Portraits of the post-Mao generation

A photo essay of China’s much anticipated post-80s generation
Photos and text by Yuyang Liu

In his work for Issue 01 of Peeps Magazine, Chinese photographer Yuyang Liu captured a day in the life of members of the much anticipated generation that anthropologist Graham Candy identifies as reputedly “only know[ing] of China’s rise in fame and fortune.” The experiences depicted in Liu’s images reveal young people whose material realities are notably less than rhetoric and popular expectation suggest. The text attached to each photo gallery were written by the photographer, allowing him to provide context for his work while offering further insight into the world of China’s post-80s/post-Mao generation.

Lei Dai
Lei Dai is 20 years old and lives in Chengdu, Sichuan province. She was a student in Chengdu and graduated in June 2015. She now works part-time in a cake shop with a monthly salary of 2000 RMB. She works for the salary without too much interest in her job. Her dream is to own a wedding company. To make this dream come true, she worked as an intern in a wedding company with her friends when she was a senior in high school.That is where she learnt a lot about the business. Her parents didn’t support her dream until Dai had a sincere talk with them after she turned down an opportunity to work in a television station. “After our last talk, my parents never pushed me to do anything I hate any more,” said Dai.

Even though Dai has had a stable relationship with her boyfriend for 5 years, she still doesn’t plan to marry him yet: “To be equal to the men, women need to work.”

Dai dreams to start a wedding design business.

Xiaoke Zeng
Xiaoke Zeng is a 21 years old from Qionglai city, Sichuan province. Zeng is not her real name, she changed it because her appearance and style are similar to a Chinese singer whose name is Yike Zeng.

Zeng began to dance in high school. She wanted to study dance in university, but sadly she didn’t get into the school she wanted to go to. However, she didn’t abandon her love of dancing. Even though there is no specialized dancing studio in her college, she finds empty classrooms in which to practice into the night.

Now she is working 4 part-time jobs at the same time: two in entertainment companies and two in dance clubs. She holds a conservative attitude towards these jobs. She wants to acquaint herself with the four companies first, and then choose one out of them. Currently she earns 3000 yuan from all of these jobs every month. Despite her love of dance, Zeng never wants to run a dance club herself: “I would like to have a bubble tea shop. After all, it is more profitable to own a company in the catering industry. It is too tough to run a dancing club in comparison with a bubble tea shop.”


Chong Xu
Chong Xu is a 25 year old from Ziyang city, Sichuan province. He came to Chengdu and opened a store near Sichuan University where he sells instant spicy steam pot with his wife. He does the deliveries himself, and makes a monthly salary of 5000 yuan. He and his wife were classmates. Now they are raising a 3-year-old baby.

Xu sets about to work at 7 o’clock every morning, and does not return home until nighttime. This is his daily routine. He almost has no time to rest during the year, except during the winter and summer vacations. Xu began to work straight out of high school, though he first worked as a mechanic in Hangzhou. He chose to return to Chengdu after a few years outside the Sichuan province because he is not fond of working for others. He finds owning a business himself is more rewarding.

Having a child created a heavy load on Xu’s shoulders. “We never saved money before we had a child, but now we are trying our best to make a penny more useful. It’s our responsibility as parents.”

Yuyang Liu is an award-winning photojournalist and documentary photographer based in China and the 2014 Magnum Foundation Human Rights & Photography Fellow. Peeps Magazine commissioned Yuyang to shoot a series of documentary photo essays to accompany anthropologist Graham Candy’s cover story on China’s Diaosi and post-Mao generation. yuyangliu.com

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TAGS /China / Graham Candy / Post-Mao /