My first stop in this part of China would be to see the Yao people and the terraced rice paddies – both famous attractions in China. When I post the photos of the rice terraces later, you will probably recognize them as they are in most every Chinese tourist brochure and commercial. The Yao people, a minority tribe in China, are most notably know for their womens’ long hair. After marriage, they never cut it and it is quite long.
One of my Chinese friends, Erica, arranged my bus transportation, hotel lodging, and helped me out along the way pointing out the sites and translating for me.
The drive from Yangshuo to Longshen took several hours including a switch back mountain road for the last hour. While we were still on “flat” ground, our tour guide told us all about the Yao people, the terraced rice paddies, and the customs of the people and region. We were told of some local taboos including the prohibition of picking up only one chop stick (always pick them up in a pair). He also told us about the Yao marriage and bathing habits…
As we worked our way up the mountain we climbed ever higher into the cloud line. I remember the Lonely Planet traveller (the blonde girl) being so disappointed at the top of the mountain because the clouds obscured her view of the terraced paddies. I hoped that we would have clear weather. I shot the photo below as we climbed the mountain heading towards Longshen.
Erica, explained that it was really “hit and miss” with the weather here. We might stay 3 days and see nothing but fog and the next group might have 3 days of sunshine. Once we pulled up to the Yao village, we were invited to cross over the river to see some traditional homes. The bridge was a swaying cable bridge and each successive group of tourists rocked it from side to side in an attempt to knock over the tourists behind them. It seemed a little dangerous but turned out to be quite fun.
After I crossed over the bridge, I took a photo of the river looking downstream. It was hard to frame a shot that didn’t include a large amount of trash in the foreground. China, as does much of the world, has a long way to come ecologically.
After we crossed the bridge we toured inside some Yao homes to see how they live. The conditions were quite primitive. The tour guide explained that the rice harvests are not enough to sustain the people here. Growing on the terraces, they only have one growing season and it is not enough to support the people. The government provides subsidies to the families and they also depend on tourist income selling their wares to tourists and by performing ethnic dances and shows.
… typical Yao home…
Inside, the conditions were also primitive. I tried to remember to judge not based on western standards, but to instead, look at the people and ask, “Are they happy? Do they have enough to eat?” Hard as it is for us to imagine, life can be quite fulfilling without internet, TV, and I-phones. The only real downside that I could see with the Yao people is that in their dependence on tourists for a large part of their income, they have become quite aggressive in their sales tactics. A polite “no” (in Chinese or English) was not enough to dissuade them from trying to sell us fabrics, silver coins, jewelry, post cards, and all sorts of other “touristy” items. I began to wonder how much we were upsetting their lifestyle with our tourist eyes and dollars and yuan.
Inside one home we saw a young woman cooking a meal. In the next room I took this shot of the family’s religious altar:
We crossed back over the bridge to attend a Yao cultural show. Outside of the hall we found tables and tables lined with good for sale. Thee bright trade goods and the clothing of the Yao women made for bright photos, especially considering how “dull” the sky was with the overcast and clouds.
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