China, the most populous country and the second-largest economy in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve in the 21st century. In this, the latest entry in a semi-regular series on China, we find images of tremendous variety, including astronauts, nomadic herders, replica European villages, pole dancers, RV enthusiasts, traditional farmers, and inventors. This collection is only a small view of the people and places in China over the past several weeks.
Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province, on June 16, 2012. China sent its first woman taikonaut into outer space this week, prompting a surge of national pride as the rising power takes its latest step towards putting a space station in orbit within the decade. Liu, a 33-year-old fighter pilot, joined two other taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft when it lifted off from a remote Gobi Desert launch site.
Kazakh nomads herd their livestock in a caravan across a plain in Altay, far west China's Xinjiang region, on June 2, 2012. The Altay, known in Chinese as the Aletai region, is situated in the most northern part of Xinjiang, sharing a border on the east with Mongolia and on the west with Russia.
Wang Jinxiang, mother of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, cries as she talks about her son at their home in the village of Dongshigu in Shandong Province, located 600 km (370 miles) southeast of Beijing, on June 9, 2012. Wang described the details of her home detention with her son and the authorities' reprisals against their family after Chen Guangcheng's flight last month to the United States, where he is now living in New York with his wife and two children.
A member of an archaeology team unearths the head of a terracotta warrior at the excavation site inside the No.1 pit of the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses, on the outskirts of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on June 9, 2012. It is the first time that shields have been unearthed during an excavation. A large number of the terracotta warriors and horses bear traces of burn marks, which are suspected to have been caused by Xiang Yu, a military leader who rebelled against the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC), according to local media.
A laborer works on a residential building under construction in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, on June 17, 2012. China's annual real estate investment growth slowed to the lowest pace since the global financial crisis, official data showed recently, stoking expectations that curbs on the property market may be eased.
A bridge crosses a canal that flows through the center of the Florentia Village in the district of Wuqing, located on the outskirts of the city of Tianjin, on June 13, 2012. The shopping center, which replicates old Italian-style architecture, covers an area of some 200,000 square meters, and was constructed on a former corn field at an estimated cost of US$220 million.
Pedestrians walk down an alley that resembles a Florentine-style street in the Florentia Village in the district of Wuqing, on June 13, 2012. The shopping center copies old Italian-style architecture with Florentine arcades, a grand canal, bridges, and a building that resembles a Roman Colosseum.
The Long March II-F rocket loaded with a Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft carrying Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang lifts off from the launch pad in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, on June 16, 2012. China launched the spacecraft putting its first woman, 33-year-old female fighter pilot Liu Yang, in orbit.
A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft approaching Tiangong-1 module for automatic docking on July 18, 2012. Three Chinese astronauts entered an orbiting module for the first time, a key step towards the nation's first space station, a move broadcast live on China's state television network, as China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to perfect docking technology.
Ehad from Bahrain (center) exercises with overweight Chinese people after acupuncture treatment at the Aimin (Love the People) Fat Reduction Hospital in the northern port city of Tianjin, on June 14, 2012. Obesity is a relatively recent problem in China and a recent report by the Chinese Association for Student Nutrition and Health said the number of overweight young people aged between seven and 17 had tripled between 1982 and 2002, a trend that had accelerated in recent years.
(Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
A view of the makeshift camp for people affected by the 2010 earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai province, on April 23, 2012. Two years after the quake that shook a remote, mountainous corner of the Qinghai province, thousands of people are still living at the makeshift camp waiting to be relocated into new houses. Latest reports of the death toll has reached 2,698, according to Xinhua news agency.
A vegetable seller reaches to collect money from a customer in her stall at a market in central Beijing, on June 1, 2012. China's inflation rate in May is likely to fall to around 3.2 percent from a year earlier due to a decline in vegetable prices state media reported this week, with China's annual economic growth expected by analysts to fall to 7.9 percent in the second quarter, the first dip below 8 percent since 2009.
Locals sit at the entrance of The Shelter nightclub, a former bomb shelter in Xuhui district, Shanghai, on June 2, 2012. The Shelter is one of a handful of former bomb shelters finding new life as commercial venues, ranging from clubs to clothing shops and even wine sellers. Hundreds of thousands of bomb shelters were built across China in the 1960s and 1970s to prepare for possible air raids from the then-Soviet Union amidst a souring relationship between the two communist countries.
Students from Tianquanjiajing Funeral Service school bow in front of a plastic mannequin as they begin an undertaker service class in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, on May 29, 2012. A new breed of young Chinese undertakers are fighting centuries-old taboos to gain social acceptance for their profession, saying they help the deceased and their families make their final parting with respect. There are more than 1,500 students across the country studying to become undertakers each year. Courses in funeral services take three years to complete and the service includes washing of the dead body as well as providing funeral make-up and dressing.
A woman carries her daughter who is wearing a mask as they make their way along a busy intersection in Wuhan, Hubei province, on June 11, 2012. The Chinese metropolis of Wuhan was blanketed by thick yellowish cloud, raising fears of pollution among its nine million inhabitants, as air pollution is increasingly acute in major Chinese cities and authorities are frequently accused of underestimating the severity of the problem in urban areas, especially in Beijing.
Chinese people enjoy a barbecue dinner next to their recreational vehicles (RVs) during a camping trip at a RV park on the outskirts of Beijing, on April 14, 2012. Chinese buyers bought an estimated 1,000 RVs last year. Experts, however, say the RV business in China is about to take off, benefiting domestic manufacturers and foreign makers alike. The RV China Association expects sales to increase 40 percent between 2012 and 2015 to close to 4,000.
(Reuters/Soo Hoo Zheyang)
Students stretch during a training session at a gymnastic course at Shenyang Sports School in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on May 9, 2012. Some 60 students, between the ages of 6 to 15, undergo a nine-year gymnastic program that includes foundation courses and gymnastic training courses at Shenyang Sports School. Those who are deemed to be outstanding may be selected to join the national team, according to local media.
A worker sprays water on plants at an European-style houses in Hallstatt See, a replica of the Austrian town of Hallstatt, in Boluo county, Huizhou city, Guangdong province, on June 2, 2012. A group of Austrians whose scenic mountain village has been copied down to the statues by a Chinese developer attended Saturday's opening in China for the high-end residential project but were still miffed about how the company did it. The original is a centuries-old village of 900 people and a UNESCO heritage site that survives on tourism. The copycat is a housing estate that thrives on China's new rich. In a China famous for pirated products, the replica Hallstatt sets a new standard.
(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
A construction worker walks with a ladder in the replica village of Austria's UNESCO heritage site, Hallstatt, in China's southern city of Huizhou, on June 1, 2012. Metals and mining company China Minmetals Corporation spent $940 million to build this controversial site and hopes to attract both tourists and property investors alike, according to local newspaper reports.
An exiled Tibetan monk holds a picture of 50-year-old Tamdin Thar, who burned himself to death to protest against the Chinese rule in Tibet during a rally to stand in solidarity with Thar, in McLeod Ganj, on June 15, 2012. Chinese authorities have said they were investigating the death of a person by self-immolation in a Tibetan area of northwestern Qinghai province, where several Tibetans have in the past year set themselves on fire in protest.
Thousands of protesters hold banners as they march along a street, to protest and urge the Chinese authorities to carry out a proper investigation into the death of dissident Li Wangyang, in Hong Kong, on June 10, 2012. Li, a labor activist and Chinese dissident jailed after the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing, was found dead in a hospital ward in central China amidst suspicious circumstances, his family and rights groups said.
Workers try to clean up the blue algae from the Chaohu lake in Hefei, east China's Anhui province, on June 13, 2012. China's environmental authority has warned of the imminent danger of a blue algae outbreak in Chaohu Lake, the country's fifth largest freshwater lake, which is frequently hit by blue algae outbreaks between June and September.
Ethnic minority students study in class as they sit in front of a blackboard at a preschool in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, on June 7, 2012. An emblem of the Chinese Communist Party and part of a slogan which reads: "Great earth is the flowers' cradle, great motherland is our cradle" are visible on the blackboard.
Xiao Cao, a 57-year-old gay man, prepares for his dance performance as a cultural revolution red guard at a park in Shanghai, on March 13, 2012. China's gay community has long been on the edges of society but it is gradually becoming more accepted. Cao, who is an unemployed drag queen, is one whose life lifts the curtain on a less romanticized view of Chinese homosexuals. Living in an eight-square-meter apartment behind a public toilet and with a monthly income of 500 yuan ($79) from social insurance, he passes his days dancing in public and spending time with friends at gay clubs.
Freshly-baked Oreo cookies pass along a conveyor belt at a Kraft Foods factory in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, on May 30, 2012. Investment may be powering the Chinese economy but experiments like Oreo's gum cookie, a cookie with a glob of gum sandwiched neatly between a pair of Oreo's iconic dark chocolate biscuits instead of the creamy white "stuff", which for better or worse never made it to store shelves, are a reminder that consumption is rising sharply.
A patient is stung by a bee as he receives an apitherapy treatment at a hospital in Zhengzhou, Henan province, on June 18, 2012. Apitherapy is one of the ancient methods of curing diseases by using honey, pollen, bee bread, propolis, royal jelly, apilarnil and bee venom. The therapy is claimed to be of use in several types of arthritis, neurological problems such as insomnia, migraine headaches, and neuritis, and skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and herpes.
A worker paints a single-seater submarine designed by Zhang Wuyi and his fellow engineers at a shipyard in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 7, 2012. Zhang, a 37-year-old local farmer, who is interested in scientific inventions, has made six miniature submarines with several fellow engineers, one of which was sold to a businessman in Dalian at a price of 100,000 yuan ($15,855) last October. The submarines, mainly designed for harvesting aquatic products, such as sea cucumber, have a diving depth of 20-30 meters, and can travel for 10 hours, local media reported.
A woman plants rice in Yingjiang, near the Myanmar border, in Yunnan Province, China, on May 26, 2012. Many still expect that the lifting of U.S. and European Union economic sanctions against Myanmar will boost trade from China's industrial regions through Ruili and other border areas in Yunnan, a mostly mountainous province that has close ties with all its Southeast Asian neighbors.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)