Beijing, Street protest

Beijing, Street protest


BEIJING July 21, 2013. Two women with children are blocking traffic on the LiangMaHe South Road in front of the office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


I’m not sure what they were protesting about because, as soon as I started taking pictures, a plainclothes security staff approached me (he is visible in the background in one of the two photos, making a gesture to me to stop shooting). I walked away but he followed me and demanded I deleted the pictures. I ignored him, but he started pushing me. A few 100 meters further, just when he started pushing and blocking my way with more force, we passed the Dutch embassy. I pushed him away and said “zhe shi wo de dashiguan” (this is my embassy) and crossed the road, ready to enter the embassy.


Well, the embassy was closed on the Sunday, but he left anyway. Later I realized that in his view an incident of him harassing a foreigner in front of the CCTV cameras of the Dutch embassy was probably a bigger problem than me taking pictures of protesters on the street.



Nanjing, A walk in the Qijiawan area

Nanjing, Qijiawan



QIJIAWAN, NANJING, MARCH 2013. We walk around in the Qijiawan area of Nanjing (a previous post dedicated to the upcoming destruction and new development of this area can be found here). Qijiawan is located in the Baixia District. “Qi” means “seven”, “Jia” means “family” and “Wan” means harbor or bay. A Nanjing local tells us about the origin of Qijiawan. One day Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, visited the area incognito during the Lantern Festival. He saw a picture of a woman with big (unbound) feet and with a watermelon in her arms. This was an evident sarcasm referring to his wife and his big headed son. He got so angry that he killed all the people in the area, except for seven families who had no lanterns hanging out to celebrate the festival.



Nanjing, Qijiawan



The name “Qijiawan”, however, comes from a true historical event. In 1413, General Zhang Ban succeeded in suppressing the Muslim rebellion in Ningxia. He settled the Muslim aristocrats in Shuiximen, a historical location in Nanjing. “Qijia” referred to the seven major family names of these Muslims; namely Tao, Ma, Ding, Yao, Ha, Mo and Bai. Hence, Qijianwan became the first gathering place of Muslims in Nanjing. These Muslims and their offspring have exerted significant influences on the culture in Nanjing. Good examples can be found in Nanjing’s cooking customs; the famous fried dumpling and boiled salted duck originate from Qijiawan.


We walk along the Dading Alley. “Dading” means “making nails”. The name of Dading Alley came from craftsmen who made nails during the Ming Dynasty. Once being a renowned business area in Ming and Qing Dynasty, and still bustling place during the period of the Republic of China, today this alley is no longer prosperous. It has turned into a residential area with muddy streets and a lot of graffiti on the walls of the residential buildings.



Nanjing, Qijiawan



A middle-aged couple run a poultry shop in Dading Alley. They do not allow us to take photos of them as they are afraid that these photos could trigger city inspectors to visit them and ask questions about their business. They sell chicken for 22 RMB each, duck for 17 RMB and pigeons for 25 RMB each. They tell that their monthly income of selling poultry is nearly 2,000 RMB, which is as much as the salary a labor worker earns per month.  Yet Mr. Ma, the interviewee we meet later claims that the couple lie about their real income. He says that they can earn 8 RMB per kilo, so guesses that their monthly income is a multiple of the stated 2,000 RMB.


Opposite of the poultry shop we see several fruit peddlers. Among the peddlers, there is a family from Anhui and a man who has lived in Nanjing for 20 years. They sell sugarcane and the man boasts about the quality of his sugarcane. Referring to my background he says: “Your country is much wealthier than our country.” We reply that a lot of Chinese people have become very rich as well over the last 10 years. The man disagrees and claims that only the upper class people are rich. “Most Chinese, like us, do not have a lot of money,” he adds. He then points to the new houses behind him and tells: “Only affluent people can buy these mansions, because they are sold at a price of over ten million RMB each one.” “Are these houses large inside?” we ask him. “Of course, they are all very large and expensive! Each square meter costs 50,000 RMB.”



Nanjing, Qijiawan



Walking through the Dading Alley, we come to another alley named “Ganyu”, which means “dried fish”. Located near the Qinhuai River, this alley is well known for its specialty: dried fish. Deep into this alley, we meet Mr. Ma Deming at his home.


Mr. Ma, 65 year old, was laid off in 1998 and got divorced with his wife the same year. Since his mother’s death ten years ago, he lives alone in his small one-story house with two rooms. He has no income except for a 2000 RMB pension every month. Mr. Ma’s house, built 50 years ago, looks old and shabby. He is rather unhappy with his living conditions and complains: “The officials merely concerns about their own profits. For all the time, they have been busy with auctioning lands in the countryside – who cares about us?”



Nanjing, Qijiawan



Mr. Ma invites us into his house and introduces us to the Muslim elements of his house. “My ancestors were all foreigners,” he shows us a genealogy book of his family. The book contains a chronological recording of all the generations of his family and stories about them. In 755 A.D., his Arabic ancestors first came to China to help the Tang emperor to suppress the An Lushan Rebellion. He then shows us a picture album made by the Islamic organization in Nanjing. A number of his family members, including his father, once were imams and his cousin was the president of the Muslim organization.



Nanjing, Qijiawan



Mr. Ma belongs to the Hui people. Unlike his mother who attends religious services every week, Mr. Ma only attends at times. “Due to my belief in Islam, I usually don’t eat meat,” Mr. Ma says, “However, lots of Hui people here no longer conform by the rule of not eating meat, because the mosques in Nanjing are not as strict as those in the Northwest area.“ At that moment, a neighbor wants to interrupt him. Mr. Ma stops him abruptly: “Shut your mouth! You are not Huimin at all!” His neighbor objects and they quarrel for a while.


At the end of our visit, Mr. Ma shows us some pictures of old buildings, especially of the largest mosque in Nanjing. He shows a photo with the emblem of the National Party on the gate of the mosque. Now, the Communist administration has changed it into the emblem of the Republic of China.



Nanjing, Qijiawan



A couple runs a recycling station of waste material by Dingxin Road, together with their twin sons and two relatives. At first they are hesitant to be photographed for fear of the city inspectors, but later they agree it is all right. They purchase waste paper at 0.7 RMB per kilo, and then sell it out at 0.8 RMB per kilo to the recycling paper manufacturers in Ma Anshan, Anhui. Their monthly income is around 6,000 RMB, which is considered a very good income. They tell us: “Now that everything is increasingly expensive, few people are willing to do low-paying jobs today.”



Nanjing, Qijiawan




Nanjing, A man selling sheep from Inner Mongolia


At the end of autumn, in the middle of a residential area, a handful of people gather around several sheep carcasses, hanging upside down with their head removed. Blood is dripping from their broken necks and tails.


The man who sells the mutton is boasting to consumers the high quality and freshness of his sheep. According to him, all the sheep were transported from Inner Mongolia, constantly in frozen condition.


The mutton is sold for 22 RMB per “jin” (half a kilo) with skin and 21 RMB without the skin. Some costumers doubt the freshness of the meat, for the price is quite cheap.


This year, the man has purchased 50 tons of Mongolian sheep. He estimates that they can be sold out before the Spring Festival.


He is from Anhui, but speaks with a pure Nanjing accent. He explains that he has moved here more than a decade ago. He started the sheep trade a couple of years ago.





Nanjing, A Birthday Present


On the Baotaqiao East Street near the Yangtze River, stands a man holding a big framed oil painting, which is about 1.2 meter in length and 1 meter in width. The painting portrays one of his female friends, who celebrates her birthday today.


He spent almost 3,000 RMB for the painting. It is made by a graduate student from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts. He tells that it is hard to have this student paint a portrait for you, for he is already famous and has his own studio.


“The girl in the painting is approaching, so why not take a photo of us together?” he suggests. He points to the opposite side of the road. We note that she looks much younger than the woman in the painting. He does not answer us but yells immediately to the girl: “Hey, they say that you are beautiful!”


When asked whether he often prepares such precious birthday presents for his friends, he grins and says: “I have few such female friends.”



Beijing, Newly arrived


A little over 10 people from a small village in Sichuan province just arrived in Beijing to work on a construction site. They are waiting for a bus to take them to their dormitory. Around 3,000 people used to live in their hometown, but these days more than half of them work in big cities.


We talk with one the female workers. She tells that more and more female migrant workers go to cities for construction work. Just like her. “There is no way out if one stays in the village”, she says.



She has a 16 year old child studying arts in the high school of her hometown. She felt the child did not need too much care anymore and decided to work in the big city to earn money for the child’s tuition fee in college. Her parents take care of the child at home.


Several workers reply, when asked if they carry any personal belongings like photos of family members, that they only brought useful things like a quilt, clothes and some daily necessities.




Beijing, Dog meat



In Dongcuijia Cun, a village in a rural area of Beijing, we meet a man dissecting a dog. He is from a village in Guangxi province. According to the man, the former owner of the dog, in Hebei province, did not want to take care of the dog anymore and sold the dog for 500 RMB.


After dissecting the body, he puts pieces of the meat into a boiling pot, including the organs, to prepare them for consumption. The man offers us the dog meat for sale at 20 RMB per jin ( 1 jin = 500 grams).


We came across this scene while we were walking with Shanghai based blogger and photographer Sue Anne Tay. She wrote an interesting post on the same event:


The photos below are presented as thumbnails because of their potentially disturbing nature. They can be enlarged by clicking on it.







Beijing, “Bull Fight”


Sound file of men playing the game and bystanders talking:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Between the Silk Market and the Bulgarian Embassy, a group of men is closely arranged around a 4 man gambling. Gambling is as common as it is illegal, so a few man keep watch while others follow the game. It is impossible to make photos of such an event, they would not allow for it. I watched the card game and made a sound recording. Each round at least 10,000 RMB changed owner.

The dialects spoken in the recording are at first a Sichuan dialect and after that all Anhui dialect. From what could be understood, the translation is:

“Tonight…”    “…watch the ball game.”    “That is hard to say.”    “Okay.”     “Have you picked? ” “I couldn’t get one.”     “Okay.”     “Bull fight!”  (Bull fight is the name of the game they are playing; it probably it originates from Anhui) “Ok ok ok.”     “How to play?”     “I’ll call him tonight.”     “Come on, speed up. Why are you so slow?”     “Fight him!”     “Great!”     “He arrived Sanbin, he arrived Sanbin.”




Beijing, The price of vegetables



A woman selling tomatoes on a market in MaLianDao, Beijing.


Following a shortage in vegetable supplies, currently China faces an over supply in the vegetable market. As a consequence a rapid decline in the vegetable prices is having a serious impact on the lives of farmers. It is said that this unexpected decline was the direct cause for some farmers to commit suicide. The Chinese government has taken actions to protect farmers from greater losses.




Beijing, Writings on the wall


This photo was taken in Beijing’s TuanJieHu Park. The translations of the readable writings on the wall are:




Liu Guodong (a person’s name)


Liu Haitao (a person’s name)


Love you my woman.


Han Wen (a person’s name)


I’m sorry.


About love, I did fucking try my best.

— Xiao Dai (a person’s name)


Han Wen, I’ll love you for all my life.


Zhan TianHao , Class 6 Grade 3 of junior high school


Give yourself a chance,

and you’ll be the happiest girl in the world!!!




I’m looking for a real man.


Youth is the erection of the reproductive material.


A fast …


Looking for a loose woman.


Looking for a girlfriend.


I love the stupid girl.


Gou Dan (dog egg –

many names with “egg” in it are used for scolding)


Oriental ability and integrity. DongFang DeCai

(most likely a man’s name) has no bright future.


River water