Photo Essay

[Photo Essay] Intro: Beijing Electronic Music Festival 2011

In its third year, INTRO 2011 is China's largest electronic music festival featuring China's very best electro DJs and international artists. Held at 798 just like last year, this two-day festival with 80 DJs proved to live up to its expectations bringing in over 20,000 Chinese and expatriate music lovers raving all weekend long. I didn't get to capture too much of this event but here are some snapshots that I came out with. Nonetheless. if you're in Beijing during this time of the year, it's a party that you cannot miss. I'll be adding more throughout this week.

[Photo Essay] Dalian Beat

Located in Northeast China in at the tip of the peninsula in Liaoning Province, Dalian has served as the major seaport in China as it faces Bohai and Yellow sea. From a historical standpoint Dalian has gone under the occupation of the British, Japanese, and Russians. With the surrender of Japan in 1945, Dalian was passed to the Soviets which they eventually returned the land back to China in the year 1950. Since then, Dalian has seen much changes and has become one of Asia's largest shipping center. Dalian has a unique feel unlike most other cities in China as the hills within the city reminds me of San Francisco and you rarely see anyone on a bike or bicycle. The numerous number of squares and natural parks along with Russian and Japanese architecture makes Dalian a destination definitely worth visiting. This photo essay is an attempt to capture Dalian as it is today.

Breakfast time in Dalian by the main railway station. The area around the train station was crowded with people at this time.

Russian Street is the first avenue ever built-in Dalian. Now under slight construction, as you can see in the image, this road is mainly a tourist attraction with shops along the sides.

You can see that the architecture in this city doesn't resemble China and has a much more European feel to it than anything.

Gorgeous dogs. With some cities in China being limited to have only one dog per house hold and larger dogs being limited nowadays, this person seems to have it all.

Unused fountain at the end of Russian street

Out of the many squares in Dalian, People's Square is the largest and is the most popular. The green grass caught my attention right away with government buildings surrounding this entire area.

Flowers at Peoples Square

A female police officer navigates traffic around Peoples Square. The TV tower is in the background.

Policewomen on horseback is much more of an attraction than anything of practical use.

Street shops line up on the staircases. People are busy doing their weekend shopping while vendors kill time playing cards. I mostly saw antiques sold here.

Ruso-European style architecture. Again, no bikes or bicycles on the streets.

Dalian Olympic Square: the first ever Chinese athlete to compete in the Olympics was from Dalian.

Soccer seems to be really popular in Dalian.

Mother and son take a walk in the park.

Almost everywhere you go, you can't get away from this blue fence in Dalian. Dalian Subway is under construction like many other cities in China.

The streets of Liaoning Normal University

A little boy rides his 'horse' at Xinghai Square: a popular destination for younger people and families to spend their afternoons in the sun.

People enjoy all sorts of activities and hobbies here.

The amusement park was packed with visitors on a Sunday afternoon.

The weather conditions in Dalian is supposed to be one of the best in China and attracts visitors from all over China.

Seagulls flying around the port makes for a perfect photo opportunity.

Playing with bubbles.

At Xinghai Square. One of the most luxurious apartments in Dalian stand in this area.

A man observes families and friends searching for shells and seaweed on the dock.

The seaside was full of people and couples enjoying the afternoon.

Luxurious housing on the seaside on Xinghai Square.

More luxurious house in the seaside that are being constructed.

There were hundreds of newly built residential towers like this one in the city being constructed.

Sunset reflection on the bay by Xinghai Park

A ferris wheel at Xinghai Park.

Let the dancing begin.

Chinese dance groups shows their talent at Lushun under the cherry blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms just make everyone happy here in Lushun.

[Photo Essay] Beijing Snap Shots: One Week of Spring

If you've lived long enough in Beijing, there's one season that we all look forward to and that is Spring. Beijing in my opinion only has two seasons: Summer and Winter. Spring and fall add up to a minimal 2-3 weeks out of the year. So when Spring arrives this city becomes much more active and people enjoy this season as much as they can. This photo essay was my attempt to capture as much as the city as I could during different times of the day. From the central business district to the hutongs in Gulou: I hope that you can feel the energy level of this city in one of the best times of the year.

1. A group of men pass by a public art at the Art District in Pinguo near Shuangjing. You can see Guomao, the central business district of Beijing, in the back ground to the north-west.

2. Heading north towards Guomao is Jianwai SOHO. The white buildings are noticeable from the south end of Guomao. Jianwai SOHO has commercial, residential, and office spaces along its 18 towers and is a popular destination for workers in the area for lunch and dinner.

3. Going west from Guomao is Qianmen, one of the major shopping areas in Beijing. This photo was taken at Qianmen Street: one of Beijing's oldest commercial area that has recently been renovated.

4. A woman walks by a group of pots at one of the side streets from Qianmen Shopping Street. QIanmen is home to some of the oldest restaurants in Beijing and serves a collection of famous Chinese dishes from all over China.

5. Families enjoy a nice weekend on Qianmen shopping street.

6. The National Museum. Photo taken from the Tiananmen Square. The museum was recently re-opened after its long renovation was completed.

7. Visitors exit the forbidden city and head south towards Tiananmen Square.

8. This Underground pass connects the Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City entrance.

9. Chinese tourists take a rest together besides the Forbidden City.

10. Chinese tourists are easy to spot with their identical caps.

11. Visitors enjoy the nice weather at the Forbidden City.

12. At the north end of the Forbidden City is the flower garden blooming with colorful flowers as you exit out.

13. Visitors glance over the Forbidden City from the top of Jingshan Park, located directly north of the Forbidden City. You can overlook most of the city of Beijing from this park.

14. Crowds gather at a local music performance at Tiantan Park, near the Temple of Heaven.

15. An Old man teaches how to dance with sticks to anyone who is interested at Tiantan Park.

16. As the weather gets warmer, more and more people can be seen at the park dancing and singing. I met people who were over ninety years old who wanted to exercise and keep healthy.

17. At Beihai Park, one of the largest imperial gardens in China on a sunny afternoon.

18. Taijiquan sessions take place daily from early morning to dawn at Beihai Park.

19. Students are walking home at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

20. A group of local high school students eat Stinky tofu together near the Drum Tower in Dongcheng District.

21. A vendor prepares pineapples to be sold by Drum Tower. You can find all sorts of fruits and small snacks in this area around the Drum Tower.

22. A hot pot restaurant attempts to attract customers as they sing songs and welcome people walking by.

23. A vendor takes a break from work. Photo taken near Nanluoguxiang.

24. Workers along Gulou Da Jie.

25. A family takes a rest in front of the Bell Tower.

26. Pedestrians make room for a car driving through the narrow commercial hutong of Nanluoguxiang.

27. Bikers and pedestrians await the green light at an intersection in Wangjing, the Korean Town of Beijing.

28. Residents of Dongcheng district enjoy a game of ping-pong. They are always looking for new contenders and they practice every day.

29. A mountain besides the Jingshanling Great Wall(located in the outskirts of Beijing) reads "Praise Chairman Mao" in white characters.

30. People rush out of Beijing heading east at Sihui during sunset. Guomao is in the background.

31. People crossing the overpass bridge at Shuangjing during sunset.

32. The dancing continues at night-time at Shuangjing bridge.

[Photo Essay] Xingcheng, China: Old City Walls

Many of you may not have heard of Xingcheng in Liaoning Province and its no surprise with so many destinations to go in China, this country level city witnesses minimal amounts of foreign visitors. Just a 7 hour train ride away from Beijing, its the perfect destination to spend one of the days over the weekend to get away from Beijing. Xingcheng has two highlights of which being one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty town and city wall in China. as well as a beach resort facing the Bohai Sea. This photo essay is my perspective on this city as I hiked along the city wall and peeked into the local peoples daily lives.

Xingchengs city walls have stood since they were first constructed in 1428. A good lap around the wall took about 2 hours to complete. As you can see, the weather was inconsistent, as it rained and stopped raining followed by sunlight upon my visit. (50RMB entrance 25RMB with student card).

Gucheng(Old City) Subdistrict is home to about 100,000 residents most of which were toddlers and older people. The youth in the city seems to have relocated to larger cities for better job opportunities.

You can see the Gulou(Drum Tower) in the middle of the old city. The roads that go through the drum tower are filled mostly with commercial shops(mainly toy shops and accesories). Dont plan to find any restaurants in the old city as I found none.

Along each gate on the north, south, east, and west sides were small markets that consisted of daily products and animals.

Looking east from the old city. The Train station is only about a 3RMB tuk tuk ride away from here. The buildings outside the old city tend to be much higher and newer.

A man talks on his phone along the city wall.

The watch tower on the east end of the wall.

Man walks by a deserted building.

Sneak peak from the west to the east side of the wall.

Rooftops of old city housings.

Most of the courtyards were used as storage for scrubs and other random materials.

Man bikes along the wall.

Mother and daughter are having a conversation.

Man rests along the wall taking a break from his work.

You could see flowers along the front door in most of the residencies in the old city.

A woman walks along the wall. I really like the yellow bricks with the green door.

A new shopping facility is in construction.

The other highlight in Xingcheng is the beach. Creatively, the beaches are named by numbers #1,#2, and #3. You can hope on bus #1 from the old city and get off at the last stop. This statue of the Chrysanthemum goddess welcomes you in.

Xingcheng is really pushing its beaches to become a commercial beach like in Beidahe but seems like they have much more work to do. The sea food was suppose to be famous but I only managed to find a handful.

The sand at Xingcheng Beach was really soft and was perfect to be lazy and stare at the Bohai Sea.

Xingcheng Train Station. A midway stop for trains going from Beijing to Dalian and for most trains coming from north-eastern China to the south.

[Photo Essay] Xidan: Happy Shopping

The Xidan commercial district in Xicheng District is a booming area for shopping lovers and Chinese consumers. Compared to the shoppers who go to the newer Sanlitun area, Xidan attracts younger shoppers from around Beijing and other regions in China. Xidan, having its roots from the Ming dynasty was a venue for visitors entering Beijing from the southwest part of the city and gradually developed into one of the largest merchant areas of Beijing. Today, Xidan is a symbol of Chinese consumption and a popular hangout place for Chinese couples and families all week long.

Coming out of Beijing Subway Line 1, Xidan Station, you run straight into Cultural Square. The fountain show takes place every afternoon until dark.

People await the fountain show as they take a breather from work. You can see all sorts of people here at Cultural Square.

Fountain show begins. Looking at cultural square from the north-end.

Xidan commerical district combines multiple department stores from China and Taiwan. If you cant find what youre looking for in Xidan, then you probably wont have any luck anywhere else in China.

As it gets darker, workers who get off work come out to have dinner and day-time shoppers start to head back home. You can see the newest Apple store in Beijng in this image. The Apple store continues to be a popular destination in Xidan along with new additions of Burger King, ZARA and H&M.

These bridges make it easy for consumers to go from one department store to another.

Xidan at sunset.

Another day is over in Xidan as the lights go on at Cultural Square.

[Photo Essay] Panshan: AAAA Scenic Spot

Panshan, or the first mountain east of Beijing is a AAAA Scenic Area located in the outskirts of Tianjin. From the many guidebooks one can read reviews about Panshan such as "Mount Panshan is covered with lavish plantations and has a rich historical heritage...It is famous for jade pine trees, strange and astonishing peaks, clear waters, grotesquely shaped rocks and clusters of ancient temples". Since there are not too many mountains in Beijing, it seems like an attractive location to hike and enjoy some clean air. But to me, it was just a confused scenic area with really not too much to offer to be labeled as one of top 15 mountains in China. Note: this photo essay only contains images of what I personally saw and may not reflect experiences of others.

Panshan is located 88 kilometers north-east from central Beijing. On the bus you can see very quickly that 1 hour away from Beijing is quite a different place. A nuclear power plant is seen from the bus.

Old man awaits visitors at the bus stop at the outskirts of Panshan scenic area. Construction continues in this area as you can see in this image. Be ready to be stormed by tens of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers as they are the only way to get to the Panshan scenic area if you are going there on your own. Tuk-tuk driver's will tell you that they won't be able to drive you up to the main entrance since their engines aren't capable of climbing up hill.

Engrish isn't just a problem for Panshan but this was right in the entrance of the park. Not too many foreign visitors were to be seen so there's no need to change the sign but "Footwall of water" always wins. I agree with the direct translation of the Chinese characters.

This was the best part of the park. Although the air was comparable to Beijing, the pine trees along the road were enjoyable and nice to look at until a park shuttle bus driver and black taxi drivers honk past you letting you know that he exists and will be passing you.  Continued renovation since the 1990s make it easier for Chinese families to visit by their own cars. 

View from Panshan looking south. New developments are still being made.

The newly built hotels have a middle eastern feel to it as you can also see a housing community in the back ground. I was confused if Panshan was just nice to look at or the scenery looking from Panshan is nice as I took this image.

More development projects to be completed in Panshan to attract more visitors.

A dam at Panshan. Nothing more nothing less.

These ducks could be heard from miles away.

This was unexpected on my part but I had to come away with a photo. According to the taxi driver, this sculpture has roots from one of the episodes from "Journey to the West". Panshan has over 70 temples within the scenic area (most were sadly destroyed but the Japanese army during WW2) but I just don't think it has the infrastructure ready to be labeled as a AAAA scenic area from my visit. It would be interesting to see how much has changed in a couple of years just like every city in China as it goes through its transformation.

Make sure you take a look at my other Photo Essays by clicking here.

[Photo Essay] TedxBeijing: Uncovering Innovation

On 11/13/2010, Beijing had a treat as the 2nd Annual TedxBeijing conference was held. TEDxBeijing is one of hundreds of independently organized conferences around the globe inspired and licensed by the United States-based non-profit TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. With the theme 'Uncovering Innovation', 12 key speakers with industry specialization of science, technology, entertainment, and design and over 200 audiences combined each others experience, knowledge and ideas throughout the day to answer key questions like 'Where does innovation come from?' and 'How do we implement these ideas?'. This photo essay is a review of some of the key speakers from the event and their inspiring ideas.

The event kicked off early at 9:00AM as the audience enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and accompany from a mix of local and international innovators. I must say the speakers were inspiring and we learned so much from their expertise and ideas but for me meeting so many innovative thinkers and individuals who really want to make change happen from Beijing re-assured me of how great this city is and how much potential it holds for the future.

The first speaker Martin Barnes, a Beijing-based artist, videographer and creative director talked about his inspiring project with Blind Photographers. As a student of photography myself, I was inspired by this idea. Often times the disabled are left in the darkness especially in China, people do not know how to tolerate them. But during his presentation he illustrated the importance of ‘non visual photographers’  and how organization of different combination of ideas creates great ideas. For the how to implement this idea he said that it comes from being free, having an authentic idea, including everyone and keeping it obvious and simple.

Adam Kidron, a serial entrepreneur and former music producer based in New York spoke on behalf of Music Piracy in China. He emphasized how the internet has changed the way we purchase music and that today 95% of music is being shared online with this statistic excluding China. He questions how today, the creator’s do not get enough loyalties for their work and how there needs to be a universal music library where the original creator gets the credit and the user pays for the cost of usage.

Sam Flemming, pioneer of Internet Word of Mouth (IWOM) in China and provides extraordinary insight into the Chinese netizen community by systematically analyzing the millions of BBS and blog posts they exchange to each other. He emphasized how brands listen to what consumers are saying and that the internet community is a great way to see trends and how social media influences their purchasing decision. I took away from his talk that with the internet, small groups of people can really do great things. He illustrated how in China, car buyers will organize a group purchase event online to get great discounts and how China was way ahead of US/EU in terms of social media and online communities.

Dr. Guangming Xie inspired us with his innovation in robotics. His new cut innovation of Robotic Fish could one day guide real organisms away from an oil spill to prevent further extinction of species. It was interesting to see his videos where his robotic fish and a real fish interacted as the real fish showed interest and followed the robotic fish joined by other real fish.

Lijia Zhang, a journalist spoke on behalf of her memoir and hardships growing up in a factory in Nanjing. She made a connection with how the factory that she lived in was a communist state itself as she had no freedom and no personal life with nowhere to escape. Her metaphor of herself being a 'Frog trapped in a well' came up several times in her presentation. She explained that her passion to want to make a change in her life and to be different convinced her to learn English. She said everyone was afraid to be different as her metaphor of the 'First bird that fly out of the cage gets shot first' shows exactly that. It was nice to hear her overcome her fear and hardship as her storyline inspired us to think about hardships and how to overcome them to make change.

The audience experienced a new world through the art of dance as Gaoyan Jinzi, artistic director of the Beijing Modern Dance Company's dancers show cased their innovative stance in the form of dance.

The Majin Buu drum club, showcase their energy and western African style music as they pump up the audience with new sounds and original art.

Wen Fang uses art to make social change in China. Her latest project, Art against Poverty brings her around China helping to make change from the grassroots level by using the power of art to help rural women find sustainable livelihoods. The rural women were already skilled in making crafts and with their creativity and passion makes great art for change.

The event was broadcasted live on Tudou and a live satellite viewing location. Overall, it was well-organized and if you are in Beijing next year around this time of the year it’s an event that you don’t want to miss.

Bonus: if you are wondering where you can get the intro music from Beijing’s very own DJ Slide, you can get it here.

© All images copyrighted. Please use only with permission.

[Photo Essay] Disney is Too Far, Please Come To Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park

Since 1986, with its' old slogan "Disney is too far please come to Shijingshan", Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park has brought dreams to the heart of Beijingers who cannot afford to make it out to Hong Kong Disneyland. In 2007, international media took up this park labeling it 'Fake Disney' for the state-owned park using familiar Japanese and US characters with attractions similar to that of Disney World. Copyright infringement controversies resulted in the park being tucked away at the west end of Beijing Subway Line 1. Currently under renovations and Disneyland Shanghai scheduled for its grand-open in 2014, Shijingshan amusement park faces a new question on which direction it should pursue. This photo essay is a close up look of some of the attractions this Shijingshan Amusement Park has to offer.

During renovations, Sunday afternoon at the park experienced small number of visitors. Entrance fee was 10 rmb, about $1.5USD.

Renovations welcomed us as we came through the gate.

Most of the characters that raised controversy for copyright infringement were all taken down. We could only see this rabbit character within the park.

The main attractions were kept the way they were. This one had similar resemblances to Thunder Mountain from Disney World

Most of the rides were out-of-order such as this roller coaster attraction.

Didn't see too many kids within the park, mostly teens.

Not Quite the Happiest Place on Earth

One of their most famous attraction called "Dragon Wind".


Nice to see guns where kids are supposed to experience a magical harmonious world.

Epcot Center? America Adventure in the back. Epcot center look-alike building was used as a cinema.

I could tell that the park already got rid of most of their Disney look-a like products but there were a handful of stuffed toys like this one being sold.

© All images copyrighted. Please use only with permission.

[Photo Essay] Ordos, China: No Longer a Modern Ghost Town

The city of Ordos was founded on February 26, 2001. Home meant for over a million Kangbashi people of Ordos, Inner Mongolia has been in the spotlight for being the Modern Ghost Town as the luxurious apartments have all been bought out but the residents are nowhere to be seen. This photo journal entry is from my Halloween weekend trip to see this city of Ordos to see if it really was empty. As China's rapid development can be seen all across the country, there's not quite a place where over-development can be witnessed.Funded by a $585 billion stimulus package to bolster China's economic development, we can only hope that this investment will result in great returns. With its small population and regional wealth created by rich natural resources, Ordos is the second richest city, richer than Beijing, in per capita terms in China. Many questions remains in this unused and overdeveloped city but as witnessed from my journey, some residents have already moved in to the new Kangbashi district.

From Beijing, it's a13 hour over night train ride making stops at Hohhot, Baotou, and finally to Dongsheng, or Ordos in Mongolian meaning 'Palaces'.

Prior to arriving to Ordos, you can see the development and the massive construction taking place.

First look at an intersection in Kangbashi. Clean roads and luxurious apartments but where is everyone?

At the main square, again pretty empty for having such a luxurious symbolic statue in the middle of the new city.

The opposite side from the Horse Statue is the city government building. Most of the people I saw were mainly tourists here. It's interesting to see how the first half of my experience in Kangbashi witnessed mostly tourists and not many residents.

Still under construction, Ordos Museum resembles almost a pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.

The inside of the Ordos Museum, still under construction. The futuristic architecture amazes ones eyes but is it really necessary?

Another pavilion looking building is the Ordos Library. Ordos Highschool was also as elegant as this library. Ordos is the second wealthiest city in China behind Shanghai in terms of per capita income.

Massive projects continue to progress in Ordos with so little residents actually moving in.

Security guards were given training in the afternoon. But without people moving in there's no need for these guards.

Overlooking the largest construction site in Kangbashi. It's not common to see so many number of cranes as you can see here.

Construction continues in Ordos. Just because you built the city doesn't mean that people will automatically migrate to the city. There has to be a better reason than just the fact that they built the city. Same can be said for many other development projects across China.

Afternoon, I saw some more movement in this city as you can see lights in some of the apartments. We can conclude that there is some progress that has been made in the last couple months. Looks like some people have moved in already but It'll be interesting to see how the city looks like 5 years from now.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Photo Essay] Saturday Afternoon in Gulou

Gulou is the area surrounding Drum and Bell towers mainly with Hutong style housing which is currently under the threat of redevelopment programs which are mainly the construction of transportation centers in the area. This photo essay is my walk through of Beijing's beloved old city.


Rickshaw drivers rest as they await for customers. Drum tower in the background.

Rickshaw drivers ride back to the Drum towers. Most of their income comes from tourists. This day it was mainly French tourists who didn't feel like walking around the Hutongs.

Girls hanging out on the swings?at the park on a Saturday afternoon. Drum tower in the background

Elders meet on a daily basis to play mahjong. They didn't seem to mind the cold wind that day.

Rickshaw drivers were everywhere in Gulou that day. Weekends are busy days for these drivers.

Girls busy on their phones, on the way home from school.

Students heading home from school.

Rickshaw drivers taking French Tourists around for a ride.

A dog walks by. Dogs tend to be unleashed in China. Chinese people love their dogs here.

Looks like someone had a party last night. The local beer Yanjing Beer seems to be the popular choice around here.

Biker cycles past a green sign that asks for citizens to cooperate in the Census program that is taking place right now in China.

A worker is seen through the walls. The north side of Gulou is already destroyed and a transport station is supposed to be built to compliment the ever growing population and transportation efficiency.

On Gulou Da Jie. Construction can be seen at every corner of Gulou.

Creative Commons Licence
Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at