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If you’ve ever travelled light for an extended amount of time, you’ve probably been surprised at just how little we really need to get by. While it’s easy to get carried away on the waves of consumerism and caught up in the throes of the technological age, it’s just clothes, some food and a roof over our head that’s really on our list of basic needs for survival.

One photographer in China has been challenging people to consider their own lifestyles and necessities with a thought-provoking series of photos of Chinese households. By photographing people surrounded by their belongings, these pictures seem to ask the question, “What do you need to survive?” and “What makes for a happier household: some company and the basic essentials or a modern lifestyle full of slick and shiny extras?”

The series, called Jiadang, which translates to Family Stuff, was shot by Chinese photographer Huang Qingjun and took almost ten years to complete. He travelled to 14 of China’s 33 provinces and took most of his photos in poor, remote areas to capture a glimpse of life away from the big cities. While each household was different, they were all fascinating in their storybook-like openness. 

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Some of the photos show households in particularly harsh environments.

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While others closer to the city show relative wealth and luxury.

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The remoteness of some households was offset with the company of a TV set or furry friend.

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From a house cut out of the side of a mountain to a houseboat on the water, people can build their lives in many different ways.

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While even some of the most remote-looking households here show signs of modern consumption with televisions, telephones and even satellite dishes, we wonder if it’s simply human nature to want more and have more during our short time here on earth. Whether we’re slaves to the nesting instinct or not, our curiosity about the way others live their lives often has us looking at the way we live our own.

Sources: sobadsogood, Huangqingjun