Contemporary photographs depicting China in transition will be featured in a traveling exhibition opening in the gallery of the De Pree Art Center at Hope College on Thursday, Feb. 15, with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Separated from the West by thousands of miles and seemingly insurmountable cultural barriers, China has long been an unfamiliar, romanticized land - until recently. In the new exhibition "Documenting China: Contemporary Photography and Social Change," the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) partners with Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine, to explore the social change in the most populous nation on earth.

The exhibition focuses on the impacts of urbanization and industrialization in China, and will remain at Hope through Friday, March 9, before continuing on a national tour through 2009. The exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of Crystal Cruises.

The exhibition presents the country from an insider's point of view through dramatic works of seven Chinese photographers. With raw black-and-white and color images, photographers Liu Xiaodi, Jiang Jian, Zhang Xinmin, Luo Yongjin, Zhou Hai, Lu Yuanmin and Zhou Ming unveil truths about China's internal struggle - a battle between modern industrialization and the traditional, agrarian past that has sustained the country for thousands of years.

With 57 compelling images, the contemporary Chinese photographers tell the gritty, sometimes-proud stories of those still struggling to blend into the urban landscape without losing sight of their traditional ways. Each photographer tells his unique story from his own perspective. While some photographs resemble quick snapshots of urban and rural life, others are methodically and artistically composed.

A catalog, "Documenting China: Contemporary Photography and Social Change," by curator Gu Zheng complements the national traveling exhibition. Published by Bates College, the catalog features color and black-and-white photographs accompanied by text that reveals the visual and artistic depth of the images.

The exhibition marks the beginning of a special partnership between SITES and Crystal Cruises. In addition to the national traveling exhibition, a boutique version will be on view aboard select Crystal ships. Exhibition curators and photographers also will participate in on-board programming.

Crystal Cruises operates the 940-guest "Crystal Symphony" and 1,080-guest "Crystal Serenity." The luxury vessels sail on worldwide itineraries to Africa, Australia/New Zealand, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean, the Mexican Riviera, New England/Canada, the Panama Canal and South America.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. It connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. More information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, may be obtained by visiting

The De Pree Art Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street. The gallery is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery is handicapped accessible.

Additional information about the exhibition or gallery may be obtained by calling the De Pree Art Center at (616) 395-7500.