In China's far west, falcon masters have made an art of handling birds of prey. Photographer Zhang Tao chases the action in Xinjiang.
The traditional art of falconry is a prominent part of the culture in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Members of the Uygur, Kazak and Kirgiz ethnic groups in Xinjiang have long been practicing falconry. Every year, falconers gather to compete, most notably in Akqi county of Kezilesu Kirgiz autonomous prefecture in Xinjiang. It's known as the "Village of the Falcon", and as a means to preserve the skill for future generations, the local government began issuing monthly salaries of 300 to 500 yuan ($45 to $80) to falcon masters to encourage them to pass down their skills. Since November 2010, falconry has been listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Mounted hunters enter the hunting grounds in search of the prize. Once the prey is sighted by the hunter, the falcon will be released to pursue it.
A hunter releases his falcon - eager for the chase.
The relationship between the falcon and the falconer is one of mutual respect.
A senior hunter checks over his bird.
A falcon sits on the ground after an unsuccessful pursuit.