In search of Nirvana depicts contemporary western China and my introspective road trip. These photographs were made in 12 provincial-level regions in western China from 2013 to 2018.

The project investigates the concept of the motherland, the collision of modernity and nostalgia. Having spent my childhood in Hong Kong, the idea of China was vague. China was too distant from me, not only physically, but significantly also in its ideology. 

China is the developing country with rapid economic rise. Especially the coastal regions of eastern China has significantly benefited from the economic reform since from 1978. However, the western half of China, was seen as a problematic region in building a well-off society in an all-round way, is lagged severely. Since 2000, China launched the “go west” strategy in order to boost economic development in 12 western provincial-level regions.

With the development of western China, a variety of social issues come into my attention. I first travelled to western China in 2013 and began to observe the daily life of the people in the region, when Premier Li Keqiang said 2016-2020 is a crucial time for western regions to achieve transformation and upgrading, to see how the development changes people’s life. However, the superficially economic success seems not able to secure the dignity of the grassroots.

While I was exploring during road trips, the project evolved into the multi-layer narrative, which is also about the Chineseness and the perception towards motherland from a Hongkonger. Nirvana is a Buddhism term, which has a close meaning to disengagement. Buddhists believe that they can find Nirvana in the west. Once people arrive at the Nirvana, he or she can reach endless happiness and suffer no pain. I started the journey in search of Nirvana as well as finding the answer to who I am.

 

Copyright © 2015-2020 Jimmy Lee.
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