Lu Nan (吕楠), unrivaled in his capacity to capture and reveal human dignity and the poignancy of the human condition, is one of the most respected photographers in China today. After working for China Pictorial (人民画报) for five years, he worked as an independent photographer to produce three series that made his international reputation. The second of these, which documents the lives of Catholics in rural China, includes pictures taken between 1992 and 1996. Many were have been featured in exhibits around the world and have been published in the volume On the Road (在路上).

On The Road is in the process of being published in the United States by Ignatius Press and will be available for purchase in late 2021. Once released, copies will be given to USCCA Benefactors. Learn more about becoming a Benefactor here.



Beginning in 1989, Lu Nan spent fifteen years completing his trilogy: Part One: The Forgotten People—Living Conditions of China’s Psychiatric Patients; Part Two: On the Road—The Catholic Faith in China; Part Three: Four Seasons—Everyday Life of Tibetan Peasants. In this opus magnum of epic photography works, Lu Nan affirms a richly human way of seeing. Each photograph in the trilogy stands on its own, yet belonging inalienably to the whole. Each is a crystalline node that amplifies and extends the other; every individual moment is at the same time an empirical part of all other moments. The trilogy focuses on the human condition in three realms. Particles of substances are caught up in a web of light and shade, suggesting a state of moral elevation and ultimately guiding the viewer’s gaze towards a secluded inner spiritual world in all of us.


From 1992 to 1996, Lu Nan photographed On the Road, Part Two of the trilogy across ten provinces and cities. During this period Lu Nan set foot in over 100 churches, but his emphasis was on how love and faith are practiced in the everyday life of the believers. He shows us that inner divinity is imbued in the everyday life of these believers, and that deep in their hearts this is the true Church. Their time on earth is but a tempering trajectory. Through enduring the trials of life’s fortunes and mishaps, they are able to find true values in divine grace; they can discover and revel in their own inner light.

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Included in the new edition of On the Road, is an an English translation of the essay, "Life Journeying on the Road to Heaven" by Li Xianting. Below is a brief excerpt:

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It was Lu Nan who named this collection of photographs On the Road. After I viewed these 60 photographs, I understood his sentiments. In most photography of religious subjects, other photographers either shoot church buildings or religious celebrations. In fact, Lu Nan has visited more than 100 churches himself. Some large ones surprised him. For example, in a small village in Shanxi where there were only 2,000 odd parishioners, they themselves raised the funds to build a glazed tile church which combined Chinese and Western architecture. It is 65 meters high, 65 meters long, and 24 meters wide—all without a single internal supporting column. According to Lu Nan, its construction is a seeming miracle. Those very church members provided the brick and tile, and they contributed their labor, all out of devotion. What is the power that makes these congregants so lovingly dedicated to this religious cause? It is faith.



1989: Started to photograph The Forgotten People: The Condition of China’s Psychiatric Patients which was completed in 1990

1996: Started to photograph Four Seasons: Everyday Life of Tibetan Peasants which was completed in 2004

2006: Started to photograph Prisons of North Burma which was completed in 2006


Mother and daughter. Xigaze, about 300 kilometers west of Lhasa, in the Himalaya Mountains. Tibet. 2001. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos

One-and-a-half-year-old daughter serves sentence with her mother. Burma. 2006. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos


An 11-year-old girl in the Beijing Psychiatric Hospital. Due to a lack of children's wards, China's most juvenile sufferers have to be kept together with adult patients. Rather than taking care of such children, the adult patients may even beat them. Beijing, China. 1989. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos  

Old woman boiling tea at harvest-time. Tibet. © Lu-Nan | Magnum Photos