HUFFINGTON POST
11/11/2015 10:24 am ET

Portraits Showcase The Appeal Of Online Shopping Across China

"For people living in remote areas, Internet shopping is a lifeline to the outside world -- a way to access a host of products that would never be seen where they live."

From the vast steppes of Inner Mongolia to a snowy village in Harbin city, online shopping is making the world a little smaller.

In January, Chinese photographer Huang Qingjun traveled across the country and asked families to pose next to everything they had every bought on Taobao, a popular Chinese e-commerce site owned by Internet giant Alibaba.

Today, almost 60 percent of people in China shop online -- compared to just over 30 percent in 2009, according to a 2015 Statista report. Last year, on "Singles Day" on Nov. 11 -- China's version of Cyber Monday shopping day -- online sales on Alibaba alone exceeded $9 billion.

By documenting how different people shop online, Huang learned a little about their lives, too. "For people living in remote areas, Internet shopping is a lifeline to the outside world -- a way to access a host of products that would never be seen where they live," Huang said.

Scroll down to take a look at the photos:

  • Liu Jun, 33, and his family live in the Horqin Right Front Banner, Inner Mongolia. He previously had to drive 140 kilometers
    Huang Qingjun
    Liu Jun, 33, and his family live in the Horqin Right Front Banner, Inner Mongolia. He previously had to drive 140 kilometers (87 miles) to the nearest town to buy necessities. He started online shopping in 2012, which he says has saved copious amounts of time and energy on the road.
  • Wang Yafeng, 28, lives in the Arctic Village in Harbin. He owns a travel service business and a youth hostel in his coun
    Huang Qingjun
    Wang Yafeng, 28, lives in the Arctic Village in Harbin. He owns a travel service business and a youth hostel in his county called Beibei. Almost everything in his hostel and home were bought online, and Wang says online shopping is the joy of his life.
  • Aer Yingming, 34, and her family live in Lijiang, Yunnan Province. Aer started online shopping in 2008, and has since become
    Huang Qingjun
    Aer Yingming, 34, and her family live in Lijiang, Yunnan Province. Aer started online shopping in 2008, and has since become an enthusiastic fan. There is something from Taobao in every corner of her house, Huang says.
  • Sun Bin, 31, from the city of Hangzhou, is an avid online shopper and regularly monitors his favorite online stores for new p
    Huang Qingjun
    Sun Bin, 31, from the city of Hangzhou, is an avid online shopper and regularly monitors his favorite online stores for new products. Finding distinctive goods on Taobao is a new way to enjoy life, Sun says.
  • Jia Yuhao and Lu Xuefeng quit their jobs in 2011 to run the Dhahran Inn in Lhasa, Xizang Province. They buy many things for t
    Huang Qingjun
    Jia Yuhao and Lu Xuefeng quit their jobs in 2011 to run the Dhahran Inn in Lhasa, Xizang Province. They buy many things for the inn online, including the sleeping bags they are wearing in the photo above. Jia says she has spent over 500,000 Chinese yuan ($78,500) online shopping over the past nine years. Lu has spent 860,000 Chinese yuan ($135,000) over ten years.
  • Mahmoodjan, 28, and his wife live in old Kashgar, Xinjiang Autonomuous Region. Online shopping is not common within their Uig
    Huang Qingjun
    Mahmoodjan, 28, and his wife live in old Kashgar, Xinjiang Autonomuous Region. Online shopping is not common within their Uighur community, but Mahmoodjan likes to buy digital products on the Internet, such as headsets, Kindles and USB flash drives.
  • Li Nian, 26, from Beijing is a young entrepreneur and model plane enthusiast. When he was a film choreography major in c
    Huang Qingjun
    Li Nian, 26, from Beijing is a young entrepreneur and model plane enthusiast. When he was a film choreography major in college, he built an unmanned aerial vehicle out of materials bought on Taobao to produce aerial photography. Li says online shopping is helping him build a foundation for his career.
  • Zhang Boya, 28, lives in Chaoyang Park Road, Beijing. She says 80 percent of her furniture is bought online. Zhang believes t
    Huang Qingjun
    Zhang Boya, 28, lives in Chaoyang Park Road, Beijing. She says 80 percent of her furniture is bought online. Zhang believes that goods purchased online don't necessarily have to be consumer goods that go out of fashion quickly. Instead, they can be precious items that can be kept for a long time.
  • Huan Jianguang, 28, from Rongshui Miao Autonomous County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is an engineer and outdoor
    Huang Qingjun
    Huan Jianguang, 28, from Rongshui Miao Autonomous County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is an engineer and outdoor sports enthusiast. He likes building bikes from accessories bought online.
  • Liu Chunxiao, 43, and her son live in Ji'an county in the Jilin Province, near China's border with North Korea. More than hal
    Huang Qingjun
    Liu Chunxiao, 43, and her son live in Ji'an county in the Jilin Province, near China's border with North Korea. More than half of the products Liu buys on the Internet are toys and clothes for her son. For Liu, online shopping is her way of expressing love.
  • Gyatsoling Rinpoche, 25, is a Tibetan monk living in the Pinto Lin Temple, Changdu, Tibet. He only buys Buddhism-related good
    Huang Qingjun
    Gyatsoling Rinpoche, 25, is a Tibetan monk living in the Pinto Lin Temple, Changdu, Tibet. He only buys Buddhism-related goods on Taobao, such as butter lamps and candles, as they are generally cheaper than the goods sold in his town's local stores.
  • Mao Hongwei, 48, from Yuanling village, Hangzhou, was not familiar with the Internet before he started online shopping. The f
    Huang Qingjun
    Mao Hongwei, 48, from Yuanling village, Hangzhou, was not familiar with the Internet before he started online shopping. The first time he shopped online, he had to enlist the help of a man in his village. Since then, he has become accustomed to online shopping and all the material and furniture in his new house were bought online.

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