Chinese on the Train: photojournalism that documents all walks of life

December 6, 2010Jing Gao3 Comments, , , , , , , , ,

Wang Fuchun was born in 1943. He is a freelance photographer within the railway system. After graduating from the School for Engine Drivers early on, he worked as a train technician and therefore has a special attachment to the railroads. After photography became his career, he still makes sure railroads and trains are in his viewfinder. For more than two decades, he has traveled all over the vast land of China to document lives of people on the train.

For last-century train riders who were sandwiched in hard-seat coaches filled with tainted air, having the good fortune to get a window seat was very comforting.

1993. On the train from Lanzhou, Gansu to Urumqi, Xinjiang. The woman looks at her grandson lying in a hammock and laughs out loud. 17 years ago when preference for boys in China was even starker than today, the “little bird” meant hope to the entire family.


1996. On the train from Guangzhou, Guangdong to Chengdu, Sichuan, a mother carefully holds the basket her baby stands in on the cluttered table. Crowdedness in the coach does not permit any better place for placing the basket.


1995, on the train from Wuhan, Hubei to Changsha, Hunan, a young man lies on the seatback for body stretch.


A man, his prosthetic leg aside, lies on the berth, reading text message.


1996. On the train from Guangzhou, Guangdong to Chengdu, Sichuan, a young woman plays traditional Chinese music instrument erhu, drawing attention from both the upper and the lower berths.


1994. On the train from Lanzhou to Beijing, two Muslims kneels down at the train’s vestibule, praying to Allah, God in Islam.


1992. On the train from Jiagelanqi, Heilongjiang to Gulian, Heilongjiang, a man sleeps on the hard seat, shading his face from the sun with a fashion magazine, then still an exotic thing.


1994. On the train from Beijing to Shenyang, Liaoning, passengers play mahjong, a favorite pastime in China, to kill time.


1992. On the train from Nanjing to Beijing, because the coach is too crowded for the boy to elbow his way to the restroom, his mother helps him urinate in a can.


1995. On the train from Xian, Shaanxi to Xining, Qinghai, the migrant worker who takes his baby son home for Chinese new year has to stand in the passageway.


1994. At Harbin Train Station, passengers flood onto the train.


1998. On the train from Qiqihar, Heilongjiang to Beijing, a Buddhist monk in a sleeping car tries to diagnose a young woman’s discomfort by feeling her pulse, an important component of traditional Chinese medical science.


1996. On the train from Beijing to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, passengers used to sauna-like coaches are caught off guard by air conditioner newly installed on the train, and wrap themselves in seat covers to stay warm.


1994. On the train from Shenyang, Liaoning to Dalian, Liaoning, a businessman dressed in suit holds a brick-like mobile phone dubbed dageda, or literally “Big Brother Big, then a symbol of success and wealth.


1999. On the train from Beijing to Urumqi, Xinjiang, service attendants lead body exercises for passengers to perk up from the 3-day ride.


1997. On the train from Guangzhou, Guangdong to Chengdu, Sichuan, several bottles of beer and dishes brings total strangers together to become fellow travellers.


1997. On the train from Beijing to Harbin, a pickpocket is caught red-handed by plainclothes police and handcuffed to a door handle.

Since the beginning of this century, China’s railway system has been dramatically improved. Train speed, onboard facilities and services have seen great advances. A growing number of the burgeoning middle class wave goodbye to the old style and embrace high-speed and maglev trains, which, by lightening the load, makes even the cheapest service way more tolerable than before. Still, China’s trains are characterized by a kaleidoscope of Chinese passengers.


Young lovebirds cuddling together is an unsightly scene for the old granny.



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3 comments to “Chinese on the Train: photojournalism that documents all walks of life”

  1. raab | December 7, 2010 | Permalink Reply

    is this book available for purchase anywhere?

  2. [...]… Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Coming changes for foreign business in China [...]

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