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Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds These photographs were taken by artist Wang Jiuliang. From 2008 to 2010, Wang Jiuliang visited more than 460 landfills in the suburbs of Beijing, and took over 5,000 pictures. The following video shows the artist at work.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds Wang Jiuliang also captured the lives of those whose livelihood depended on garbage. On this series, he wrote,

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds “Behind Beijing’s shiny urban facade, on the hidden outskirts of the city, hundreds of thousands of scavengers from all over China work hard to take apart the city’s excrement. At this site alone, 2,000 scavengers live and work here during the peak season. The dump has taken on the feel of a village. On any given day, you can see adults toiling in sweat, children running around, peddlers selling vegetables, and old women preparing food. Their lives are characterized by hardship, but they remain honest to life. Although there are countless misfortunes and they live in deprivation, they keep good faith and warmth. I wish I could narrow the gap between the city and its edges through these photographs.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 seconds Less pride and prejudice, more respect and tolerance.”

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds This project is extraordinary not only for its important subject matter and its immense scale; it also stands out because of its crossover from photography to information system. Wang Jiuliang recorded the geographic coordinates of the location where each photograph was taken. He then mapped all the garbage sites, and created this iconic image, which inspired him to name the entire project “La Ji Wei Cheng,” Beijing Besieged by Waste.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 seconds “Beijing Besieged by Waste” has been reported by a large number of Chinese media, generating significant social impact. On June 5th, 2010, the World Environment Day, the project was discussed in two programs on China Central Television, the State broadcaster that reaches millions of viewers. The program on CCTV-13 described the entire project in detail, followed by interviews with environmental experts who proposed solutions to the problem of mounting urban waste. According to Minsheng Weekly a magazine backed by the state, in early 2010, a senior official in the Central Government saw the photographs of the garbage sites taken by Wang Jiuliang and made some directives.

Skip to 4 minutes and 20 seconds Soon after, Beijing Municipal Government announced that it would invest 10 billion Yuan (about 1.5 billion US dollars) over the next five years to clean up 1000 garbage sites around Beijing.

Case study: Beijing Besieged by Waste

Like New York and Mexico City, Beijing faces serious challenges in managing urban waste. From 2008 to 2010, photographer Wang Jiuliang visited more than 460 landfills in the suburbs of Beijing, and took over 5,000 pictures. The project was reported widely in Chinese media and generated significant social impact.

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Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China

City University of Hong Kong