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Michael Yamashita

Michael Yamashita

Michael Yamashita is an award-winning photographer who has been shooting for National Geographic magazine for more than 30 years. He specialized in Asia after spending seven years in the region following his graduation from Wesleyan University.

Zhouzhuang water town

More than a few traditional canal-lined towns in China have nicknamed themselves the “Venice of the East,” though Zhouzhuang of eastern Jiangsu Province is among the most famous. Its wide network of waterways, well-preserved Ming and Qing dynasty buildings, and convenient location near Suzhou and Shanghai help it attract millions of tourists every year.
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Fruits of the sea

The red sun reflects off the oyster beds of Xiamen, in southeastern Fujian Province. Xiamen has long been a prosperous coastal city, known for its beautiful beaches and leisurely feel.
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The bridge at dusk

The many scenes of West Lake, Hangzhou, have captivated poets and patricians for centuries. This sight of a particular bridge, when viewed with lotus flowers blooming in the summer, was described as “windblown lotuses at Quyuan Gardens” (曲院风荷 qūyuàn fēnghé) by the Qianlong Emperor in the 18th century. Today, the same scenery attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists year-round.
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Traditional art in old town

An artist in Tianjin Old Town, a central district of the major city Tianjin, near Beijing, makes a New Year painting. The name refers to woodblock prints colored in customary Chinese style and often detailed to symbolize Chinese culture and well-wishes for the Lunar New Year.
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The old steam train

Fuxin, a smaller town in northeastern Liaoning Province, is known for its large number of steam trains. They ran regularly until mid-2016, at which point these relics of China’s early industrialization made their last runs shuttling coal and coal waste around the province.
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Waiting for the train to pass

Traffic comes to a stop in Fuxin, Liaoning Province, as one of China’s last steam trains shuttles coal and coal waste between mine and power plant. The train, pictured a few years ago, brought to mind China’s recent industrialization for many when it ran, but it was put out of commission in mid-2016.
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The coal fields of Shenmu

China burns about half the world’s coal, and its consumption is expected to continue growing for nearly a decade, despite government plans to crack down on pollution. To help meet the massive demand, a worker labors in Shenmu county of central Shaanxi Province.
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In the coal mine

Deep underneath the Qilian Mountains, on the border between Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, coal miners are at work. Despite efforts to cut back on pollution and carbon emissions, China remains heavily dependent on coal and is set to still be burning the fuel for over half its energy needs by the year 2020.
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Clearheaded in smoggy weather

Locals in Beijing practice tai chi (太极 tàijí), a popular traditional martial art known for promoting health and mental calmness. Even on days of bad air quality such as this, most public squares in Chinese cities have at least a few practitioners of a martial art like tai chi or groups of elderly people doing square dances.
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Scootering in the smog

Three women with matching coats and scooters stand out in a smoggy Beijing street scene. Air pollution typically reaches its yearly peak in the winter, as the city burns coal to stay warm, though it can vary dramatically from day to day.
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40 days of packed trains

This winter, from January 13 until February 21, nearly every train cabin in China looks like this — standing room only — as the nation celebrates the Spring Festival to mark the Lunar New Year. The yearly 40-day period, which shifts depending on the lunar calendar, also marks the world’s largest human migration, as hundreds of millions of workers and students travel home to the countryside to reunite with family, then travel back to the cities after the holiday.
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Speeding to the countryside

A CRH380A high-speed train bursts out of the Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, where 210,000 passengers per day are serviced. This train model is designed to comfortably operate at 350 kilometers (217 miles) per hour and at one time held the record for its class of vehicle, 486 kilometers (302 miles) per hour.
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The train yard of tomorrow

Six high-speed trains lie waiting for commission outside the CSR Qingdao Sifang factory, where they were made in northeastern China. China boasts the world’s longest railway network for trains such as these, with more than 20,000 kilometers of tracks — over 60 percent of all such tracks in the world.
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The golden prayer wheel

Tibetan prayer wheels come in many shapes and sizes, but this dazzling tower in Shangri-La City of southwestern Yunnan Province stands above the rest. As it is nearly 70 feet tall and contains 100,000 small prayer wheels inside of it, rotating the main prayer wheel is difficult without the help of at least six people.
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The mists of Hunan

A single sandstone pillar is shrouded in fog in Zhangjiajie National Park, part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hunan Province. The otherworldly landscape has served as inspiration for countless artists, from traditional Chinese landscape painters to James Cameron in his movie Avatar.
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