Feature: 98-year-old Aussie photographer recalls enthralling 1960's China trip

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SYDNEY, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Like a timeless moment frozen on film, a 1960s trip to China is etched on the memory of 98-year-old Hans Schneider, an Australian photographer who can recollect almost every street he wandered, every dish he savored and every picture he snapped, despite more than 60 years passing by.

While bathing in the warm sunshine in the Southern Hemisphere, Schneider had no difficulty in remembering the bright yet icy March morning when he and his wife, Christina Cordero, stepped off the plane to embrace their new life in Beijing.

"We took a plane from Moscow to Beijing. It was bitterly cold on the plane... It was a long flight and we traveled all through the night," said Schneider. "Everything was very new. I was just curious to know more."

He told Xinhua that as a first-time traveler to China, he "knew nothing" about the Asian country at that point. Emigrating from his birthplace Germany to Chile at the age of 14, Schneider had his first contact with Chinese culture by visiting a house in Santiago where a Chinese family lived.

"We had a Chinese meal. They grew many Chinese vegetables in the backyard, such as Bok Choy and many others that you wouldn't find in any market in Chile. I had some of the dishes, like sweet and sour pork and roast duck," Schneider recalled.

Before coming to China, it was merely by hearing from friends that Schneider caught a glimpse of what life could be like in that seemingly remote country.

When the chance to visit eventually knocked on the door, Schneider decided not only to learn about China hands-on but also to chronicle his expedition with photography, a hobby that dates back to his childhood in Berlin in the 1930s.

With both a monochrome and color camera in their luggage, Schneider and Cordero started their one-year stay in China. For work, Schneider devoted himself to translation and editing magazines at Foreign Languages Press, while Cordero taught Spanish at China Foreign Affairs University.

When the couple found free time, they would explore the city with their cameras. "Anything, any activity that could be of interest ... just people on the street, some children, some temple interiors," Schneider said, when asked about his selection of subjects.

Schneider's photo collections covered a wide range of themes, including renowned landmarks, children biting candied hawthorn, a steaming street food stall, musical instruments sold at a department store, bicycles lined up by the road and an outdoor poster reading "Hot Pot for Masses."

Schneider was quick to click the shutter, as long as the viewfinder captured engrossing scenes, he never lingered on whether a photo held any particular meaning. "I haven't really thought about that. I put outside the photos as a selection. If the photo is there, it's because I like it and I thought this is a picture of how life was in China at that time," said Schneider.

"You see children playing on the street, or you see the absence of cars... obviously from our side, they are different," he added.

Among all the photos taken in China, a bird's-eye shot named "Shanghai Bund" is one of Schneider's favorites. "It probably makes people think about how much has changed. When you look at my photos, the one I like best is a photo of Shanghai, the Bund," said Schneider.

"Now the island on your left is full of skyscrapers. So people will realize the enormous change in China over a relatively short period of time, the big contrast."

Following that one-year stay, Schneider only revisited China once, accompanying his friends for a book handover ceremony in Beijing in 2010.

But temporal and spatial distance haven't eroded his memory.

Schneider remembers the old days of cycling in Beijing with his wife, hiking Fragrant Hills, browsing antique shops on Liulichang Street, and being absorbed by "The Peony Pavilion", Kun Opera written by Ming dynasty playwright Tang XianZu, in a local theater.

Back in the 1960s, Schneider would ask for coupons from his colleague to buy a plate of street food, drink Tsingtao Beer in a restaurant near Purple Bamboo Park, and take a bite of a time-honored hot pot beside the Drum Tower.

People he met in China are an important part of his memory as well. "People were very very friendly everywhere we went," Schneider said.

To learn about the country by themselves without being taught by others, the couple would hop on a bus to anywhere. "We never got lost. We never had any problems and the people were very friendly," he said.

Sometimes, passengers on a bus offered their seats to Schneider, who was then in his 30s, and Schneider would politely turn it down with basic Chinese words "I'm good, thank you."

Thinking of these slightly embarrassing but funny moments brought a smile to the 98-year-old's face.

Schneider has also never forgotten a female Chinese doctor taking good care of Cordero at the Beijing Friendship Hotel. He also mentioned a hotel manager, who found a darkroom for Schneider and his friends to develop photos in.

Looking back on those days, Schneider said, "We had a very good time."

Now settled in Australia, the almost-centenarian's love of photography is still deeply connected with Chinese culture.

He is in the process of turning films into digitized photos and displaying them on his social media accounts to let more followers observe an ever-changing China through his lens.

With the assistance of flashcard software and dictionaries, Schneider is also teaching himself Chinese. Enditem

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