Hidden in the mountains, China’s largest minority group struggle to maintain their ways of life.
Photos Claudia Xiaoli Lee
Stepping into Sichuan’s Daliang Mountains is like stepping back in time. Here, women care for the home, which is shared with livestock. Toilets might be next to animal pens. Clothes aren’t always spotless. On a scroll, in an old syllabic script, is recorded the tribe’s precious history, safeguarded by the village chief.
Its people may be poor, but the irony is rich: The same mountains that ensconce the Yi people and keep their traditions safe from fast-developing modern China have also ensured their exclusion from sanitation and healthcare initiatives – and prevented them from selling produce to the cities.
Exempt from the country’s onetime one-child policy, many Yi have big families, but cannot afford to send more than a couple of children – often boys – to school. As with every other hill tribe, there’s been a gradual exodus: Young men are heading to the cities in search of a better life, leaving behind women, children, and the elderly.
Claudia Xiaoli Lee is a fellow in Applied Photography (FRPS) of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. The Taiwanese photographer seeks to capture life’s ephemeral moments – the emotional, the intimate, and the unusual – and travels at least four times a year to shoot internationally. Her works have won awards such as Artiste Distinction from the International Federation of Photographic Art, the Silver Level Portfolio Distinction from the Photographic Society of America, and the Best Author Award in the Greek Photographic Circuit. She has been featured in The Photographic Journal, the official publication of the Royal Photographic Society.