#204-028 The woman on the far left with the hat is my wife, Loretta Gibbs, a native of China who was educated in America. In our travels in China, she always endeavored to dress like the locals to fit in as much as possible. It allowed her to engage people in casual conversation to learn more and answer villagers’ questions. These moments were mutually precious and enjoyable. This photo was taken in the southwestern province of Yunnan. The un-mortared stones used for building the dwellings reflect the custom in China of building one’s home out of whatever materials are at hand, be it adobe mud, thatch, bricks or just rocks. In the countryside, people build their own homes, often with fellow villagers pitching in.
#190-009 Her head covering tells us she is a member of one of China’s 55 or so national minorities. She has expertly embroidered her brightly colored scarf far more flamboyantly than any Han woman would dare which is common among the minorities. The Han are China’s dominant majority and bearers of China’s historical culture.
#190-004 China’s population includes over 50 different nationalities, all speaking different languages, wearing different clothes and dwelling in distinct districts. Historically discriminated against by the dominant Han majority (over 90 %) they have gradually been pushed from the more fertile flatlands to ever higher mountain areas. Most are located in Southwestern China. The PRC government has worked to make amends for treatment by past governments, and more recently is finding them of great value to the tourist industry. This was taken near the Jinsha River in Yunnan where many Miao people live. The women tend to wear native dress while the men prefer simple work clothes.
#190-003 China’s population includes over 50 different nationalities speaking different languages, wearing different clothes and dwelling in distinct districts. Historically discriminated against by the dominant Han majority (over 90 %), they have gradually been pushed from the fertile flatlands to the ever-higher mountain areas. Most are located in Southwestern China. The PRC government has worked to make amends for prejudiced treatment by past governments. More recently, the PRC is finding them of ever-greater value to the tourist industry. This photo was taken near the Jinsha River in Yunnan where many of the Miao people live.
#175-035 The mountain town of Lijiang, a Naxi minority village in Yunnan Province, was an important trading center during the Ancient Tea Horse Road period over 800 years ago. The blending of several cultures contributes to the architecture of the old town that has been well preserved. The Naxi culture has a music, writing and religious style much different than the majority of Chinese. In the early 1980s, it took me two days of hard driving over bumpy roads to reach it, but the degree to which it was preserved made it well worthwhile. It is now a major tourist attraction.
#175-034 These people carry their heavy loads long distances to reach the market in the mountain town of Lijiang, home to the Naxi minority. It may be a 2-3 day journey to return to their mountain villages. In 1987, it took me two twelve-hour days of hard driving on bumpy dirt roads to get to Lijiang. Deeply remote, there were no hotels and only one government hostel. However, its very isolation preserved its fabulously interesting culture and spectacular scenic vistas. During WWII, the Flying Tigers had a landing field here. Today, it is a major tourist attraction.
#175-024 The old and the young are often seen together in China while the children’s parents are working. This grandmother and grandson are on a pilgrimage to a Buddhist site in the mountains.
#159-029 In the Xishuang Banna region of Yunnan, China, dwellings and clothing are similar to those in nearby Southeast Asian countries. The custom of older children caring for the younger is centuries old all over Asia. Throughout China there is a distinct variety of ways of carrying an infant in a sling on the back to keep hands free for work. The child being carried is wearing a tiger-striped hat to frighten off bad elements and to protect the child. In days past children would wear some sort of amulet around the neck that was to serve the same purpose—something to keep the child tethered to this earth and not carried away to the netherworld. Children often went barefooted in the southern countryside for shoes were not necessary in the warm climate. Straw sandals were common and later on canvas and rubber shoes identical to those manufactured for the Peoples Liberation Army were used. Leather shoes were scarce, expensive and unnecessary in the 1980s.
#107-010 These are members of the Sanyi group in Yunnan Province. The baby carriers are handmade, embroidered and colorful. The minority people tend to make lavish use of color, while the Han tend towards the drab. The Han constitute over 90% of China’s population. A minority woman said, “Only when something is not beautiful do the Han say it’s beautiful.
#107-006 Mini-restaurants opened at the same time farmers were allowed to sell their produce on sidewalks. This continues in most places today, as the food is convenient and cheap. Her sheepskin rain cape tells us this was taken in Yunnan.
#095-007a In 1979 the quality of fruit was very poor. By the 1990’s the improvement was remarkable. My university (UC) and other schools opened its labs and made its seeds available to visiting scholars from China proving the benefits of ending its isolation.
#094-032a The cap indicates she is a member of the Sanyi ethnic group, one of China’s 55 or so national minorities. The tabs pointing up signify her unmarried status; when she marries, they will be folded down over the top of her head.
#094-022 This gathering is at a minority trading post located between Shaping and Dali in Yunnan Province. My wife, Loretta Gibbs, has attracted their attention, as foreigners were very rare at this time in this region. The colorful design of the women’s clothing has not changed over the millennia.
#094-017 This crowded market in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, is typical of markets throughout China—women shopping for fresh vegetables with youngsters in tow. People in this area wear a back padding as part of their clothing whether carrying a backpack or not. It’s part of everyday wear. The back padding protects their back and their clothing from the rough wooden backpacks used for carrying goods to market and firewood from the forest. The steep mountains in the areas make wheeled vehicles impractical for villagers.
#094-014 With the exception of the one man eyeing the photographer, these people are enthralled by a street performer in the the Kashgar town square stuffing a small snake up his nostril and out his mouth. Kashgar is on the west side of the Taklamakan Desert and famous for its bazaar and camel market. Merchants on the ancient Silk Road used horses to cross the mountains from the Middle East and then swapped them here in the bazaar for camels more suited to desert travel.
#094-001 Kashgar is an ancient trading post on the old Silk Road. Its the last oasis before leaving China heading west to Central Asia and Europe. These men, father and son, are copper craftsmen, a popular product the region is known for. The city dates back to over 2000 years and the area fertile with vegetables, fruits and livestock. The majority of the population here are Muslims.
#088-030a This cart of firewood will be made into charcoal for cooking. Her husband is in front pulling while she pushes with her child trailing behind. In the background on the right is a sidewalk vendor, a typical low overhead way of doing business.
#088-029a This lady is sitting beside the main footpath in the village of Lijiang in Yunnan Province. She is waiting for customers. When I asked for a certain thing she had ran out of, she said, “Wait here. I’ll run home for more.” She hadn’t the slightest qualms about leaving her merchandise untended with a stranger. This trusting behavior was common in the countryside.
#088-013 The man and the woman at the storefront are wearing garments made of sheepskin. They are of the Naxi minority in the mountain town of Lijiang in the Yunnan area. Yunnan is known for its Naxi minority population.
#044-032 The photographer, Don Gibbs, with a young lady of the Bai nationality in Yunnan Province, in the 1980’s.
#043-006a A Miao minority young girl with her distinct skirt fabric and design is a model of patience while waiting for a bus. In the background are women with sacks of their grain products waiting for buyers.
#015-214 Women not only work in the home and in the fields, but they do much of the marketing as well. They carry heavy loads over considerable distances to get to the market town. The headgear tells us these are minority women in Yunnan Province.
#015-140 Aba in Sichuan Province was part of Tibet until it was appropriated by the PRC after 1949. This is highland pastureland populated by Tibetans who shepherd large herds of yak. Yaks are protein sources and pack animals. They transport all the possessions of the nomadic families as they shift with the seasons from one pasture to another. The area suffers from overgrazing. The men, women and children are all marvelous equestrians.
#014-062a Anthropologists regard the Tibetans as nomads but the Tibetans don’t see themselves that way for they are at home wherever they are. They move with the seasons to grazing pastures for their yak herds. Overgrazing was a serious problem that was ignored by the government during my trips to the highlands in the 1980s.
#014-027a A Tibetan family moves their yak herds from one pasture to another as the season changes. They do not consider themselves nomads because they are at home wherever they are.
#005-047 These Qing Dynasty fishing boats date back to the 1800’s. They are still in use on Lake Erhai in Yunnan Province. It is common for many families live on these ancient vessels.
#005-029a China has over 50 national minorities with their own language, culture and apparel. Usually, only the women wear their native costume while the men tend to wear work clothes. Yunnan Province in the Southwest China is populated with many minorities.