Han Lei has worked with painting, sculpture, and installation, but photography remains his favourite medium. Han was one of the first professional photographers active after the Cultural Revolution in China, and has become known for his dramatically lit scenes with low saturation, featuring contemporary models acting out classical narratives or Chinese legends. The underlying themes in these works are sentimentality, nostalgia, and upheaving traditional notions of beauty. Han's models are ordinary, even unremarkable women cast as protagonists in lush landscapes. He also sometimes includes anachronistic props—e.g. popular toys, or pair of earmuffs. Han thinks of his own work as "an improbable fable consisting of the simplest stuff that people often ignore." As the artist himself affirms the importance of a series such as the one of pagodas lies in the embodiment of his personal youth, paradoxes and doubts. "In remembrance of my memory, says Han, "they are bound to collapse....my childhood, my paradox,my education and the ideological romanticism of my deeply engraved boyhood all are hung on the pagodas".


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