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HAINAN Edge of the Earth

GUANGDONG

Haikou

Wuzhishan

Sanya SOUTH
CHINA SEA

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Hainan Island in the South China Sea may be Beyond the Sanya peninsula, Yalong Bay is
China’s smallest province, but the exotic island is a remarkable seven kilometers of white sand,
also the country’s number-two holiday destination. edged by luxury hotels glowing in varying shades
At Chinese New Year, legions of Chinese of pastel. Here, well-groomed guests lounge by
shuddering from the Mainland’s subzero winter the pool to the sounds of Kenny G (on continuous
temperatures appear to spend the festival on repeat), coconut cocktails in hand.
Hainan’s sugary shores.
The island’s lush central highlands enclose the
Conversely, sweltering summers turn Hainan, fertile farms of Wuzhishan Mountain, home to
located south of the Tropic of Cancer, into a Hainan’s reclusive minority population, the Li and
veritable Hades. In imperial times, transgressors the Miao. Driven from the coast by progress and
were once banished to the “Edge of the Earth” development, their sticks-and-stone villages are
as a kind of capital punishment—a fun fact travel a dramatic contrast to the blatant affluence below.
agencies fail to mention in an effort to drive tourism
during Hainan’s notoriously hot season.

The 34,000-square-kilometer island has


nonetheless progressed over the centuries
from death sentence to tourist attraction. The
capital of Haikou on the north end of the island
has become its commercial center, with well-
developed transportation hubs and enough hotels
to accommodate “all of China”.

But it is Sanya that is the island’s greatest


attraction. Developed along Hainan’s southern
periphery, the bustling port city is framed by
whispering palms and inviting beaches, a harbor
congested with fishing fleets and a lawlessly lively
city center.

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HAIKOU
Coconut vendor. Haikou is often
referred to as “Coconut City”.

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HAIKOU
Dried stockfish is one of Hainan’s main
export commodities.

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SANYA
Situated at the mouth of Sanya Bay,
the congested harbor is home to
“floating villages”—the city’s fishing-
fleet families, who live on their vessels
and have developed a lively marine
culture along the waterfront.

A ferryman shuttles passengers to


and from the dock. Opposite page.

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SANYA
Fishermen without boats swim
into the sea with nets and attempt
to catch fish by hand.

Mending nets is an endless


occupation for fishing families.
Opposite page.

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SANYA
Utsul girls wearing Islamic hijab scarves.
Though the Muslim Utsul speak their own
language and have a population of over
5,000, the Chinese government does
not officially recognize them as an ethnic
minority and instead groups them among
the Hui nationality.

This Utsul woman’s red lips and discolored


teeth are a result of chewing binglang
(betel nut) which Hainan locals habitually
consume for its psychoactive properties.
Opposite page.

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SANYA
Bride-to-be having her wedding
portraits taken near Sanya Bay.

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WUZHI SHAN
Li & Miao Autonomous Prefecture, a government-
designated reservation for the island’s indigenous
tribes. Over the centuries, Hainan’s minority
population has been driven from the coast into the
central highlands.

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WUZHI SHAN
Little Miao girl.

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WUZHI SHAN SHUIMAN XIANG


Li elder with a tattooed face. It was the custom Miao woman wearing a traditional
for Li women to have their faces tattooed at age hand-embroidered headpiece.
thirteen to signify their eligibility for marriage. Opposite page.
Nowadays, this ritual is rarely practiced.

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