China’s living legacy

 By Paolo Marchetti

In southern China, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar, the last Himalayan peaks protect a very special region: Yunnan, literally “south of the clouds.”
In China, which for vastness’ is the third nation in the world after Russia and Canada, are living more than 1 billion 300 million people. A resident on five of the planet Earth is Chinese.
93% of China’s population is represented by people of Han ethnicity. The remaining part of the Chinese population is fragmented into 56 different ethnic minorities, more than half ‘of whom live in the far South-west of the country, just in Yunnan.
These populations are highly heterogeneous from the point of view purely socio-cultural and religious.
Their culture, with appropriate specifications, is a mixture of different religious elements which come together in a strange syncretism between them, many beliefs, including Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, but there are also elements of primitive-based shamanic religions, other borrowed from Islam, and to a lesser extent by Christianity.
Ancient traditions and cultures characterize these populations, whose ancestors can still be found before the Qin and Han dynasties, over thousands of years ago.
These people, who often live in conditions of substantial isolation, are the last repositories of ancient languages that are dying, heirs of ancient traditions such as knowledge of medical herbs or clever construction of houses in dark pine.
What is quickly weakening the identity of these ethnic groups?
For decades now, many efforts are made by the Chinese government to extend its economic influence in areas populated by ethnic minorities and the imposition of political and socio-cultural development in the territory, is rapidly demolishing the identity of these populations.
The Chinese regime has put his focus to the regional economic development by financing large-scale projects, especially for energy supply, such as dams, oil pipelines, refineries and a vast plan of infrastructure entrusted to Chinese companies etc..
China continues to sign bilateral agreements for its supply of highways, linking the province of Yunnan with Burma state.
Today the settlement's key to the work of extension of infrastructure and energy investments are precisely the lands of certain ethnic minorities, their villages were swept away by the great works promoted by the Chinese government and promoted by neighboring economic giants.
The direct consequence is the extinction of an ancient culture in favor of a policy of regime only determined to accelerate the exponential growth of its economy.

--- Paolo Marchetti

Yunnan, the village Guannong, 17 km from the Burmese border.


Mr. Lai 51 years, working as a carpenter for over 30 years.


Yunnan- rice paddies in the village Han Sha, literally: "The howl of the sand."
The village is mainly inhabited by the Dai minority.


Yunnan- Bandung village, mostly inhabited by the minority Lisu. Here, in the courtyard of the family Kuilang. During the Maoist era, the country had seen an annual increase of nearly 30 million people. According to official data, China today is populated by 1.3 billion people, but it is estimated that at least another half a billion people are not registered. Since the death of Mao Tse-tung in 1979, a law was implemented that forbade women to have more than one child.

Yunnan, in the countryside, neighboring the city of Longchuan. Here in the courtyard of the Ling family belonging to the minority of Achang. The components of the Ling family live exclusively on farming and agriculture.

Yunnan- Dongmo village consists of about 400 inhabitants. Ling Zhang 41, is separating the wheat from the foliage according to the old tradition Achang.


Yunnan- just outside the village Mengli. Here is the cemetery of the community, mainly composed of the Dai minority

Yunnan village Hudao. Here, within the family Tchan Zhien, belong to the Protestant religion, Mr. Feng, 48 years old, during his rest, an hour before his second work shift.

Yunnan- village Manggao. Here, inside the house of the Huang family, Yang Enxiang, 32 years old, lives. Yang is responsible for the cultivation of tobacco on behalf of his family. The regime has imposed a levy on tobacco growing for the past two years.


Yunnan-Nongdao. The village is inhabited by the Dai minority group Shui, mostly Buddhist.
Here is Mr. Jin Yang Ban in his paddy fields


Yunnan, a village near the city of Longchuan mainly inhabited by the minority Achang.
Here is Lingdi, 2 years, inside the family house.


The Lisu ethnic minority in the village of Huyu close to the Burmese borders.
Here is a wedding ceremony in the house of the husband.


China, state-of Yunnan.
The Jingpo ethnic minority in the village of Guannong close to Ruili city.
Zao,  59 years old, inside His house.

Paolo Marchetti is an Award and Grant winning independent photographer based in Rome, Italy.

He has worked for thirteen years in the cinematographic and commercial industry, covering each role in the Camera Dpt.
In his photography, Paolo has always paid particular attention to political and anthropological issues and has embarked upon a freelance career to focus on a combination of long-term personal projects and client assignments. 
His projects are regularly published in international magazines such as Sunday Times, British Journal of Photojournalism, The Guardian, Le Monde, Geo, Days Japan, L’Espresso, Vanity Fair, 6MOIS, Der Spiegel, Newsweek, CNN, New York Times, Time magazine, National Geographic US and many others.
Marchetti has been recognized nine times with the “NPPA – Best of Photojournalism” six times the “PDN’s Award”. the “Sony WPO Award”, the “Getty Images Editorial Photography”, seven awards at the “POY – Picture of the Year”, three of which in the category “Photographer of the Year”, the “Leica Photographer Award”, the “Days Japan”, he was finalist at the “Leica Oskar Barnack Award” and has achieved the “World Press Photo”…among others.
His projects have been exhibited in galleries during the biggest festivals in the world in New York, London, Paris, Perpignan, San Diego, Rome, Angkor in Cambodia, Pingyao in China, Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Copenhagen etc.
Marchetti is currently represented by Reportage by Getty Images and Verbatim.