About 80% of all transactions on China's stock markets are carried out by amateur investors. Trading is dominated by hobbyists – from pensioners to students. Reuters photojournalist Aly Song spent time with some of these mom-and-pop investors as China goes through one of the most tumultuous periods in its history.

China's markets first soared – more than doubling in the six months to May 2015 – only to crash. Since June, prices have fallen about 40% centred on concerns that growth in the world's second-biggest economy is slowing down faster than previously thought.

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Wang Cunchun, 90, watches news about stocks on TV at the apartment he shares with his 60-year-old son in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters

Ninety-year-old Wang Cunchun only started to invest in equities after he retired from a stationery store in Shanghai. "Trading stocks is my biggest hobby," he says. He joins other retirees in one of the many brokerage houses dotted around China where people gather not just to trade stocks but to enjoy the company of fellow investors and take advantage of the air conditioning on hot days. "There are many old neighbours coming to the brokerage house," he said. "I don't know how to use computers, so my neighbours help me sell and buy."

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A notebook with stock information written down by Wang Cunchun, 90, is seen on his desk, next to his medication and a magnifying glassAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
Investors look at an electronic board displaying stock information through windows in a smoking area of a brokerage house in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
Tang Youyu, 73, is back at a brokerage house in Shanghai where he lost over half of his money on the stock market but he still hopes to win it back somedayAly Song/Reuters
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Tang Weiguo takes a nap on chairs at during a midday break at a brokerage house in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
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Investors' water bottles stand on a shelf at the corner of a brokerage house in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
An investor's water bottle with a communist party symbol stands between computers showing stock information at a brokerage house in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters

Buying and selling stocks is also a hobby for 16-year-old high school student Qian Yujie, who trades on a desktop computer at his home in Shanghai. He began investing at the age of 13, when his father gave him 2,000 yuan (£200, $315) to learn about the economy. He fits trading into his schedule when he has a day off school. "I like maths and want to study finance in college and I think it's very helpful for job hunting," he said.

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Qian Yujie, a 16-year-old high school student, is reflected on his desktop computer that displays stock indexes during the summer holiday at home in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters

While some retail investors say they want to make their fortune on China's stock markets, electrician Gao Haibao, 55, has a more modest approach. He aims to make just 10 yuan (about £1) every day. "I make enough money to buy a meal," he says. "I'm happy with it − I'm making money."

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Gao Haibao, a 55-year-old electrician, looks at stock information on his mobile phone as he climbs the stairs to his apartment in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters

Many of the retail investors use an informal network to help decide which stocks they want to buy and sell. At the weekends, hundreds gather at what is locally known as the "street stock salon" near Shanghai's landmark People's Square to exchange tips and information and listen to long-term investors talk about their experiences.

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Shen Yuxi shows off his analysis software to investors at a street stock salon in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
Lv Hai looks at a screen displaying stock information fixed to the back of an electric bicycle at a street stock salon in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
Yue Banghai looks at his laptop on the back of his electric bikeAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
People listen to a man analysing a chart showing stock trends at a street stock salon in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
A piece of paper with stock information written on it is shared by investors during a street stock salon event in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters
China stock market
Wu Linían advises an investor on current trends in China's stock market during a street stock salon session in ShanghaiAly Song/Reuters

Wu Lin'an sells his analysis of the stock market to fellow amateur and believes the ruling Communist Party, headed by President Xi Jinping, will save the stock market and make people rich. "Chairman Mao led us through liberation," he said, referring to the founding of modern China. "Deng Xiaoping led us to the road of happiness, and Xi Jinping led us to the road of enjoyment."