09 Jun–10 Jul 2017

Frontiers of China

A photo exhibition in Rovereto (Italy)

Alessandro Rippa

Liuku, Yunnan Province. Photo: Alessandro Rippa, 2016


An old Chinese proverb goes as follows: "the mountains are high and the emperor far away." This saying refers to the vastness of the Chinese Empire, and to a certain unruliness of the people living at the Empire's edge. Today, while many such peripheries – from the Tibetan Plateau to the Silk Road cities of Xinjiang – are still known for untouched wilderness, fierce resistance, and traditional cultures, the state is closer than ever before. Today's emperor, the bureaucratic machine of the Communist Party of China, is no longer far away. In the 21st Century, Chinese borderlands are, rather, the main targets of large-scale infrastructure development, re-settlement programmes, border trade, and tourism. This exhibition, based on extensive travels along and across China's borderlands, illustrates how such interventions affect lives at the frontiers. In it, a few simple stories are told: how a remote valley became a model for rural development programmes; how Burmese timber is transforming sleepy villages into busy cross-border hubs of illicit trade; the ways commodities travel across national boundaries; the monumentality of infrastructures as well as their fragility - small glimpses into vast, variegated, and fast changing worlds.

Highland Asia Research Group
LMU, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oettingenstr. 67
80538 Munich, Germany
martin.saxer@lmu.de | +49 89 2180 9639

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