Lhasa in the Cultural Revolution: A Photo Essay

Tsering Woeser presents her father’s photographs of Tibetan struggle sessions

In her new book Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution, the Tibetan essayist and poet Tsering Woeser dissects the impact of China’s Cultural Revolution on Lhasa, her birthplace, five decades ago. This photo essay features 18 of the more than 300 photos in the book, accompanied by Woeser’s comments (translated by Susan Chen); these are based on her interviews with Tibetans and Chinese in Lhasa who lived through the events shown in the photos. All of the photos were taken by Woeser’s father, Tsering Dorje (1937-91), who was a PLA officer and photographer serving in Lhasa in the early 1960s. His photos, which came to light only after his death, are the only known visual records of the struggle sessions, humiliation parades, and mass rallies staged during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. For our previously published interview with Tsering Woeser about her book and her father’s photographs, please read here. – Robbie Barnett



Second-Tier China

A photography essay from the urban peripheries – Rian Dundon

*From Changsha by Rian Dundon*

The most banal clichés attached to China describe it as unknown, inaccessible, remote and exotic. But the world of second-tier cities, small towns, and villages in Rian Dundon’s Changsha is unknown not because it is inaccessible or remote, but because no one has thought to look; not because it is exotic, but because it is full of ordinary people piecing together lives in a vibrant, scarred, unstable social landscape.  Dundon’s subject is provincial China, far from the glittering and more familiar scenes of Beijing, Shanghai, and other coastal cities. The world he makes visible is neither the mainline east coast success story, nor the rural left-behind story, nor even the hidden-scenic-China story.  It is something else altogether – people in marginal but not isolated places, aware of a world beyond their experience but reworking and inventing local versions of it according to their own imaginations and desires, constrained by material difficulties but in no way intimidated by their status as citizens of a purported backwater.


Images of a Vanishing Culture

A photo essay from western Xinjiang – Naomi Goddard

Editor’s note: Shaped by their historical position along the ancient silk road, the Uyghurs of Xinjiang have developed a unique culture and identity. While the news is dominated by the re-education camps that attempt to instill in them a standardized identity in line with the PRC, we want to remind readers of their original culture that is under threat, and that Xinjiang is more than its politics. Islam plays a crucial role in Uyghur society, as do values of hospitality to strangers and local community alike. Photographer Naomi Goddard was interested in Uyghur traditions of community and its importance in their everyday work and social life. During her visits to Xinjiang in 2016 and 2017, she witnessed locals carrying out their daily tasks as a collective, from trading livestock to getting their hair cut, and has collected some of her images below. – Alec Ash


Housing Hong Kong

Shek Kip Mei public housing estate in 1965 – Susan Blumberg-Kason

When my grandparents first traveled to Hong Kong in 1965, they visited many of the typical tourist attractions back then: the Peak, the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, and the several floating restaurants spread across the territory. But what struck me most about their slides were the images from the Shek Kip Mei public housing estate.


Beijing in Black and White

Life in a frame – a photo essay by Siok Siok Tan

Editor’s note: We're proud to present a selection of a dozen photographs by the talented Siok Siok Tan, a Beijing resident who took a picture of hutong life every day for a year. Check out her Instagram and her website for much more like this, or track down a copy of her book of photography People of Beijing (人在北京). We hope these snapshots of life bring out the human side of China’s capital and the residents who bring everyday joy, activity and struggle to its streets.  Alec Ash