If there is one thing the Yao women are known for, it is their hair. They only cut their hair once in their lives; these ladies told us it was at eighteen years of age, online research would suggest it might be at 16. Whatever the age, it is connected to the passing of childhood and the start of a search for a husband. The tresses that are cut at a young age are then given to a grandmother for safe keeping until marriage, thereafter they are given to the groom and, in many cases, are woven back into the woman’s hair style (as was the case with the woman 2nd from the right in this photo) The style in which the hair is worn indicates the woman’s status – the style of the woman on the right, for example, with the hair wrapped around her head and with a bun at the front, indicates she is married and has children. The hair is cared for by combing and occasional washing in rice water (what else, in this area of magnificent rice terraces?) The traditional reasoning for growing the hair long seems to be the belief that it brings fortune, happiness and longevity – isn’t that pretty much what we are all searching for in our lives? However, what it certainly doesn’t bring is vertical superiority – my wife is ‘only’ 5ft 4ins (162cms) tall and she towers over these women. Perhaps all their growing energy goes into their hair instead of their bones and muscles? Mind you, having seen them at work on the trails and in the fields, I don’t think that statement can be true either!
Custom and tradition used to dictate that the full magnificence of a Yao woman’s hair could only be seen by her husband and children. If any other man saw her hair, it was said that he had to spend 3 years living with her family as a son-in-law. These traditions were only officially abandoned in 1987. These days, liberalisation and commercialisation are in the ascendancy – women are free to display their hair whenever they like and people other than husbands and children can see and photograph their hair – for a price!!! After lunch, we had to bargain for an agreed fee to see and photograph the hair on display here – and for how many of the women were going to let their hair down – hence why the lady on the right still has her hair ‘up’. There was absolutely no animosity in this bargaining, it was all done in an extremely friendly fashion and, in itself, was part of the full and enjoyable cultural experience that we had on that day. However, it does make you wonder at the ‘rightness’ and direction in which their culture is going. When easy access to visitors’ money replaces centuries of tradition in cases like this and when the younger generations are leaving the traditional village way of life to work in the cities, it does raise questions. Progress in some respects; loss in others; live for the ‘now’, I suppose.
And so, after the best part of a day to remember, we took our leave of these remarkable people and their culture and headed off through the rain back to our guest house. After what seems like weeks blogging about this one particular day, it is also time for me to move on as well.
The second viewpoint we arrived at on our day’s hike at the Longjii Rice Terraces was called Nine Dragons and Five Tigers. The scale of these terraces is truly impressive: built some 500 years ago, they only produce one rice harvest per year and all the rice is kept for use by the people who grow it – none of it is sold. Interspersed with the rice terraces are patches of corn and other vegetable crops; it is very much subsistence farming. The village at the heart of this particular area of terraces is called Ping An; it is the largest of the local villages and the most commercialised. Hotels, restaurants and gift shops vie for space on the steep slopes with the villagers homes, but thankfully all are constructed in a sympathetic, local style. Our route from the previous viewpoint took us through this village and we were able to watch a bit of everyday life being played out
The local school is through the blue gates at the end of the street.
Restaurants abound….The staple dish, unsurprisingly, is rice and vegetables
Fast food in this part of the world is rice and a little meat, packed into a bamboo stick and barbecued. The bamboo sticks are plugged at either end and occasionally plunged into buckets of water to stop the rice burning – I’ve no idea how they judge when it is necessary!
Once out of the village, and whenever the weather allowed, we returned to a world of expansive vistas.
With harvest time approaching within the next few weeks, we were surprised to see so few people actually working in the fields. I can only presume that by now, all the hard work was either done, or about to commence,
After coffee at Nine dragons and Five Tigers, we had initially thought we would head back down – the weather wasn’t great and we’d had dire warnings from another European family about the dangers of getting lost in the mist on the indistinct path system that led over to the next village. However, the weather wasn’t getting any worse and, as far as we could see, the path looked pretty obvious. Normally in these circumstances it is me who is the keener to continue, but today it was Mrs Daybydaybyphoto who wanted to ‘look around the next corner’ or ‘peek over the next little rise’, so we decided to continue on for a while……….to be continued……
Following on from yesterday’s post, and in continuation of our ‘day to remember’, this is the sunrise scene from the viewpoint known as ‘Seven Stars With The Moon’ above Ping An village in the Longjii Rice Terraces. As you can see, the remnants of Typhoon Utor gave the scene a menacing and brooding air, but it was possibly no less photogenic for all that. ‘Longjii’ can roughly be translated as ‘Dragon’s Backbone’, or ‘Dragon Backed Mountain’. When the rice fields are full of water and the sun is glinting off them, it is said that the rugged, twisted and folded landscape resembles the scales of a dragon’s back; a little fanciful perhaps, but the scene is certainly mythical in appearance.
This particular shot is a panoramic compilation of 3 photos, taken on a levelled, tripod-mounted, Olympus OMD with a standard 12-50mm kit lens. The beauty of this combination (for hiking in the hills) being it’s small size and weight, plus (especially for today) its weather sealing. The results were rendered in Photoshop. Normally these panoramic shots tend to add a curve to straight lines, but in this particular case, the bamboo fence was actually pretty much that shape. Within Photoshop I used the Fill>Content Aware tool to automatically add relevant content into the ‘holes’ created by the panoramic stitching process and then tidied up the less sightly parts using the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing tools – it’s all very clever stuff in that program! As it was an early attempt at this type of technique, I’m sure you could find the inconsistencies in the image if you look closely enough, however, for an image that is only ever going to be seen on a computer screen, this is good enough for me at the moment.
More on our day to remember in the next post.
About a month ago we visited the Longii Rice Terraces in China’s Guangxi Province. With 2 nights, but only one full day available to us, we decided to make the most of that day and were up before dawn with the intention of hiking to a view point for sunrise. A diminishing, but still active Typhoon Utor was making its way through this part of southern China and the forecast was for rain and low cloud; in 30+ years of hiking in the hills, this sort of forecast has never put us off before, so we decided to give it a go and see what the day would bring. Little did we guess, as we made our way up to the viewpoint and a weak daylight began to appear (at the time that this photo was taken) that the day would turn out to be so memorable in such an unexpected way. The story of the day will unfold over the next few blog entries and photos…………
Continuing with my new-found ability to produce this type of composite image, here’s one of a high jump into the River Li in the Yangshuo region of China’s Guangxi Province. The jump was the ‘reward’ for completing the rock climb up the small cliff on the left side of the photo. We spent a morning of this ‘deep water solo-ing’ along the cliffs bordering this stretch of river and came away with deep cuts in our fingers, sore muscles in our forearms, much water up our nostrils and broad smiles on our faces!
Although now retired, Sergei Bubka remains undoubtedly the greatest pole vaulter of all time. In the 10 years between 1984 and 1994 he broke the World Record an incredible 35 times – almost always by as little as 1cm at a time and, just as reliably, only at athletics meetings when there was prize money on offer for doing so. His indoor and outdoor highest jumps, set in 1993 and 1994, still remain World Records today – nobody has yet even come within 14 cms of these marks. Off hand I can’t think of a more dominant athlete in any individual sporting event, or any other individual able to perform at a level so far ahead of his peers for so long.
So, in answer to the question posed in my title, I don’t think he’d be the slightest bit worried about his records falling to the individual in the photo!
The photos were taken just over a month ago on a holiday to China – the river is the ‘Yulong’ in the area of Yangshuo in Guangxi Province. It has taken me weeks of research, hours spent practising and trying to figure out how to make it work and then more than a dozen attempts to create this single image from multiple ones taken during this afternoon of ‘mucking about on the river’. Not quite Bubka dedication levels of dedication then!!
Whilst this has all helped me learn more about Photoshop and the incredible abilities of that program, it has also re-enforced the notion of how fast technology progresses – the ability to produce an image like this in a single button press now exists on a mobile phone – amazing!
On a recent visit to China’s Guangxi Province, we spent an evening at the ‘Impression Liu Sanjie’ light show, which is set on the waters of the Li River outside the town of Yangshuo. The show is based on an old Chinese story about the ‘3rd sister Liu’, a heroine from the local Zhuang minority culture. The story was re-told in a successful 1961 movie and some of the music from that film is used in this production. The 70-odd minute show employs 600+ local inhabitants and is directed by Zhang Yi Mo – this the same chap that directed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, so he knows a thing or two about producing grand ceremonial light shows for large audiences! The purpose-built seating holds about 3000 spectators and at this show – the 2nd of 3 that evening – it was absolutely packed. The weather either enhanced or detracted from the performance, depending on your outlook; we were experiencing the tail-end effects of Typhoon Utor and constant rain was mixed with occasional thunder and lightning. As you can see from the photo, the backdrop to the show is the fabulous limestone karst scenery of the local area. Zhang Yi Mo lights these hills with dramatic effect throughout the show, however even his talents couldn’t compete with mother natures forked lightning, which put in a few ‘guest star appearances’ throughout the performance.
As for the performance itself, we didn’t understand a single word of it and, at the time, we had absolutely no idea what the story was about. However, it was easy to overlook those inconveniences and just focus on and enjoy the spectacle of the whole performance – yes it is a bit ‘touristy’, but certainly worth a visit nevertheless.