China is one of the largest world powers but we can hardly put a face on it yet. Let alone have any idea of how the average Chinese man lives and works, or what his ambitions or fears are. Photographer Ruben Terlou took his camera along the banks of the River Yangtze, talking to the locals about the impact of the economic progress. In a six-episode series, we are taken from Shanghai, the most westernized part of China, to Shangri-La, the most authentic Chinese part, to discover the real China, 40 years after Mao’s death.

Episode 5 – Leisure in China

Leisure in China is a public and massive thing. Whether it’s Mahjong tournaments, acrobatics or street dance, everything happens in the central squares in the cities, and preferably with lots of people at the same time. For a talent to risk the leap from the city square to a professional career in the entertainment industry is not all that easy in China. It’s a step that requires a great deal of sacrifice. Competition is keen and success is definitely not guaranteed. Ruben dives into the world of acrobatics, where young talents are submitted to a strict training regime, far away from their parents. He meets dancer Bi Gang, who teaches dance to thousands of people in the main square in Chongqing every week, and he visits the Dwarf Empire amusement park, which is run by little people who, in regular Chinese society, did not have any chance of living a normal life, and have created their own community in the park.

© VPRO / De Haaien 2016

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Final editing, direction and sound recording Maaik Krijgsman
Presentation and Photograpy Ruben Terlou
Camera Joost van Herwijnen
Editing Pelle Asselbergs
Research Sasha Ourikh, Yu Ma, Ruben Terlou
Production Nina Huisman
Sound Mix Joost Oskamp
Colour grading Gerhard van der Beek
Leader and graphics Tiepes
Production VPRO Nicole Frints
Editor-in-chief VPRO Karen de Bok
Producer Wilko Brandsma, Paul Beek, Lesley Dong, Freya Tian

This program is made possible by WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature
English, French and Spanish subtitles by Ericsson and co-funded by the European Union.