“I’m a bookbinder usually, and sometimes a book editor and writer, and more rarely an illustrator. But these are crafts not easily taken on the road, or exhibited on a wall, and so for this show I’m a photographer. Chinese Dreams presents a collection of pictures I took on my latest trip to Beijing, remote corners of Hunan’s Zhangjiajie National Park, and the port metropolis of Tianjin.
The images show inveterate nappers of all ages against a range of backgrounds, from the great outdoors to the humdrum workplace. They contrast with typical presentations in the West of China as a frenetic, crowded country where solitude is hard to find, if not impossible.
While living and traveling in China, I noticed that many Chinese strictly separate their private and public lives, but the seemingly most intimate act of sleeping—nearly checking out of body in a public place and leaving it vulnerable—can be easily managed amid the clatter of din of a train station, or a few feet from an eight-lane thoroughfare. Countless times I observed people who would just walk up to a bench, kick off their shoes, and nap right there, following an afternoon tradition practiced globally (but sadly not so much here).”
Margaret E. Davis studied traditional Chinese bookbinding in Beijing and traveled across China surveying the printing arts as a Durfee Foundation fellow. She returned the following year to work as managing editor of the independent English-language weekly Beijing Scene, which was shut down by the government. Coming back to the United States, Davis founded Ma Nao Books and produced hand-bound limited editions, taught Chinese bookbinding workshops, and worked as an editor. When not working out at the Northeast Community Center, working in as a neighborhood activist, or chasing her son around, Davis is preparing for publication of her manuscript, China Under the Covers, a bookbinding manual and travel memoir.