One of the cradles of mankind, China has been through more than 5,000 years of evolution. From yellow ashes to grey forts, the civilisation China is a long and eventful story to tell. With its development evoking the smell of money, overwhelmed by billboards and fashion lagships, the Middle Kingdom is urbanising and modernising at a lightning speed. In our eyes we see innovation and better life, whilst Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky sees the sweat and endeavour behind the magnificent picture of prosperity.

Known for his disarmingly beautiful images of industrial landscapes, Burtynsky presents large-scale photographs shot in Hong Kong, China, India, Azerbaijan, and Bangladesh. In vivid detail and lush color, Burtynsky documents the effects of manufacturing and consumption on the earth: monstrous quarries, poisonous metal tailings, and sprawling oil fields. “These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear,” says Burtynsky.

Through his lens, Burtynsky presents some less-known stories of the soaring country. Look, and let the photos do the talking.

Text: Ren Wan

Published in Issue 31 CHINA, 2010