This is a photographic series taken on a road trip from Chengdu to Yushu, Qinghai, located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan plateau. I was travelling with Jean Leviol, a family friend who made the trip around 26 years ago and took pictures of the region and locals. What we had in mind for this journey was to go back on his footsteps and see the economic development’s impact on the area whilst trying to find the people Jean had met 26 years ago. As for me, delving into the region of Qinghai for the first time, I was amazed by the graphic beauty of the landscapes. Dizzy from the altitude (we went as high as 4500 meters above sea level), we spent a long time gazing at the majestic mountains of Qinghai from our car, and had rich encounters with Tibetan people. Stopping at small villages along the way, we were always greeted with warmth by the locals.

What makes this region so unique is the fact that it harbors multiple minorities: mainly Tibetans, but also Mongols and Sagars. Many were originally nomads, however, throughout the past decades, hundreds of thousands of them have been forced to relocate into often forlorn townships side by side with Hans, China’s ethnic majority. As a matter of fact, during our journey, we went through one of those townships, a former stage of the Long March, that was obviously rebuilt by the government. The streets were completely clean, you could even find separated, unused cycle lanes. The buildings were covered with propaganda and the streets filled with national flags. In essence, they were like Showtowns. It made us realise the lengths the authorities have gone through to in order to perpetuate the memory of the Long March veterans that had to go over mountains in harsh conditions to reach such isolated areas. Infrastructures such as a brand new highway and high quality network really illustrate the region’s economic development. Witnessing the seemingly endless, practically carless highways, sitting on top of the world at 4000 meters high, was indeed a surreal moment that struck me as the epitome of the fast-paced, larger than life Chinese development.

About the author:
Arnaud Lin was born in France in 1993, he grew up in Beijing, studied in London, where he now lives and works. He graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2017 with a graphic design and moving image degree, from which he developed an interest in film and photography.

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