Thursday, October 23, 2008

harvest season in minority villages

Colorful tapestries, harvesting rice, morning cock crows and ancient songs floating over drum towers where old men sit playing mah jong. The ethnic minority villages of Guangxi Province offer much in the way of slow living - especially in contrast with the rapid industrialization of the home places of the rest of their Chinese brethren. These pastoral places seem to serve as refuge for city-dwelling Han Chinese; similarly to the romantics in turn-of-the-century continental Europe, you can find painters and poets and lovers of a slower life here in these villages, enjoying the clean air and the sweeping movements of the brightly-clad reapers, harvesting what they had sown many months previous.

In Ping'an, home of the Zhuang people, the rice fields are in the form of terraces cut into steep hillsides - referred to here as 'dragon's backbone.' Most of the time in Ping'an was spent hiking amongst these carved mountainsides, taking in the autumnal scent of burning dry leaves.

In Chengyang, a series of Dong towns clustered along a water-wheeled river, the main attractions are several flower (or, more practically, wind-and-rain) bridges. A leisurely stroll through the towns finds gaggles of schoolchildren giggling out hello's, narrow alleyways framed by nail-less Dong houses with drying bouquets of rice hanging from their eaves, and drum towers with friendly old men smoking pipes and offering weak green tea as a token of friendship and pride.

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