Visiting China, my family origin, has been one of the most special trips for me, and an eyeopener into my identity. I am able to retrace my roots and see the cities at which my parents met and grew up. I was curious to see what was life for my paternal family prior to immigrating to America and the life of my maternal family still in China. What interested me was also, how the country influenced each of them.
My first trip to the country was for a unique photography commission. I wanted to share my experience with others, so a small group of working professionals (research scientists and engineers) was organized to join with me on exploring the country as well. We shared our first of many meals together at a local Tibetan restaurant in the States prior to our trip to the other side of the globe.
I was given the opportunity to select the locations in China to visit, including my maternal family’s hometown so I could also see my family while on the trip. The itinerary was quite ambitious as there were mountains of historical sites and terrain to photograph. China isn’t just representative of one city, nor do all of their people in the different regions feel they belong to China. Its history goes back thousands of years, after many dynasties. When I was in Tibet, China’s military occupation there was visible. It was odd and uncomfortable as a tourist seeing a convoy of Chinese military trucks on the road. Somehow they looked misplaced and foreign in such a peaceful, spiritual place surrounded by the Himalayas strung with prayer flags.
Soon after returning home from the trip, my China photography was accepted for an exhibit at the Harbor Park Gallery at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse. It was wonderful to share the memories through this show with my fellow travel mates. They came to see the exhibit and we reminisced about each place and moment we shared together.
As an invited guest speaker at Brown University for their closing convocation of Asian-American History Month, I had the opportunity to further talk about how my heritage influenced my art as a Chinese-American. Part of the talk, I presented observations and photographs from my trip to demonstrate how elements of China had affected my artistic style. The talk was featured in their Brown Daily Herald.
Hong Kong Rush
It is not rush hour, but rather the usual traffic in Hong Kong. This city reminded me of Manhattan, New York, because of its busy, carefree, and energy driven aspect.
Ngong Ping, Lantau Island in Hong Kong
Going to the Qingping market in Guangzhou was like an open art museum or zoo. There was so many interesting things to see from barrels of carpenter ants to live scorpions used for medicinal purposes. I also strolled through Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and tranquil garden park.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province, China
Zhangjiajie reminded me of James Cameron’s film, “Avatar”. The natural monuments towering over 200 meters amidst the fog looked picturesque. The vegetation here resembled what I’ve seen in Chinese paintings and calligraphy. We visited the Yellow Dragon Cave as well, which was surreal and appeared like the surface of the moon.
Faces of Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an
In Xi’an lies the excavation of the life-size armies, horses and chariots of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. There were two pits and only one was excavated. The second pit remained untouched until a way to properly preserve the pigmentation of each model was determined. Each face of the Terra Cotta Warriors was unique. I learned about the process in which these sculptures were built, including the first Qin emperor’s brutality.
Palace Museum in the Forbidden City
This palace in Beijing served as the home for emperors and China’s center of government for nearly six centuries.
When I first saw The Great Wall of China through Beijing’s haze, I remember whispering, “wow” and “how”. This dragon-like, structural creature undulated with the curves and dips of the mountains. Traveling from peak to peak was a hike and a ride. From time to time, vendors’ gazes and crafts would spur my interest; I pondered these hawkers’ seasonal lifestyle, working on such a remarkably historic and challenging place.