on yang zhongzhen's works


The Witness of Shanyin’s History

Wang Yue


During the period of preparation for the China Pingyao International Photo-graphy Festival in 2005, I got a copy of Mr. Yang Zhongzhen’s News photo-graphic exhibition from his son. In watching it, I was surprised to find that it had been such a long time since Yang’s initiative to create a photography exhibition in 1976.

Yang and I are of the same occupation. Therefore, I know quite a lot about the hardship in this field. I am deeply touched by his spirit of perseverance for 30 years and once again I am reminded of the old saying in English, “No pain no gain”. Yang and I became acquainted with each other in the 1970s. I admire his capacity to maintain a great passion for photography.

Later on, we were in touch with each other through the post. He is hardly enthusiastic about fame and is persistent in his own field and therefore is unparalleled among his counterparts.

“ if one wants to achieve his goal in his career, he has to abide by two principles. One is to be perseverant while the other is to stay away from chasing after fame and materials. Otherwise, he will suffer from the lack of time and energy for digging into his own field,” Yang once said, and actually Yang meant what he said.

In the 1980s, people working with the cultural center led a poor life. They used to complain about Yang’s frequent contact with the leaders and guessed that he must have earned a lot besides his regular income, which put Yang under great pressure. So he volunteered to negotiate with the director of the cultural center and led his colleagues to plough a piece of uncultivated land that covers an area of nearly 23 acres. In doing so, he helped increase the income of the working staff and made himself understood better by his colleagues.

After the former head of the cultural center was transferred back to the cultural bureau, Yang was chosen to be in charge of the center. He once again came to the secretary of the Party committee of Shanyin and voiced his idea that he would like to devote himself only to photography. During 33 years of photographing, Yang reached everywhere in Shanyin. He recorded moments of Shanyin’s history with his camera whenever he had a chance and regarded the hardship as a pleasure.

Yang;s wife served as a great help and has been responsible for producing the scripts for Yang’s pictures since the year 1986 without any complaints. Yang said that his success would have been impossible without the great help offered by his wife. 

The News Exhibition covered a period that is full of significant changes in Chinese history. Big events during the Cultural Revolution, the grieving after the passing of Chairman Mao, smiling faces of “wanyuanhu” (myriad yuan households) at the very beginning of the period of open door policy, special shots cracking down on criminal activities, touching pictures of the building up of cities and towns, curious eyes fixed on policies of the country, and voices from ordinary people are all included.

Although Shanyin is one of the most ordinary towns in China, its development and changes are typical among all the small towns throughout the country. Therefore, the 1440 issues of The News Exhibition are not only a record of Shanyin’s history but also a vivid picture of Chinese history. Moreover, it reflects Yang’s spiritual power. 

That is why Yang is called “the Witness of Shanyin’s History”.

Wang Yue 
April 2005 in Taiyuan

Wang Yue:
Vice-chairman of the Association of Photographers in China
Chairman of the Association of Photographers in Shanxi Province
Director of the Department of Photography in Shanxi Daily
Chairman of the Committee of Arts of Pingyao International Photographic Exhibition