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August 6th, 2012

Who are China’s Miao people?

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Holidays and Festivals

Unless you are an expert on Asian anthropology, you probably are not aware of the various ethnic communities living in China. Below is a brief introduction to the history, culture, and most importantly, the major festivals of the Miao people, the second-largest population of ethnic communities residing in Guizhou:

Known throughout the rest of Southeast Asia, the Miao people are able to trace their Chinese roots back more than four-thousand years. Though initially, they were located in the western part of Henan province and the eastern edge of Guizhou, both migration and being taken captive have resulted in the scattering of the Miao people to various parts of China’s southwest, including the Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces.

The formation of distinct “pockets” throughout the mainland has led to subtle variations within the Miao culture itself. The disparities between the Miao people of different provinces is most clearly visible in the variation of traditional dress for both men and women. For example, the woolen cloaks and linen jackets that distinguish the Miao men of one province may not even be donned by those of another. Though the differences in male fashion are quite noticeable, they are unsurprisingly out done by the innumerable variations in the overall style and extravagance found amongst female Miao fashion. Even though a skirt is seemingly simple, within the Miao wardrobe, there is a wide selection in terms of pleating, length, hues, and patterns.

Though major festivals are in essence a time for celebration, the fashionable Miao women see these festivities as  somewhat similar to New York Fashion Week. In order to stand out in the crowd, every woman must pull out all of the stops to look her best. Not only do skirts become even more vividly hued and floral patterns even more captivating, the Miao women keenly add an extra element to finish off their already vogue-worthy attire. Whether one lives on the Upper East Side or in a small Guizhou village, every girl knows that no outfit is complete without the perfect amount of sparkle to catch the attention of every pair of male eyes in the room. With their impeccable accessories, ranging from show-stopping head dresses that shimmer in the sunlight to an uncountable assortment of well-crafted silver jewelry, the Miao women are able to give even the most avid collector of Tiffany and Co. a run for her money.

Even though tastes in fashion may differ depending on province, something that remains consistent regardless of location is the overarching love that the Miao people have for both singing and dancing. At no time is this fondness for celebration more clearly evident than during their major festivals, the two most important being the Lusheng and the Sister’s Meal Festivals.

The Lusheng Festival, which takes place during the Fall, is a time of coming together. Miao groups from all over the mainland converge in Guiyang for a wild celebration consisting of energy-filled horse racing, exhilarating bull fighting, and most importantly, entrancing performances of the Lusheng, a traditional wood wind instrument.

The Sister’s Meal Festival, which takes place in early Spring, highlights the undying passion that the Miao people have for singing, specifically through the lively songs that are sung back and forth between Miao men and women. In addition to these beautiful exchanges of verse, lovebirds may also share tokens of love as acknowledgements of their affection for each other. For the younger Miao people, all you really need is love.

Although they may be hidden in the southwest corner of China, the colorful dress, multifaceted culture, and riveting festivals of the Miao people are hands down, some of the most memorable throughout China and definitely not ones to be missed.

———-

If you have any questions about either the Miao people or travel to Guizhou feel free to send us an email info@wildchina.com


Tags: Gansu Lusheng Miao Miao Fashion qinghai Sichuan Sister's Meal Festivals wild China WildChina WildChina travel Yunnan .







September 7th, 2011

WildChina explorer Jeff Fuchs to speak at the Beijing Bookworm

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, WildChina Announcements, WildChina Experts

WildChina explorer Jeff Fuchs will speak at the Beijing Bookworm this Friday, September 9th at 7:30pm about his travels with the WildChina Explorer Grant 2011!

Please Note: Tickets are CNY 50 and can be purchased at the door.


Tags: Bookworm Jeff Fuchs qinghai wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel Yunnang .







June 6th, 2011

Amne Machin Farewell – A Descent

By: Guest | Categories: On the Road, WildChina Experts

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai. Below is the last piece from their journey…

———-

Early morning wind upon an Amne Machin ridge

Looking at the sky we see fierce white monotones and wind’s power, below in front of us on the earth lies a different story.

A last time for securing our gear on the yak. Our morning of departure

An avalanche’s disintegrating power has rearranged the land in front of us. A brutal black surge of turned earth, stones and newly formed shaped forms that stretch kilometres across the valley. It has only served to enhance in many ways an already formidable scene. Five years earlier Amne Machin released a colossal chunk of itself upon the land below and we are now grinding our way over this ‘reconstructed’ surface. We, for the first time on this portion of our journey, are steadily descending and with this knowledge comes an exhausted nostalgia and a twinge of sadness – we are exiting the main protective body of the Amne Machin range which fades to our right. ‘Civilization’ is coming closer step by step, though admittedly we still have much distance to cover…Michael is feeling this glumness as well. I am doing everything in my limited mental powers to stay in each progressive moment and not to let the mind jump ahead out of the now. I keep wondering at how we came to this point, where we are about to end….

Our caravan making its way out of the main Nom'sho valley

After packing up our camp for the last time there is a simmering of finality. One of the more masochistic pleasures of expeditions within mountain abodes is that after a time the harsh beauties of the elements reconfigure the body and mindscape and everything in its simple way works. A groove is reached where one can continue indefinitely and this is only enhanced when travel partners are on that similar thread of ability and thought. Michael in his month along this journey has gone from a precisely trained endurance athlete to something more akin to a ‘grinder’. These elements, at these altitudes necessitate a test of the self more completely than any other – this is of course my very bias touch here. In the words of a nomad, “mountains draw the self out”.
Descents are most often when the body’s subtle complaints remind one that they do exist. The charge and blood inducing high of ascending has passed and now the earth and all of its trials and menial concerns beckon one back inevitably. Yes, mountains are an escape, but they are an escape that hit one’s morphology, one’s psychology and that nameless thing in the body that sings of something divine. It is something beyond, right here on earth.

The yaks seem impatient to get home pushing ahead, as strong and steady as ever. Peaks become rounded hills, and the snowline dissipates as we continue. We are descending through a valley that splits the highlands and even the air around us is somehow diminishing in power.

Our stout mates for the entire trip - no better transport method, anywhere

[Skip to next section of post...]
Gamzon and the yaks cross the ice-cold river and Michael and I must cross the thigh deep flow carefully. Our feet take only a minute to dry in the wind and sunbeams.
Coming up out of the valley we catch a glimpse of the town and it sinks in that this is the end, for now.Sitting in a neat and tidy home thirty minutes later, Michael and I sit opposite one another with a table of biscuits, homemade bread and sweets between us. For the first time in a week we are holding glass mugs again, rather than our ‘do-it-all’ bowls.

 

 

Michael sitting for the first time in a week something other than frozen ground

We are both silent, and I feel in me a longing to bolt back into the mountains’ sanctity. A last night spent in the village with locals and a huge meal….tomorrow begins for us the slow and inevitable return to the provincial capital of Xining and a number of thermoses of tea to throw back, just to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

Jeffers trying very hard to remain seated indoors...the urge to bolt was only kept down by the mug of tea in hand

 

Thanks for following along and hope we were able to provide a little hint of colour to the fabled tsa’lam, the route of salt. I will be posting information about upcoming articles about this expedition in select publications as they become available. More tea and mountain blogs to follow as ultimately, this still remains a site for Asia’s ancient fluid and the peaks.

Jeff

———-
To read the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/
Photos by Jeff Fuchs
An avalanche’s disintegrating power has rearranged the land in front of us. A brutal black surge of turned earth, stones and newly formed shaped forms that stretch kilometres across the valley. It has only served to enhance in many ways an already formidable scene. Five years earlier Amne Machin released a colossal chunk of itself upon the land below and we are now grinding our way over this ‘reconstructed’ surface. We, for the first time on this portion of our journey, are steadily descending and with this knowledge comes an exhausted nostalgia and a twinge of sadness – we are exiting the main protective body of the Amne Machin range which fades to our right. ‘Civilization’ is coming closer step by step, though admittedly we still have much distance to cover…Michael is feeling this glumness as well. I am doing everything in my limited mental powers to stay in each progressive moment and not to let the mind jump ahead out of the now. I keep wondering at how we came to this point, where we are about to end….

Our caravan making its way out of the main Nom'sho valley

After packing up our camp for the last time there is a simmering of finality. One of the more masochistic pleasures of expeditions within mountain abodes is that after a time the harsh beauties of the elements reconfigure the body and mindscape and everything in its simple way works. A groove is reached where one can continue indefinitely and this is only enhanced when travel partners are on that similar thread of ability and thought. Michael in his month along this journey has gone from a precisely trained endurance athlete to something more akin to a ‘grinder’. These elements, at these altitudes necessitate a test of the self more completely than any other – this is of course my very bias touch here. In the words of a nomad, “mountains draw the self out”.
Descents are most often when the body’s subtle complaints remind one that they do exist. The charge and blood inducing high of ascending has passed and now the earth and all of its trials and menial concerns beckon one back inevitably. Yes, mountains are an escape, but they are an escape that hit one’s morphology, one’s psychology and that nameless thing in the body that sings of something divine. It is something beyond, right here on earth.

The yaks seem impatient to get home pushing ahead, as strong and steady as ever. Peaks become rounded hills, and the snowline dissipates as we continue. We are descending through a valley that splits the highlands and even the air around us is somehow diminishing in power.

Our stout mates for the entire trip - no better transport method, anywhere

[Skip to next section of post...]
Gamzon and the yaks cross the ice-cold river and Michael and I must cross the thigh deep flow carefully. Our feet take only a minute to dry in the wind and sunbeams.
Coming up out of the valley we catch a glimpse of the town and it sinks in that this is the end, for now.Sitting in a neat and tidy home thirty minutes later, Michael and I sit opposite one another with a table of biscuits, homemade bread and sweets between us. For the first time in a week we are holding glass mugs again, rather than our ‘do-it-all’ bowls.

 

 

Michael sitting for the first time in a week something other than frozen ground

We are both silent, and I feel in me a longing to bolt back into the mountains’ sanctity. A last night spent in the village with locals and a huge meal….tomorrow begins for us the slow and inevitable return to the provincial capital of Xining and a number of thermoses of tea to throw back, just to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

Jeffers trying very hard to remain seated indoors...the urge to bolt was only kept down by the mug of tea in hand

 

Thanks for following along and hope we were able to provide a little hint of colour to the fabled tsa’lam, the route of salt. I will be posting information about upcoming articles about this expedition in select publications as they become available. More tea and mountain blogs to follow as ultimately, this still remains a site for Asia’s ancient fluid and the peaks.

Jeff

———-
To read the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/
Photos by Jeff Fuchs
edit by king on Apr 1-->


Tags: Amne Machin descent Jeff Fuchs qinghai Tsalam Salt Road wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel yak .







May 23rd, 2011

Amne Machin – A Rush of White and a Kora

By: Guest | Categories: On the Road, WildChina Experts

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai.

Below is an update from their journey…

———-

Amye Maqen (Amne Machin, Anye Machin) <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amne_Machin>, the stout, the muscular, and for much of time, the utterly hidden from the outside world…our first glimpse of it is of a snow capped wonder that appears far closer than it is. There seem to be as many ways of spelling it as their are potential descriptives. Neither wind blown sand nor a haze can obscure its brilliant bulk. It seems to hang from the sky as we come in from the northwest towards the makeshift town at its base, Xiadawu (or in the more flavoured local Tibetan ‘Da’wurr’ – ‘Place that is difficult for horses’). In Joseph Rock’s accounts of the mountain and bandit ridden regions back in 1930 he estimated the broad peaks of Amne Machin to be 30,000 feet, a guess that was later proven to be 3,000 metres off.

 

 

Amne Machin from the northwest

 

The Amne Machin range itself is an eastern extension of the greater Kunlun Mountain range, one of Asia’s longest most legend laden mountain chains. Located in the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture it is here that the Yellow River (so named because of wind-blown loess that is carried in from Central Asia) rises before winding eastward. At its rounded and almost friendly white peaks it achieves just over 6,200 metres.

Mountains cannot be compared to other of their kind in my eyes. Mountains are landscapes, heaps of stone and snow unto themselves and each has their own thin-aired identity. Sacred to the Golog (Golok) nomads, Amne Machin is almost directly due east of our pristine salt lake near Mado (Mardo) that we’ve most recently left. It also lies on the route that nomads from southwest took to access their precious salt. Few nomadic caravans would pass up the chance to visit and circumambulate the sacred Amne Machin range while undertaking a perilous journey to source salt. Ever practical, the Tibetan traders saw the value of doing both trade for a revered commodity and a little cleansing of past ills.

This mountain that has long played a role in local nomad’s worship of the divine, has withstood weathering seasons and has become more iconic in the eyes of men over time. The fact that it lies as a northwest-southeast diagonal throughway for traders only increases the curiosity for Michael and I. How much is left in memory and physicality of the salt route legacy? How much of any trade route – seldom acknowledged, documented or discussed – will survive? It is in this way that these journeys and explorations are truly ‘exploratory’ with nothing being guaranteed.

The town of Xiadawu, sits in a small cupped valley and is a dusty mess of pool tables, remarkably shabby huts and a main square of errant apathetic dogs that have forgotten their roles. Xiadawu’s decrepit appearance serves as an entry to something far greater than itself, Amne Machin, which erupts to the east. Flowing west out of the mountains past the town, the swerving breadth of the Nam Chu (Nam River) wanders through, over and around valleys in a never-ending search.

Namchu (Nam River)

Our host, Tsering, is to be found out of town – it is he who will arrange our kora/ circumambulation around the great mountain. The ‘kora’ or counterclockwise circumambulation literally refers to a pilgrimage. For many eastern religions this act is believed to be a physical way to cleanse or clear away one’s past sins.

If in fact this is the case it may well take a few more than one rotation for Michael and I to wipe our collective slates clean.

Around us the landscape ripples with Spring’s pending arrival – ridges verging on going from ochre to green. Still though, the high peaks remind in a glance that up here at over 4,000 metres winter isn’t really ever truly ‘over’.

Our host Tsering tells us that, yes, the salt traders came through here as part of their annual travels – more specifically nomadic traders, who, coming from further east, would add the kora of the mountain to their travels to the salt lakes. A kind of double-pronged travel plan: salt for need and profit, kora for life-cleansing benefits.

———-

For the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/
Image: Jeff Fuchs


Tags: Jeff Fuchs kora Nam Chu qinghai Tsalam the Salt Road wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel Xiadawu .







May 4th, 2011

On the Road with Jeff Fuchs: The Sun and Wind in Golok

By: Guest | Categories: On the Road, WildChina Experts, WildChina Explorer Grant

The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs.  Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant.  He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai.

Below is a tale from this journey…

———-

May 4, 2011

Sun (neema in Tibetan) blasts into the day as we wake to a reckless blue sky and a wind that hums. Snow capped peaks shimmer on the horizon and wind whips smoke and sand into mini-tornadoes.

All of Mother Nature’s elements are on display today in a show of force, and Michael and I both feel this bodes well for the journey. The city of Maqen (3700 metres) scatters for cover from winds that rip down the main street daring any to test it. Eyes burn from the suns rays and all of the goodies that the wind picks up and throws.

Much of expeditions or indeed any travel, involves waiting. Waiting for weather, for the right guides, for the correct directions…in this case we are waiting for word of our team, one member in particular, who can add a rare perspective on our journey.

One of my great desires is finally confirmed beyond a doubt today as we are greeted with the welcome news that one of the last of the Salt Road traders will in fact travel with us as our unofficial guide. Up until now this has been a slight question mark because of his health and age, but his desire has and is strong to accompany us. In his seventies, he and he alone, it seems, knows the ancient Salt Road portion that passes through the nomadic lands and that which we seek to travel. There is only one condition to him joining us and that is that he has a horse to ride during the journey. In his almost apologetic words, “my body, though once strong, is no longer capable of walking the route”. We are delighted as much of the younger generation has no idea of the Tsalam (Salt Road), and sadly seem to care less, and with him we are sure to get tidbits, tales and that crucial must, an innate knowledge gained from actually travelling the route.

Today I am also issued another warning about wolves. “They are out in great numbers in recent years, and they are far smarter than you”, a local tells me directly. I’ve no doubt about his information, as years back in this region I was to witness a site that remains in my memory bank still. Trekking through a remote portion near Golok, a friend and I watched a pack numbering almost two-dozen strong, rip into a flock of sheep with an efficient ferocity that was riveting. The act that unfolded was both brutal and impressive in both strategy and execution.

Michael and I are urged in the bright rays of the sun this morning to visit the local monastery, which sits as a tribute to another traveler: a monk who traipsed all over the Tibetan Plateau by foot with little more than a bag of tsampa (ground barley), some butter and a bit of tea (which of course set him high in my books).

We are told that to begin our journey through these stoic and staggering landscapes we should visit and appease the local deities and pay a gentle homage to the lands and beliefs that we now find ourselves. I’ve long felt that these little gestures set something in the mind at peace, a kind of genuflection of respect to local forces, however secular or otherworldly they might be.

The monastery is more a series of small monasteries sitting at the north end of town, stupas, and flat-topped homes. All of this surrounds a huge mound of dirt hectares in size, which still now, is only now rediscovering life after a brutal winter. Prayer flags (loong da) cover the entire northwest face, flapping and billowing in winds that gain strength the higher we ascend.

————

For the full post, please visit http://www.tea-and-mountain-journals.com/


Tags: Golok Jeff Fuchs qinghai Tsalam the Salt Road wild China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel .








 

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