It was my first time in China, and followed a long journey through Asia in the company of my wife. We arrived via Hong Kong and Guangzhou in January 1988. In many respects I was ill prepared, and my image of China was based largely on two contrasting sources. As a sickly child, I had contemplated at length classical Chinese scenes on the wallpaper of a bedroom in my Grandmother’s house. And a few years later in 1972, my last year of history lessons at school were given by a teacher who was an admirer of Mao Zedong and who taught us 20th century revolutionary Chinese history upto and including the Cultural Revolution.
We stayed four months and travelled extensively, eventually heading north from Qinghai into Gansu, following the old silk route for some weeks through Xinjiang to Urumqi, and the three day bus ride to Kashgar, from where the Karakorum highway took us over the Khurjerub pass into the mountains of Pakistani controlled Kashmir, and then down to the plains of Punjab.
The experience was an endlessly fascinating introduction to a China on the cusp of transition, and became the prelude to a long-standing fascination with Chinese culture and many return visits over the course of the last 28 years for photographic projects and exhibitions. Revisiting my archive of negatives has allowed me to relive that first experience of China, and I have selected a sequence of images taken during our journey along the ancient Silk Road.