A week exploring the Keramas and other nearby islands off the west coast of Okinawa. Scenically beautiful and little visited, this is one of Asia's least polluted environments. Less prominent in the tourism literature are mentions of the closing days of WWII when more than 500 islanders jumped to their deaths from the cliffs in mass suicides.
Back in Taiwan, courtesy of Peresang Sung, I had the rare opportunity to attend a wedding of Rukai royalty in Pingtung county.
With relations between the Burmese government and the armies that control the ethnic areas improving, it was time to explore some new areas. After a short expedition to the Eng outside Kengtung who were busy with their annual thatching, with the consent of the local militias I was able to reach usually off limits areas north of Lashio where there are interesting Hmong, Lisu and Palaung groups that I hadn't previously visited.
From there it was onto northern Vietnam and the spectacular scenery of the Dong Van plateau. Having put a thousand plus km. on the motorcycles through some dramatic landscapes, there was still plenty of terrain left unvisited so a return trip in hopefully better Autumn weather is called for.
For once the weather in Guizhou cooperated making normally impassable dirt tracks to higher areas navigable. Beautifully constructed wooden villages, stunning terraced valleys and clear skies made for pefect photographic conditions. From there it was onto Laos for an exploratory trip to the ethnically vibrant northern province of Phongsali.
The Indian wildlife authorities can congratulate themselves on a job well done at the Kaziranga Park in Assam. More than 2,000 one horned rhinos, a similar number of elephants and, it is thought, somewhere around 100 tigers though few people are lucky enough to glimpse one of the latter. After a few days at Kaziranga, and some great game viewing, it was off to Chhattisgarh and Orissa to visit some of the "Adivasi" (indigenous) groups whose architecture, jewellery & markets are markedly different from those of India's non-Adivasi communities.
My new exhibition opens this Tuesday (Nov. 20th). Theme : "Women Of Women". Place : Qian Restaurant Gallery, Dihua Jie. Great food, cool atmosphere and images of women from some of Guizhou's lesser known areas.
More at the Qian blog including a map link.
On until Mar. 3, 2013.
A market tour of southern Yunnan plus a spectacular Yao "dujie" (coming of age) ceremony in a mountain village close to the border with Vietnam. The highlight of the event was a test of courage where the 12 & 13 year old boys had to fall backwards from a high platform into a vine net. Spectacular!
The "gassho style" farmhouses of Chubu are notable for their steeply pitched thatched roofs which allow the frequent heavy snow to slide off more easily. A World Heritage Site, the villages of Shirakawa, Gokayama & Ainokura are some of the most atmospheric in Japan and a meal (accompanied by liberal drafts of saki!) around the hearth of a gassho house can be a memorable occasion.
I have just received from the printers the first batch of my limited edition 2013 desktop calendar. This year's subject is "Women Of Guizhou". 13 beautiful photographs on a ringed wire hanging on black board.
See the Shop page for more details and how to order.
A quick trip to the Hoi Yang villages in the Kengtung area for their annual swing festivals. A fascinating day at Hoi Yang II watching the construction of their swing followed by the opportunity to capture digitally the highly photogenic Akha women in their festival best.
10 days with the Nuosu Yi in the Daliangshan (Greater Cool Mountains) region of southern Sichuan. Until 1949 this was essentially an independent Yi kingdom, Han and other visitors requiring specific permission to enter the territory. Even today, it has some of the highest mono ethnic concentrations in China with some counties having a population more than 95% Yi. Traditions and culture remain correspondingly strong.
Highlights of the trip included the markets - Tuo Mu Shan was a particular favourite with its fortune telling bimaws, seamstresses and outdoor dentists - as well as the bull and ram fighting events that are held around torch festival time when I was there.
The apogee of the trip, in several ways, had to be the funeral I attended on a mountain high above the Xide valley. I was initially hesitant about the probity of taking photographs but it transpired that the deceased had lived to an unusually advanced age (78 is high longevity for Sichuan mountain farmers) and had a passed away of natural causes. Thus the event was a celebration of his life rather than the grieving that would have accompanied a younger unnatural death.
It's been a long time in the making but it's finally here.
The core of the site is self evidently the Galleries. They are arranged by geography, by people (ethnic groups) and thematically.
The search function has more than 40 pre-defined searches so that anyone looking for, say, all the images of headwear, can find them in one place. Specific search words can also be input.
The Journal will be updated regularly whenever I'm back from a trip or something of note such as an exhibition I'm contributing to is coming up.
The Links page is in its infancy. Over time I hope to make it a comprehensive resource for all things ethnic in Asia.
Lastly there's a Shop section where my calendars can be purchased.
I hope that viewers of the site will find it a user friendly experience and enjoy the site as much I have putting it together. In this context it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of my two assistants, Nathan Lin and Jenny Hsu, without which this site would not have been possible.
I hadn't been to Xinjiang since 2009 and was looking forward to a return visit. We were a month later than the previous trip, thereby unfortunately missing the annual migrations of the Kazakh herders who by the time of our arrival were up in the high pastures.
We did however achieve our main objective which was to attend the annual aobao festivals of the Tuva at Kanas and Hemu, a major component of which is the horse races. Cooperative weather and late evenings also made for some great shots of the, for China, unique "A" roofed wooden villages. It was nice to have some return for the enormous entry fees the local authorities charge to enter these areas!
Photos are on the second page of the Xinjiang gallery.
A quick trip to Nujiang in N.W. Yunnan.
The Nu is one of the three great rivers of western China, rising on the Tibetan plateau and flowing south parallel to the Burmese border. It has carved a deep narrow valley, almost a gorge in some places. Upper Nujiang is difficult to reach. It took me 15 hours on a bus from Baoshan, the nearest airport 300km to the south.
I based myself in Gongshan and made day trips into the surrounding mountains. The roads are execrable. Most villages are only reachable on foot or by horse. Trip highlights included a long day at the Tibetan Christian villages perched high on the mountain above Dimaluo and a day in Qiulatong, a group of Nu hamlets on the old caravan route to Tibet. I also came across a Dulong woman in Fugong with a full facial tatto. Much as I wanted to photograph her, it wasn't appropriate. Maybe next time.........
The photos appear on page 15 of the Yunnan gallery.