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A Decade in Tibet
Photographs by Yang Yankang

 

2005, Qinghai: On the summit. In many areas heavily populated by the Tibetan ethnic minority, the mountains are held sacred by Lamaism and draw streams of pilgrims from near and far.

 

Beginning in 2014, an exhibition of the Tibet-themed photography by Yang Yankang has toured China from Lhasa to Taipei, Xining, Zhengzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen, Kunming, and Dalian. Yang didn't reject any local invitation despite the tight schedule.

On display were 80 black-and-white photos depicting Tibetan religious and social life captured during his decade-long travels.

Yang started focusing on Tibet in 2003. He trekked the Tibet Autonomous Region and beyond, visiting heavy concentrations of Tibetans living in provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan, sharing food and roofs with the locals, befriending monks and lamas, and observing details of daily life and religious practice.

During his journey, he concentrated only on local daily life and religious activities. "A diligent photographer, Yang set his sights on accomplishing his mission with vision and skill as he has grown sincere religious beliefs and became more enlightened through his camera," commented one critic.

Yang exhausted more than 2,000 rolls of film while taking over 75,000 pictures, but only 80 made the final cut for the exhibition.

Many consider Tibet mysterious, sacred, and strange. Through Yang's lens, the region appears vivacious, cordial, and fascinating.

Yang integrated himself into the local community, evolving from an outside spectator. His photography enables us to share lamas' joy as they reach out their hands to embrace life-giving rain, tranquility and comfort as monks rest after cleaning, and harmony between man and animal as they feed pheasants.

Elegant, unsophisticated and low-profile, his images transport viewers closer to the mysterious roof of the world, interpreting real local life and portraying the people as sincere, touching, and natural.

"I remained as faithful as prostrating worshippers with my photography, striving to interpret the dynamic nature of the people and the places rather than just scraping the surface and reach for an understanding of the true value and meaning of photography," explains Yang.

"His exhibited images are undoubtedly excellent modern Chinese photography," opines Gu Zheng, a prestigious critic. "We not only see realistic representations through his documentary photography, but a world of spirit transcending reality."

2006, Sichuan: Practicing religious dancing. Richly abundant with Tibetan culture, lama dancing is a combination of traditional ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and pray for good health and longevity. It features masks, costumes, music, and formula footwork. 2006, Yunnan: Four young lamas take a break from work. Tibetans in Yunnan are mainly found in Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Meaning “a place of good fortune” in the Tibetan language, Deqen is located in northwestern Yunnan, on the border with Sichuan and Tibet Autonomous Region. 2006, Sichuan: Scattering “Ronda,” or prayer flags. Paper flags are set downwind by males, while those made of cloth are linked up with woolen ropes and hung over bridges or in sacred mountains. Scattering Ronda is a popular ceremony in Tibetan-inhabited areas to pray for good fortune.

2005, Sichuan: Carrying wood to build a new house. Traditionally, Tibetan women perform most of the housework. In recent years, however, they have enjoyed more opportunities for social activities thanks to social and educational development.   2009, Tibet: Stir-frying highland barley, a dinnertime staple. Over 3,000 years have passed since highland barley was introduced to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Some believe that the Tibetans are as passionate for highland barley as for their land. 2010, Tibet: Good companionship. A group living on farming and herding, the Tibetan people have lived with horses for centuries. Stories about them and the animal can be found in ancient Tibetan myths.

 

 

 

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