China's Dark Satanic Mills

On Oct. 14th, Chinese photographer Lu Guang won this year's $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his photos on China’s environment. The Fund’s website posts the following paragraph describing Lu Guang’s project:

Lu Guang has been documenting the ecological disasters in China resulting from the rapid growth of the economy since 2005, focusing on environmental pollution and the problem of schistosomiasis (bilharzia). Over the last three decades, peoples’ living standards have constantly been on the rise in the country. At the same time, industrial pollution has brought serious consequences for public health and for the environment at large.

It was the first time for a Chinese national to win this award and, what was more important, one of the first times that China’s perilous environmental situation was presented with such visual power. What is in his photos is something far beyond any single environmental issue, but the desperation and hopelessness of people whose life has been stuck in a hell on earth.

China Hush shows the entire photo collection with translated captions. Here are some samples:


There are over 100 chemical plants in Jiangsu province coastal industry district. (江苏滨海头罾沿海化工园区) Some of them discharge wastewater into the ocean; some heavily contaminated sewage is stored in 5 “Sewage Temporary Pools”. During the 2 high tides in every month, the sewage then gets discharged into the ocean with the tides. June 20, 2008


Hebei Province Shexian Tianjin Iron and steel plant (河北省涉县天津钢铁厂) is a heavily polluting company. Company scale is still growing, seriously affecting the lives of local residents. March 18, 2008


Villagers from Kang village in Linfen City, Shanxi Province (山西省临汾市下康村) due to long-term consumption of the polluted water contaminated by industrial waste, there were 50 people who have cancer and cerebral thrombosis. 64-year-old Wang Baosheng got ill since 2003, he has fester all over his body so he cannot go to bed and lying face down on the edge of the bed each day. July 10, 2005


Henan Anyang iron and steel plant’s (河南安阳钢铁厂) sewage flowed into Anyang River. March 25, 2008


Inner Mongolia province Heilonggui (黑龙贵) Industrial District, the couple who worked at the Plaster Kiln and just got home. March 22, 2007

It is not only the critics overseas have been deeply impressed, but citizens at home have also been startled by these images. On one of China’s largest web portals,, more than thirteen thousand people commented on their frustration, fright and gratitude to the photographer for revealing it in such graphic manner.


Is this China? These pictures should be shown during the anniversary military parade

山西啊,在山西活了20多年,临汾呆了四年,然后下定决心,这辈子再不去临汾了。那边真不是人呆的。记得以前爸爸说过他年轻的时候去临汾,都说那里是花果城,街道旁边都是果树。现在我是没看到什么花果树,在临汾的时候都不愿意上街,出去一圈,鞋子就是黑的了。晚上在屋里睡觉,早上起来,鼻孔里都是黑乎乎 的,两天洗一次头发,水象墨汁。在那四年,学会了不穿浅色的衣服,我的衣服都是黑色的。淡色的没法穿,一天洗一次,但是晾着也脏啊,没几天就洗不干净了。从来没见过月亮星星。晚上的时候感觉天空压的很低,都觉得快喘不过气来了。唉,糟蹋啊

Shanxi! I lived in Shanxi for 20 years with 4 years in Linfen. There I promised myself I would never ever go back to Linfen! That place is definitely not fit for human beings! I remember my father once talked about the time when he was in Linfen. He said at that time Linfen was the city of flowers and fruits with fruit trees were planted everywhere along the streets. For my part, I never saw any fruit tree. Indeed I even gave up hanging out on the streets, because as soon as you went out, your shoes were turned black. Every morning when I woke up, my nostrils were black; I washed my hair once every second day and the water trickled down like ink. During my 4 years there, I learnt never to wear light-colored clothes. All my clothes were black, and you just couldn’t wear any light-colored clothes, because even if you washed them every day, they still got dirty when you dried them outside! It did not take long before you could never get them properly clean. I never saw the moon nor any star there. Every night I felt the sky was so low and so oppressive that I could not breathe. It was simply terrible!

死了一部分人 穷了一部分人 然后富了一些人

Let some people die, let some people get poor, as long as some people get rich.


This is a Chinese photographer with a conscience!


I am majoring in environmental engineering. Whenever I see things like this I feel really guilty. Every day we shout the slogan of Going For Xiaokang, Going For Xiaokang, to the point that we fail to realize that our society’s schism has become ever wider and wider. Those who only care about money at the expense of other’s lives are worse than cattle, they are monsters!

As expected, there always will be some people irritated by the fact that this is a Chinese photographer getting a reward from foreigners by disgracing China.


Getting a prize by showcasing the our ugliest side to the world; this photographer’s quality is suspicious.

However, such an attitude is quickly rejected by the common sense of most of other people.


Bro Lu, I support you. We desperately need to look seriously at our own problems. Those who are making disparaging remarks never have to live in those kinds of places, and they do not know how much those who live there desperately need people to speak out for them.


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