This entry will continue the story of the adventure in Yunnan. I’ve been making plans with Dad, and he will be coming here soon. Sadly, my friend isn’t able to fly here in July as we’d originally planned, as she got unemployed and had to move from her residence. We are planning to travel together later, so it isn’t as big a disappointment as it otherwise would have been. Instead, there will be a welcome committee at the airport when I arrive. 😀
Shaxi is a small village situated to the west of Jianchuan, and we travelled there by bus to escape the noise of the city. There is a river flowing through the village, and we spent some time on horseback riding along the river bank. The courtyards are very peaceful and you can always sneak out to have a cup of tea under the shade. I really like the courtyard architecture. The houses are designed to protect an inner garden, so that the garden is surrounded by rooms from three sides. All three parts of the houses have their own private rooms, and they have very spacious wooden window panes and doors, beautifully carved. The windows are so big that if you forget your key, you can climb in through the open window (if you’ve left it open). There are wooden ladders leading to the upper floor from the courtyard. The roof is covered in vegetation, and there are lots of plants and trees outside the windows. The roof is built according to the drops of water -principle. Later in the evening, when the sun was setting behind the mountains and the lanterns alight in the courtyards, we went exploring the alleyways with my friend. I’ll include some pictures here. There’s a Buddhist temple, a tree being on a drip, and dragonflies for dinner. The temple shows an ancient upper education complex, with maths, music, archery and writing. It’s actually remarkable that these kinds of cultural masterpieces have survived. They show the true culture and beauty of China and its ancient traditions. During politically restless times, landlords, priests and other important people — as well as wealthy families — hid all these treasures so as to avoid having them destroyed. This was the fate of many beautiful temples, pagodas and other Chinese masterpieces, many of which have been rebuilt today, as their value is being recognised again.
From Nuodeng, we continued our journey to Dali. It used to be the epicentre of foreigners sojourning in Yunnan. Nowadays it’s largely turned into a tourist sight, especially the old part of Dali. There’s even a “Foreigners’ Street” running through the old town. In Dali, you can also find a Christian church built in Tibetan Buddhist and Chinese style. It’s really nice to see different religions interacting peacefully. Another aspect which is very positive that the street propaganda is almost non-existent nowadays. Locals told me that just 15 years ago, it was sometimes openly fascist. There has been a huge leap forward in this regard.
The Dali area is known for its cheese. Cheese is uncommon in China, as are other dairy products. We explored the outdoor market and found, among other things, the world’s third strongest chilies, cannabis seeds (not capable of producing a high by themselves though), sugar pyramids and live animals. If you want to buy a chicken, the vendour picks out one, snaps its head off quickly and puts it into a centrifuge which starts spewing out feathers. After a minute, they take out the plucked chicken. Everything is over in two minutes. As cruel as this seems, when you think of our factory chickens and how they’re being treated, it seems more humane to let the far fewer-numbered animals live freely in the countryside and only use them for food when they’re old. Most Chinese people from the countryside still think of meat as a luxury, and eat it on special days only. They also don’t let anything go to waste. (Thus, chicken head and feet for dinner.)
Some pictures from the mountain villages. You can still see traces of the developing country at times: when we went to buy water from the supermarket, there was a total power- and water-off in the whole village which lasted for about one hour. It was exciting to shop in a totally dark supermarket, with flashlights flickering between the aisles as people were trying to find what they needed. Every house has got a proper shower and toilet seat, though, so it seems change is on the way.