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Love, Robots, and Fireworks

A Monthly Roundup of China’s Best Photojournalism

Included in this Depth of Field column are stories of love, community, remembrance, and the future, told through the discerning eyes of some of China’s best photojournalists. Among them, the lives of African migrants in Guangzhou, seven years inside the life of a Shandong peasant, the journey of a transgender woman from rural Yunnan, and what’s ahead for a new special economic zone south of Beijing.

Africans in Guangzhou | iFeng
Li Dong—iFeng

In 2013, photographer Li Dong moved into an apartment building in the southern city of Guangzhou. As he settled in, he began to document the lives of his neighbors, who were predominantly African immigrants, a project that would continue for eight months. While Depth of Field has shared work on this topic before, Li’s work is notable for its visual sophistication.

Transitioning into Life | Tencent “Living”
Zhou Qiang—Tencent “Living”

As a transgender woman from a remote village in Yunnan province, Ji Danuo experienced severe discrimination. She decided to move to Kunming where she met her partner, Lu Hua. The two have been together for two years. In this piece from Tencent’s “Living” Channel, photographer Zhou Qiang follows Ji’s quest to save enough money for sex reassignment surgery in Thailand. The surgery will allow her to change her legal status as a woman, but she wonders whether it will also change people’s attitudes toward her.

Returning to Chinese Soldiers’ Graves in North Korea | Sina “Witness”
Zhu Jialei—Sina “Witness”

More than 150,000 Chinese soldiers fought and died during the Korean War. Many of their bodies were never returned to China but buried in mass graves in North Korea. More than 60 years later, family members of these soldiers traveled to North Korea, many of them for the first time, to honor their fathers before Tomb-Sweeping Day.

Invasion of the Robots | Tencent “Living”
Feng Haiyong—Tencent “Living”

In China, the robot revolution has arrived. Major manufacturers such as Foxconn are already replacing their human workers with robots, and more factories are set to follow suit. This essay by Tencent photographer Feng Haiyong explores the future of manufacturing and the fate of China’s massive low-skill migrant workforce.

Seven Years With Wang Zhibao | iFeng
Liu Lei—iFeng

Photographer Liu Lei spent 13 years photographing his hometown in rural Shandong, seven of those years chronicling the life of Wang Zhibao, a villager from the town. He followed Wang through major life events and through more quotidian moments.

Filipina Domestic Workers in Hong Kong Off the Clock | Caixin Media
Liang Yingfei—Caixin Media

Hong Kong is home to more than 330,000 foreign domestic workers, most of whom come from the Philippines and Indonesia. Like immigrants everywhere, many send a portion of their income back to their home countries. These workers contribute as much as 5 percent to the island’s GPD, according to a 2012 estimate by the nonprofit HK Helpers Campaign. Photographer Liang Yingfei spent time with some of these workers on Sundays, their one day off each week. The photos show some of the lighter moments, as they spend time with friends, organizing beauty pageants, and packing up items to send to loved ones back home.

Xiong’an Brings High Risk, High Reward for Local Industry | Sixth Tone
Wu Huiyuan—Sixth Tone

While Beijing has undergone explosive growth over the last decade, a new district is now feeling some of the same growing pains. Xiong’an New Area, which comprises three counties in nearby Hebei province, has been designated the third state-level special economic zone after Shenzhen and Shanghai Pudong. Photographer Wu Huiyuan documented the lives of locals, business owners, and residents who are facing rapid change and the fear their communities will be dismantled.

Xiong’an Dreamers | Sina “Witness”
Wang Dansui—Sina “Witness”

While some in the communities in the Xiong’an New Area fear the future they see coming, photographer Wang Dansui tells another story: one of hope and opportunity for the area’s millennials. She photographed six young people who are taking advantage of the economic growth of a newly designated special economic zone that some hope may become a new Shenzhen.

Bitcoin Mining in the Mountains of Sichuan | Sina “Witness”
Liu Xingzhe— Sina “Witness”

Photographer Liu Xingzhe takes a rare look at Bitcoin “mining” in a mountainous and remote region of Sichuan province. The essay was recently also published on ChinaFile. You can find it here.

College Society | Tencent “Guyu”
Yang Wenbin—Tencent “Guyu”

Photographer Yang Wenbin is a student at Communication University of China. His school experience inspired him to start the long-term project “College Society,” about student organizations and their often unspoken social codes. Yang sees college as an intermediate space between exam-oriented student life and adult society. He observes his peers during their complex transformation from student to adult, and ultimately ends up deep in self-reflection about his own transition into this new life.

The Gods of Chaoshan | Jiemian
Zeng Ge—Jiemian

Fashion photographer Zeng Ge returned to his family’s region of Chaoshan (Teochew) in southern China, where observance of traditional festivals is particularly vibrant. Zeng’s color-soaked images survey the God Pageant Ceremony of Chaoshan during the first month of the lunar year. With opera, parades, pig sacrifice, and firecracker displays, the series of ceremonies encompasses ritual remembrance of ancestors and prayers for a good year.