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Once upon a time in China

I finally found some time to work on my photos from my recent trip to China. The itinerary mainly focused on some of the major cultural highlights in China. We traveled 4500 km in three weeks from Beijing in the North all the way to Guangzhou in the South. This intensive program presented us with a quick snapshot of China: from vast construction areas were countless skyscrapers were popping up like mushrooms, to tropical rice terraces teeming with insects, amphibians, and reptiles.

We traveled – quite uncharacteristic for my wife and me – in an organized group to be able to deal with the language barrier that inevitably would present itself. We were quite surprised by the general laid-backed atmosphere though. People were very friendly overall and curious about foreigners. Even though we did not encounter many English speaking people, folks would often go out of their way to give us a helping hand. So a next visit we will definitely travel on our own.

China’s nature and wildlife were not the major focal points of this trip. Nevertheless, we saw quite a lot of wildlife… mostly dead and ready to be consumed. 🙂 Too much of a cliche? I’m afraid not. I was especially shocked by the impact of human activities on some of the landscapes we observed in the North of China. There was hardly a mountain or hill left standing that did not show signs of either new or abandoned industry and agriculture. Erosion especially seemed to be an issue, though I saw several signs explaining programs are being initiated to deal with this problem.

Talking about humans’ impact on nature… at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, we had to see the world’s most adored fluffy mammal with tons of charisma: the Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Aged 8, when I was going from door to door raising money for yet another WWF nature conservation project, I was already familiar with it’s looks. Although the panda might still be endangered – though conservation efforts are paying off – it’s adorable image + the tons of money it generates at the Chengdu Panda Base alone will surely safeguard its survival. In captivity at least 🙁 That’s wonderful really, but… I sincerely hope the rest of China’s wildlife and landscapes will receive the same amount of attention.

Serious photography in China is more of a challenge then you would imagine. Our schedule obviously paid little detail to the best light of the day. But more importantly: China knows vast numbers of domestic tourists. Standing on or close to an ancient monument you read and heard about since when you were young is very impressive. However, I felt less encouraged to photograph them when hundreds of other people are in the process of doing just that! Better just to enjoy the moment. Luckily, we foreign travelers were an interesting feature to be photographed as well. Hence, I felt a lot more comfortable returning the favor with my own camera.

China is a huge country of course and a mere three weeks of traveling hardly reveals much. We would really like to return one day, especially to the Yunnan and Guangxi provinces in the South. They are some of China’s most diverse provinces, and their cultural- and biological diversity is an alluring invitation to see more of it! Off the beaten tracks that is 😉

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this new selection. Cheers!

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