China: Portrait of a People

"China's rise is the story of the century," writes Matt Schiavenza, editor of The Atlantic's newly launched China Channel -- a new avenue for our expanding coverage of the world's largest nation in the 21st century. In that spirit, today, I'd like to introduce photographer Tom Carter. Nine years ago, Carter traveled from San Francisco to China, responding to a job posting that turned out to be a scam. He managed to find another job as a teacher, and saved enough money to embark on a 56,000 km trip through all of China's 33 provinces that lasted two years. Carrying a camera -- just a a 4-megapixel point-and-shoot -- Carter captured some amazing images of the widely varying landscape, people, and architecture across the nation. He then collected 900 of these photos into a book titled CHINA: Portrait of a People. Carter writes that his photos help to show that "China is not just one place, one people, but 33 distinct regions populated by 56 different ethnicities, each with their own languages, customs and lifestyles." Carter was kind enough to share some of his portraits here, on the day that The Atlantic launches its new China Channel. [29 photos total]

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Beijing maiden wearing a traditional qipao made in Beijing. (© Tom Carter, as seen in CHINA: Portrait of a People) #
Traditional "dragon scale" tiled rooftops can still be found in Chongqing, the most industrialized city in western China. (© Tom Carter) #
Hipster from Hunan's capital city, Changsha. (© Tom Carter) #
Rock formations of Wulingyuan National Park in northern Hunan. (© Tom Carter) #
Elderly Jiangsu farmer in her field of rapeseed. (© Tom Carter) #
Dalian's famous Female Mounted Police Force, established 1994. (© Tom Carter) #
Left: Fujian farmer lost in a tangle of squash vines. Right: Hip Tibetan youth, Sichuan. (© Tom Carter) #
Maoist memorabilia shop in Hubei. (© Tom Carter) #
Human remains from a Tibetan sky burial in northern Sichuan. (© Tom Carter) #
Buddhist pilgrim family from Sichuan. (© Tom Carter) #
Guards are stationed along Beijing's subway platforms to enforce rules of etiquette. (© Tom Carter) #
Left: Construction workers on bamboo scaffolding in ever-developing Shanghai. Right: The old and the new of Macau's developing skyline. (© Tom Carter) #
Langmusi, a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage destination in Gansu. (© Tom Carter) #
Left: Miao ethnic minority tribeswoman in Hunan. Right: Manchurian man with a dog fur cap in Heilongjiang. (© Tom Carter) #
Billboard defaced with stickers advertising jobs in wintery Liaoning. (© Tom Carter) #
Left: Chongqing City, a dense cluster of apartment towers in China's most populous municipality. Right: Tulou earth village of the Fujian Hakka people. (© Tom Carter) #
Left: Young Uyghur girl wearing a traditional hijab headdress, Xinjiang. Right: 109-year-old man from a "Longevity Village" in western Guangxi, where all residents have lived till at least a hundred years of age. (© Tom Carter) #
Young kung fu student at Shaolin Temple, Henan. (© Tom Carter) #
Mongolian woman from Gegentala, Inner Mongolia. (© Tom Carter) #
Modern girl strikes a pose in traditional Sichuan. (© Tom Carter) #
Facade of the infamous Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong's "immigrant ghetto". (© Tom Carter) #
Li tribeswoman, one of the last to have a traditional tattooed face, in Hainan. (© Tom Carter) #
Tibetans walking a kora (spiritual circuit) around a Buddhist temple in southern Gansu. (© Tom Carter) #
Fujian hipsters hanging out in the capital city of Fuzhou. (© Tom Carter) #
Tianjin's crumbling past juxtaposed against its shiny present. (© Tom Carter) #
Left: Coal miners -- one getting off shift and the other going on -- at southern Shanxi. Right: Hong Yao ethnic minority women from northern Guangxi. (© Tom Carter) #
Young tribesman from Guangxi's Yao ethnic minority. (© Tom Carter) #
Anhui's "Bamboo Sea" where the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed. (© Tom Carter) #
Photographer Tom Carter in Kham, eastern Tibet. (© Tom Carter) #

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