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1st August 2008 at 01:00

Set aside plenty of time to see China: A Photographic Portrait at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, because every one of the 590 pictures on display is worth a look.

This fascinating show, which runs until September 14, is touring from the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, in southern China, whose curators had the daunting task of selecting from 100,000 images, submitted by 1,000 photographers.

Although some of the pictures on display date from as far back as 1951, many of the portraits of ordinary Chinese people going about their daily lives were taken between the late 1970s and 2003.

The photographs are described as being of Chinese people "of diverse backgrounds", but it is fair to say that the majority come from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

There are many rich people in China these days, but either they did not want to be photographed or they do not conduct their lives in public. A rare exception is the snap of a VIP on a tour of the Forbidden City, barely visible behind a semi-circle of bodyguards.

In the crowded cities, the portraits include people being treated in the street by herbal medicine practitioners, naked construction workers having a wash on site, families bedding down on the pavements to escape their stifling apartments, and - everywhere - basket carriers scraping a living transporting rubbish, building rubble or food on their backs.

In rural areas, we see coal miners, silk worm breeders, a troupe of travelling actors, storytellers and peasant farmers. One caption reads: "In order to live off the land, local people use children to weigh down the harrow."

For details of the secondary schools education programme taking place in September, T 0131 529 3963.

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