Jiang Qingliang shares his photo memories in his tiny studio (SHI GANG)
Jiang Qingliang, 80, introduces himself on his blog as "a former soldier who has left footprints from the Sino-DPRK border in the northeast down to the coast in the southeast; a surveyor who carried a theodolite everywhere; and an elder who learned how to use a computer in his seventies."
Despite his age, Jiang is still energetic and healthy with a good sense of humor. His studio, a tiny separate bedroom, is filled with equipment--a computer, a scanner, portable hard drives, data lines and photography equipment. And the closets are overflowing with document folders.
"The old photos are all collected there," Jiang told Beijing Review. "The photos I scanned and saved on the computer are only a small part."
Stories in photos
Jiang was born in 1934 in Xiamen, a coastal city in southeast China's Fujian Province. In 1954, he joined the No.31 Group Army of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). After leaving the army, he began work as a surveyor in Xiamen.
"I have experienced a lot throughout my whole life," he said.
Jiang was also an enthusiastic photographer, constantly recording the development of the city with his camera.
"It is so convenient nowadays to use digital cameras, since photos can be uploaded to the computer directly," Jiang recalled. "Back then we only had film cameras, and it was too expensive to develop the film."
Jiang has used more than 20 cameras, ranging from 1960s models to the latest digital single-lens reflex. Most of them he has bought since the 1980s, when his salary began to increase.
"I started to take photos professionally and carefully observed the changes in Xiamen after I was transferred to the city's Civil Air Defense office," Jiang told Beijing Review, showing some typical photos on his computer.
"This photo taken in 1997 shows the construction site of Haicang Bridge in Xiamen, the largest suspension bridge in Asia, and this one shows the environment protection project of the bridge," Jiang said. "That one is the bridge's opening ceremony on December 30, 1999."
Located in the middle of Xiamen Western Bay, the 5,926-meter bridge, the city's largest transportation project and an emerging tourist site, is the second pathway linking Xiamen island with Haicang District on the mainland.
"This one shows the trial opening of the Zhonggu Tunnel in 1984," Jiang told Beijing Review. The 1,161-meter Zhonggu Tunnel was the first tunnel in Xiamen. In the past decade, Xiamen has made great efforts to construct tunnels. Several projects turned out to be the best in the country, including the Xianyueshan Tunnel, the "lifeline" connecting Xiamen island with the mainland; the Wucunshan Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in the country; and the Xiang'an Tunnel, the country's first underwater tunnel, which is now under construction. These tunnels have all contributed to the progress of Xiamen's transportation.
"This photo shows the Xiamen Overseas Chinese Mansion, the first place to benefit from the reform and opening up policy," Jiang said. "This one is the construction site of the International Convention and Exhibition Center, the venue of the CIFIT [China International Fair for Investment and Trade, a fair held in Xiamen every September since 1998]. This is a pancake filled with sugar and shallots, a local snack."
It seems as if there are endless stories that Jiang wants to share as he browses through the photos, which apparently hold his memories of the city.
The changes and development in Xiamen, in Jiang's eyes, have been impressive and unbelievable.
"I was involved in the city's construction to some extent, since I was doing the mapping job," he said.
As part of his work, Jiang often went to an arsenal in Huli District. But the environment there was so terrible that he had to stay under a mosquito net the whole time. "The change over there is exciting, as the former arsenal has been replaced by a five-star hotel," he said.
Similarly, Jiang was invited to select the location for the Hulishan Meteorological Station in the late 1960s. It was July, and he was again attacked and bitten by numerous kinds of insects. "The area has since turned into a beautiful park," he said.
Wenzao Village, where Jiang now lives, used to be the junction of urban and suburban Xiamen many years ago, with barren fields everywhere. When the mud roads were paved over, transportation became more convenient.
A colorful life
Life was tough for Jiang as a child--he never even had new shoes. "I was either barefoot or wore those left by my older brothers," he said.
"I was quite busy when I was young, and I'm still busy now," Jiang continued. "The only difference is that the theodolite has been replaced by cameras."
Calligraphy, painting, carving and photography are among Jiang's hobbies, giving him a colorful life. Although in his eighties, Jiang is a computer master who updates his blog every day.
As for why he started his blog, Jiang explained that he wants to share his photos with everyone through the Internet. Because of the rich content and brilliant pictures, Jiang's blog was awarded a blog star by the Web portal NetEase.
"A Taiwanese viewed the historical materials of Wenzao Village through my blog. In order to find his relatives there, he turned to me for help. Fortunately, the name of the man's father was found in an old inscription of Wenzao Village," Jiang told Beijing Review with pride.
Jiang's wife is a native from Taiwan, thus he has lots of relatives there and pays close attention to cross-Strait relations.
"In the past, people on the two sides of the Taiwan Straits had to visit each other secretly, since cross-Strait relations were so tense," Jiang said. "The situation has changed in recent years, and we are planning a family tour to Taiwan this October so we can have a reunion there."