Village life: Chengyang

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

A road trip to little known places in China presents itself with many challenges as much as photographic opportunities. This combination, from my experience, has been the most rewarding. A friend once told me that any place worth going to isn’t an easy journey (or something like that) – how true this is. If access is too easy, everybody visits and changes the place forever. Local folks become jaded as Tourists flock in droves, spilling money into the area which

Wind and Rain Bridge connecting the village to the rest of the world

Wind and Rain Bridge connecting the village to the rest of the world

creates a certain greed amongst them (villagers). No fault, it’s just the nature of the capitalist beast. The purity is lost. The curiosity is lost. Old world China is lost. Making the journey to a small village called Chengyang consists of a group of smaller villages – about 8 or so where life is simple. Most everyone farms in this rural village high in the Guizhou mountains. The village is inhabited by the Dong

From high above the village

From high above the village

ethnicity with just a smattering of Han. I think the Dong have a Han look and often can’t tell the difference between them. Tucked in a valley partially encircled by a narrow river that meanders around the village which provides much needed water for their crops. One morning while walking around the outer part of the village along the river, many folks were cooking in open air fires with these humongous woks aboutcy4 a meter wide and artfully stirring their contents with long broom handled shovel-like spatulas. Walking up to the group, some took notice but didn’t say a thing and continue about themselves. Taking a seat on a bench with the rest of them, I began to blend in (so I think). Standing, moving towards the cooking and standing in between two giant woks, I begin to photograph the activity. With only a couple of looks, one of the men offer the broom handle and motion to help stir the food cooking in the wok itself. I happily oblige. While cy5stirring, it felt like I was shoveling cement or dirt – mainly because of the enormity of the contents and spatula. After handing the shovel back to the cook tending to what looked like intestines and pork meat, I was offered what looked like a egg-drop soup from a huge vat. I had to accept. From the first sip, the strong taste of Baijiu was apparent; Baijiu is

Competitive spirit to sell their wares

Competitive spirit to sell their wares

Chinese moonshine. I’m sure the alcohol was largely cooked off, but that distinct sweet taste overpowered the rest of the ingredients. I finish the bowl, thanked them and moved on after having sampled one of the other dishes just being completed – freshly scooped and pulled out of the wok and into these 5 gallon plastic buckets for serving. Not the most elegant serving platters, but

Traditional Dong performance

Traditional Dong performance

they were preparing for a huge celebration for many many people. Continuing on through the village area, we were treated to a traditional Dong musical performance; cool looking instruments, but the bamboo pipe flutes seemed out of tune or something (at least to me) – a very unique sound for sure. There was quite a bit of activity in another smaller village nearby where they were preparing cy9what looked like mud in a couple of grain pools. From what I was told Jackie Chan was also visiting this place to make a movie and they were making a mud pool out of wheat flour and water – everyone seemed excited as there was a lot of chatter and laughter. Something tells me this isn’t just because of the movie itself. Very friendly folks. As I reached a platform

Sunset.

Sunset.

area that appeared to be a central part of the village, local elderly women swarmed me in their attempts to sell their handicrafts. Much competition indeed as one spoke up and said, “2 for 1 (price)” much to the odd looks from the others. After it was clear that I wasn’t going to buy, they left me alone even though I was sitting right amongst to them; no buy, no here! I was totally invisible at that point. I’ve got a feeling that this wonderful place will soon be overrun by Chinese tourism soon. Sure glad I had to the chance to visit when I did …

Post sunset.

Post sunset.

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