Bakai Village: Rongjiang Guizhou: The Miao 苗族 and their amazing garments

Bakai Village 扒开村

Rongjiang 榕江

Guizhou Province 贵州省

Bakai Village 扒开村

After spending the morning strolling around Rongjiang’s huge Sunday market we were left with a few hours to kill before we had to catch the last bus back to Kaili. There wasn’t enough time to go to the amazing Dong Village of Zengchong so we looked for a closer alternative.

Bakai Village 扒开村

Walking around the market we had noticed that some ladies had come to town in the most amazingly embroidered dresses and trousers. We asked the receptionist in the hotel about them and she told us that they were Gaoshan Miao 高山苗 or High Mountain Miao from the village of Bakai 扒开村 some 15 kilometers away along the Duliu river. I had never heard the name, Gaoshan Miao, before or since so it might just be a local name for the villagers living along the Duliu River.

Bakai Village 扒开村

Before we could say any more she was already recommending that her ex-boyfriend, who just happened to be a taxi driver, could take us there for the modest fee of 60 Yuan for a round trip to Bakai village. And before you could say [Read more →]

Praying Didn’t Improve My Photos: Jingesi (金阁寺)Wutaishan Shanxi Province

Jinge Temple 金阁寺

Wutaishan 五台山

Shanxi Province

Wutaishan 五台山 Jinge Temple 金阁寺

From Our Diary

‘ Adam asks the monk if he can take a picture of the statues, the monk gives a long speech, at the end of which we understand: “Yes you can, if you pay your respects to the Buddha”. Adam takes this to mean that he has to ‘kow-tow’ and starts doing so – accompanied by the sound of the monk hitting the alms bowl. He donates 10 yuan.  He`ll do anything for a good picture’.

The Luohan / Arhat Hall

Wutaishan 五台山 Jinge Temple 金阁寺

The Jinge temple 金阁寺 is a riot of colours, a kind of Buddhist Disneyland,  in which the most outrageous arhats or luohan 罗汉 – in Buddhism, a perfected person, one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana (spiritual enlightenment) – we have ever seen are cavorting!

Wutaishan 五台山 Jinge Temple 金阁寺

One of our favorites is a luohan in a colorful patchwork robe who is doing the splits in the air – with his feet on two rocks – while joining his hand in prayer Another swings on a tree trunk. There are luohans swinging off the ceiling by one hand, a luohan that looks like a [Read more →]

International Women’s Day in China

During the One Child Policy (一胎政策) which finished in 2015, the Chinese government tried to persuade the population not to discriminate against having female children.  Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful and has resulted in there being far more males than females in China. Traditional families, especially in the countryside chose to have a male child over a female child.

This is a government propaganda sign in Rural China (Bakai, Rongjiang, Guizhou Province) reminding the local population that males and females are equal.

Boys and Girls are the same.
生男生女都一样

However, due the gender imbalance, the government is now asking women to lower their aspirations and be less picky when choosing a male partner for life.

There is still a lot of work to do.

 

Rongjiang Market 榕江市场 (Updated) Guizhou Province 贵州省

Rongjiang Market 榕江市场

Guizhou Province 贵州省

We are updating this article with new photos. Rongjiang 榕江 is dusty but expanding town in Guizhou Province 贵州省 that forms part of what is known as the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture 黔东南苗族侗族自治州; Qiándōngnán Miáozú Dòngzú Zìzhìzhōu.

Rongjiang is now connected to China’s High Speed Railway Network.  The Train station is 5km out of town and there are buses, 2 Yuan, and Taxis 10/15 Yuan, connecting Rongjiang to the train station. Rongjiang is on the Guangzhou – Guiyang line.

Rongjiang 榕江 is definitely not one of china’s most attractive towns. It’s dusty, slightly chaotic and white tiled. However, there are a number of redeeming factors. Not only does Rongjiang provide a fascinating gateway to minority villages, but it also has an amazing Sunday Market that sucks in a myriad of different ethnic minorities for the day.

If you are there on market day you are sure to come across the Dong minority 侗族 in huge numbers as well as various Miao 苗族 ethnic groups including the Gaoshan Miao and maybe even the odd Top knot Miao coming up from Basha village 芭沙村 near Congjiang 从江.

So if you find yourself passing through this area on your way between kaili 凯里 and the famous dong Village of Zhaoxing 肇兴; Rongjiang 榕江 makes for great break in the journey. In fact, just the spectacular bus ride between Kaili and Rongjiang makes the whole trip worthwhile.

Arrival

Our bus bumped into Rongjiang’s run-down and grubby bus station after a gorgeous five- hour, 160- kilometre bus ride from Kaili 凯里. Rongjiang, [Read more →]

Maijishan: Haystack Mountain

Maijishan 麦积山

Haystack Mountain:

Tianshui 天水  Gansu Province 甘肃省

Maijishan 麦积山

There is nothing quite like Maijishan 麦积山 in China. The bizarre, haystack shaped mountain rises majestically up over a subtropical zone of greenery and rivers.  Other Buddhist sites might have enormous statues or high ceiling-ed painted caves, but the views they offer are often more restrictive and it may be difficult to get up close, due to barriers or hordes of visitors.

Maijishan 麦积山

At Maijishan 麦积山, the cave art and statues are right in your face and you can almost touch them, though you mustn’t, of course!  And, in addition, there is the mountain itself: a honeycomb of caves and statues reached by climbing up a snakes and ladder board of incredible staircases that cling precariously to the side of the mountain.

Maijishan 麦积山

The first Chinese character of Maijishan, “mai” (麦), means wheat or grain resulting in the mountain being called Haystack Mountain, because of its uncanny resemblance to the [Read more →]

Xiangyu Castle Shanxi Province Qin River: 湘峪古堡

Xiangyu Castle

Shanxi Province

Qin River

湘峪古堡

(Xiangyu Gubao)

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

Our driver had to ask for directions to get to Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡.  He seemed a bit lost, as there was a new road and he had only ever been there on the bad old one. As we were getting close, he stopped to ask a young woman waiting by the roadside for final directions. She confirmed that he was nearly there and then, with a cheeky grin, asked for a lift to the village and hopped in. When we got there, she jumped out of the car and, in good English, bade us ‘goodbye auntie’ and ‘goodbye uncles’.

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

In front of us, as we got out of the car, was the extremely impressive castle of Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡.

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

From the outside, the castle looks like an impregnable fortress with its crenelated walls and dozens of enormous watchtowers. The river that flows in front of the walls and the hills in the background,  only add to the castle’s splendor.

Xiangyu Castle 湘峪古堡

It really makes for quite a spectacular sight. Yet, at the same time, the view is somewhat deceptive, because Xiangyu is actually a large, fortified village, rather [Read more →]

HaihuiTemple 海会寺: Shanxi Province 山西省

HaihuiTemple

海会寺

山西省

Haihui Temple 海会寺

The Buddhist Haihui temple 海会寺where Minister Chen studied is just a short ride away from the castle and Guoyu village. However, our driver – even though he’s a local – has never been there and isn’t sure what it’s all about.

Haihui Temple 海会寺

As we approach the complex, along a mostly empty road, and stop at a grand but rather abandoned-looking entrance area, neither are we. Should we fork out another 30 Yuan each, just to see two pagodas? Fortunately, we decide to go for it.

Haihui Temple 海会寺

As the two pagodas come into view, at the back of a landscaped garden, we can see that they are truly magnificent. The shorter one, the 20-metre high and 1100-year-old Sheli Ta 舍利塔, is a harmonious, but [Read more →]

The Ancient Town of Guo Yu 郭峪古城: Shanxi Province

The Ancient Town of Guo Yu

郭峪古城

Shanxi Province 山西省

Guoyu Ancient Town 郭峪古城

Just a ten minute stroll from the magnificent Minister Chen’s Castle, the peaceful, ancient, walled village of Guo Yu 郭峪古城 is that elusive old China you have been looking for, but of which you have only caught the odd glimpse.

Guoyu Ancient Town 郭峪古城

Even these days, Guoyu is still dominated by its enormous and forbidding watchtower; so much so that nearly all the narrow flagstone alleys and secluded courtyards fall under its all-pervasive shadow. The fortified city walls and secret underground passage leading out from the watchtower point to a more turbulent past.

Guoyu Ancient Town 郭峪古城 Tunnel Under the Village

In more recent history, Guoyu also played an important part. It was used as a base for the 8th route army of the Chinese communists in the war against Japan and there is a memorial square to celebrate this fact.

Guoyu Ancient Town 郭峪古城

Nowadays, however, all is peace and quiet. You can find plenty of Ming and Qing dynasty houses still occupied by local residents. [Read more →]

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle: Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle

Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

What to see and do around Jincheng晋城 Shanxi Province Part One

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle: Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

The southern Shanxi city of Jincheng 晋城 will never win any prizes for beauty or charm. It’s a typical medium sized Chinese City, dominated by the ubiquitous white tiled buildings, interspersed with an occasional glitzy glass tower. The only attraction in town is a recently built temple complex with a Ming Dynasty  pagoda.

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle: Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

So why go there? Well, if you like unspoilt Chinese towns where time seems to have stood still, incredible vernacular architecture, walled castles and ancient pagodas, then Jincheng is the perfect base from which to explore them.  Jincheng also has a fantastic Huoguo restaurant, a decent hotel and friendly cab drivers.

We spent two nights in Jincheng; it was enough to see what we had planned to visit. However, there are a lot more sights to visit than appear in any guidebook.

We visited four places:

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle: Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

 Guoyu Village: Guoyu Gucheng: 郭峪古城

The Haihui  Temple and Pagoda complex: Haihui Si: 海会寺

Xiangfu Castle: Xiangyu Gubao 湘峪古保

Part One:

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle: Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle: Huangcheng Xiangfu: 皇城相府

Ask anybody if they have ever heard of Prime Minister Chen’s Castle and you’ll probably get a shrug of the shoulders and a look of ‘what are you on about?’ However, in China, [Read more →]

Songpan’s 松潘 Bridges: Sichuan Province

Songpan’s 松潘 Bridges:

Sichuan Province 四川省

Songpan Bridge 映月桥

The mountain town of Songpan 松潘 has undergone a lot of changes in recent years but some original remnants of its wonderful ancient architecture still remain. Two of those structures are the emblematic ancient covered bridges (Gusong Qiao 古松桥 and Yingyue Qiao 映月桥) that span the fast flowing Min river 岷江。 Below are our photos taken before the recent development.

Songpan Bridge 映月桥

Songpan is an ethnically diverse town with Tibetans, Hui (Chinese Muslims) and Han Chinese all living together.  It’s a great place to relax and has numerous tea houses along the river and next to the bridges.

Songpan Bridge 映月桥

For more pictures of Songpan during its summer festival Click here: Songpan Festival 松潘

For more pictures of Songpan and its people click here:People watching in Songpan松潘

Click on read more for larger photos: [Read more →]