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Yunnan Province, China (Series with Pictures)

Yunnan Province, China (Series with Pictures)
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  • - March 23rd, 2013, 3:35 pm
    - March 23rd, 2013, 3:35 pm Post #31 - March 23rd, 2013, 3:35 pm
    Baisha and Xuesong Villages: Rock, Paper, Honey!

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    Laughing at Sisyphus, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    The environs of Lijiang hold promise for those seeking a glimpse of village life in Yunnan. While Yunnan remains one of the poorest provinces in China, strategies for development appear to be having an impact. As with everywhere we toured in China, much construction is underway. These men in Baisha, the traditional capital of the Naxi kingdom, seem undaunted by the scope of their task . . . but it is true (to fracture a proverb), that a city of a thousand stones begins with one tap of the sledgehammer.

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    Splitting Rock, Baisha, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    The dilapidated structures seen here show a level of decay that was typical of Lijiang's ancient quarters prior to restoration.

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    Restoration in Progress, Baisha by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    If the lively commerce going on just across the street from this shell is any indication, renewal is imminent for Baisha Old Town. Our travel leaders, Robert and Morrison, commented on the stark changes in Lijiang since their visit the previous spring, and predicted that next year, this Baisha street would be entirely restored and open for business.

    Across the road, local women were selling indigo-dyed batik and artifacts of questionable authenticity, many of which we saw repeated in "antiques" markets across Yunnan. The draw of a flea market comes from its capacity to harness nostalgia, though in this case, one or two of the juxtapositions provoked more dissonance than yearning for days gone by.

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    Flea Market, Baisha, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Image
    Pipesmoking Couple by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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    Guanyin and the Chairman, Pourquoi Pas? by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    We were charmed by the exterior of the Baisha Times Restaurant/Country Road Cafe, with its flower boxes over a rushing waterway. Initially, however, we thought they were only serving coffee and a limited menu aimed at tourists.

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    We were glad that we thought to clarify the menu, because they offered us a pleasant table in a sunny interior courtyard and cooked us one of the very best meals we had on our trip.

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Here is what we ate, though I cannot remember the order of the dishes.

    Crisp, deep-fried eggplant rounds:
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    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Beef with Mushrooms:

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    Beef with Mushrooms and Pickled Red Peppers by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Yunnan Ham with Hot Hot Green Peppers- a dish that reminded me of one at Lao Hunan in Chicago:

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    Yunnan Ham and Hot Green Peppers by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Lotus Root with Hot Pepper:

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    Lotus Root with Hot Pepper by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Tofu with Chives and Hot Pepper:

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    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Pea Pods with Chicken:

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    and the pinnacle of Naxi home cooking, Potatoes in the Naxi Style, with Pickled Vegetables, including Pickled Peppers:

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    Naxi Potatoes with Pickled Vegetables by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    The accommodating cooks allowed us to come into the kitchen and photograph their preparation of a second order of the dynamite potatoes they had served us. (Although I will leave it up to you to find a way to approximate the pickle that gave the dish its complexity, I did manage to jot down a recipe, which I will pass on in a separate post that will offer recipes from our trip.)

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    Yunnan Cook at Work by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Image
    Kitchen Scene, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    While Naxi townspeople of Baisha are engaged in the transformation of rocks into dwellings, the history of the Naxi people is embedded in paper - papermaking to be exact.

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    Making Naxi Paper by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    This man is making paper the Naxi way. This ancient process of treating bark is associated with bark-clothing traditions that spread throughout the ancient world. According to our guide, a woman in her 20's, Naxi villages continue to harvest bark and make paper the traditional way. Some contemporary uses for bark cloth remain, as it has water-repellent properties. This photo shows pieces of the rustic material for sale at a roadside shop:

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    In ancient times, perhaps as long ago as the 6th century BCE, the use of mulberry bark led to the discovery of sericulture and silk weaving. The Naxi made silk fabric and embroidered silk clothing for Chinese emperors, a role which contributed to their being seen as targets for persecution during the Cultural Revolution. In recent years, the government has supported attempts to revive Naxi crafts and preserve Naxi Dongba religious traditions and artifacts, including this manuscript. It is a narrative that, in its context, may be similar in significance to the Bayeux Tapestry.

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    Naxi Manuscript, Dongba Culture Museum by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    After lunch, we made our way to the Dabaoji Palace and temple complex. Naxi religious frescoes painted on the stone walls of that temple were once saved by paper - that is, saved from destruction during the Cultural Revolution when a quick thinking Naxi resident covered them with propaganda posters containing images of Chairman Mao and revolutionary slogans. The Red Guards sent to destroy the frescoes did not dare risk censure by defacing images of Mao, so the frescoes survived intact. Seeing the wisteria in the courtyard of the temple made it hard to imagine that such a peaceful place was ever the scene of such dramatic upheaval.

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    Dongba Temple, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    However, Yunnan's history contains a great deal of upheaval. In the early part of the 20th century, a warlord ruled and gangs of brigands roamed the province. It was to this Yunnan that Joseph Rock, an Austrian-American botanist, adventurer and de-facto ethnographer, came in 1922. One of the first Westerners to visit Northwestern Yunnan and Tibet, Rock became well-known after he published an account of his travels in National Geographic (July 1931). (For a contemporary account of trip retracing Rock’s plant-seeking forays into Tibet, see this ambitious blog In the Footsteps of Joseph Rock by Michael Woodhead, a British journalist.)

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    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    In Xuesong Village, near Lijiang, the compound where Rock lived has been opened as a tourist attraction, and the town now offers amenities for tourists, such as guest houses and donkey rides. In spite of these changes, daily life retains its timeworn rhythms.

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    Xuesong Village by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Image
    Smoking Break in Yunnan Village by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Yunnan is a tobacco-growing province; in fact, tobacco is its biggest export crop. We noticed these leaves in Lijiang Market, but we didn't see anyone rolling their own smokes.

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    Tobacco, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Although thousands of Naxi manuscripts were destroyed during the upheavals of the 20th century, Joseph Rock was personally responsible for saving one third of the nearly 22,000 Naxi manuscripts that survive worldwide. A number of these works survive in the Naxi Manuscript Collection of the Library of Congress, which Rock sold to the library in the years before he was expelled from China, in 1949.

    Leaving Xuesong, we came across a market near a temple complex where merchants had set up tables to sell devotional goods. Although we came as food-centric tourists, rather than pilgrims, our prayers were answered by this woman selling forest products.

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    Forest Foodstuffs, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    There were walnuts being shelled and spread out to dry and bags of dried mushrooms.

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    Walnuts Drying by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    I believe these were pine nuts, though I cannot be sure. The animal horns are also a mystery.

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    Pinenuts, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Seed pods here, but what kind? I am pretty sure they are not opium pods. . .

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Also a mystery are these black nuggets. I originally thought they were beans.

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    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    I confess to forgetting what these furry things are. We saw them in several markets, and I believe they are medicinal, like some of the other dried bundles in the background. All of these intrigued us.

    Image
    Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    But the really astounding sight was the big, pitted orange rock at the end of the table. What was it? Old Honey, gathered in the forest from wild bees and aged for up to three years to dry it.

    Image
    Old Honey, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    The woman weighed out a piece of it for us and we ate it on the spot.

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    Bounty of the Forest, Yunnan by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Image
    Weighing the Honey by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    What is it like? A bit like Rock Candy and a bit like a Molasses Puff with the flavor of honey. It melts very slowly in the mouth, though.

    Image
    Rock Honey by Josephine2004, on Flickr

    Oh yeah, and in case you are wondering, like almost everything else, Rock-Paper-Scissors originated in China. It dates back to the Han Dynasty !
    Last edited by Josephine on March 24th, 2013, 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.

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