Women of the Cold Mountains

Xu Shuang
July 13, 2019

24 hours, 24 women, 24 photographs.

As is true of nearly everywhere on earth, the women captured in this photo series not only take care of their children and families. They work hard to embody their potential, pursue their own interests, learn new skills, stay healthy, and share their knowledge and experience within their communities. By documenting women of different ethnicities, ages, and occupations, this series attempts to illustrate a cross-section of women’s beauty, strength, and empowerment in the Cold Mountains of Southern Sichuan.


5:20 AM — “Every kind of living is a blessing, and a life worthwhile,” Says Xie Ying, a 33-year old yogi and photographer. She starts yoga practice at 4:30 every morning, then she instructs her students until 8:30. As a photographer, her favorite subjects are her friends, who are designers and models.

6:01 AM — “My name is too long. There’re five characters,” the Nuosu woman from Mian Ning county said, when I asked about her name. She’s been working at the noodle restaurant for more than a year, working 11-hours every day to support her four children.

7:02 AM — “Yoga makes my body light and gives me peace,” Says Fu Lun Xuan, a 68-year old Chinese medicine pharmacist. She’s been practicing yoga for ten years. After retirement from the hospital, she has continued working at a medicine company, distributing medicines on the computer.

8:00 AM — “A girl should value herself the most, ” says Tan Yi, a 24-year old film editor. She is at her new space, which she plans to turn into a wedding photography studio.

9:20 AM — “When I worked in the village, the colors in the sunshine impressed me and became my best inspiration for make-up,” Says Xi Mei, a 31-year old make-up artist. She dropped out after her first year in middle school, and then worked as a nanny in Xichang for two years, where her interest for fashion grew. Now she runs the most famous make-up studio in Xichang.

9:53 AM — “If you’re consistent with one thing, you’ll eventually find something new in yourself,” Says Luo Si Qi, a police officer in her 20s. Working as an officer in the Liangshan Prison, she joined the prison band and has been learning to play the flute.

10:40 AM — “The women who work hard are the most beautiful,” Says Jimu Ami, a 25-year old business woman. She used to be a singer and dancer in a local art troupe, but after a long-term illness, she stopped performing and began learning how to sell and market the Yi ethnic clothing and ornamentation.

11:46 AM — “I’m an easily satisfied person, but I’m still learning how to be a more positive and optimistic woman,” says Lu Lin, a 32-year old computer teacher. In addition to taking care of two children and a family, she studies English daily and for the past few months has been taking jazz dance classes.

12:45 PM — “My life goal now is to take good care of my grandchildren. If I’m still in good health after they grow up, I’ll go travel and have fun,” says QuBi Azhi, a 55-year old woman who is now retired. She was one of the first women working as a professional Yi ethnic embroiderer. Her grandchildren’s Yi style clothing are all hand-made by her.

13:56 PM — “My ancestors live on this land. I fell in love with a man on this land, and we had a child on this land. I want to sing for this land with my whole life,” says HaiRi WuZhi, a Nuosu singer in her 30s. She is famous for her adapted Nuosu folk songs which tell the old stories of Nuosu women.

14:50PM — “Who says dreaming has a certain age? I’ve got a young beating heart,” says Chen Xiang, a 44-year old beauty consultant. She runs every day after dropping her kids off at school, and teaches women how to enjoy being a woman while attending to her work and family obligations.

15:50 PM — “Enjoy your life and work hard,” says Mao BoXiu, a 43-year old lawyer. The more she gets to know the traditional Nuosu way of negotiating the disputes, the more she appreciates the wise and humane common law.

16:50 PM — “Face the most vulnerable in yourself. Make yourself strong and then influence others with smiles. All the good fortune comes from your confidence, independence and interests,” says ShaMa YoYo, a 29-year old designer. The costume and jewelry brand she created is very popular among Nuosu women, because of its blend of Nuosu style with international influences. The slogan for her brand is to let the world see the Nuosu of China.

17:55 PM — “I want to live a normal life, but be an unordinary woman. I’d like to face all the happiness and unhappiness with a peaceful heart,” says Zhou Li,  an organic farming entrepreneur and designer in her 40s. She plans to create a space sponsored by the local government that instructs people interested in an organic life style.

19:10 PM — “Make good use of your spare time and try your best to make your dreams come true,” says Mao ShiBu, a 32-year old teacher and designer.

20:05 PM — I’m a Tibetan and I believe in reincarnation. I hope more people who love Tibetan culture can work with me in the future,” says Mei Duo, a 29-year old Tibetan culture promoter.

20:41 PM — “I’m trying to make an ideal place where you can drop all the fairness and experience the freedom, ” says An Dong, a 34-year old Nuosu singer, DJ, and creator of the first Live performance space in Liangshan.

22:30 PM — “For Crafts and the Spirits, get rid of the dross, and keep the essence. Don’t make it the opposite,” says Mi JinHong, a 38-year old historian of Nuosu folk art. She bought 3.3 acres of land in her father’s hometown to teach the local people how to make Nuosu plant dyes.

23:30 PM — “Be a cool woman who is beautiful and fit, but also a good mother and work hard,” says Lu Qi, a 34-year old government official.

00:34 AM — “I’m trying my best to make the career I want. I believe in hard work,” says JiHu AMin, an HIV/AIDS prevention doctor and beauty consultant in her 40s.

1:14 AM — “When I’m taking care of sick children in the hospital, I hope my own kid can grow healthy and happily,” says Li YunHong, a nurse in her 20s.

2:02 AM — “I hope all my guests can come and go happily,” says Wu ChunYan, a barbecue shop owner in her 50s.

3:05 AM — “Life is like a crossroad. What you see doesn’t have to be true. You should live freely. Everything is fate,” says Ni Xiaobei, a KTV receptionist in her 20s.

4:01 AM — “I just want my family to be healthy and safe,” says Yang Danfeng, a cleaner in her 40s.

Xu Shuang

Xu Shuang

Suzy Xu Shuang (徐爽) is a visual storyteller of ancient and contemporary cultural traditions. She explores portraiture and landscape photography in poetic ways. Xu is a 2019-2020 ArtsEverywhere Artist-in-Residence.

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