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These Gorgeous Photos Capture China’s Quickly Vanishing Traditional Ways of Life

A new book of photography addresses the tumultuous changes currently rocking China and seeks to capture traditional ways of life that may soon disappear

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Within the next two decades, around 280 million Chinese are expected to move from the rural countryside into the city, in some cases leaving behind centuries-old family homes and traditional ways of life, the MIT Press describes. For millions of others, this transition has already taken place.

In a new book, China’s Vanishing Worlds: Countryside, Traditions, and Cultural Spaces, photographer Matthias Messmer and writer Hsin-Mei Chuang capture areas that have been both affected and untouched by the tumultuous changes currently rocking China as technology creeps into the country side, the economy grows and young people increasingly take to the city. The book, Messmer says, offers “a rare opportunity to glimpse China as it once was, and as it will soon no longer be.”

He shares a few of those images, collected over seven years of exploring China’s interior: 

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Photo: Matthias Messmer

Photo: Matthias Messmer

 

More from Smithsonian.com:

Travel Photography: A Discussion with a Pro About Ethics and Techniques 
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