A browse through Bernd Hagemann's online photo album won't make you yawn even if the images are all of snoozing people. The German amateur photographer has captured his subjects in a variety of unusual positions and places on the mainland - huddled in a plastic tub, dozing on an airport trolley and in a hammock tied beneath a truck - that bring smiles to viewers' faces. 'It's rare to see people sleeping in public places in Europe or America. It shocked me at first when I saw people napping almost everywhere and the fact that it was accepted by society,' says Hagemann, 41, who grew up in Lemgo, a historical town of 42,000 people. 'It's OK if people sleep on a sofa displayed in a furniture shop in China, but in my hometown it would probably take less than two minutes before the fellow gets kicked out by the security guard.' Struck by the cultural disparities when he went to Beijing in 2002 as chief financial officer for a German cleaning equipment manufacturer, Hagemann turned to photography as 'a way to visualise the differences'. 'Everything felt different [in China] - the way people think, the kind of traditions and habits they have,' he says. Two years ago Hagemann collated his images of dozing mainlanders on a website, sleepingchinese.com, which has received more than 1.3 million hits and attracted media from around the world. It also drew the attention of independent Hong Kong publisher Blacksmith Books, which will release a postcard-sized book of his photos, also titled Sleeping Chinese, next month. Hagemann says he has always been interested in delving into the unique facets of places he visits. 'I have friends who go to the same place for holidays 10 times in a row. I can never do this. Even spending two weeks in a hotel, I'd be completely bored. I prefer to discover new countries and take part in their cultures.' The idea for Hagemann's Sleeping Chinese project didn't come to him until he moved to Shanghai in 2003. Most of his photos for the project were taken during his six years in the city. 'Rather than tourist attractions and shopping malls, I try to explore places where foreigners don't usually go. I see it as an adventure,' he says. Hagemann spent most weekends cycling around the city in search of unusual images - 'the old neighbourhoods in Shanghai are fascinating,' he says - and also took photos while travelling around the country. 'People were usually curious about what I was doing. They sometimes woke their sleeping friends up. But they were generally friendly and never got angry with me.' Among his favourite photographs is one taken during a trip to Ningbo in eastern Zhejiang province. 'It was a hot, humid day. I was going out for a walk during a lunch break when I saw a truck driver pull over his vehicle. He dragged out a hammock, tied it under his truck, hopped on and fell asleep,' he says. The wealth of images Hagemann has captured stems from his familiarity with his subjects. 'If you go out around lunchtime in Shanghai, especially in the old town area, you will find them quite easily. I never see this elsewhere in the world,' he says. He sorts the photos into three categories - group, soft and hard sleepers. The latter are people able to fall asleep in seemingly impossible positions - such as one security guard who managed to get some shut-eye despite having to contort his body across a park bench separated by armrests designed to prevent just that. The image is among the more popular of the photos on Hagemann's website. Soft sleepers seek slightly more comfortable positions, such as the aquarium shop assistants who used large plastic tubs as a sort of cradle. Among the most comical group sleepers were two men he found slumbering on the two ends of an amusement park seesaw. Because both were about the same height and weight, they kept each other in balance. 'I enjoy discovering funny positions of people sleeping. They look as if they don't feel any pain. My back would hurt so badly if I lay on bricks or the footpath; lying on vegetables or slumped over a counter between chunks of raw meat like the butchers I photographed wouldn't be any better,' says Hagemann. 'I need my mattress, my pillow and a clean and quiet environment to ensure a sound sleep. I have never slept in any of the bizarre places that the people in my photographs used. I don't think I could ever do this.' As he accumulated more photos, Hagemann's collection became a popular subject of conversation among his friends, one of whom offered to set up a website to showcase the images. It quickly became a hit. Two months after Hagemann uploaded the photos, his hometown newspaper wrote about the website. Before long, he found his photographs being featured on a German television programme and publications from Rome to London. Describing his business and finance background as 'not at all creativity related', Hagemann is a little bemused by his popularity as a photographer. 'I never expected this kind of publicity. The internet nowadays is getting really influential.' But Hagemann hopes his photographs can provide an alternative perspective to the stereotypical view of the mainland as a sleeping dragon, whose growing power could be a threat to other countries. 'There's always a strange undertone in the foreign media coverage of China that when the sleeping powerhouse wakes up, companies in Europe will encounter much stronger competition,' he says. 'But the reality here is a bit different. Chinese people do not work 24 hours a day, they also have a life. Sleeping in public is part of Chinese culture. Although the cities have been changing rapidly, people still need their naps.' But after seven years on the mainland, Hagemann has moved on. At the end of last year, his employers transferred him to Buenos Aires and he doesn't plan to undertake a photographic study of slumbering Argentinians. 'China is special because people sleeping in public is like a habit while the only people who sleep in the streets [in Argentina] are the homeless. That's not a subject that interests me,' he says. However, his website will continue to be updated every few months since Hagemann has only posted 150 of the nearly 800 images in his collection. Besides, he has been receiving plenty of photographs of sleeping Chinese from enthusiastic viewers - Chinese and foreign - and plans to display them in a guest gallery.