Drought, art, and wedding photos - our top picks for this week.
In China, a Drought Tests Nomadic Herders' Culture of Survival (October 22, 2014, The New York Times)
It seems that most stories emanating from Xinjiang these days are about terrorism or ethnic tensions, so it's good to be reminded that there are other things going on in China's largest autonomous region. Edward Wong writes about a devastating drought that is affecting the life of Xinjiang's nomadic Kazakh people.
It has been a bad year for the big-tailed sheep. The grass in the high mountain pastures here in northwest China has been sparse, and the sheep have not eaten well. They are scrawny. That means the Kazakh herders have suffered, too.
"The drought has affected everyone," one herder, Aijamal, 32, who like many others here uses one name, said on a recent afternoon as she rode a horse to drive hundreds of sheep across a barren plateau. "We can't sell the sheep for the same price we did before."
Sheep that wholesalers bought last year for 1,000 renminbi, about $160, are commanding only 830 renminbi now, she said. The price drop has come as a big blow to the nomadic Kazakh herders whose families have for decades produced the most famous sheep in China.
And the season for fattening up the sheep is at an end. Across this remote area of pristine grasslands and alpine forests, along the southern slopes of the Altai Mountains, nomads are in the middle of their annual multiweek autumn migration, as they bring their families, yurts and livestock down from the high pastures to lower altitudes for the winter. They are using horses, camels and flatbed trucks for transport, and horses and motorcycles to herd their animals. Clouds of dust rising from the steppes signal nomads on the move.
When Hong Kong Protests Are Over, Where Will the Art Go? (October 17, 2014, China Real Time)
As the protests in Hong Kong enter their fifth week, with no end in sight, some journalists are highlighting some of the interesting stories taking place on the sidelines. Ramy Inocencio writes about some of the unique pieces of art that have been produced by protesters and supporters, and wonders what might happen to them when the protests are over.
A yellow umbrella, held by a person made of wooden blocks. A rainbow wall of pink, yellow and blue sticky notes urging Hong Kong to stay strong. A slew of banners waving in the wind, asking passersby, "Do you hear the people sing?" These are the images of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, now in its fourth week, that have been beamed across the world as tens of thousands in the city advocate for elections to choose their chief executive in 2017 — free from Beijing's intervention. But in his sharpest words yet, the city's current leader, Leung Chun-ying, on Thursday said police will clear all protest sites "at a suitable time" as authorities "cannot allow the occupation...to continue." The question then is: When protest sites are cleared, where will the movement's art go?
Why Chinese couples are having their wedding photos taken in London (October 17, 2014, BBC)
On the lighter side, Ed Prendeville of the BBC writes about Chinese in London using the beauty of the city as a backdrop for their wedding photographs.
Central London at 06:00 on an August morning can seem a very different city.
While its iconic skyline lies bathed in soft light, rubbish trucks and delivery vans have a free run of the usually heavily congested roads. The pavements, which will later be thronged with tourists, are empty, save for the odd shift worker or lone pigeon.
In a city which has yet to rouse itself from slumber, the sight of a couple in full wedding attire - posing for dramatically-staged photographs on Westminster Bridge - is charmingly incongruous.
Zhiwen Zhao and Yixuan Liu met in Beijing before moving to London a few years ago to study. They're engaged and will soon return to China to be married. Before they go they've decided to have their pre-wedding photographs taken in London.
It's a Chinese custom for couples to have their wedding photos taken before they are married, rather than on the day of the nuptials. "We wanted to take some sweet moments to share with the guests," says Yixuan. On the wedding day, the photos will be shown to the guests on cards, via big screens and perhaps on video.
In China, pre-wedding photography is a huge - and lucrative - industry. Zhiwen and Yixuan are part of a small but rapidly growing number of young couples who are choosing to have their photographs taken overseas, often in front of famous landmarks.
Talk about getting the big face!
Photo Credit: Raining in the World Heritage, by 仁仔 何, via Flickr