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Zhōng Guó Chéng

Photography, 2018

"I lived a very hard life when I first immigrated to the United States," said an old Chinese man as he refused my request for an interview. "I don't want to recall, because tears will run down my face."

 

These pictures were taken in New York’s Chinatown, whose residents struggle and strive for survival in their everyday lives. The title, Zhōng Guó Chéng, is the Chinese pronunciation for Chinatown, which to a degree reflects what Chinese Americans face—-mixing cultures. I photographically recorded their lives, hoping that their stories can be more representative of the greater population of Chinese Americans in the United States.

 

When taking the photographs, I especially asked the interviewees to write down their experiences as immigrants because their handwriting is as strong an indicator of their identity as their image. Many immigrants have poor literacy, as shown in their incorrect pronunciation and poor handwriting. At the same time, some American-born Chinese haven’t learned Chinese formally, so they mixed Chinese characters and English letters to write down their life stories. The combination of English and Chinese writing within one person’s story helps the viewer recognize how immigrants cling tightly to their cultural history while trying to grow accustomed to their new country and identity.

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© 2021 by Jiaqi Liu. All rights reserved.