Posts Tagged With: Suni Yi


When I’m home, I always have projects to do that take gobs of time. Or, I’m having gobs of fun. The next three weeks,  I’ll be having therapy for my hip three mornings a week plus other doctor’s appointments, and my blog may be quite sporadic. I wonder at times like this how our travel companions who were severely injured in the May 27th accident are faring? I’m back revisiting my 2006 trip to China, and, suffering embarrassment as I was reminded that I had blogged my China trip last year. I totally forgot. Maybe it was the bap in the head during the accident that made me forget.  In any case, UNESCO made this cemetery a place of interest because China has not allowed burials for over 200 years. All bodies by law must be cremated. This rare cemetery belongs to the minority Yi people, and we visit their nearby village.

The minority Yi living here are poor. The place is littered with garbage.

Raw sewage runs through the  town in these runnels. They have electricity now, fairly new for them.

The streets are narrow; the buildings show their layers of history from old to ancient.

The major crop for them is corn. They raise pigs and we see dogs and wonder if they are raised for meat rather than pets.

The people mostly ignore us or hide their curiosity.  Like most minority villages, they work together and share the work and the harvest.

And, like old China, women go to work in the fields with their babies on their backs.

We saw women and children and our group engaged them. The child with the mother in the blue sweater was scared of we big noses and ran away from us.

She managed to bring him close to us. Vicki told us, do not give these people money and turn them into beggars. But, here we see that a member of our group did it anyway, and the little boy in red has his hand outstretched for more. The Cemetery is a new UNESCO site and soon, these people will have a steady parade of tourists with money in hand. Handouts warp their way of life,  rather than enhance it.

The children seem quite happy and well fed.

Who are we to decide their lifestyle needs improving?  The minority people are allowed two babies per family.  The government handed out condoms and demonstrated them by slipping them on their fingers. On the next visit, they found condoms on fence posts, hanging in the windows and on bushes. The people thought they were magically going to work by having them around.

Superstition is handed down from generation to generation.  Some of the practices of the minority people in the region are pretty strange.  These Suni-Yi believe spider webs are good luck and will not break up a web. The Wah minority favor rat meat. In older times they lent their wives to friends, or two sisters were allowed to share one husband. Some Wah are still nomadic. Girls live in white tents. Any man can fornicate with her because she has to have a baby to prove that she is fertile before she can marry.  But, the tent is guarded by a dog and the man must fight off the dog with stones and fists. The government discourages these old rituals and practices with some success.

We leave the area thinking of the vast differences in culture there is in the same country without the influence of immigration as in our own melting pot of diverse cultures. We are truly stepping back in time, here.

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We leave Kunming on the bus headed for Guilin. On the way we stop at a poor Suni Yi village that  still functions much like it has for hundreds of years. It has been insulated from tourists until recently when the village and its cemetery were designated a UNESCO site. Most of the houses are ramshackle. Some have tin roofs, some have straw. Some keep pigs next to their houses.

Raw sewage runs into a ditch down the street; garbage is strewn on the ground everywhere.  You understand very quickly what life was like, and still is,  for some ethnic minorities in China.

The Suni Yi believe spider webs are good luck and they don’t remove them from doorways, alleys or houses.

The women work together to remove corn from the cobs. The crop is shared among the families. It appears to be the major crop in this area. Front right is the village adobe mixer.

They have many uses for the fibrous husks and don’t throw them out.

Clearly visible on this building, the many layers of time. On the right, is a slap dash repair. The center is from an earlier time. Above and on the left are different materials.

Here, too, you can see the different style of adobe bricks and stucco that went into repairs over the years.

Like all Chinese, they adore their children. During the enforced one child per family policy ethnic minority people are allowed two children per family. The Chinese government enforces this with ostracism. An unregistered child is shunned by neighbors; he cannot get work as an adult, no one is allowed to hire him.  His parents also suffer; they lose jobs and get punished in many, small ways. Farm people didn’t exactly have “jobs” like city people before collective farming. And now, collective farming  has been discontinued.   At one time they gave out free condoms and demonstrated them by showing how to use them by slipping  them on their fingers. So the farmers put the condoms on fence posts, tree branches and anything but their privates thinking they would work.
The people here are not used to big noses parading through their village and they are a bit shy. Vicki asked us not to give them money and turn them into beggars. But, you can see the dollar bill in this little boys hand. One of our group “forgot”.  It won’t be long before tourism will negatively and positively affect their  lives.

We barely give the above ground  cemetery a passing glance. It is unkempt and overgrown with weeds.

From past experiences,  UNESCO sites usually have some great beauty, but this site was chosen for its historical significance and rarity. Above ground cemeteries have not been allowed in China for several centuries. By law,  bodies must be cremated.

As we leave the village, this woman is headed for the fields with her child on her back. You can tell the dog has had recent puppies and we wonder…

Happy children play on the street. They don’t know they are poor when they get enough to eat, have loving parents, and adequate shelter.

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