Posts Tagged With: split pants

LAST DAY IN JILIANG

The Hun Dynasty is from 200 B.C. Most Chinese are Han Qiang (han-chung)) The greatest challenge to China is the Tibetan people.  China seems to step all over itself when they try and crack down on Tibet with the  whole world watching. There was a border incident just after we left where two Tibetan’s were killed. Yunnan Province borders India, Burma, Laos and Vietnam and was once the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao that defeated Chinese armies and controlled the trade routes to India and Burma before Khublai Khan. America’s Flying Tigers were based here and thwarted  the Invasion of China by Japan in the 1940’s.  The province of Yunnan has 25 different minority groups. China is  still  leery of minority people who might try to be independent and form their own government. It is so peaceful and beautiful here, we find it hard to understand. Viki tells us that at one time China was set into strict class lines. Her grandfather was a scholar and was sent to Shenyang Province and lived with the Uygurs or Greware people, under very tough living conditions. He married there and  Vicki’s mother was born there and married  an Ethnic born in Urumki. He was persecuted and sent to a “struggle” meeting and made to live in a cow shed. He tried to kill himself but Grandmother was strong and he survived and eventually the family was allowed to move to the city.  When Viki  was a child, learning how wonderful Mau was, she once heard her Grandfather say, “Mau is a bad guy” knowing he could be killed for saying so.  One of her Uncles was a Red Guard and considered her father a traitor and accused him of crimes and persecuted his own brother. When Mau died, everyone went crazy. Some wanted revenge, others shed tears. Afterwards, they wondered how stupid they could be. Life under Mau was unpleasant for most people. We really appreciate Vicki’s  openness  about China’s infamous past and faux pas of the present.

This is the walled entrance to Jiliang where modern vehicles can drive. Buses are not able to drive into the city.

Tourists unload and walk into the city or load into a smaller vehicle. I took this picture mainly because the  baby boy is wearing split pants. You can’t really tell. But Chinese children traditionally were  not diapered. Some still wear split pants and are set down to urinate or poop and the parents pick up the waste and deposit it somewhere just as in the old days when human fertilizer was saved for the fields. The government, according to Viki,  discourages the practice and most city babies are diapered.

And, as expected, modern vehicles share the road with the more common bike-trucks.

The river and the ancient water ways dominate the city which sits at the confluence of three different rivers.  Before the fire burned half the city down, every street in Jiliang  was narrow for people walking or on horse back with a waterway beside  the walkway.

Entrance to each shop next to the waterway is a rudimentary bridge, often old planks.

The streets are teeming with customers and no one would even think it was dangerous. The U.S. would bring it up to code and ruin this ancient city, we think. It is at least 3,000 years old.

In front of this shop is a character asking people to pay to have their picture taken with him in his native costume.  His pipe reaches to the ground.

I’m entranced and sneak a picture of him. Isn’t he gorgeous? Oh, to have the language!

Water loving willows grow profusely and grace many of the old buildings.

But, most of the activity is on the square.

These sturdy little horses are called Jiliang Horses and are a desired commodity among the mountain people of this area. At one time they were a trade commodity along the famous Silk Road. The horses outlived the market for silk and eventually tea trade dominated the Silk Road.

These horsemen had parked their steeds and didn’t mind having their picture taken. They appeared to be working wranglers or traders of some sort.

The square is always filled with entertainment, like this  Naxi group dancing  and singing. I curse myself for not taking more pictures. There were tumblers, jugglers and magicians with a vessel out for donations much like break dancers and musicians do in San Francisco. This day is Oct. 30th, a double nine (lucky) lunar holiday. (I have no clue what that means.) It is wonderful to have a day in this ancient city that began as a stop along the Tea-Horse Road, a network of high paths and dangerous passes over the mountains into Tibet and other parts of China. The tea was packed in bricks and bales and we still see it sold that way in bricks, bales and huge hat shaped rings.  We couldn’t figure out what the bales were until we left Jiliang and asked Vicki who explained that those tea shops we saw, with myriad tea pots and cups, were really selling tea.

Michal and I do some last minute souvenir shopping and arrange to meet Wanning and Judge Dean Determan for dinner on the moat adjacent to our hotel which is the only food court in town where all the exotic foods, the music and night life happens. The paving stones were once washed by a trick of the ancient water system where the town streets and square was flooded and rinsed  debris back into the river. Wanning shows us her haul, beautiful scarves about six feet long and three feet wide for $4 each.  She leads us back to the shop at dusk and we get them for $3. She says, “And I’m Chinese, I’ve been taken.”  We all laugh. On our way back for dinner, a vendor tried to sell us fried grubs, inch worms and cockroaches for a snack, but we declined.  We instead opt for a dish Wanning and Dean recommend with a tomato broth and noodles with bits of water buffalo and beef. But before we decide, one animal on the butcher block looks familiar but we can’t identify what meat it is. “Dachshund,”  says Vicki who is always around on the fringes of our activity to answer questions. We  groaned but Vicki is very forthright and doesn’t try to protect our western squeamishness or apologize for their customs. We decide the people in this area like their pets too much.

We  keep gawking fascinated by every thing we see.  The octopus, urchins, shelled creatures we can’t identify. Fish with heads and eyes and fins still intact. The insects and beetles, turtles and strange colored mushrooms. Pickled vegetables we have never seen before. Seeds and pods and edible grasses and baked delights in neon colors. We can’t decide which is most fascinating, people watching or cruising the food court; listening to thousand year old  music, or the hum of exotic languages;  “hiyee!”   sharp musical calls from waiters scurrying back and forth between tightly packed tables. The glow from ambient lantern and torch light;  people stooped or sitting cross legged  in dark corners.  We know we are glimpsing the threads of an ancient past, with no definition but magical.  Unforgettable.

 

 

 

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SHANGHAI

Saturday morning, we bus to the airport and fly to Shanghai. Shanghai is the business center of China and Beijing is the government center, much like New York and Washington D.C.  We notice the air here is awfully polluted.
We tour the city by bus and  important buildings are pointed out to us by our City Guide, Michelle. A Soviet building from 1952 called the Wedding Cake. All the important banks and financial institutions of the Bund. The Bund is China’s Wall Street, the financial center of China, in the old days,  and now. My one gigabyte sandisk , as it filled to the end, had blank spots during the unloading, and burning process and many of my pictures were lost. The best way to see The Bund is at the following website.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bund

My one surviving picture of the modern skyline of Shanghai from across the Yangtze. Our City Guide, Michele tells us Shanghai means to the sea. We think of Shanghai as kidnapping and that is part of  Shanghai’s reputation when able-bodied men were taken against their will and brought down the river and put to sea on an ocean-going vessel. Shanghai is regarded as a baby city since it is only 200 years old. What was once an opium shipping port in the 1840’s to the 1930’s, with only 100,000 populations has become one of the biggest container shipping ports in the world. Their biggest exports are silk and tea. Now an astonishing  21,000,000 people live here.   They have the highest building in the world and more  skyscrapers than New York City and Hong Kong. Yet in 1964, no building was over ten stories high. . Chinese people want to be the biggest, the tallest, the fastest and the best.
The city is so modern, yet we still see people driving on different types of  slow-moving motors, and a zillion bikes. Here and in Beijing  people are licensed to drive on Mondays and Wednesdays, others on Tuesdays and Thursdays and so on.  We see one man carrying a full size bed on just an ordinary bike. The loads people in China carry on bikes are legendary. There are many beggars swarming us at bus stops and anywhere tourists congregate selling rip off watches, hand bags, shoes, you name it. One member of our group, though warned, bought a Micky Mouse watch and before the bus had pulled away, it fell apart. She laughed the hardest at her own folly.
Traditionally, Chinese babies and toddlers do not wear diapers. They wear split pants. I tried many times to get a picture of them and finally caught one. The problem is, the children squat in the street and the parents pick up after them;  part of  old China where nothing, including human fertilizer was wasted. The government discourages this practice but notice  resistance from young mothers like this one.

In the afternoon, we visit a silk factory. They harvest these small cocoons, boil them to kill the worm, then dye the silk various colors and spin the silk into large batts.  They sell silk “quilts” and we had a hard time understanding how you could have a quilt made of silk until we watched them take a silk batt and stretch, stretch, and stretch it until it was bed size.

In reality, the silk quilt is a comforter not a  quilt. Silk quilts are reputed to be  very warm for their weight. You do not wash them, we are told.  You air them out twice a year and only wash the outer cover in shampoo. They machine squeeze them so small, you can carry a queen sized quilt like a medium-sized purse.  These factory visits are sales pitches, all tours have them.  They can be educational and worth going to. The whole silk making process was interesting.

We passed a section of freeway where a cement column supporting an over crossing was approximately twelve  feet in diameter?  It was beautifully decorated with writhing dragons. I asked why the need for such a heavy support column. Our city guide explained that it allows the dragons to escape. The road worker found trouble in that spot. They insisted there was a dragon there  and it would be bad luck to cover it up. The government architects came up with a solution. The column is partly hollow and has an exit window. Now, knowing what we do of Chinese culture,  and their superstitions of centuries embedded in  their character, we understand.

We stayed at the Gorgeous Hilton Hotel and ate out our first night. Food here tastes bland compared to the spicy Szechuan food we enjoyed and prefer. The hotel rooms sell condoms and you can buy a large bottle of water for $28. Expensive in this city. To buy a small condo here costs about $200,000. Seems high when they pay workers so little. It was nice to have a good scotch at the bar instead of the tasteless Chinese beer and wine.

That night, we are taken to visit the tallest building in the world, a brand new building with 88 floors.  It costs us $7 to ride the elevator to the top in 45 seconds. Amazingly, you feel no stomach churning lift, it is a seamless ride. The lines to get on the elevators are never-ending. We suspect the building will be paid for by tourism. From the top, we look at a new building being built right next to it by the Japanese which will be even higher at 105 stories. The view from the top is stupendous.

It is a Saturday and all the city lights are lit on the weekends, but not during the week;  a cost saving measure. At the top we see a video of men parachuting from the building. It is against the law, but they did it anyway. What an amazing technology. We have no doubt that China will some day replace the U.S. as the pre-eminent super power. There are, by the way, 20 million Christians in China.
(The photo above  is copyrighted by the Creative Commons Attribution given to wikipedia.)

 

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