Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Cultural Revolution


When Mao took over and introduced communism to China, he instituted a program whereby city folk were sent to live in the countryside villages to learn how to live off the land, etc.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we had the chance to experience village life, although in a much more luxurious form, in two villages of the LongJi Rice Terraces. On Tuesday, we were supposed to get a bus to the foot of the Dazai village but, because of the landslides caused by all the rains, the bus driver stopped half way up the mountain and would go no further. So, we did a 3-hour hike up the mountain, part way in the dark. We literally had to use flashlights to make our way up the steep mountainside to our guest house. The guest house is like a giant tree house on the side of a mountain. Made from wood, no nails, just pegs. It smelled like wood and was surprisingly comfortable. And, the shower was hot!

The next morning we awoke to a breathtaking view of the rice terraces. 700 years ago, someone had a bright idea to terrace the mountainside so it could be used for agriculture. It took the following 300 years to create and the descendants of those who broke their backs to make the mountainsides available for agriculture now maintain the terraces and feed themselves with an abundance of everything. Dazai is a Yao village. Yao is one of the 56 ethnic minorities that make up seven percent of China's poulation (the other 93% are ethnically Han). Side fact: the ethnic minorities get two kids, as opposed to the one-child restriction imposed upon the Han (they would otherwise dwindle away and, since most of the minorities are farmers, they need extra hands).

Wednesday afternoon was spent on a 6-hour trek from the Dazai village to the Ping An village all along the rice terraces - literally. One false move and any one of us could of found ourselves wading through rice paddies. We transversed the same stone walkways the farmers use to ascend and descend their source of revenue and sustenance. The guest house at Ping An was pretty fancy by village standards and the chef there cooked up the best food any of us has had in China. The Ping An village is ethnically Zhuong, although they look much like the Yao. This morning, we watched two women take down their hair and re-wrap it. I will email photos of the rice terraces as soon as I have my hands on my USB cord again so you can get an idea of what it was like to wake up in the clouds.

Back in Guilin, it is around 6:45 p.m. and we are goofing off while we await our 10:00 train to Xianggang (Hong Kong in English).

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