Dragon’s Backbone (Long Ji)

Dad wanted an adventure and, having got over my initial worries about travelling in China, so did I. We drove into the mountains to visit the famous rice terraces. After buying a ticket at the base station, we headed up a winding mountain road to Ping’an village. Within a mile we came to a landslip that had completely blocked the road, just half an hour before.

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My guide, William, is very resourceful and suggested that we go back down, go up another road to Long Pu village and walk to Ping’an  village and the hotel. This turned out to be a massive blessing in disguise.

Zhuang people

Zhuang people

The delightful walk took us through Zhuang territory, mountain people who are also called Lou Yue (birds frogs) as they believe they are descended from birds and frogs. I am very much in favour of people who regard themselves as intimately connected to their surrounding ecosystem. I hope the Chinese will not lose it in their race for wealth. They start with a major advantage, having such poetic imagery to describe their surroundings and a written language still based on pictograms and ideograms, rather than phonetic symbols. Some describe China as newly developed but to me it is semi-developed: it is half super-sophisticated and half unchanged for centuries. It has many deep contrasts – city and country, cheerful ignoring of the rules in a forceful State, communist yet capitalist and still worshipping Mao like a god even though he was so destructive of Chinese culture.

Boundary bridge

Boundary bridge

The boundary between the Zhuang and the Yao people was marked with a bridge and with different traditional costume. The Yao women have hair down to the ground. It is only cut once in their lifetime, and they keep the cut hair and add it back in to their elaborately bunned hairstyle. These women were so deeply grounded it was like being hugged by two trees.

Yao ladies and me

Yao ladies and me

All the viewpoints and the village were blissfully peaceful as none of the tourist buses could get up the road. Bad news for the tat sellers though. More excitements followed as we had a thunderstorm overnight which blew the electricity for the whole village. Luckily my darling husband had insisted I bring a torch. Fortune was definitely on my side – the walk back to the car was sunlit on newly flooded fields, with wisps of mist puffing up the valleys, and the effect was breathtaking.

Rice terraces at Long Ji

Rice terraces at Long Ji

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