The wedding photos that captivated China

tibet couple photo Image copyright Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma

China's relationship with its Tibetan minority has at times been troubled, so here's a moment worth noting: a Tibetan couple's wedding photos, showing scenes of both modern and traditional living, captivated millions of Chinese social media users.

The photo shoot is a ritual for many newlyweds all around the world, and Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma were simply following couples across China when they took a range of photos in both modern and traditional settings. What they didn't count on is their stylish snaps ending up being seen by a huge proportion of Chinese internet users.

Image copyright Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma

The photos show the couple in a coffee shop, at an amusement park and driving in a sports car - along with more pastoral scenes from a Tibetan village. Classic fashions and Instagram-like filters give them a timeless quality. Xinhua, China's official state news agency, reported that the photos have been seen by 80 percent of users of messaging app WeChat - which would mean an audience of hundreds of millions. In an interview with the agency, Phuntsok, who works in advertising, speculated about what made the pictures so popular.

"Maybe we represented thousands of young people from ethnic minorities, who left their hometowns to pursue a 'modern life' but chose to return to tradition after feeling a void in the heart," he said. "I think we found an echo with other web users. As we fight for our dreams, some of us get lost. So we wanted to say with the photos: stick to your beliefs."

Image copyright Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma

Many users on China's Twitter-like social networking platform Weibo commented on the contrasting lifestyles the pictures show, says BBC Monitoring's Jeff Li in Hong Kong.

"The pictures have shown two completely different lives in the cities and in the rural. When the couple wears traditional costumes, they represent the Tibetan people and their unique lifestyles; but when they wear modern clothes, they have turned into a trendy couple," says user Yanzhi Jiangxi.

"I'm so jealous of how the couple can handle living in the city and in the rural at the same time," commented Leimo Leimo.

Image copyright Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma

Of course, Tibet has often had a tumultuous relationship with the rest of China (you can find a timeline of the complicated history involved here). There is an ongoing crackdown on Tibetan nationalism. But BBC Chinese's Zhaung Chen says Tibet is also adored by many Chinese for its raw natural beauty and exotic customs, adding that the quality of the pictures and the photogenic bride and groom were also key to the virality of the photos.

Image copyright Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma
Image copyright Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma

Blog by Mike Wendling

Reporting by Aditi Mallya and Cassandra Cavallaro

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