Tag Archives: Guizhou 黔

In Biasha and Biapa, A Tale of Two Villages

Traffic crossing
In one village, English signage and a tacky performance square indicate that this here collection of rice farmers are more than ready to take your tourist money. And if you came here to see those famous Miao “sharpshooters” (枪手者), the reason this particular village makes it into all the Chinese guidebooks (despite–or because–of the fact they aren’t allowed to own guns, many Chinese are obsessed with them), then you won’t be disappointed. Around the empty performance square, young men with muddy boots and long antique rifles prowl, pouring gunpowder down the barrels while smoking cigarettes and looking like their last shower was a cold one.

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In Jiabang, Where Along a Back Road, Steep Hills Rice Up

Just wait 'til we can get the panorama stitched together.

This trip through southeastern Guizhou has been about local knowledge, and the pass-ability of local roads (不通! “Can’t get there from here,” is a common refrain from the bus station clerks, when we ask about getting to one place or another that has been recommended by someone along the way). Sometimes the recommendations aren’t so great, either. We went to Chejiang, supposedly a bustling Dong village just outside Rongjiang, based on multiple enthusiastic recommendations. We found a village square being ripped apart and expanded by disinterested work crews. The new Chejiang would include a large performance venue and rows of souvenir shops, most selling 奇石, “strange/mysterious rocks,” that old Chinese tourist staple. A few locals looked on: here they were just getting started on turning their town into a tourism operation, and sure enough, the Westerners with big backpacks were already trickling in! Continue reading

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Postcard from the Rough Road to Rongjiang

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The buses in Guizhou are old and tired from the endless bump-bump-bump of uncared-for roads. They are slow, too, stopping every few minutes to pick up people by the side of forested roads.

A young couple gets on. She is carrying three long, thin sticks, tied together in a meager bundle; he smells of fires. An old woman, bent seventy degrees, boards with a baby on her back. The child is immobilized in a brightly-colored, hand-woven baby carrier; each of its limbs is wrapped separately in a thick blanket and sticks out straight, giving the effect of an enormous, patchwork starfish with tiny red cheeks. Everyone has greasy hair; hot water is scarce, so showers are probably infrequent in the wintertime.

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In a Snowy Miao Village, Two Build a Fire

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Our first stop on this, our final long foray, is Langde, a quiet Miao minority village on the road from Kaili through the mountains to Guangxi. We arrived in Kaili by train, a 24-hour ride through the damp, weary, gray-misted countryside of southern China in winter. It’s good to be back on the road, with its small comforts and its chance encounters: Hot water for tea on the train, a long night rocked to sleep by the rails (since winter arrived in our mostly unheated Hangzhou apartment, the train is the warmest place we’ve slept in months) and a strange conversation in the dining car.

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