On the foothills of the Himalayas there is this tiny Chinese village called Baisha. It is one of the oldest in the region, having its roots in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) and home to the Naxi people. With its cobblestone streets, fresh air, and ancient constructions, you can almost feel as a fly on the wall watching this traditional Chinese town.Read More
Text by Emma González | Photos by Bruno Maestrini
In China wedding photography is a huge business. My impression is that the pre-wedding photos are more important than the actual ceremony with family and friends. Many Chinese couples I know are extremely proud of their pictures and some even have huge prints on their living room wall.
Usually the couples hire a photographer and a small crew of make up artists and fashion stylists to immortalize their romantic moments before they become husband and wife. They spend a whole day, or sometimes even a weekend, posing in different outfits in front of variety of romantic settings. It is not unusual for richer couples to fly a photographer all the way to Europe just for these pictures.
For the shoot, photo companies offer a wide selection of dresses and accessories. Additionally, the make up artist and fashion stylist make sure that they look at their best in every picture.
There are places in China that are particularly appealing to those having their wedding pictures taken. One of those places is the coastal city of Qingdao. It is almost virtually impossible not to come across a wedding photoshoot when walking by the seaside. Another place that attracts the soon-to-be married couples is Suzhou for its beautiful canals. In Beijing, a popular spot is the Temple of Heaven.
Photographer's note: It's interesting to note that all these photos, with the exception of the top one, were taken at the same place during a one hour interval. We went to a Christian (episcopal maybe?) church near the lake and to our surprise dozens of couples were having their photos taken. I guess originality is needed in the Suzhou market. Or maybe the church was the most affordable package.
Emma González is a journalist and connoisseur of fashion and author of the anti-fashion blog El Mundo DeSastre.
The city of Suzhou is known in China for it's canals and its gardens. The "Venice of the East" has nine gardens that are together a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During my one day visit I had the opportunity to visit only the Lingering Garden 留园.
The gardens are basically big old houses built by rich people with a lot of green and water, to chill out in the humid summer of southern China. I can imagine hundreds of years ago just resting in the shade listening to the birds and the breeze passing through the trees.
Fast forward to 2016. Dozens of tour buses park outside the garden and a guide with a flag comes out with hundreds of tourists following with their little matching hats. Why? Because it's a class AAAAA tourist destination. That means Chinese tour companies will take groups there. Not because it's cool, not because people WANT to see it, but because it was determined it's supposed to be seen. I'm not saying it's not cool, because it is, but there is also a lot of cooler stuff without any A worth checking out. You can see by now that I'm not a big fan of how they decide what gets five As.
It is beautiful, go see for yourself. Ignore the tour buses.
Known as the Gardens of Perfect Brightness 圆明园, the ruins of the old Summer Palace are a memory of one of the most beautiful palaces in China. During the second Opium War, in 1860, European forces plundered and destroyed the place, taking relics that dated back 3500 years. Charles George Gordon, a French captain, wrote "You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burn. It made one's heart sore to burn them; in fact these places were so large, and we were so pressed for time, that we could not plunder them carefully." Many Chinese artifacts in western museums today are the result of plundering and looting of ancient China. Then in 1900 again the eight nations, during the boxers rebellion, came back and tore down whatever had survived.
The ruins are one of the very few remaining "unrestored" ancient sites of Beijing I know of. Most places have been either completely restored to look like they would have in ancient times or simply torn down to give space to modern buildings.
I used quotation marks because although these are ruins, I can't say I'm completely convinced this is all original. While I don't have proof of anything, several facts lead me to believe these aren't simply the ruins of what was once the largest palace in the history of China. Many of the stone pieces and their engravings seemed to me too well conserved for such an old piece, specially when thousands of people are stepping on them and handling them everyday.
Another notable fact is that - and architects or engineers reading, please correct me if I'm wrong - some of the stones were noticeably different. It seemed that several blocks were actually marble, while others were of a simpler material, not cement, but of the likes.
The pictures in this post are from two very different times of the year, winter 2015 and spring 2016.
Along with the Imperial Palace and Tiananmen Square, one of the most famous landmarks of Beijing is the Temple of Heaven, in the southern part of town. It's in every guidebook and about every tourist that passed through the city since Marco Polo has been there.
What a lot of people don't know is that hidden in what is now the Russian shopping district lies the TEMPLE OF HELL HELl HEll Hell hell *echoes and fades just like in Fraggle Rock*
In reality, it is a Daoist temple called Dongyue, which was named after Mount Tai, one of the Five Sacred Mountains of Daoism.
The place is known informally as the Temple of Hell because of it's scary statues of death and punishment.
Well, that seems like an awesome place to bring the kids, right?