Today I’m featuring photograph from Pingyao in China. Taken by Margherita Ragg and Nicholas Burns from The Crowded Planet Blog. Please follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to check out their Ragg Burns Imaging website fully focused on pictures!
Picture Story: Pingyao, China
After a couple of days wandering around Pingyao, we got sick of it. The place was lovely. Shop fronts over cobbled streets. Temples with floating eaves and landscaped Chinese gardens. It felt too polished, too clean, too manufactured to be real. It was a tourist version of Old China. A receptacle for what is ‘Chinese’ in popular imagination, packaged and presented to the tourist on a plate. It was the only place we ever visited in China where English was widely spoken and understood.
Sick of Little Red Book-selling shops and badly translated tourist menus, we wandered off to the outskirts of Pingyao. In search of some local life, we walked out of the centre for ten minutes or so. Until we reached a neighbourhood that looked hundreds of years away from the tourist centre. The roads were narrower and unpaved. The brickwork on the floating eaves was crumbling. The plaster on the façades was a bit chipped. However, nobody seemed to be about that day. No one was sitting outside the shops playing mah jong. Many of the old courtyards looked abandoned behind the dividing walls, the windows were dusty and cracked.
Timidly at first, we entered. Some houses looked abandoned. Perhaps people had moved to the newly-built developments just visible on the horizon. In a courtyard, we found this little shoe and lantern hanging over a thread of wire. We thought the shot was iconic in its simplicity. The image of a country that is leaving part of its tradition behind to embrace a new attitude to life. One in which its millennial culture and customs are being stripped out and cleaned, packaged and offered on the tourist plate. And what is not strictly necessary is left behind.