Event — Exhibition

China 1979 - A giant awakens

Photo exhibition by Paul van Riel.

This exhibition shows never before published photographs, taken by Dutch photographer Paul van Riel in 1979 at the first opportunity for tourists to visit the country. The exhibition will open on 6 July with an interview with the photographer and runs until 28 July. Information: www.sijthoff-leiden.nl/agenda 

China's tourism industry was very limited until the late 1970s. The general designer of China's reform and open door policy, Mr Deng Xiaoping, Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China, delivered a total of five speeches from October 1978 to July 1979, initiating drastic economic reforms and heralding the development of China's tourism.

Briefly based in Hong Kong at that time, Dutch photographer Paul van Riel leapt at the opportunity to explore the fascinating ‘sleeping giant’. His first ten-day trip in January 1979, took him via Guangzhou to Guilin and Nanning (in the southern Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces). In December of the same year, he visited Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, in the coastal area roughly 1.000 km north of Hong Kong.

This exhibition shows a generous selection of black and white photos taken during these first two 1979 China trips (many followed in later years). Most of these images have never been published. China was far away and only months earlier a handful of airlines, travel agents and private organizations were granted authority to organize tours, while most photo essays for the European traveller concentrated on easier to reach destinations. How fast things would change!

© Paul van Riel


Signed, limited edition prints (museum quality) in various sizes of all the exhibited photos are available.  Inquiries: info@paulvanriel.com


This exhibition is a collaboration between IIAS, the photographer and 'Sijthoff Cultuur', and is organised as part of the Cultural Program of the 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars