Three Generations: Three generations: Confucius, welcoming visitors to his temple in Beijing; a sweeper, most likely taught to hate everything Confucian when he was young; and a little girl, with other things on her mind. Of them all, it’s the girl who will have the biggest impact on China’s future.
Rocker: Beijing’s new generation of rockers is beginning to attract international notice. At a much hyped rock gig at the venue Yugongyishan, lead singer of student band ‘Mr Graceless’ bawls gracefully, while just in front of him is an all-Chinese mosh pit.
Patriotism: Peking University students queue to see the jingoistic new film ‘The Founding of a Republic’. In the screening, the young audience seemed more interested in the Chinese movie stars who appear in the film than they were in the historical content itself. Real footage of Chairman Mao in 1949, however, drew enthusiastic applause.
Party Girl: Taken in a packed Christian service I attended out of curiosity at a wannabe mega-church in Beijing. While the passionately Christian Chinese acquaintance I went with stood reverent and modest by my side, this girl happened to step into my shot.
798 Faces: At Beijing’s 798 art district, I photograph a visitor, who inspects his own photos, while an artwork inspects him. 798 has become a destination for young Chinese to kill time, and shop, in one of the city’s more counter-culture environments.
Chongqing Castle: In Chongqing, the old town of Ciqikou looms over a more modern addition by the riverbank. This kid was more interested in her bouncy throne than in the juxtaposition of her city’s ancient past and booming present.
The Tibet Question: A Peking University student takes notes at a lecture titled ‘the Tibet question’ (you can just make out the Chinese for that at the top-right of his page). This student hardly ever put his pen down, while a few seats down from him another dozed happily.
Penny for a Photo: In the Tibetan town of Tagong, Western Sichuan, this local poses
enthusiastically for my camera. It’s only when his mother looks up
from selling trinkets, and says a few words in Tibetan, that her son
raises his hand to ask for a modelling fee.
Christ in Pingyao: In the old town of Pingyao, right next to the Confucius temple, Christmas banners still hang on a Catholic Church, built in 1910. Mr. Zhang, housesitting the Church while its priest is away, stands messianically in his room, shortly after his quiet attempts to convert me.
Cross Talk: Wit, comic repartee, tongue-twisting speed and impressively lengthed sleeves are on display at a Peking University art society’s bi-termly xiangsheng (cross talk) performance. The audience behind me was, if sparse, in stitches throughout.
Lantern Festival: To the unceasing banging of fireworks, and in the last snow of winter, a child and her grandfather light a sparkler to celebrate lantern festival, or yuanxiaojie. This is the courtyard outside my flat, now scarred as a warzone by the remains of firecrackers.
Tangka: Baimaobar, a Tibetan friend from Qinghai province, poses next to the thangka-esque art he painted on the wall of my Beijing flat in 2008. Those houses in the centre represent the village where he was born, but has now left to strike it big as a painter of Tibetan art.
Dancing is my hobby: In Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia, a 76-year-old former PLA soldier and amateur calligrapher from Shanghai dances away another Tuesday morning. Underneath his footwork, he has written in almost as flawless spelling, ‘Dancing is my hoby’.
Spinning and scratching: Qingmu, a Japanese DJ who moved to Beijing shortly before the Olympics, spins an evening away in his Nanluoguxiang home – which also doubles as the headquarters for a Tibet tour company. The Chinese hip-hop scene, Qingmu says, is ‘just beginning’.
Queueing: In queue to visit the Indian pavilion at Shanghai’s World Expo, the man in front of me purveys what will be another hour of standing in the drizzle. The barriers directing the queue were just narrow and high enough as to prevent any hope of escape.
The New Red Guards: Far out to the East of Beijing, past the city’s fifth ringroad, the Cultural Revolution isn’t over yet. In a themed restaurant, performers dressed up as red guards sing and dance on stage, while punters (the average age under 30 on the night I went) lap it up. They’re cheering the time when their parents or grandparents may have been horribly persecuted.