China

Posted by Ellen

An uncropped version of this photo took first place in a contest defined as "Big rivers and the life along them." It was shot with an Android cellphone.

The river is the Li, in south China, and the lively village is Fenghuang.

Posted by Ellen

On the morning of May 13, 2016, NASA's Landsat 8 satellite collected thermal, infrared, and visible-light data from high above the city of Shangqiu, home to more than 1.5 million people in the midst of the wheat, cotton, corn and sesame fields of the North China Plain.

Shangqiu is a transportation hub, located at the junction of China's major north-south and east-west railroads. Also, the largest frozen-food processing company in China is headquartered there.

The lush agricultural land surrounding the city shows up as deep green in this image because Landsat's sensors are particularly sensitive to the vigorous plant growth characteristic of freshly planted fields in mid-spring.

The small brownish blotches in the farmland are agricultural villages. Almost 6 million people live in villages in the Shangqiu hinterland.

Posted by Ellen

The supermarket at 1015 Yuyuan Road in Shanghai is said to look like any ordinary Chinese convenience store, its shelves stocked with colorful bottles and boxes of foodstuffs and other items from all over the world.

There's the usual convex mirror in the corner to watch for shoplifters. There's a cash register and a cashier, and lots and lots of customers.  The prices they pay are exactly what people in Shanghai would expect to pay.

The only thing at all unusual is that the packages are all empty. Every last one of them. Artist Xu Zhen and his conceptual-art corporation, MadeIn Company, bought all the thousands and thousands of items found in a convenience store, patiently pricked or otherwise opened each one to remove the contents, and then carefully resealed them.
 
"Store" visitors, perhaps surprised at first by the lightness of a secretly emptied soft drink can or candy bar wrapper, nonetheless walk up and down the aisles, studying and touching the merchandise. They make their selections. As often as not, they decide to buy something, even though it's only a package of nothing.
 
They pay full price. Maybe they feel that they're actually buying art, and for art, the price looks good.
Posted by Ellen

More than fifteen hundred years ago, the monks at the Shaolin monastery in central China's Henan province began incorporating martial arts into their Zen buddhist practice; today, they still train for Kung fu on the cliff face of Songshan Mountain.

Posted by Ellen

A fisherman goes out at night with his cormorants on the River Li, amidst the karst spires of south China. The photo does not make clear how he monetizes his fishing in these postmodern times: by selling fish, or by entertaining tourists?

Posted by Ellen

"Deep in the Guangxi Province of China," by Trey Ratcliff.

Posted by Ellen

As today's contribution to the occasional series "Places We've Not Been and Have No Business Trying to Write Anything About," please consider this roofscape scene taken in Lijiang village, a UNESCO World Heritage site high in the hills of southwest China, near the border with Myanmar.

Human habitation in Lijiang has been continuous since before there was such a thing as a roofscape, or even a roof; paleolithic cave-dwellers were here. The ancient Silk Road passed through here. Townspeople grew wealthy through trade and tribute, and they began to rebuild their town in more elaborate, decorative styles.

Civilization was flourishing here in the thirteenth century. And fortunately for some, within about eight hundred years, give or take, the tourists showed up.

Posted by Ellen

The Chinese term for what's going on here gets translated as sand-washing, but the operation is really more like sand-blasting. Every summer, just before the rainy season, specialized gates in a dam holding back the Yellow River are opened wide, and the river bursts through under such high pressure that the sand and silt in the river water scour the river bottom for the next 800 km.

The nozzles will be left open for about three weeks, till the water level in the Xiaolangdi Reservoir is low enough to accommodate summer rain and the riverbed downstream has been blasted deep and clean. In its lower reaches, the Yellow River meanders slowly and is prone to silt buildup and flooding. In recent years, sand-washing has been undertaken at least once and usually twice a year.

The photo above shows the sand-washing last week; recent rains had stirred up the sediment in the water, turning it all yellow. The photo below shows the beginning of last summer's sand-washing operation, which took place after a dry spell during which the sediment had precipitated out of the water column and settled to the bottom of the reservoir.

Posted by Ellen

Corner store in Beijing, China.

Posted by Ellen

The noonday sun works its way into Beijing's new Capital Museum to illuminate China's ancient treasure.