Second Hand Second Story 1 Year Anniversary Poster

I had the pleasure of working with Hyo on the 1 year anniversary artwork for Second Hand Second Story. Hyo heads Chengdu’s first consignment shop, where her creative talent and attention to detail dresses each article of clothing, pair of shoes, home decor, or accessory in the shop with the value of a story.

I love this idea and concept because it expands on mindfulness and conscious consumption, rather than the main stream ‘fast fashion’ attitude that’s laid waste to our earth and tends to drive our self worth towards fleeting, materialistic constructs.

In China, graphic design can be a challenging profession to make money because people are used to a level of copyright infringement, or low production quality/value– indeed, I attended a freelancing panel the other day where they featured the success story of a graphic designer in Chengdu who I know has ripped off other people’s art and passed it off as her own. She’s still respected as a graphic design artist and books large accounts/clients (i.e. Ducati, and other department store brands), but I can see how the culture/ trends have Chinese clients (and even Western-facing brands) unwilling to pay less more than $10USD for a poster design (~50RMB).

On that note, I wanted Hyo and Second Hand to have an original design to connect with her awesome, local community of independent, stylish women who look good while kicking ass.

Inspired by these very women, I added the idea of ‘coins’, wealth, as symbols of prosperity. The original color scheme was taken from the new fixtures she had up in the shop (she re-feng-shuis regularly), but we worked together to come up with the final palette.

To learn more about Second Hand Second Story, you can follow them on Facebook or WeChat @ershoergushi.

 

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Photos Of My Mom Enjoying Things

My mom has fallen into the Asian stereotype when it comes to cameras and phones: no pic, no proof. Therefore, all the pics, all the proof. Our recent trip to Berlin (my sister lives there; she visited her, and I skipped over from Chengdu) proved a conflict of lifestyle interest; as she tripped and stumbled across towns and attractions with the screen in front of her face, we became a bit impatient with the whole concept of ‘needing’ a picture. When she asked me to take photos with my camera, I became belligerent and refused– unless she posed like this.

Here is a series of my mother hopefully enjoying the view without a screen in front of her face!

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Neue Castle
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Rose marble corner in Neue
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A garden by Charl
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Roman bathhouse
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An ivy terrace garden
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Canola field in Poland

Summer in Shu’nan

A month or so back during the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, Dan and I slammed our weary laptops shut and got our moldy butts out of Chengdu into a bus barreling towards Yibin, a town saddled on the Min and Yangtze Rivers in southeastern Sichuan. Our destination? The steamy green sea of China’s oldest bamboo forest. 

Our journey took all day: we bussed from Chengdu to Yibin, where an initially reluctant but friendly driver arranged by our hotel picked us up. Weaving through Yibin and Changning, we picked up and dropped off a few more passengers as we ventured south. It was dark out when I smelled the wet, clean air of trees, the river, and the bamboo-leaf covered soil of south China. I stuck my head out of the car at one point, when we seemed to  be lost in the deepness of the dark; the twists and turns and sudden shine of our headlights in the thick of bamboo disoriented me, and I looked up and saw a river of stars above me, framed by the silhouette of bamboo. Weary after 5 hours on a sweaty bus and throwing our fate into the hands of our tired driver, we fell asleep to the dead quiet of a hotel settled deep in Shu’nan.

Our room didn’t have any windows (we had snagged the bargain room for Xiaoyao Valley Hotel on Ctrip before the rush of other Chinese families and couples looking for their own getaway) so we didn’t know what to expect, but when we awoke, the sun was boasting among blue skies, made bluer by the vivid green of bamboo. Since the area isn’t technically a national park (yet), the park’ is named a “scenic area”– businesses, restaurants, and hotels who had the foresight settled in the park to take advantage of travelers looking for a convenient and pretty affordable way to visit and absorb as much bamboo as possible.

We hired a driver for the day– a man with not a lot of teeth (the ones left in his mouth were orange from smoke) a thick Sichuan accent gutted each word, and with an unceremonious mumble, we set off.

The cablecar ride over the valley gave us a breathtaking scope of why they call it a ‘zhuhai’– ‘zhu’ is bamboo, ‘hai’ is sea. The bamboo almost looked like feathers, the delicate ends bending with the wind, tickling the air. If you relaxed your eyes even further, you started noticing the delicate ebb and flow of the bamboo– very psychedelic.

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Upon more research, we discovered that this is an area in China that receives the least amount of sunlight: the bamboo breathes clouds into the air, so by the time we started our journey around 11AM, the sun receded behind the haze and fog of the forest.

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Pay 10RMB to take a well-earned nap in the bamboo forest
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Playful geometric path bridges a creek
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We were behind the man in the woman’s sunhat for awhile in the bamboo forest… he added to the magic
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Nature takes over
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The bamboo sea grooms itself: the weight of the bamboo bends it down, making new way and light for younger bamboo to shoot up. 
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In thick bamboo right off the Emerald Path
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The man in the tiny hat was surreal
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‘Earth shaking rock’
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Me at the waterfall

We visited Longyin Temple. I liked how it wasn’t as well-maintained; it seemed much of the temple campus was abandoned, and the look of peeling paint and weeds bursting through the cement grounds was more exciting to explore than the usual tidiness of usual temples and monasteries.

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Formidable steps to the temple grounds.
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A Chinese woman looks out at the view.
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A god and his eye
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A small shrine on the lookout, inundated with wishes.
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A golden stinkbug
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Looking down on the temple courtyard
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Temple visitors donate to purchase a ‘well wish’ they can tie up and hang.

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A gateway to a hazy view
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Entrance to the top temple.
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Dan is asked for a picture– white men are exotic in China, and people often ask to take pictures with them.

 

My favorite experience at Shu’nan was a surprise: Tianbao Village is carved into the cliffside, and winds along the mountain above the zhuhai. Breathtaking views for miles, the caves and carvings offered a cool respite from the humidity of the haze.

 

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Tianbao Village
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A child sells their last fern crown.
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This large buddha statue doubles as a quaint water fountain: a stream of mountain water falls from his bottle.
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A huge buddha carved into the mountain.
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A lush lookout onto the zhuhai.
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The village path built around the waterfall.
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Lookout
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Making beetle friends.
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People can’t stop violating women, even as art to be enjoyed.

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A vendor on the path looks out onto the zhuhai.
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Try and figure out if these stairs are going up or down…
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Dan paddles a bamboo boat in the Cyan Dragon Lake. 

Travel tips for Shunan Bamboo Park:

+ Don’t leave your ticket in your hotel room! At certain sights, you need it to ‘enter’ a site. It also has the best map for the sights in the actual park, so don’t lose it!

+ Find a hotel in the actual park to cut down on commute time — it takes awhile to get to the actual park gate from the edge of the bamboo forest.

+ Bring cash, cash, cash. There’s plenty of bamboo and other treats to eat, but WeChat, Alipay, or credit cards won’t help much.

Hiring a driver for a day is cheap and definitely worth your while (200RMB): the park is really big. To take full advantage of a day, plan the itinerary for maximum efficiency– weaving and turning amongst the roads across the park is dizzying and will get you carsick. It’s worth taking a look at the map on your ticket (it’s a bit difficult to find more information on the features in the park online), and doing a bit of research and planning to make the most out of the time and driver.

Take advantage of your hotel manager’s local connections— if you do end up in Yibin before arriving, they’ll be able to help you find the cheapest and most convenient way in (especially if you get there later at night– we arrived around 11:30PM).

If you’re coming from Chengdu, there *are* direct busses from Chengdu to Changning, the smaller town right outside the bamboo forest. From Changning, you can find a bus that costs only 25RMB to ride into most of the hotels/B&Bs in the park.

We stayed for two nights, spending a full day in the park. We got through most of the sights we wanted to see, and had time to return relatively early for a full dinner (that said, the humidity can be exhausting– so a full two days would probably be what I would recommend). Plan ahead and a day at the very least should be very satisfying.

Last but not least, we really wish we had brought our french press and coffee beans. Since hotels have hot water kettles, it would have been a welcome luxury if we had perked up faster in the morning, and the coffee will get you through the heat exhaustion when it gets really humid.

I would highly recommend this visit: while most well-known attractions in China are usually crowded and as busy as Times Square, this park was nice in that you *could* find yourself alone and in the quiet. A very welcome change and a rarity, especially in China. 

Budget breakdown for two people: 

Bus to Yibin: 130RMB X 2
Driver from Yibin to Changning to the hotel in the park: 150RMB
XIaoyao Valley Hotel for two nights (booked on CTrip): 476 RMB
Driver for a day: 200 RMB
Bus back to Yibin: 25 RMB X 2
Bus from Yibin back to Chengdu: 110RMB X2
Treats and Eats for all three days: ~ 200RMB X 2
Ticket into the Shunan Park: 110RMB

 

March Resist With Action Calendar

March’s calendar is out!

A couple of crucial dates this month: Women’s Day Strike, International Day Against Police Brutality, and the deadline of the debt limit. Participate in local activities that raise awareness! That’s not the only thing you can do: show appreciation for women you work with, or if you feel your local law enforcement team have done a good job of protecting your community, thank them for their hard work.

While the average citizen might not be able to directly influence our representatives re: deadline for raising the debt limit, participation comes in the form of educating yourself. How does the government deal with the debt limit? What will change? What might the world look like if the U.S. defaults on its loans? Read about the history of the U.S. debt ceiling, and what might happen on and after March 17th.

Click here to download the free 11″ X 17″poster.

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Supplementary resources for March’s calendar will be published soon!

For more information on the calendar, visit resistwithaction.com.

Four Sisters Mountain

I had the opportunity to hitch along on a mini road trip with some Chinese friends during Chinese New Year. We headed to Danba, a Buddhist town hidden in a gorge in the mountains north of Chengdu, and hiked a little bit of the Four Sisters mountain– a stretch of a mountain range featuring four peaks, one of which is the glorious ‘older sister’.

The ride to Danba took around 8-10 hours, but the journey was a huge part of the experience. We wove in and on and through mountain peaks and valleys; passed many small Tibetan villages on the way, characterized by stone-stacked walls painted with Buddhist swastikasconch shells, and the dark red cheeks of sunburnt and chill bitten denizens.

This was my first time out of the city. I drank in blue skies and the lush greenery; the rock formations of cliff sides floating precariously above us; the fresh, dizzying thin air in high altitudes. Much of China’s most stereotypical traits– as a nation, people, and country– stood out to me: the sheer scale of the mountains felt like a looming acceptance of fate, for who was I but a speck on this God-sized rock?; the opportunistic private 1 RMB restrooms for a family to make a buck on anyone’s bladders; dirt roads for miles lead to modern, paved roadways lined with silk flags for a breathtaking postcard picture. I remember driving through a dusty, deserted-looking town only to view on my left an incredible temple built on the side of a mountain/sheer cliff, facing a turquoise blue river.

The Four Sisters mountain is also quite impressive, the tallest of the Qionglai mountain range. The ‘bigger sister’ seems to glow in a permanent spotlight: while the ‘younger sister’ peaks are typical dark juts into the skyline, the largest peak shines on its own, the aggressive jag topped with snow reflecting the sunlight. When we started the hike from Rilong town, we were already at ~3000 meters above sea level. As someone who loves hiking, and regularly hikes when I’m home in Seattle, I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to climb a staircase– but the altitude is a real and formidable challenge. We didn’t hike *up any peak, but the base trail was peaceful, pleasant, and brought us to a beautiful viewpoint near the base of the mountain.

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Dan climbs up from the jankiest restroom– a couple of boards propped against a mountain side
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Adventures at high altitudes
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This bridge was a site of Kuomingtan X Cultural Revolution battle
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Tibetan designs at our first B&B, laced with sausages
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Sausage laced views
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Dan befriends a stick bug
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The cliffs of Danba

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Tibetan flags. Usually decorating a stupa, prayer flags hung up high are believed to maximize their positive effect.
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The Four Sisters
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Tibetan flags point to the “sea of clouds’ weaving through mountain peaks
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Goats are found wandering highways and cliff sides

Tips before you visit:

  • Don’t be shy and embarrassed by the altitude struggle. Buy canisters of oxygen at any outdoor outpost (there are several in more populous backpacking towns), and drink lots of water.
  • Dress in layers, bring a hat. The sun is strong up there, but so is the wind.
  • You’ll be stuck in a car for awhile, weaving through gorges, valleys, peaks, and tunnels. Don’t forget to look up: you might see a herd of cows or goats, precariously perched, grazing as you pass on by.
  • Bring toilet paper. Also, most privately owned ‘rest stop’ toilets will cost 1 RMB.

Resist: February Resources

Check out the free February edition of the #Resist with Action calendar.

Learn about our 115th United States Congress. Brush up on how power is Constitutionally divided in the American government.  You’re already caught up with that? Learn how ‘Executive Orders’ aren’t in the Constitution, but also how they’ve been utilized often and in the past.

It’s Black History Month! A few interdisciplinary approaches to learning more about the civil rights movement, black oppression, and black culture:

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Raw and brutal honesty: the Black Power Mixtapes, shot by Swedish filmmakers drawn to the urban unrest of the Black Power movement. Featuring an incredible collection of clips: stories and experiences of black Americans, political activists, and cultural icons. This interview with Angela Davis in particular reveals the astonishing gap of empathy and experience when people ask her about the Black Power movement’s association with violence. 

Angela Davis recently spoke at the Women’s March. Hear her calls to action here. 

Learn more about institutionalized segregation and its ubiquity just a mere 50 years ago: “That was how the community felt, and that was how the community wanted it. And that was the policy of this newspaper.”

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Jane Elliott’s ‘Blue Eye Brown Eye experiments’ show kindergarteners to high schoolers a visceral glimpse of the injustice of oppression.

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Want a steadier stream to keep up with today’s civil rights communities or exposure to black culture? Follow these people:

Van Jones: political commentator, author, and grassroots organizer, he also hosts CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ political debate show.

Black Lives Matter: a political movement fighting for civil rights equality and police brutality against black Americans.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.: An American literary critic, and public intellectual on literature and African American culture

Museum Mammy: Social influencer Kim Drew is a social media associate for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and regularly contributes to Black Contemporary Art Tumblr.

Bell Hooks: Gloria Jean Watkins is an an American feminist, social activist, and author. Her latest essay (her most recent blog post) interprets Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ album with her own black feminist lens.

Resist With Action Calendar

It’s been a few hard weeks; seems funny to have celebrated the end of 2016 just a few weeks ago.

In seeking self empowerment through education and creative initiative, I found myself somewhat idealistically expecting precisely a ‘feed’ of a reliable political resource. I found none I could easily trust. So this is my way of 1. Educating myself, and 2. Normalizing political participation. And arting about it.

I will be releasing a new calendar each month with a list of dates and political activities to voice your vote, opinion, or support other political agendas that matter to you.

The images were composed from images of the protestors attending the Women’s March on the weekend of President Trump’s Inauguration.

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Click here to download the Calendar Cover, where you can write down the phone numbers and Twitter handle of your elected officials.

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Click here to download the month of February, with dates and ways to participate in current events in February.

Feedback welcome. For more political news stories and important events/ways to participate, connect with us @ResistWAxn on Twitter.

For future calendars and access to the archive, visit resistwithaction.com. 

If you’d like to donate to the cause, please direct your funds to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as they continue to defend and fight for our Constitutional rights.

New Digital Cat Collage

YAYCAKE lands in China.

Someone ordered a commission cat collage– the GoFundMe that funded my move from NYC sold the originals out, so I made a digital cat collage this week to fulfill the order:

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As the piece formed, I realized how much I’ve been influenced by my friend’s @LazyMom’s food-styles new wave internet art aesthetic.

I’ve been into organic textures for awhile though. There’s something helpful and magical of recalling a perfect palette/formula of colors through fruit, natural textures, plants, and landscapes.

Emails From Chengdu

Dearest Don ****,

You have your own style, darling ~ a casual attitude; no fucks given; all the lols.
My old New York room mate is a professional accordion player; when I hear accordion music, I think of him and his Tinder dates and his women, his cigarettes and Groucho Marx face; I think of New York, and his accordion music echoing in the subway, playing to himself and whatever mysteriously lucky red-headed devil leaning against the wall around the corner, getting sick from nostalgia as he reads tender emails from China.
I miss New York very much. I miss my friends. I miss being able to go to things I know I’ll have fun at, I miss the art & DIY scene..
New life with ***: *** is a monogamous person, so exploring that kind of intimacy is pretty new to me … he continually shows me what it looks, smells, and feels like to be in a healthy relationship; calls me out on my bullshit, down for bike adventures, and most romantically he’s been consistent in helping me find a good place to climb. The gyms here that are closest to me are are abysmal: dusty, grime-slicked holds that probably hold fossilized skin cells in the resin of pollution air that wafts in (the place is a cement shack on top of a roof top). What’s funny are the tires outside in front of the top-roping walls for people and (there are mostly pre pubescent boys taking climbing classes there) the kids to work out with. What is this, Rocky?
Many of the bouldering walls have no routes marked at all– it’s a haphazard mix of holds, and teachers use long pointer sticks to indicate which hold you’re supposed to try and grab next. The only clean/nicely matted bouldering walls we found are on the top floor of a mall, and pretty challenging for someone who hasn’t climbed in half a year. I feel like a blob. I am a blob. I am blobbified.
In any case, *** is the only thing between me and a blob drain. It surprises me how supportive he is in this search; sometimes, I feel like he’s doing so much for me to feel at home in Chengdu, which gives me a great ambivalent feeling balancing between love and fear.
In other news, Chinese clubs: you’ll be a star. There are plenty of clubs who give promotional table service to WHITE PEOPLE just for showing up. Because where there are white people, there comes expendable money. There is also a circle of young to older women: “Lao Wai Hunters”, which literally translated means “Foreign People Hunters”, but REALLY means “White Men Hunters”. It is not hard (*for white men) to get laid at one of these ex-pat clubs; in Sichuan the men tend to be a slim, willowy, short build, so the physical change is welcome and exotified to the spicy ladies of Chengdu. And they are certainly spicy: a common thing you might see on the street (day or night) is a girl verbally or physically abusing her boyfriend. They call this kind of man a “soft ear”: emasculated from the rest of his body, all he becomes is a funnel for abuse.
Just give me an overview of you cracking the whip at ****. Also, how is your own monogamous relationship with ****? Are you going to be a newly minted CEO with a newly minted fiancee? Are you terrified? What’s next in 2017 for THE **** ****?

Love you, miss you,

XO

Chengdu, Early January 2017

New year, new camera.

I took a stroll around the block for some of the pictures of Chengdu’s alleyways. Other pictures are from a lovely Sunday trip through the Wang Jiang Lou, a park hosting a plethora of bamboo species, common, exotic, and rare.

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Chengdu has a similar color palette to Taipei: the greenery of leaves against the flat shades of grey cement. 
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A neighborhood game of mahjong. 
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A back alley barber shop. 
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The winding back alleys of the city provide Chengdu with some air of romantic mystery.
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Graffiti isn’t a common sighting; this radical splash hasn’t been painted over yet, and offers a welcome deviance from governmental order and control. 
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Trees are painted white help reflect sunlight and prevent the bark from splitting due to temperature change. 
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The bamboo groves house different public areas for exercise, tai chi, or if you look closely: chef’s phone call breaks during lunch. 
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This lady maintains a serious face as she dances along with the community Chinese orchestra concert greeting the new year.