Published: March 24th 2010February 20th 2010
Time and travels in Yunnan Province
The good ol’ US of A, as we all know, makes regular use of time zones. Excluding Alaska and Hawaii, with their own special place in time, Within the ‘lower 48,’ people operate on four major time zones and all around the world a similar effort has been made to respect the traditional notion usually, but not always, the middle-of-the-sky-ish location of the sun and twelve o’clock noon like to be on the same schedule. This general concept said, when the sun hits high-noon somewhere in Georgia or New York, people out on the west coast, say San Francisco or Seattle, are just beginning to arrive to work. It makes sense to account for the 3,000 miles average distance from east to west coast and the time the sun takes to travel from point A to point B --
China, on the other hand, has a nearly equal expanse from their east coast to the far western border; about 3,000 miles average, and only one time-zone. According to Wikipedia, starting in 1912 the Republic of China (note the lack of People’s
in the title), made the move to separate China into five zones
Spring in Kunming
Donna enjoying the tulips around Green Lake
GMT + 7 through GMT + 12. The romantic “sun at high-noon” concept lasted for only a handful of years in the Middle Kingdom
and soon after the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, sometime between September 27th and October 6th (nobody really knows when exactly) a single time zone for the entirety of its’ territories was formed; the People’s
time zone, otherwise known as Beijing Time or Chinese Standard Time Zone - GMT + 8.
Currently a bit more than 50% of the population of China resides in rural areas and considering the recent history of mass rural-urban migration, one can safely assume many more than half of China’s population at one time or another lived in an agricultural setting. Within that agricultural lifestyle, the timeless rhythm of rising with the sun and retiring with the sunset runs deep in the culture, regardless of arbitrary time zones decided by leaders removed some two-thousand miles away in Beijing. That said, in our travels we found that everything from street vendors and taxi drivers to grocery stores and restaurants opened quite late in the morning and did not close until late in the evening; everyone except for
There is something about Chinese children that just make them cuter than most American children. Kelly and Elizabeth are slightly immune to their cuteness after teaching these kids for months, but Donna was hooked.
the poor employees at China Post
operate on the more natural solar time schedule rather than the dictated standard time.
Because of the local sleepy-treatment of morning clock, we were able to leave early nearly every day and visit sites usually flooded with people in relative peace and quiet. The only trick was training our stomachs to wait for the late breakfast we couldn’t find until mid-morning…
Throughout much of our travels in China we have always been able to find a nice noodle bar along the way for a noon-lunch fix. Pulled wheat noodles, called lā miàn
, 拉面, usually pulled by Uighur men, exist everywhere in China, we thought, until we made our way into the Yunnan and Guanxi provinces. Clearly outside of wheat territory and knee-deep in rice country, we rolled three straight weeks sans lā miàn
and in its place enjoyed a dish generically called mǐ fun
, rice noodles with a flat, linguini-style shape, served in a chicken broth with a dash of sesame oil, crushed hot peppers, a piece or two of fried pork fat, and a few sprigs of cilantro. The dish tastes alright, but like a bowl of oatmeal sans cream or
Kunming at night
Green Lake looked a bit like Disney Land at night-this is not something that we've thought about any part of China previously.
sugar or anything of any sustenance, aka. throwing straw to a fire. For the most part, after feasting on even a hefty bowl of mǐ fun
, we found ourselves only momentarily water-logged and quickly ready to eat something more. Ethnic Minorities of China
Historically Yunnan was once a land for the banished and disgraced; now however, according to Lonely Planet, China’s sixth largest province “has become the second-most cited ‘dream destination’ for Chinese travelers.” Aside from the intense geography rippling through the Yunnan province, which sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and the fact that Han Chinese love to play tourist here, the province is also home to over half of China’s ethnic minorities. Of the 56 official ethnic minorities in China, we experienced nearly a new ethnicity of people with every town we visited. The two major ethnicities we saw consisted of the Hani
(see "Yun’an Province :: Busses and Yuan Yang Rice Terraces
" posting for more on these folks) and the Naxi
people. Located seven hours overland by bus north/east of Kunming, Lijiang acts as a Naxi
stronghold of 286,000+ residents and has been for the past 1400 years; their major claim to fame
Shirlin -- Stone Forest
Shilin is a day-trip from Kunming, and is notorious for being tourist filled and crowded. We sprung for a taxi ride to take us the 120 km trip outside of the city instead of taking a 4 hour round trip bus ride. The taxi saved us valuable time, leaving us ahead of the crowds so that we practically had the place to ourselves.
is neither their size or story of origin, but that their society consists of primarily matriarchal dominance. Inheritance customs traditionally acted matrilinearily, meaning inheritance lines and the family name alike nearly always transferred through the mother. With such dominance also meant women bore the brunt of the work-load thus deeply respected in the Nasi society as well as in the home; more or less demanding and earning social respect among the men. Try to imagine a gender-role mirror-image of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice
Linguistically, many strong influences of the matriarchal society manifest themselves in the Naxi native language - tacking a ‘female’ before a noun increase the scale - like cello to double base. Conversely, adding a ‘male’ before the noun diminishes the scale - perhaps cello to violin. I’m quite sure they don’t have a word for double-base, cello, or violin, but it would probably work for pebble, rock, and boulder or snowflake, snowball, and avalanche…
Another interesting aspect of the Matriarchal system is the strong-hold women have over men with their flexible arrangements for love affairs - loosely translated into a “friends with benefits” system where the woman is without a doubt in charge. J.
Shirlin -- Stone Forest
These rock formations are utterly amazing. It was underwater 270 million years ago, and now look partially like a petrified forest, and partly like something from another planet.
Marteen Trost wrote such from interview in his hilarious book, Lost on Planet China
, “‘Yes,’ said the Naxi waitress, ‘I am the boss. I tell the man what to do. If I want a man, he comes to me. If I want him to go away, he goes away.’” The azhu
system made it possible for a couple to become not-so secret lovers without setting up a single household. Both sides of the affair live in their own homes and frequently the mama’s boy/boy friend returns to home to his mother’s house during the day while staying with his “friend” during the night. If any children happened to come into the equation, the mother maintained complete responsibility for the child and the man provided support for the child; however if the azhu
happened to end, so does the paternal cash-flow and paternal ties disappear into insignificance. A few notes from ten years ago…
Donna and Larry, Elizabeth’s parents, joined us for our excursion through northern Yunnan Province. They had traveled through China ten years earlier via tour package of Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an. We decided to embark on a not-so-canned tour and below are a few of their
observations in comparison to their earlier visit.
- During their first visit to China, the joke ran something along the lines of, “Well-fed people… no dogs… hmm?” This time through, however, we were practically stumbling over dogs, and not just the little yippy ones with punched-in faces… pure-bred Collies, well-groomed poodles, and Malamutes with pink hair clips around their ears. We were told in a cooking class that with the coming of the Chinese New Year, so came a new decree from the officials in Beijing banning the slaughter and consumption of dog. It appears that one small regulation at a time, at least in the eyes of the bosses in Beijing, China will move forward into a more civilized and western culture.
- Highways ten years ago remained relatively void of smaller vehicles and mainly gave way to use by busses and over-land trucking. Now a multitude of private cars grace highways and city streets and very few if any beaters seem to exist in China’s hierarchy of vehicles. Our guess is that only recently has relative wealth expanded among the ranks of China’s elite; enough so to provide transportation for the upper class in the form of new, beautifully expensive makes such as Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, VW’s. While many countries have lots of old, half-broken cars as a result of a long history of personal vehicle ownership, China seems new to this game and needs more time to dent up and break down their four-wheeled fleet if they wish to properly match that of other westernized countries.
- Due to China’s immense and relative isolated history most tourist destinations in China possess either or both amazing age and significant cultural interest - the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Terracotta Warriors, etc. While traveling through northern Yunnan province, our trekking in and around Dali, Kunming, and Tiger Leaping Gorge offered an all-together different experience by showcasing some of the more splendid landscapes south-east Asia has to offer. Backed up against the edges of Tibet and the Himalayan Foothills, Tiger Leaping Gorge exists as one of the deepest gorges in the world; cut between the 5,596 meter (18,360 ft.) Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and 5,396 meter (17,703 ft.) Haba Xue Mountain, a young piece of the Yangtze River flows some 2,000 meters (6,560 ft.) below. We made our way along a well-worn path perhaps one
third of the way up between water and summit; at times the opposite mountainside perched itself so closely that even the widest of camera lenses couldn’t capture a full view. Usually traveling from one busy tourist destination to the next, in our two days and forty-odd kilometer walk from one end to the other, we crossed paths with only a small handful of hikers and had the unique opportunity of experiencing, in full peace, a landscape of an otherworldly scale.
Some of these rocks hover 100 feet over our heads
There are more photos below