Sing for your supper

In China, songbirds are kept in bamboo cages. Their owners take them for walks and hang the bird cages off tree branches. They will often cluster the cages together so the birds can be introduced. This wee bird was hanging on a tree outside the walls of the Forbidden City, his owner was sitting peacefully nearby. If you like this picture, please feel free to share using the social media links provided below. For more images, visit the Taraji Blue photo gallery, You can also show your support for Taraji Blue by liking us on facebook at following us on twitter and connecting with Alistair and myself on Google+

The Bile Bears of China – please help me raise awareness

This year’s Wild Photos event was, as ever, an inspiration. The most shocking lesson learned came from the power of photojournalism and in my opinion, no one does this better than Britta Jaschinski, whose images of China’s captive performing animals living  in appalling condition’s in zoos and parks were shocking, horrific and sickening.Her portrayal of the bile bears of China gave her a standing ovation. She documented the practice of farming bears in crush cages (no bigger than a small coffin) for their bile which is used in Chinese medicine in the belief that the spirit of the bear will pass into the human through the consumption of this bile. A metal ‘door’ is strapped to the bear’s stomach and a rudimentary metal pipe is pushed straight into the gall bladder of the bear to harvest the bile. The bears live like this, in incredible pain, unable to move or protest because the ‘door’ has a huge metal spike that lodges itself under the neck of the bear. Many of the bears have bald patches on their head and arms where they have repeatedly rubbed themselves against the cages in distress. Those bears who can move, do so to eat themselves in response to the pain and distress they feel. Many of the

The evolution of our trip to China

I had always dreamt of visiting. I recall, when we bought our first house I was so in awe of Chinese culture that I couldn’t wait to use Chinese fabrics, art, decoration and faux Chinese objects throughout the house, dreaming of they day I’d have a chance to experience this culture first hand.But then our love our of wildlife photography took over, and wildlife became the main focus of our holidays, taking us to destinations like Ecuador, Galapagos,  Kenya and Antarctica.Ali had never fancied China – he wasn’t repulsed or put off by it, he just was not as driven to visit as I was and he saw value in visiting many other destinations on our do list first, as did I.Then one late autumn evening we found ourselves armed with travel brochures, searching for a cheap Christmas holiday destination. We excitedly booked a 2 week trip to China with a popular group tour operator, only to wake the next morning and instantly regret our decision. We’d made a rash decision based on cost alone, and realised we really did not want to spend two weeks touring one of the world’s most intriguing destinations with a bunch of young and

Tianamen Square

It’s not a beautiful square, per say. But rare in the fact that it’s avoided the temptation of other great city squares to capitalise its space. There’s no rows of cafes on its edges and very few hawkers selling their wares. Nor is it surrounded by 5* hotels and stores. Instead, it’s a solemn and silent place, patrolled by rows of policemen who are overlooked by the giant portrait of Chairmen Mao on the walls of the Forbidden City. It’s a hard place to linger. It’s full of ghosts of previous events, and you have an overwhelming feeling of being watched. It’s not as vast or welcoming as I imagined, more compact and incredibly sterile. We stayed long enough to pay respects and take some photographs, and then retreated back to the welcome of the Forbidden City and the hustle and bustle of its entrance gates.

The Forbidden City, Beijing

I was instantly surprised at the size of the Forbidden City. It took us an hour to walk from the bottom walls to the entrance gate, but I am glad we did so. We wandered through local communities, saw children at play, men and  women at work, and walked through tree lined streets where song birds hung in cages, serenading us as we walked by. The exterior walls of the Forbidden City are soulless, huge grey concrete walls which offer no insight or hints at the beauty that lies within. Upon arrival at the entrance gates you’re met with a contrast of crowds and crowds of people; tourists, police, locals, hawkers, vendors and army cadets practising their drills. Be fooled not by the crowds, the Forbidden city is vast enough to lose them all inside its endless walls and courtyards. Inside the Forbidden City it’s an oasis of calm and serenity. It’s basically a series of interlinked picturesque courtyards, framed by intricate bridges, grand gateways and splendid palaces and throne rooms. Everywhere you look there is the most beautiful detail. Take, for example, the figurines on the rooftops, the volume of figures (each one unique) dictates the power and aristocracy