China. Yongan, a village in Shanxi

My trip with the Zhang family

My trip to China was the most exotic, the most moving and the most warm-hearted of all my travels. Everything was completely different from Europe, from Austria. The landscape, the houses, the music, the taste, the way of talking to each other, the food, even the potato pieces in the soup could not be identified as potato pieces. I thought I was in a movie. On the plane from Beijing to Taiyuan I was the only European. Then the reception in the village, everybody was warm-hearted, even without hugging and kissing, this just isn’t done here. Su Ping’s mother and sisters had sewn a pillow and a red blanket with a dragon for me. I got the largest bed and the windows had wood carvings with paper. Su Ping’s children, aged two and four, quickly got used to the different way of life. They played with their cousins, who spoke Chinese, they of course spoke French and there were no problems whatsoever. I was sitting in the courtyard, the centre of everyday life, people kept coming and going, food was served on a low, round table, the children were playing and the greatgrandmother was just sitting there watching. I had problems because I couldn’t squat like the others and whenever I tried to sit down on the dusty stairs I was quickly given a small stool. Cleanliness is a big thing. In the large room the father assigned the seat opposite the door to me, it is the seat of honour. When we were walking through the village or the small town nearby curious eyes kept following me.
The photos were a side product. When you don’t know the language there is more time to watch. No photo was taken without consent.
The goodbye present Su Ping’s mother gave to me was the most valuable thing – a pillow she herself had sewn for me.

Angelika Kampfer, text for the exposition in Claix, Grenoble 2004