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It was in 1998 that photographer Cui Maoyuan first visited Yuxian in Hebei Province, and it was during that first visit that he became enamored by the ancient buildings left behind by the Qing Dynasty. “I was born in a village in northern China,” says Maoyuan, “and my childhood memories are filled with ancient houses, temples, and theaters. But with the continuous development of society, all this has virtually disappeared.”

After seeing these villages and absorbing their general atmosphere of neglect, the photographer decided to embark on a project with the vision to create a tangible record of the villages for future generations.

In these haunting, forgotten landscapes, untouched by modernity and so far removed from the Asian megacities, it’s easy to picture red-robed emperors striding through the ancient settlements, swathed in mist and snow. Pitched up against dramatic skies, the ruins have a dark grandeur about them, while the only life that appears to remain here are lone wandering donkeys and shepherds guiding their sheep through the desolate hills.

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All images © Cui Maoyuan

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