from a summit of 2,000 meters above sea level to the base of the Ailao mountain range.
From late April to late September, the Hani people grow red rice. The water from brooks, springs, and rain is collected by forests and distributed through the gravitational system. This accounts for the vibrant grounds we see here. (Via China Discovery Blog and Dana Boulos)
After stumbling across a photograph on the internet depicting people posed in a dwarf theme park, Belgian photographer Sanne De Wilde conducted a little research and discovered that the Dwarf Empire, or Kingdom of the Little People, is a real theme park that operates in the Yunnan province of China. In this park, dwarfs provide entertainment – singing, dancing, and various other forms of amusement – for tourists who visit the park. De Wilde eventually contacted the park’s manager and was invited to take photographs of the park and its 77 little people for a project she calls “The Dwarf Empire.” As soon as she arrived, she immediately felt compelled to consider questions regarding the morality of the park’s existence, namely if the workers were happy there, or if they felt more like they were being put on display and exploited. Additionally, “For me, it’s about how this kind of place can exist,” De Wilde says. “What does it tell you about a person who starts this and creates it? What are his intentions?” Founded by a tall, rich man who wanted to “do something good” for the little people, this park is a “Chinese charity dressed in commercial attire.” Much of the park appears run-down, but seems to have a solid foundation.
While she partook in the project of documenting the park, De Wilde, a tall blonde woman, found that she stood out in the park – for the tourists, she became a character in the show created at the park, something she found exhausting. She would even hide with the little people “to be free of the claws of the tourists…they want to touch you and have a part of you.” After she got home, De Wilde spent about a year culling through her images; during this time, she even received letters from some of the people claiming they’re happy and thankful to be working at the park, something that De Wilde viewed as a bit suspect.
From her statement, De Wilde writes,
“I embarked on an adventure with a handful of ethical questions about commercializing social care. Every story has two sides but in this place every question and every answer seemed contradictory. My adventure ended up as a modern anti-fairytale, a collection of images of my making, and theirs. My own trick forced upon myself.” (via lens culture and slate)
Shaolin Kung Fu, developed in China beginning in 495AD, has infiltrated popular culture in the West. Depending on your age, you might be familiar with the 70s TV show “Kung Fu” or Mortal Kombat : Shaolin Monks. Neither captures the essence of Shaolin Kung Fu. Based on Buddhism, its major forms of expression are martial arts and techniques. Shaolin emphasizes meditation, development of the body through rigorous training, and pain endurance.
Training in Kung Fu is mostly done without an opponent, as it was never meant to kill, and the poetic names of the moves imply that it is more of a meditation than a fight. However, the only difference between breaking a clay jug and smashing a human skull with one’s bare hands is consciousness of will. Despite the commercialization, Kung Fu retains a mystical character closer to a monastic discipline than to the performances of modern gladiators.
Tomasz Gudzowaty captures the monks in artistic black and white. The classical composition of these photographs only serves to enhance the amazing strength, endurance, and concentration of the monks as they train. Gudzowaty doesn’t use effects or manipulation to increase the impact of the images—he doesn’t have to. The monks provide all of the interest themselves: walking up walls, standing on their heads, balanced on a foot and an elbow. They seem fully immersed in their training—oblivious to the camera, wholly in the moment.
“Sports fascinates me as a spiritual practice, which is not readily visible today in mainstream events. I made it my long-standing quest to photograph peripheral, exotic sports.”
This series is a masterful match of content and form, skilled subjects and talented artist.
Talk about impressive craftsmanship. In a stunning feat of virtuosity, the Chinese artist Ch’en Tsu-chang carved an astoundingly complex scene into a single olive pit in the year 1737. The tiny sculpture is complete with eight exquisite human figures enjoying a serene ride in the furnished interior of a boat with movable windows. To construct the piece, the artist, hailing from Kwangtung and having entered into the Imperial Bureau of Manufacture during the reign of emperor Yung-cheng, allowed his eye and hand to be guided by the natural shape of the olive pit.
Measuring 1.34 inches in length and .63 inches in height, the work was inspired by a poem titled “Latter Ode on the Red Cliff,” written by Su Tung-p’o some six hundred and fifty years before; it depicts the poet and his seven companions on one of his two journeys to Red Nose Cliff, the site of an epic battle that proceeded the poet-official by eight hundred years. On the helm of the boat, the artist meticulously engraved 300 characters from the beloved poem, whose moving lines served as an artistic theme well into the Qing Dynasty. Somehow, the delicate and intricate composition elevates the epic subject matter, making it all the more precious and highlighting its worth as a narrative worth careful representation. What better way to honor a poem about a natural landscape than by rendering its speaker in an organic substance?
Her toes were broken when she was a kid, then constantly bound to make them smaller until she couldn’t walk straight anymore. At the age of 88, Zhang Yun Ying is among the last witnesses of China’s infamous tradition of foot binding.
It has been recently brought to attention by a British photographer Jo Farrell who is already known for documenting endangered traditions and cultures. Her ongoing project “Living History” captures the lives of some of the last remaining women in China with bound feet. According to Farrell, in the past year alone, three women she’s been documenting have passed away so she feels it is “imperative to focus on recording their lives before it is too late”.
Tiny feet (with the ideal being no bigger than 3 to 4 inches) were once considered to be the symbol of beauty and social status. Young women would crush and bind their feet hoping to marry into money. Concealing the bound foot from men’s eyes also instigated an erotic approach towards it. Even though the inhumane custom was banned in 1912 by Chinese government, it was still practiced behind closed doors.
Apart from showcasing the shocking photos to the public, Farrell wants to make a point that modern women are not so different from the elders she works with:
“In every culture there are forms of body modification that adhere to that cultures’ perception of beauty. From Botox, FGM, breast augmentation, scarring and tattooing, to rib removals, toe tucks and labrets.”
Chinese artists Ren Hang creates provocative staged photography that focuses on exposing highly fetishistic, mind bending scenes. Hang’s attention to detail and great sense of composition deem the photographs as visually stunning even if it subjects are a bit raunchy and bizarre at times.
Ren Hang’s work is not all about just about naked men and women in weird poses, however. It powerfulness as a political tool is probably the most redeeming quality of his work. Hang’s homeland of (China) is highly conservative and its conventional codes in art and communication will not, and will probably never accept Hang’s work. You are probably thinking that his story is very similar to that of dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. Consequently, Hang’s rejected work was found to be a reinvigorating addition to the newly flourishing group of young Chinese artists, and because of that, Hang was invited by artist Ai Weiwei to collaborate with him. Hang was part of one of Shanghai’s most pivotal group show to date, ‘Fuck Off’ (2000), which showcased the new wave of 21st century Chinese artists. Ren Hang was also included in ‘Fuck Off: 2’, which took place in the Netherlands back in 2008; the show has been traveling around the world since its debut.
Although Ren Hang’s work has been banned in many parts of China, he is still part of some Chinese galleries. He has also been exhibited widely in Russia, Italy, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Austria. (via Juxtapoz)
The group 1,600 of exquisitely crafted papier-mâché panda bears have already travelled to and occupied cities like Paris, Berlin, Rome, and TaiPei; next month, they will overtake ten Hong Kong historical landmarks and tourist sites. As part of the Pandas on Tour project, these cuddly creatures are crafted from recycled materials by the French artist Paulo Grangeon in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, PMQ, and All Rights Reserved. Each sculpture has an important statement to make: there are less than 1,600 pandas living in the wild. Grangeon’s small creatures, with their wide eyes and round bodies, are easily be displayed side-by-side, providing a halting vision of the endangered species.
Human forces have forced the panda bears in a state of emergency; mining, tourism, and global warming have all contributed to the distraction of animal habitat in Chinese forests. Wild panda conservation is crucial, as the animals can rarely be convinced to mate in captivity.
Believe it or not, humans have a biological impetus for wanting to protect the species. Pandas have proven to be the most beloved animal for their resemblance to human babies; they too have wide eyes and their paws contain a “pseudo thumb.” Grangeon’s touching creatures are imbued with the tender hearts we recognize in the animals they represent. With poignantly cartoonish eyes, round ears, and emotive facial expressions, the papier-mâché figures inspire a whole lot of empathy. To learn how you can help the panda bears, visit WWF or the Smithsonian’s Giant Panda Conservation Fund. (via HuffPost, Time, and Design Boom)
Yang Maoyuan is a Beijing, China-based multidisciplinary artist noted for his shaping and misshaping of the human form. Born in Dalian, China in 1966, the artist has been witness to one of the most massive cultural shifts ever to occur in human history, so it is not surprising that historical relics and remnants, loaded with archaeological connotations, become source material for Yang.
In a series of work created in 2009, replicas of classical sculptural busts are created in bronze, and systematically sanded, smoothed and rounded out, giving the once easily recognizable faces a new and updated quality. The mirrored effect of these bronzes contemporarizes the pieces, but also forces viewers to see their own reflection in history. Some of the series became Look Inside, while other replicas took their titles from their original source inspirations.
When photographed in their installation environments, the resulting images look similar to 2-Dimensional collages, with smooth cut lines and rounded edges. It is this new verbal language that not only consumes classical sculptural, but also affects the way contemporary audiences will continue to consume culture. (via notshakingthegrass)