Visiting Xiahe in Gansu, China (1996)

The photos on this page were taken during an August 1996 trip to the lovely town of Xiahe in Gansu, a province in the northwestern part of China.

Xiahe, a small one-street town in the middle of a harsh landscape, is an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists.

The town of Xiahe (Gansu, China, 1996)

I hadn’t planned on visiting the town, but I had read about it in a guidebook while visiting Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu, and thought it would make for an interesting detour. It took several hours to get to Xiahe from Lanzhou by bus (but that was a slow bus—the trip should take around four hours by car).

My first impression after getting off of the bus was “Oh my God, it’s so cold!”

Snowy fields in August!

The county of Xiahe is around 3000 meters above sea level, so even during August, when we visited, temperatures fell below freezing (and most of the clothes I had packed were things like shorts and t-shirts). On wet days, there would be snow in the morning and freezing rain in the afternoon, leaving the roads and paths wet and muddy. On dry and warm days, loose top soil would blow around in the wind.

White Stupa, Labrang Monastery

The hotel only had running hot water for half an hour a day, so if you weren’t back in your room by that time (or if the hot water supply had been already used up), you would only have frigid water to wash with. As a result after a few days there, I looked pretty much like everyone else in the town—my face ruddy from the wind and cold and my body bundled up in multiple layers of clothing, with the outer layer clothing covered with a thin coating of dirt.

Village houses (Xiahe, Gansu, China, 1996)

I really liked Xiahe, but the environment and climate are unforgiving for the people living there. The area’s economy is based on farming, but the cold weather, lack of water, mountainous topography and loose topsoil mean that the little arable land that is there is tough to farm.

Migrant Workers

The following photos are of a group of migrant workers from Tibet. They were living in tents on the banks of the Daxia river, across from Labrang Monastery. They invited me over to try their food—curry potatoes.

Sheep herder, Daxia River & migrant worker camp. Xiahe county (and the town of Xiahe) were named after the river.
Migrant worker camp (Xiahe, Gansu, China, 1996)
The slope behind their tents is a location that plays an important role in an annual late-winter festival. It is where monks display a massive Tangka (a colorful, kaleidoscopic religious painting) that completely covers the rectangular area of the slope.
In the background, you can see Labrang Monastery, the Kora (a prayer wheel route) and Gongtan Pagoda.
Migrant workers (Xiahe, Gansu, China, 1996)

The people we met in Xiahe were friendly, but communication was difficult. I was travelling with my wife-to-be, who was fluent in Putonghua, but many of the Tibetan people we met in Xiahe knew minimal, if any, Putonghua and could not write Chinese. However, that was nearly twenty-five years ago. I expect things will different today as most young and middle-aged adults nowadays will have had a formal education.

Sangke Grasslands

We hired a driver and took a trip out to the the Sangke Grasslands, where we rented horses and visited the home of the owner of the horses. He introduced us to his family and made us some tsampa—a Tibetan staple food consisting mainly of flour, yak butter tea and salt. The grasslands are a twenty-minute drive from the town, so you can also get there by cycling (some of the hotels have bicycle rental services).

Crossing the Daxia River on horseback, Sangke Grasslands
Village, Sangke Grasslands. The horseman didn’t warn me about the dogs, so when I went on ahead, I was chased (on horseback) by one of the village dogs.
Making tsampa
The horseman (wearing a grey jacket) and his family
Saying farewell

Volleyball-playing Monks

We also met these monks. They were camped out in a field near our hotel and they would spend at least a few hours each day playing volleyball. We joined them for a a couple of games and had a brief chat later. They were from Tibet and were visiting Xiahe on a pilgrimage.

Monks playing volleyball (Xiahe, Gansu, China, 1996)

I was kind of surprised by their enthusiasm for volleyball as I had assumed monks would be more…er…meditative. I need to be more open-minded.

Setting the ball
With the monks


We met quite a few children, almost all of whom asked us to give them pencils. I am not sure if the pencils were for their own use at school or whether they served as a kind or currency among children. In any case, I was reminded of Zhang Yimou’s 1999 film Not One Less, which dealt with school life in an impoverished rural town. In that movie, blackboard chalk was treated as a precious, nigh-impossible-to-replace resource. We ended up giving away all of our pens and pencils except for one pen.

Children with their donkey and cart
Xiahe boys

You should bear in mind, however, that at that time—much of China’s rural populace, especially the hinterlands of provinces like Gansu, lived in abject poverty. China has since implemented a long-term, anti-poverty campaign, which has since lifted several hundred million citizens out of poverty.

Unfortunately, the negatives for the following photo got exposed. However, I will still include the photo here as I like how the two girls did their best to have their own style.

Two Girls (Xiahe, Gansu, China, 1996)

Labrang Monastery

Labrang Monastery, situated between the Chinese and Tibetan sections of the town, is one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) sect. The monastery is the main site in town and it is spread out over several buildings such as the Grand Sutra Hall, Serkung and Gongtan Pagoda

Grand Sutra Hall, Labrang Monastery

Xiahe is the most important monastery town for Tibetan Buddhism outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Serkung, Labrang Monastery
Prayer route (center) and Gongtan Pagoda (right), Labrang Monastery

There is also a 3.5-kilometer-long pilgrim’s route of prayer wheels known as the Kora.

Pilgrim’s Path (the Kora), Labrang Monastery
Prayer Wheels, the Inner Kora, Labrang Monastery

Sadly, between 1917 and 1929, the monastery was the site of massacres of Buddhist monks and other Tibetans by Hui Muslims led by Ma Qi. The monastery and its monks also suffered during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. During that period of turmoil, the monastery was closed, many buildings were destroyed or damaged and the monks were sent back to their villages to work. The buildings were later repaired or replaced, and the monastery re-opened in 1980. At present there are around 1,500 monks enrolled in the monastery.

Lanzhou & Xi’an

We also briefly visited Lanzhou, Xi’an and Beijing. You can see photos of those places in the online albums (the links are in the next section). The Beijing photos will be shown in another article and album.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an
Photo taken on the train between Xi’an and Lanzhou. Notice the dry landscaped and terraced hills. Farming is really a tough job here.
View of Lanzhou (and the Yellow River) from Baitashan Park (1996)

Photo Albums

I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you are interested in seeing them at higher resolution (e.g., 1840 x 1232), you can visit the online albums:

I can’t remember what kind of camera I had. I wasn’t into photography at the time. I think it was a Minolta X-700.

~ Photos and text by longzijun

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Venice Photos

Venice, Italy is a fascinating and photogenic city. These are photos I took during a trip to in 2015.

Woman in red

Album 1: Venice (Main Album)

Venetian cats (no, they are not in a cage; that is just a window)

This is the main album that contains most of the photos.

The defining characteristic of Venice is its system of waterways. The main island sits in the middle of the Venetian lagoon, is bisected by the s-shaped Grand Canal and is criss-crossed with hundreds of small canals known as rii.

1.1 The Grand Canal

The view of the Grand Canal from a bridge called the Ponte dell’Accademia is especially stunning. There is the canal itself, the boats, the lovely buildings lined up on either side, the pale grey domes of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in the background and the Venetian lagoon in the distance.

Venice: The Grand Canal, view from from Ponte dell’Accademia
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Kyoto Photos

Kyoto, Japan is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve visited. As the former capital city of Imperial Japan, it has a rich history; and with mountain ranges on three sides and a river bisecting the city, the scenery is also attractive.

Album 1: All Photos

I took nearly four hundred photos during two trips to the city, so I have I have divided the photos into different albums. If you want to see everything, click on the following photo or link.

Kyoto Cats sheltering from the rain outside a temple outside Higashi Hongan-ji

View Album: Kyoto; All Photos (394 photos)

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Hokkaido Travel Diary: Photos, Video & Free Background Music 41

1. The Music

This video features the 41st song in the Free Background Music Series and is the second video in my Travel Diary series.

As with the other songs in the Background Music series, this instrumental work can be used for free in non-commercial projects and in YouTube monetized videos (that are otherwise non-commercial in nature) as long as credit is provided (‘music by longzijun’). For more information about the terms and conditions for using the music, you can refer to the detailed Terms of Use.

Read More »

Hong Kong Street Art

(Updated: March 2022) The street art scene in Hong Kong is relatively new, but there are some great artists in the city and there are a now lots of places where you can see more beautiful artworks.

Artist: Dan Kitchener (UK); HKwalls 2018

In different districts, different styles and formats of street art predominate. Let’s take a tour though several of these neighborhoods.

1. Mid-Autumn Art Jam (Ma On Shan)

The following gallery features street art pieces that were created during the moon festival in Hong Kong in 2012. Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow.

Those works were on the side of a highway overpass. While taking these photos in 2013, I spoke to a woman who lived nearby and she told me that the pieces were done during the previous year’s Mid-Autumn Festival (at the very end of September). The location is well hidden, so the artists could work uninterrupted. Some of the visuals, such as the rabbit image, are related to the festival (according to Chinese legend, a rabbit lives on the moon with the moon goddess Chang’e. There were around 30 pieces (including wildstyle works) on the wall.

These street art pieces were eventually painted over by the Highways Department, but new works popped up. Here are two of the works there in 2016:

Street art, Ma On Shan, 2016
Wildstyle (2016)
Hong Kong Street Art: Ma On Shan District
Wildstyle (2016)

And here are some of the works from 2018:

Street Art in Hong Kong: Ma On Shan (2018)
Street Art in Hong Kong: Ma On Shan (2018)
Street Art in Hong Kong: Ma On Shan District
Xeme street art (Wildstyle, 2016)
Street Art in Hong Kong: Ma On Shan District
Street Art in Hong Kong: Ma On Shan (Detail view)

You can view the entire set of over 200 photos in this series:

2. Mong Kok & Tsim Sha Tsui

To view the following pictures in a slideshow, just click on any of the photos.

There is an alley one block to the west of the Mong Kok East MTR station that serves as a kind of ‘wall of fame’ and has lots of elaborate pieces in a variety of styles. It’s one of the few places where impromptu street art is generally left alone by the authorities. It is also home to a few homeless men who live in make shift cardboard shelters. Just around the corner is Argyle street, which is jam-packed with shoppers and tourists. It seems that there is an unspoken deal in place: ‘you can do what you want in this lane; just don’t take it outside’.

Girl with Noodles – Mong Kok Street Art
Stencil by codefc

In recent years, the alley has become a popular Instagram spot. As it is such a popular location, the turnover rate for the artwork is high and beautiful pieces get tagged or painted over frequently. The photos in the gallery above were taken in 2012 and 2013 and those pieces have been gone for years. Here are newer pieces.

Dutch Masters (Mong Kok, 2014)
Wrung team (Mong Kok, 2014)
Young woman (Hong Kong Street Art: Mong Kok, 2014)
Part of the above mural (2014)

Some of the pieces have a local flavor.

Art inspired by Cantonese Opera (2017)
Portrait of Chow Yun Fat (2017)
Old Master Q: A famous HK comic strip (2019)
One of the only pieces that has a political message (2019)

Here are some of the more recent wildstyle works:

(Black Cat, 2019)
Wildstyle: Ryck (2019)
Wildstyle: Ryckone (2022)
The alley in 2022

You will also find lots of stickers in the alley.

Stickers: HK street art

Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui are busy commercial and entertainment districts in Kowloon with things going on round the clock. It’s a challenge for graffiti artists to even find a blank wall yet alone work undetected. Thus, the art tends to be something that can be done in a hurry (tags, stickers or stencils) and is often done in dingy alleyways. There also tends to be a lot of crazy messages left on utility boxes and lampposts.

You can view the whole set of over 300 images in this series at a resolution of 2048 x 1365):

3. Central, Sheung Wan & Sai Ying Pun

The street art in this area has improved a lot during the past few years. This is largely due to

  • sponsorship arrangements with businesses, who are now much more supportive of artists,
  • the Hong Kong Walls festival which was held in this area 2018 and which attracted artists from around the world,
  • the development of ArtLane (also in 2018), a residential and shopping complex in Sai Ying Pun which used street art as a selling point.

This area of Hong Kong is now the go-to place for finding street art in the territory.

A popular Instagram spot in Hong Kong
Mural by Cyril Delettre for La Galerie
Mural by Elsa Jean de Dieu (Elsa Jeandedieu Studio) for Una Nota
Mural for Bedu Restaurant, Elsa Jean de Dieu (Elsa Jeandedieu Studio)
Mural by Vhils (the artist creates portraits by removing the paint on walls and exposing the concrete)
Mural of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Temple
Geometric street art by Neil Wang (the mural around the entire block)
Mural on Gough St.
Mural of a Bird by WHYYY
Street art by Invader (top) and Little Thunder (bottom) at PMQ
Street art by Little Thunder at PMQ
Paste-up by ONI
Psychedelic mural

Here are some images of the HKwalls 2018 artwork:

Artist: Elsa Jean de Dieu (France/HK); HKwalls 2018
Artist: Barlo (Italy); The Pet of the Archaeologist; HKwalls 2018
Artist: Cinta Vidal (Spain); HKwalls 2018
Detail view
Artist: Sheep (China); HKwalls 2018
Artist Dan Kitchener (detail view); HKwalls 2018

The HKwalls festival was also held in the area in 2015 and some of the artwork is still around, such as this mural of Bruce Lee.

Artist: XEVA (Korea); Bruce Lee Mural; HKwalls 2015
Mural by Hopare (HKwalls 2015)

Here are photos of Art Lane in Sai Ying Pun

Bruce Lee & Girl with Chicanos, street art murals by Ceet Foaud, Art Lane
Street art mural of Bruce Lee by Ceet Foaud, Art Lane
Transformation (detail view), street art mural by Riitta Kuisma, Art Lane
Transformation (detail view)
Little Girl Watering Plants, street art mural by Zue Chan, Art Lane
Animal Town & Rainbow Staircase (steet art by Blessy Man & Henry Lau), Art Lane
Joy of Music and Art (detail view), street art mural by Noble Wong, Art Lane
Music Town, impressionist-inspired street art by Zue Chan, Art Lane
Music Town (detail view)
Music Town (detail view), street art mural by Zue Chan, Art Lane
Busy Bees, street art mural by Hadrian Lam, Art Lane, Sai Ying Pun
Busy Bees (detail view)

You can view the entire sets of photos here:

4. Hong Kong Street Art: Wanchai & Causeway Bay

These street art photos were taken in Wanchai and Causeway Bay (perhaps the busiest shopping area on Hong Island). Because these are such busy areas, with things going on round the clock, the street art used to be done in a hurry, with paste-ups, stencils and tags are the most common forms of artwork. Here are some of the older works.

Street Art in Causeway Bay
Socially conscious paste-up; Causeway Bay
Graffiti in Hong Kong: Causeway Bay – Paste-up
Causeway Bay—Paste-up

HKwalls ( held its annual festival here in 2019, and the area now features more complex pieces. This festival is doing a great job at helping the local street art scene develop. It gives opportunities to local artists and brings in artists from overseas (who can provide inspiration).

Mural by Didier Jaba Mathieu (HKwalls 2019)
(Detail view)
Street Art by Bao & Tim Marsh
Dragon mural by Tim Marsh
Street Art by Shann Larsson (HKwalls 2019)
Street Art by Neil Wang and Wong Ting Fung (HKwalls 2019)
Mural by Fluke (HKwalls 2019)
Mural on the SPCA Building by Joker & Gus Eagleton (HKwalls 2019)
Street Art by Yopey (HKwalls 2019)
Street Art by Stephanie Studzinski (HKwalls 2019)
Detail View: Street Art by ANHZ, Portals & Kringe (HKwalls 2019)
Mural by Calvin Ho (HKwalls 2019)

Here are some more recent photos not featuring work from HKwalls 2019:

Rooftop graffiti: View from Times Square, Causeway Bay
Mural by Ophelia Jacarini
Detail view
Pikachu-themed mural by Jerkface; Wanchai

You can view the entire sets of photos in this series:

5. To Kwa Wan

While walking through this mixed residential, industrial and commercial district in 2019, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of street art pieces on the walls and metal shutters of the businesses there. Most of these works had been added as part of a neighborhood revitalization effort. The art part of this project was entitled Freegate (自由閘).

Mural by AAFK (ANZH x FEW), Devil and Hong Kong street art (To Kwa Wan district)
Resilient: Mural by Mural by AAFK (ANZH x FEW): Hong Kong street art; Freegate 自由閘; To Kwa Wan district
Mural by AAFK (ANZH x FEW): Hong Kong street art; Freegate 自由閘; To Kwa Wan district
Mural by Szabotage: Hong Kong street art; Freegate 自由閘; To Kwa Wan district
Mural by Storm: Hong Kong street art (To Kwa Wan district)
Mural by Humchuk: Hong Kong street art (To Kwa Wan district)
Street art: To Kwa Wan
Street art: To Kwa Wan
Street art mural in To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong
Street art mural in To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong

You can view the entire sets of over 50 photos in this series:

6. Kwun Tong & Kowloon Bay

Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow.

The streets of the industrial areas of Kwun Tong, Ngau Tau Kok and (to a lesser extent) Kowloon Bay used to feature a lot of graffiti compared to other parts of Hong Kong. However, in the last few years, the area had been redeveloped, with office buildings replacing the old factory buildings. As a result, there is very little street art there now.

The street art in this photo gallery was spread out through the entire industrial part of the district. It took around four hours to take all the photographs. There seemed to be more stencil work and paste-ups (paper-based work that is done beforehand and then affixed to the wall) in this area of the city.

The photos in this set are featured in the following video:

Here is a more recent piece in Kowloon Bay:

Mural in Kowloon Bay
Detail view
Tiger mural: Ngau Tau Kok, HK

You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 140 images):

7. South Hong Kong Island

Located on the south side of Hong Kong Island, Wong Chuk Hang is home to many art galleries. It was selected as the site of HKwalls 2017. Here are some of the pieces that were created:

Mural by Jecks: detail view (Hong Kong Street Art: HKwalls 2017)
Mural by MUAY: detail view (HKwalls 2017; Wong Chuk Hang)
Mural by SeeNaeme & Messy Desk ( HKwalls 2017)
Mural by SeeNaeme & Messy Desk: detail view
Hollywood Bau: Street art on a factory wall in Wang Chuk Hang
Hollywood Bau mural: detail view
Mural by Amuse126 & Merlot: detail view (HKwalls 2017)
Mural by DEBE (HKwalls 2017)
Mural by MUAY (Hong Kong Street Art: HKwalls 2017; Wong Chuk Hang)
Mural by MUAY: detail view of seal
Mural by TUTS (HKwalls 2017)

You can view the entire set of photos in this series:

8. Sham Shui Po & Nam Cheong

Due to a few art activities, there are now more street art pieces in Sham Shui Po and Nam Cheong. The following three murals were created for the Heart of Cyberpunk Festival by Design District Hong Kong in 2019 (ddHK).

Mural by Taka
Mural by Taka (detail view)
Cyberpunk Bruce Lee by Uncle (AWS)
Neon-inspired mural by Sinic

The same organization, ddHK, commissioned the following mural by kristopherh in 2021.

Mural by KristopherH (detail view) , Sham Shui Po
Mural by KristopherH (detail view) , Sham Shui Po

As part of an urban beautification program, the Drainage Services Department commissioned this ornithology-themed mural by AXE Colours Hong Kong. The mural showcases some of Hong Kong’s native bird species.

Ecology mural by AXE Colours
Ecology mural by AXE Colours Hong Kong (detail view)

The 2016 version of HKwalls was held in Shan Shui Po in 2016. It included the following works:

Large mural of a bear by Okuda (Hong Kong Street Art: HKwalls 2016; Sham Shui Po)

Large mural of a bear by Okuda (detail view)
Mural by Paola Delfin (HKwalls 2016)
Mural by Vhils (HKwalls 2016)
Daruma doll mural by SUIKO (HKwalls 2016)
Mural by ZIDS (HKwalls 2016)

9. Hong Kong Street Art: The King of Kowloon

Perhaps the first graffiti artist in Hong Kong was thee self-proclaimed Emperor of Kowloon Tsang Chou-choi (, who throughout the 1980s and 1990s painted messages in his distinctive Chinese calligraphy claiming that he was the rightful owner of the entire peninsula. At any one time, there were a few hundred of his messages spread around Kowloon. He tended to write on government owned walls and utility boxes, perhaps because he viewed the government as the thieves who stole his family’s land. He died in 2007, and towards the end of his life was considered an artist, with galleries curating exhibitions of his work. However, it took the government a while to realize that his graffiti was part of Hong Kong’s collective memory and by the time they took measure to preserve his work, only three pieces remained. These are now sealed in plastic (the easiest to view one is at the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui). I took the following two pictures many years ago in Diamond Hill.

King of Kowloon: Graffiti in Diamond Hill (click on the picture for a larger version)
King of Kowloon: Graffiti in Diamond Hill (click on the picture for a larger version)
An example  of Tsang Chou-choi's graffiti
An example of Tsang Chou-choi’s graffiti

10. Street Art in Hong Kong: Kowloon City, Kowloon Tong & Cheung Sha Wan

You can find street art scattered in other areas of Kowloon as well. There is some in Kowloon City and quite a few pieces in Kowloon Tong, the latter of which are usually found on walls in the alleys between upscale condominium complexes. Other photos in this series were taken in Cheung Sha Wan, Lai King and Kowloon City.

Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow.

You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 150 images):

11. Street Art in the New Territories

This gallery features works from around the Tai Wai, Fotan (where a lot of artists have set up studios in factory buildings), Ma On Shan Tai Po and Wu Kai Sha. These are the areas just north of Kowloon (on the other side of Lion Rock). Recently street art pieces have been popping up in Sai Kung, a seaside village popular for its seafood restaurants and cafés.

Street art mural in Sai Kung, Hong Kong
Street art mural in in Sai Kung by Ruttak
Street art mural (detail view)

In the New Territories, you can often find graffiti on factory walls and near bike paths. Click on any picture to view the gallery as a slide show.

You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 100 images)

12. Lei Yue Muen

In Ma Wan Village (Lei Yue Mun), several colorful murals were painted in 2020 as part of a project to beautify the village, which is primarily known for its seafood restaurants and sea views (Lei Yue Mun Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project—Mural Art Village).

Ma Wan Village, Lei Yue Mun, Hong Kong
Street art in Ma Wan Village (a kind of parody of different art styles)
Detail view
From Chrissy Wong Art Studio
Art by Moses Mok, Little Jade and Sissy Ng
Cat-themed Mural
Seaside murals, Ma Wan Village, Lei Yue Mun, Hong Kong

You can see the entire series here:

12. More Photos

In the past, I used to document pretty much everything I saw including tags, very basic throw-ups, very faded pieces, and close-ups. I’ve since removed a lot of those from the main albums and moved them in this Google Photos album: Miscellaneous Shots (300+ images).

13. Related Galleries

I also have a few street art galleries on my artjouer blog.

Taipei Street Art
Street Art in Ottawa, Ontario
Street Art in Shoreditch London
Street Art in Shoreditch, London
Street Art in Hongdae, Seoul
Street Art in Hongdae, Seoul
Street Art in Vancouver, Canada
HKWALLS 2018: Part 1 (Hong Kong)
HKWALLS 2018: Part 2 (Hong Kong)


~ photos and text by longzijun


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