Chinese Street Scene

Chinese Street Scene309
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5 Essays

  1. Linda Seligmannn | George Mason University says:

    Markets are crossroads, where strangers and friends connect, build ties, and find means of survival through the exchange of commodities and conviviality. A place where the chaos of movement and the seeming clutter of space give the impression of constant agitation. Yet all too frequently, business is slow and desperation settles in as vendors reflect on how they will feed their children or send them to school. Markets remind us that we are connected to the earth: pungent onions, fragrant spices, and ripe fruit are displayed carefully and beautifully to entice buyers. Market models and models of morality interpenetrate in a symphony of dissonance on the sidewalks of Greenwich village, the suqs of the Middle East, the mercados of Central and South America, the Tsukijii fish market of Japan, and the free markets of China. The sprawl of makeshift bricolage fascinates the tourist, irritates the keepers of order and modernity, and is irrepressible. Everything new and old is used in the market, ingenuity in the service of making ends meet. What is most remarkable about open air markets is that despite how mesmerizing and magical they seem to be in their disorderly variety, they tell more about the state and pulse of the world than newspapers, but only if one knows how to read them. They tell us who suffers and why. They speak to us of invasion and conquest, of debt and restitution, of dreams and death. As dusk arrives, coins are counted, a good sale remembered, and a little extra handed to a friend who has had a bad day. Exhaustion accompanies the symphony of rickshaws, tricycles, buses, trucks, rounded shoulders, hunched backs, and shuffling feet that head home. Some remain, sleeping in their stalls. For the time being, that may be all that exists of home.

  2. Yingfeng Wu | 
New York Academy of Medicine says:

    The men and women in these few photos represent a newly emerging social class in China: the rural-urban migrant workers. 

From1958 to 1978 the Chinese government prohibited farmers from leaving their countryside residences, and forced farmers to deliver their agricultural produce to the government at low prices so that the government could use income from the price differences between the industrial and agricultural products for industrialization, and to provide decent social welfare for the urban residents. As a result, a rural- urban dual society emerged. 

The most recent economic reform, which started in the 1980s, has gradually broken the rural-urban boundary. Rural residents have been allowed to find jobs in cities. However, in order to protect urban workers many local urban governments still have restrictions on what jobs the migrant works can take. In addition, because migrant workers often have relatively low education and few skills, they have usually landed in construction industry, service sectors or factories, doing dirty, manual and low income jobs. They often face such problems as not being paid on time, extended working hours, poor living conditions, lack of health insurance, and separation from their children. 

There are about 120 - 140 millions rural-urban migrant workers in China as of 2005. 

  3. Suzanne Salzinger
 | Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 
New York State Psychiatric Institute and 
Columbia University says:

    Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time.

Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition? 

These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded.
Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.

  4. David S. Gochman | Professor Emeritus
, University of Louisville
 and Director, Health Behavior Systems says:

    The photographs of persons using "animate" as opposed to "mechanical" power and energy are striking. Examples are the images of the French bicycle cart in “modern” France, a developed country; and the African boatman; the clothes lines in Venice – again in "modern "Italy; the Guatemalan communal laundry and clothesline images; the Chinese man pulling a cart; the Chinese woman carrying water buckets; the Guatemalan child carrying goods on her head; the Cuban man plowing.

Persons living in the “developed”/ industrialized world are so often caught up in Western / Eurocentric culture and technology that they take for granted that machines will take care of most of their tasks; they need to be reminded that so much of the world uses human or other animate sources of power to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. 

Ms. Tanur's poignant images convey this message most strongly.

  5. Prof. Dr. Li Hanlin
 | Vice Director 
Institute of Sociology
, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 
Beijing China says:

    The presence of a huge number of peasant workers in Chinese cities is a new and significant phenomenon following the economic reform in China 1978. The large-scale of rural-urban migration has first of all brought about a flourishing of the urban economy, mostly under public ownership. The small traders were the first ones coming to the cities and they were able to provide the urban residents with convenient supply of fresh produce at free markets. Then there came to the cities people in almost all trades: house-keepers, small artisans, cooks and helpers, construction workers, contract workers, to name a few. Peasant workers were under a free labor market, a sharp contrast to the largely state-controlled labor system at the time, featuring lifetime employment and a low level of efficiency.