Let’s firstly just point out the huge elephant in the room – yes, Instagram is blocked in China. However, that doesn’t mean that the platform isn’t home to a wonderful array of China or Chinese-based accounts. While some manage a sprightly VPN-powered leap over the Great Firewall, others are based worldwide, but are still full of inspiring content. So, let’s just get right into it:
1. Beijing Silvermine (@beijing_silvermine)
As account owner Thomas Sauvin explains, Beijing Silvermine is a documentation of developed negatives collected from a Beijing recycling plant. The result is the fascinating and most literal snapshot of the lives of Beijing’s residents throughout the past few decades. The treasure-trove stretches across multiple trends, holiday destinations and time periods, so be on the lookout for guest-appearances from Windows 98, the Leshan Buddha, theme parks, and other over-exposed adventures.
2. Bamboochee (@bamboochee)
I remember when this account had just found its Insta-feet and started to post videos demonstrating the difference between printed and handwritten Chinese characters. The fluidity of handwritten Chinese can be a visual hurdle for even the most learned of Mandarin enthusiasts; I used to think I could ‘read’ Chinese until I went to the hospital and couldn’t figure out if the doctor had written ‘a slight head cold’ or ‘severe poisoning in the left elbow.’
Bamboochee’s insights differ from the mainstream trend of accounts that post Chinese characters indiscriminately and absent of context or examples (despite cute doodle-y aesthetics). Posts include breakdowns of Chinese literature, translations of viral words (with examples), and routine-based vocabulary. Alongside each post is a detailed explanation of each word down to the finest and most wafer-thin nuance. Looking for a bite size chunk of Mandarin but are past the point of ‘Hey, notice how 口 looks like a mouth?’? Turn to Bamboochee.
成己達人 /chéng jǐ dá rén/ Perfect yourself, and your success will benefit others. 🔸成: to succeed, to make … successful. 🔸己: self. 🔸達 (达): to reach. 🔸人: people. · · · · · In Confucianism, "self" is not an isolated individual, but is connected to others. If there were no others, "self" would be meaningless. So to improve ourselves = to improve the world.
3. MyChinaGram (@mychinagram)
Pretty self-explanatory. Almost every day the account searches through its affiliated hashtag to crown somebody the winner of the most-awesome-picture-of-China-today award (not actual award) and assembles them all for our viewing and drooling pleasure. The best thing about this account is that the various contributors combine different locations and styles so that content stays fresh and insightful. However, they haven’t posted any new photos since December, which may be due to the tightening VPN laws. Let’s hope MyChinaGram finds a way to return to our screens soon.
2015/12/18 _______________________________________ 👉Location: #Tibet #西藏 👉Photo Credit: @Jemmazoerogers 👉Notes: #Monks chanting in the #monastery of the #Panchen #Lama. #班禅，西藏佛教格鲁派（黄教）中与达赖并列的两大宗教领袖之一。班，梵语班智达（pandita）的略称，意为博学之士；禅，藏语意为大；班禅意为大班智达，即大学者。 _______________________________________ Thanks for your sharing! Dear @Jemmazoerogers, Your page has been featured on ✈@MyChinaGram🇨🇳. We appreciate your wonderful work and look forward to seeing your next page presented to #MyChinaGram. ______________________________________ To be one of the featured photo: ✌about Chinese only, location unlimited. ✌feel free follow us on IG. ✌hashTAG: #MyChinaGram ✌️Square,only. ________________________________________ 谨接受具有明显中国元素的作品，地域不限制，限正方形片幅。不接受肖像、动植物和黑白类作品。 ________________________________________ 投稿：请在您的作品中加入索引标签 #MyChinaGram，以便我们尽快发现您的作品，谢谢。 ________________________________________
4. 張家衣 (@zhangjiayi_)
There’s a whole host of Chinese fashionistas on Instagram, showcasing a unique and almost vapourwave style that’s an eclectic mix of colours and textures. Zhang Jiayi is a model and designer at Plus One, and her artistic fashion shoots include thigh-high plastic boots, fluffy neon coats and sitting in a shopping trolley. It’s always fun to scroll through and see the evolution of her fashion. (Some images NSFW).
5. Dash Rendar (@andersdenkend)
If you’re looking for some tasteful photography in the heart of China then this account is the perfect way to break out of the first-tier bubble. Most of the photographs are in and around Hefei, Anhui, where you can see the bridging gap between shabby apartment blocks and brand-spanking new shopping complexes. Although as a former resident of the city, perhaps I’m biased. In fact, I’m pretty sure I recognise one of the dogs in the feed.
As I was curating (or really, scrolling through and choosing) my favourite China or Chinese-based Instagram accounts, I realised a lot of my go-to pages were artists. As a fan of several incredible online artists, I’ll be putting them in a separate list at a later date.
So, that’s my top five for now! If you enjoy these accounts, have additional suggestions, or simply cannot wait to tell me how wrong I am, don’t hesitate to get in touch (politely) on social media or in the comments section below!