How To Stay True To Your Ancestry

Trees and people reflected in a pool of water near an entrance to the village of Hongcun in Anhui Province, China.

How Do You See Your Place In The World?

What's your world view? Despite a range of hardships and disadvantages we live in a most beautiful world. Beauty resides not just in the creature comforts offered us by modern technology, but also through an understanding of our own identity and a more harmonious relationship with nature and the world around us.

It seems to me that, to evolve to a state of psychological maturity, we must first know ourselves.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

But before we can truly know ourselves we need to better understand our place in this world and our life's true purpose. An important part of this process is to understand our cultural origins.

Historical photos and home movies, family stories and good old mythology enable us to trace our past and gain a better understanding of who we are, as individuals, today. From there we can approach the road ahead with confidence and clarity. 

A detailed image of goods for sale in a local butcher shop in the traditional village of Hongcun, China.

Culture Is About More Than Just Food

Our culture is based, largely, upon our origins and history and, while I feel our national identify is less important than our position as world citizens, I also see a need to celebrate our background. For many, the best way to do that is to spend time in the country of their ancestors. Assuming the finances are available and the likelihood of relatively safe travels, I'd recommend this opportunity to all.

Make Sure You Add Spice To The Melting Pot

Needless to say in countries that are great melting pots, like Australia, it's also good for other Aussie's, indigenous and otherwise, to visit countries outside of their own cultural origins. After all, to establish a truly homogenous society we need to understand and, where appropriate, embrace cultural practices outside our own.

Take for example folk from Chinese origins, an increasingly significant and important part of the cultural mix in present day Australia. With four trips to date to China my own perceptions of what it might mean to be Chinese are far more developed than they would have been without the experiences and long-term friends made during my travels to that amazing country.

The pond surrounded by houses in the centre of the idyllic village of Hongcun in Anhui Province, China.

Hongcun Village And How To Find Authentic China

The above photo was made, at dusk, on my most recent trip to China. The scene depicted is from Hongcun, a classic village in Eastern China.

The weather was overcast which illuminated the scene with a lovely, soft light. The overcast conditions also provided a wonderful mix of warm and cool light which added a lovely color contrast to the scene. Color, light, shape and texture work together with near windless conditions to produce a photo that suggests balance and tranquility.

The secret to these images is that I arrived very late in the day, just as the last tourist buses were leaving. Hongcun village has become hugely popular and, as such, the notion of an authentic Chinese Village is something of a myth.

Nonetheless, the tourists bring money, as does the fact that the village has been used as a location in many local TV shows and films. Residents are prospering and, outside of the busy tourists times, activity in the village slows down and the seemingly idyllic life for the people of Hongcun returns.

Photography straddles the line between a documentary observance of detail and myth. We determine the truth of the world around us as both an accumulation of facts and through the way we respond, on an emotional level, to those places, events and relationships we experience.

I contend that folks tend to let facts get in the way of a good truth. Given that those words can be confused with each other, let me say the following:

What matters most in this life is the way we experience it. And, at the end of the day, the relative truth of the experience is for each of us to determine and shape for ourselves.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

I'd like to dedicate this photo to my dear friend, Zhang Shu Lan, whom I met during my first visit to China way back in 1988.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru