Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Day in the Life of China

I bought a coffee table book about China a few weeks ago at an antique store in Weston, Missouri. The book, A Day in the Life of China, is a really interesting premise: sixty western photographers and thirty Chinese photographers were dispatched throughout China on April 15, 1989 to take photos. The resulting book is over 220 pages of pictures taken between 12AM and 11:59PM on that one day.

The book has a nice blend of urban, rural, factory, everyday, and scenic shots. One thing I like about it as that there are people in nearly every shot. The 老百姓 (old hundred names, common folk) of China are prominently featured.

The China of 1989 is very different from the China I was introduced to in 2006. It's pretty wild to see how fast the country developed in those seventeen years. There are so many bicycles in the book, exponentially more than you'd see on the streets of China today!

I was able to find a few of the photos from the book scanned online here. The scans are not of the greatest quality, but they'll work for this post:

April of 1989 is a very noteworthy time in contemporary Chinese history. It's just as the historic student protests began in Beijing. Being a snapshot of China just before one of the most important events in its recent history is just another reason that this book is worth checking out.

This book can be purchased for a couple bucks on Amazon used. It's been a great add to my library.


Ramesh said...

It must be a very nice read, especially for those of us who have not seen the China of those years, but have seen the China of today.

Your post reminds me of the surprise I had seeing so few bicycles in China. Had heard a lot about how there were so many of them, and then when I went for the first time - where were they ??

Mark said...

You're right, Ramesh. The idealized bike-lined streets of China are long gone!!

Although China's made a strong move towards relying on the personal automobile, they're nowhere in the same league as Americans, who they're often being compared to (I've made the comparison in the past).

Most Chinese people, even if they have a car in the family, will still use public transportation often. The same can't be said of Americans, particularly of people outside of major metropoli, like myself. The 电动车 (electric bike) is also a positive thing that China's embracing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, all this talk reminds me of your bicycle post awhile back. Winter's over, are you riding that bike to work again?

Mark said...

I went to go get the bike tuned up a couple weekends ago. Rode a bit this weekend. Still haven't made the long ride into work yet this year, but it'll be coming here shortly!

I remember last year really not enjoying riding during cold mornings. Am probably going to get going in a week or two when it's not so close to freezing in the mornings.

Mark said...

In case anyone missed the Kansas scenery/bike ride post I made last year, here's the link.

Also sprach Analyst said...

Very interesting. 1989 was certainly a historic moment, and we can also see the dramatic transformation of China over the past 20 years or so.

Also sprach Analyst