Weekly Photo Challenge — Saturation; China’s Colorful Ethnic Minorities

Mystique saturates, gluts the air,
Adventure’s even more than rare. ”

Mariecor Ruediger



This week, Michele has challenged us to illustrate “Saturation”, which I’ve chosen to do through the colorful women of China’s ethnic minorities.

There are 56 different ethnic cultures in China, each of them with their own colorfully-saturated costumes and unique dialects.  Although some 90% of the people are Han Chinese,  the other 10% are an interesting study of preserving heritage in the face of modern challenges.



“Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand.”

Margaret Bourke-White

For example, Yao women, such as two above, cut their hair only once in their lives, at the age of 18.  They keep the long, cut piece and add it to the rest of their hair, which reaches down to their feet in many cases.



“Strange how one person can saturate a room with vitality.

John Steinbeck

In Tibetan culture everyone participates in working the fields, whether they have children or not.  The woman above shows the real meaning of “working mom”, while the one below does a fine job of shepherding the family flock.



“Silence: my response to both emptiness and saturation.

Ariel Gore

In the Bai culture, although the young women dress very colorfully, older women choose to wear darker tones like black and purple.  The lovely ladies below were happy to have their photo taken as long as I was willing to give them “editorial privileges”, and to keep shooting until they were happy with my results 🙂 



Below, the more typical costumes of younger Bai.  Interestingly, the position of their tassels tells whether they are married or single, and each of the colors in their hats signifies a key element of their culture.



“The sun rose, the moon saturated the night sky with its silver light and the stars blazed, indifferent to the events happening below.”

Victoria Hilsop

The Naxi tribeswomen have a very interesting perspective.  Until about 10 years ago, their husbands would leave for 6 to 9 months to travel a very dangerous trade route on the “Tea-Horse Road”.  While they were gone, the women did all of the work.  Once they returned, the women were so glad they had come back safely, they continued to do the work and completely pamper their husbands.  This tradition continues today, even though the Tea Horse Road is no longer in use.  Naxi women do the vast majority of the work while the men live in “Male Paradise”, playing games and whiling away their hours.



“We are shaped by what we’re saturated in, which is why incarnation must always be paired with devotion.”

P. Huertz and D. Prince

Everywhere we went in China we met friendly, hard-working women, both Han and minority.  Here then, a tribute to some of the beautiful female faces of China:



















“The effort of the genuine spiritual seeker should be to cultivate love until the mind becomes saturated by it.”

Bhante Y. Wimala

Although all of the ethnic minorities and the Han majority speak different languages, over the centuries they have developed a “local language” which allows them to communicate with one another.  In this way they preserve their unique heritage but also inter-relate successfully.  Perhaps we could learn a bit from them there, no?

Thanks to Michele for her interesting challenge.  To experience more Saturation,  click here.



151 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge — Saturation; China’s Colorful Ethnic Minorities

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    • LOL, thanks Elisa! They were such fun subjects. Every shot they came and looked at the screen, smiled, said something in Chinese to one another and then sat for another shot. So adorable, giggling like schoolgirls :-). Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Sorry my computer is slow. When I first clicked on your post only the long hair lady came up then said to leave a comment. Now that I’ve seen the whole collection I think they are fabulous. Truly a wonderful fulfillment of your trip and with awesome side notes. Good job.

  4. Hey T…..wonderful. The eyes, posing, backgrounds, views from behind, etc. tell a cultural story without words. You have captured the essence of your muses. Awesome! SQ

    • Thanks so much-happy you’re enjoying them. I k ow how much I’ve enjoyed seeing and shooting them! Their smiles are truly infectious, especially in light of the incredibly hard work they do!

  5. Your trip looks so wonderful with almost an overload for the senses. You’ve captured them beautifully – the people with their incredible faces
    and the rich colors! However, I wouldn’t be smiling if I was hauling all that around while Ed hung out with the guys 🙂

    • Hi ML– yes it’s been quite the riot of color, texture and smell (mostly good!!). And no kidding on the hanging out w the guys! It’s something to see. A woman loaded with a heavy basket on her back walking miles to market while the men sit nearby smoking and playing games. Definitely would NOT fly in our world!!

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  7. I can’t decide which was more enriching, the photos or the commentary. I loved the quotes you sprinkled throughout about saturation. I’ve noticed in parts of the Middle East and Africa that the women and children do the majority of the work while men drink coffee and play games. I guess it’s “beneath” them.
    My two favorite shots are the smiling Han Helms woman and the Pink Hat. Looks like a wonderful trip!
    Were you surprised how clean the streets were?
    I had a friend who visited China and said she expected littered streets, but found even villages were exceptionally tidy.

    • Hi Kelly Grace, and thanks for stopping by! Yes, I’ve been surprised by many things here, including the spotless streets everywhere. More though, by how friendly the people are, and that they are still so curious about foreigners. Apparently 80-90% of the tourists are Chinese, especially in the more remote areas we visited.

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    • Hi Denise, thanks for your visit and lovely compliment. Several but not all of the photos are from Yunnan, including the Tibetan women who were in Shangri-La. There are also shots from Beijing, Guilin and several other areas. The Bai women were in Dali and the Yao were up in Longsheng, it’s been quite an education for me!

  9. The women are right to ask for “editorial privileges” see how your pictures turned. Excellent shots, Tina. What a wealthy lifestyle these women lives. Just remarkable.

    • It really is remarkable, isn’t it! They are always smiling and sweet no matter their burdens. The two ladies were great fun, giggled like 2 schoolgirls and seemed to really have fun seeing the screen after each shot. I could have stayed all day!

    • Thank you Tish! There are fewer community members of the minorities each year as younger people move off to the big cities to find an easier life. I’m happy to have seen them while they are still maintaining a traditional life.

  10. Dear Tina…Here, in front of my eyes, I have the feeling of being in front of the most wonderful tribute to women, any woman from any part of the World…As one of them, I only can say “Thanks”…

    • Many thanks Sally! The two long-haired ladies were particularly proud and happy to show me their incredible long hair–my husband took my photo with them and its one ill treasure as a wonderful memory!

    • Many thanks Rusha! There is so much going on around you all of the time here, sometimes you just have to put the camera down and observe—but it’s so hard to do that when the visual feast is so rich!!

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    • Many thanks Ann Christine! The people are so warm and lovely it’s hard not to get carried away. Many times I thought about the post-processing work but then carried on anyway as the opportunities were too good to pass up!

  12. Some very interesting information and cool shots, Tina! ‘Long road home’ is an excellent image. The composition, perspective and an apt caption make it a very strong photograph. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to see more:)

    • Many thanks Uday! As usual you have chosen my personal favorite for comment. All of the people here are so open to us, it’s amazing. They are more curious about us than we are about them at times! In the remote regions they see very few westerners, which was a surprise to me!

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  14. This trip has been so enlightening and enjoyable for me! Thanks for sharing this journey. I had no idea thrill when I requested to be on ur list.
    Thanks soooo much.

    • Thanks for joining the fun Ann! I’ve really had such a wonderful time trying to capture the warmth and spirit of the people and places we’ve seen. Appreciate your following along!

  15. You have certainly captured the various cultures….fabulous photos….great eye!!!!
    I love this adventure….again, thank you for taking me….can’t wait for more!!

  16. A well ‘saturated’ post – images and words. A woman’s work is never done it seems and you have some excellent photos of them going abou their work. I LOVE the purple waistcoat in the TWO BAI TWO image.
    Jude xx

    • Thanks Ben, my personal favorite as well. All of the ladies were wonderful subjects, but that one kind of made me feel her fatigue after a long day. All about the story, isn’t it?!

  17. I came here to see the color-saturated challenge picture and came away with eyes full of color and a heart full of love. This was an amazing photo gallery of the beauty side of these hard-working women. Not only did each color have its own story to tell, but so did each wrinkle and each smile. Great job!

  18. Oh, Tina. You have totally made me want to go there again. I love the faces, the colors, the scenery… I had to be drug out of the museum in Shanghai where they had a section showing examples of the ethnic minorities…faces, dress, adornment, etc. Great post!

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