In a country like China, where everyday life is complex, busy, and often crowded, order creates harmony. It enables Chinese life to work smoothly. Orderliness can be seen in the cleanliness of the streets, the hygiene applied to food preparation and the behaviour of the Chinese people. The ancient principles of Confucianism, a system of norms and propriety that determine how a person should act in everyday life, underlies many aspects of Chinese society, with later overlays of buddhism, daoism, communism and capitalism. Below: some sketches of everyday life in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Yunnan province in China has the largest population of minorities with 25 different ethnic minorities, 16 of which are indigenous to that area. Wandering around the town of Dali, you will recognise many different ethnic groups largely by their dress, traditional customs, cultures and language. The town is a awash with colour and makes an exotic first stop after leaving the capital, Kunming.
Here a Shaxi woman arranges her peaches for sale on market day.
For this week’s WordPress Photo prompt, Heritage.
Doors, shutters, inner courtyards, Menshen or door gods, all these features of ancient Chinese architecture denote security and protection. Once safely inside the inner courtyard of a wooden Tang dynasty house, a sense of calm and peace descends: you feel perfectly secure and removed from the world.Chinese doors make a fascinating study in themselves. The ancient cities of Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan Province and Langzhong in Sichuan Province afford the traveller with an enormous array of wonderful doors to study and photograph.
Many are richly carved an ornate but today I have chosen a few modest examples.
Imagine the circular table at a Chinese banquet, with its central Lazy Susan slowly revolving your way, a huge steel wok, alive with the breath of fire, circular bamboo steaming baskets piled high, shielding delicate morsels from heat and the lusting eye, stone mortars, perfectly rounded through time, gaudy enamel ware prepping plates and deep blue porcelain bowls filled with pickled or salted delicacies, round fire pits and circular baskets of peaches, Tang dynasty wooden carvings and yin yang signs, brass metal plaques on doors and circular discs of tea. It is hard to think of Sichuan and Yunnan Province in China without thinking in circles and wishing to return.
Fabric speaks to me. I collect it, stash it, feel it. Antique European linens, worn Irish cloth, functional and timeless, faded Ikat from Java, Sumatra and Flores, woven wall hangings from Myanmar, mid-century Japanese Kimono sprinkled with shibori, or little fabric offcuts featuring sacred cranes, plush velvet Italian betrothal bedspreads, alive with colour and kitsch cherubin, or hand worked pillow cases and curtains from the antique market in Arezzo in Italy, embroidered table cloths, ancient filet crochet edging with worked in stories, words or historical events, crocheted jug covers featuring Dolly-Varden shells and beaded weights, Indian silk saris and long dupatta scarves, visiting every floor of a Sari shop in India: fabric hunting is a central part of my journey. It is often the history of women’s work, or a window into a culture, or one that is about to become obsolete, that appeals so much.
Hand dyed indigo fabric is a recent addition to my textile addiction. I discovered some wonderful indigo fabrics at the Chatuchak ( Cha-Cha) Market in Bangkok in 2013. The following year, I toured an indigo factory in Dali, on the banks of Erhai Lake, Yunnan, China. And this year, I found another small producer of hand died indigo clothing on the banks of the Mekong River, in Chiang Khan, Thailand, as well as some lovely long lengths of deep indigo died linen in the back streets of the Warorot market, in Chiang Mai.
My next step is to learn this ancient art and dye my own cloth. I envisage drifts of indigo muslin, irregular in colour, floating in the summer breeze.Thanks Ailsa for this week’s travel theme, Fabric, at Where’s My Backpack. If I dug out all the representatives of my fabric collection, this post might fill a book.
Posing for photographs is big time all over China. No one wants to look casual or natural. As local tourism takes off, Chinese like to record portraits of themselves in the most beautiful settings. People arrange themselves in intriguing ways- perfect backdrops, graceful gestures, romantic clothes. Young women flock to the ancient town of Lijiang, Yunnan on the weekend: beauticians and costume hire shops can be found along the narrow lanes, part of the weekend fun for the girls. The ‘dress ups’ often evoke another era.
These images were taken in a new Buddhist temple found on the windswept plains above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Sometimes a Buddhist temples can be ornate, at other times, just plain scary.
The ancient city of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful place to visit. The centre of the old Naxi people, today the place thrives on local tourism. Like other UNESCO sites in China, it is a pedestrianised city: all traffic must remain outside the city walls. Yunnan province is full of surprises.
In ancient times, the Old Town used to be the center of silk embroidery in the southwest of China and the most important place of the Ancient Southern Silk Road, also called the Ancient Tea and Horse Road or Ancient Tea Route.. The Ancient Silk Road started from Burma, crossed Lijiang, Tibet, journeyed through Iran, the Fertile Crescent and ultimately to the Mediterranean Sea.