In 2018 I went to China. It was an epic journey lasting four weeks and covering nearly five thousand kilometres from Beijing to Hong Kong. For three of those weeks I was with Intrepid Travel’s China Experience tour. We travelled by van, bus, train, and boat. I wrote 29 posts about it! This photo essay is a collection of photos that didn’t quite fit into any of the posts. I’ve been saving them all this time to eventually share them. At last I’ve gotten around to it. I’ve also included some from earlier posts that I’ve reworked and are worth a second look.
Here then are images of the Chinese people at work and at play, deeply involved in what they are doing, or just hanging out in the street, crowding the main tourist sites of their country, or singing in the parks. People living their lives. I hope I’ve managed to capture something of both the universal nature of humanity, and of the unique way that the Chinese do it. It was a privilege, and a pleasure to explore their country. At times it was overwhelming. At times it was completely mind-blowing. At times it was exciting. At times it was exhausting. Mostly it was absolutely fascinating.
One of the things I came to love about China is that people gather in large numbers in public parks to participate in: a game of cards or Mahjong, ballroom dancing, tai chi, aerobics, martial arts, sword and fan dancing, ribbon twirling, tai chi tennis, Chinese chess, kite flying, and my personal favourite, playing and singing traditional Chinese opera. I came across a group in Jingshan Park and stopped to take it in. At the end of a couple of songs I clapped and everyone was delighted, especially me. The sheer joy in their activity lifted my spirits and filled me with joy too.
The Muslim people of China are a result of the Silk Road, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travellers. It was the Persian traders who brought Islam to China in the 7th century. They came to, and congregated in, what is now Xi’an. Some settled there and gradually intermarried. The Chinese converted to Islam and the Persians assimilated Chinese culture. Eventually over the centuries they integrated so as to now be indiscernible. Today there is a population of 65,000 Muslims in Xi’an.
Beijing’s hutong areas have escaped the modernisation of the current manic economic boom that is China. It’s similar to the old town of many cities with its narrow winding streets that clearly were not built for modern transportation, and yet the hutongs of Beijing are completely unique. The oldest date back over six hundred years. The following photos were all taken in Beijing’s hutongs.
Domestic tourists are exploring their own country in record numbers these days.
Links to all other posts about this truly phenomenal trip through China can be found at the end of this post.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2021.