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Shandong Province

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China, the most populous country and the second-largest economy in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve in the 21st century. In this, the latest entry in a semi-regular series on China, we find images of tremendous variety, including astronauts, nomadic herders, replica European villages, pole dancers, RV enthusiasts, traditional farmers, and inventors. This collection is only a small view of the people and places in China over the past several weeks. [47 photos]

Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province, on June 16, 2012. China sent its first woman taikonaut into outer space this week, prompting a surge of national pride as the rising power takes its latest step towards putting a space station in orbit within the decade. Liu, a 33-year-old fighter pilot, joined two other taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft when it lifted off from a remote Gobi Desert launch site. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

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In recent years many contemporary photographers have focused their work on the rapid industrialization taking place in China. We’ve seen mega cities rise and industry boom along with the population. But, in a move away from the trend, Chinese photographer Zhang Xiao turned his attention to changes to China’s coastal areas. The work, currently on view at Hong Kong’s Blind Spot Gallery, records subtle and surreal moments of life by the sea. “These scenes are true reality, though they seem to be beyond our imagination,” Xiao says.

The photographer began the series in 2009 after quitting his job as at the Chongqing Morning Post in Chongqing city, China. He was drawn to the ocean, driven to snap his shutter when confronted with scenes of change. “The coastline is the frontier of China’s reform,” he says, “but also the first area of impact from external culture and the rapid economic development.”

Xiao’s attachment to the sea was not new: he was born in the coastal city of Yantai, which boasts about 25 miles of coastline. “It’s a pity that I seldom went to the seashore during my whole childhood,” he says, “but there’s always a strong affection towards the sea that remains in the bottom of my heart.”

He plans to continue working on the project until the end of this year, following his instinctual approach to picture making: wandering the beaches, looking for scenes of daily life to reveal something about modern life in China, capturing the people who are frolicking in the surf and looking for some kind of peace, lost in the beauty of the sea.

The series Coastline is on display at Hong Kong’s Blind Spot Gallery through March 10, 2012.

Zhang Xiao is a freelance photographer based in Shandong Province, China. He is represented by Troika Editions and you can see more of his work here.

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ON THE WAY HOME: U.S. military personnel rested on board a plane that left Baghdad Thursday. After nearly nine years of war, thousands of casualties and more than $800 billion spent, the U.S. military formally ended its mission in Iraq. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

TOXIC BOOZE: A woman comforted a relative who fell ill after consuming bootleg liquor containing toxic methanol at a hospital in a village outside Kolkata. The cheap, illicit brew killed at least 143 people and sickened dozens more, officials said Thursday. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

FEELING FAINT: A man fainted as about 1,000 pensioners marched through central Athens on Thursday to protest austerity measures that include pension and salary cuts. (Aristidis Vafeiadakis/Zuma Press)

PUTIN’S SHOW: A woman in Grozny, Chechnya, watched Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s 4½-hour marathon call-in show on national TV Thursday. Sharp-tongued and defiant, Mr. Putin denounced those protesting vote fraud as stooges of the West. (Musa Sadulayev/Associated Press)

CONFRONTATION: A Bahraini police officer spoke to Zainab al-Khawaja, a human rights activist and daughter of a prominent opposition leader, during a rally Thursday near a highway leading to the capital, Manama. (Reuters)

WHITE DECEMBER: A citizen carrying a child walked through the snow in Weihai, in east China’s Shandong Province. (Yu Qibo/Xinhua via Zuma Press)

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KEEPING WARM: An Indian camel herder wrapped himself in a blanket as sat next to his animals at the Pushkar fair in the Indian state of Rajasthan on Friday. (Manish Swarup/Associated Press)

SITTING WITH A SOLDIER: Palestinian children looked at an Islamic Jihad militant in Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip on Friday. Israel’s navy boarded two small protest boats trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip on Friday and towed them to an Israeli port. (Mohamed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

RUSHING WATER: A fireman walked down a flooded street in Genoa, Italy, on Friday after a storm hit the northern Italian port city. News reports said that at least six people were killed in the storm. (Luca Zennaro/EPA)

BRIGHT IDEA: A worker picked through incandescent light bulbs in a store in Zaozhuang City, in Shandong Province, China, Friday. China unveiled its plan for phasing out the energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs in an attempt to promote energy conservation and reduce emissions. (Ji Zhe/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

TAKING FLIGHT: A wounded Marine was airlifted by a medevac helicopter in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Friday. He was injured when his military vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device during a mission. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

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MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU: Paul French walked down a road Friday in Perth, Australia, on day five of his over 4,000-kilometer (2,500 miles) journey from Perth to Sydney. He aims to walk 35-40 kilometers a day, five days a week, in full Storm Trooper costume to raise money for the Starlight Foundation, which helps ill and hospitalized children in Australia. (Paul Kane/Getty Images)

GREEN SEA MONSTER GREEN SEA MONSTER: People swam in seawater covered by a thick layer of green algae at Zhanqiao Pier Thursday in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China. The algae forced the beach to close at 3 pm. (Zuma Press)

SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT: A man got a shave Friday in Tahrir Square in Cairo, where are least three barbers have set up shop giving free haircuts and shaves to protesters. (Zuma Press)

LAUNDRY DAY LAUNDRY DAY: A girl waved her wet skirt to dry it as she stood by her family’s laundry, hung up on a fence by a river in Beijing Friday. (Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press)

AFTER DEATH AFTER DEATH: A man held the hand of a rebel who was killed on the Brega front line as his body lay in a pickup truck outside a hospital in Ajdabiya, Libya, Friday. The U.S. and some 30 other countries formally recognized Libyan rebels Friday. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

LOOKING IN LOOKING IN: North Korean soldiers looked in from outside a United Nations meeting room as U.S. Army Gen. James Thurman, not pictured, visited the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea, Friday. Gen. Thurman became the new commander of the 28,500 U.S. troops in Korea Thursday. (Getty Images)

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TUNING UP: A South Sudanese soldier played the trumpet during a parade rehearsal in Juba Thursday, two days before South Sudan is scheduled to formally secede from the north to become the world’s newest nation. (Phil Moore/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

SHOULDER TO LEAN ON: A relative helped Yogesh Kumar, 20, Thursday, inside the emergency ward of the District Hospital in Etah, India.Thirty-eight people were killed and almost 40 others were injured when a train slammed into a packed bus carrying a wedding party, local officials said. (Manan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

BABY-FACE: Indonesian artists made a clay sculpture of a child in preparation for Yogyakarta Art Festival in Java, Indonesia, Thursday. The festival will be held July 16. (Slamet Riyadi/Associated Press)

SWAMPY: A fisherman cleaned up seaweed at his fish farm Wednesday in Shandong Province, China. (ChinaFotoPress/Zuma Press)

JOY: A rebel celebrated the liberation of the Libyan town of al-Qawalish by hoisting his bicycle in the air. In the background, smoke rose from a power station being shelled by retreating soldiers loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. (Gaia Anderson/Associated Press)

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