In his project The Degradation of Villages, Chinese photographer Wang Yuanling gives us a glimpse into a vanishing world. China’s near miraculous economic transformation has resulted in the largest internal migration in human history. As over 160 million Chinese, many of them young people, left their rural villages for the booming urban centers and the promise of a better life, the aging and the elderly were left behind in forgotten areas. Wang’s project focuses on just one of these places, a village in the Daba Mountains of remote Sichuan province.
Wang discovered that because many of the government resources are focused on towns, off-the-beaten-path villages have remained developmentally stagnant. While many of them have long and involved histories, the rapid economic rise of China is seeing them wither away in the blink of an eye.
Wang’s photos are haunting in their silence. They are like tiny whispers from a vanishing apparition. Dispatches from a lonely place. Regarding what drew him to this project, Wang says, “I think the village is the fundamental structure of Chinese society. The transformation of the village is the source of all problems”.
All images © Wang Yuangling>