Xiaoxiao Xu captures the tranquil moments before the Shèhuŏ march in north-west China

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In February 2014, Chinese photographer Xiaoxiao Xu taken the festival over three weeks, travelling from community to village, mesmerised by event’s “mysterious atmosphere”

The preparations begin in the early hours; the sun is yet to rise. It is winter, soon after the Chinese New Yr, in the Baoji region, Shaanxi province, in north-west China on the cusp of the Gobi Desert. Soon, the stillness of the crisp air is going to be alive with folk artwork, music and performance. It does not take start of the annual Shèhuŏ festival.

In February 2014, Chinese language photographer Xiaoxiao Xu taken the festival over three weeks, travelling from town to village, mesmerised by the event’s “mysterious atmosphere”. Initially, other work commitments and the Covid-19 pandemic forced Xu to put the project upon hold. However , she has been eventually able to return to the particular series, which will be published come july 1st as the photobook Shooting the Tiger , with The Eriskay Connection.

Shèhuŏ’s origins stretch back to the particular Zhou dynasty (c1046–256BC) when villagers performed special ceremonies hoping the gods might grant them a rich and productive harvest. “People also call the festival ‘Shehu’, which translates as ‘shooting the tiger’, ” Xu explains. “The tiger, in this case, represents the demon and symbolises misfortune. ”

During contemporary festivities, following a prayer gathering on the village temple, hundreds of performers unite in a parade, dealing with the roles of gods, Buddha, mythical animals plus characters from folk tales. The elaborate costumes plus face make-up dazzle contrary to the white, snowy landscape. “[The make-up] reflects a character’s personality, ” Xu explains. “A red-painted face symbolises loyalty and braveness, while a white encounter is used for traitors; the color yellow is usually reserved just for bravery, and demons and gods are painted along with gold and silver. ”

However , rather than focusing on this lively procession, Xu’s images frame people during the quiet moments associated with anticipation just before. We view as final touches are usually administered; belts tightened. Kids, dressed in simpler costumes, are prepared first and sit waiting with their friends. We peek through windows or follow characters as they walk to participate the parade. Each era, young and old, plays a part. The event is as much about using the community together as it is regarding honouring cultural history.  

Traditions in China and taiwan vary between regions plus provinces. Indeed, before developing the project, Xu acquired never been to this portion of the country. “Shèhuŏ event is definitely exotic and strange just for someone like me, coming from south-eastern China, ” she demonstrates. Xu has lived within the Netherlands since she had been 15 years old but was created and raised in Wenzhou, an industrial port city in Zhejiang province. Her practice explores the history plus cultural customs of the girl home country, and how these translate to contemporary life. Constructing on her heritage and the connection with living in Europe, Xu can be applied her unique perspective to produce work that emphasises the particular nuances of Chinese tradition and pushes against generalisations.  

“China is often snowed under by alarming news, and the country’s cultural aspects in the West often remain underexposed, ” she says. “With this project, I want to sparkle a light on these hidden aspects; break things open, bring life and light, emphasise nuances. I want individuals to come into contact with other worlds, different ways of seeing and considering. ” 

Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the particular Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her terms have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Just before this, she completed the MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, Greater london, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College associated with Communication.

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