Category Archives: China

Street Life: Living Outside the Box

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

While watching a video clip from Cuba Feliz (a film of Cuban street musician Miguel Del Morales – known as El Gallo > The Rooster in English) I had a revelation. One of the reasons I absolutely adore countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia (or cities like Paris, Florence and, Montreal) is that people there live in the streets – almost literally. They spend much of their time in public spaces rather than inside their homes. They socialize, play, walk, eat, and drink together on the streets despite the hubbub of automobiles, bicycles, scooters, and other vehicles. The street is where it all happens!

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Paris, France

Paris, France

In places like Vietnam and Cambodia, not only are dwelling spaces small, but the kitchens are particularly cramped and often poorly equipped. Additionally, everyday meals are inexpensive and readily available at any number of street vendors, cafes, and small semi-permanent food stalls. So, even though there are those who do have modern conveniences like stove-tops, washing machines, or televisions the tradition remains to gather with friends outside of the home. Western cities like Paris and Florence do not have the same street culture as Southeast Asia but, there too, just about everyone walks along the crowded streets, shops at outdoor markets, and rests or plays in public parks. Food vendors/hawkers are not as a common a sight there but open-air cafes, trattoria, tapas bars, etc. definitely are.

Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Streets are meant for people. This is eroding worldwide because of the ubiquitous car and streets that are getting wider to make room for these automobiles. Because of car traffic one rarely sees, in North American cities for example, children playing ball hockey, or hide and seek, jumping rope, or simply making up their own games on the street. Stoop or porch sitting is not a common site either. Spending time on our streets is no longer integrated into our daily lives and is rapidly becoming a thing of the past – so it seems to me. The social lives of city dwellers appear to be increasingly isolated. If I did not live directly next door to a community garden and park, or sit on the stoop of my house (which is facing our dead-end street), I would not know the people in my neighbourhood or have impromptu chats with complete strangers who walk by.

My neighbourhood is changing for the better. When I moved here 13 years ago there wasn’t much to do nearby. Today, there are a growing number of shops, restaurants, cultural centres, and parks which are within walking distance. There are even two farmers’ markets. The quality of life is better, street life is beginning to thrive, and there is little need to drive because this community has almost everything I need within walking distance or on the subway lines right nearby. It is a livable locale where neighbours run into each other on the street as they go about their daily business.

As I have mentioned multiple times in this blog, I am from Montreal. Despite it being a Northern city known for its very cold winters it somehow balances the frigid months with a French/Southern European mentality. Street life is substantial during the summer; people sit on their front stoops or balconies and are thus able to see and catch up with their neighbours. They eat in parks with omnipresent wine or beer so that public spaces become an extension of the private. Life, overall, takes to the streets and parks; the city pulsates with energy and activity.

Atwater Market, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Atwater Market, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

 Vibrant streets call to me. Who wants to be cooped up indoors when there’s food, drink, fun, and people to meet or just watch? Healthy street culture abounds with respect for the other. In many quarters in Montreal or Paris, for instance, children come home from school and almost immediately go outdoors, on their own or with their parents, to play on the streets or on the playgrounds. In Italy, piazzas (squares) are the main gathering areas. During La Passeggiata, which is the time before dinner (around 5:30-8:30), people stroll about the central piazza or main drag of a town (in fact, La Passeggiata comes from the verb ‘to walk’).  This traditional daily ritual is more common in small towns but can also be seen in cities; it is a way for Italians to connect. During passeggiata many people hang-out in the piazzas or surrounding outdoor bars to have an aperitivo. It is a time when you see a mix of age and class. Children flock together yet are within shouting distance of their parents. Likewise, many Asian countries’ city and town residents still work within a block or two of their homes (often, in fact, the front of the home is the place of business). Thus, city blocks are like little villages.

Street life gives one the opportunity for chance encounters. Life outside our boxes and on the street is like being in an outdoor living room where everyone congregates and the community is the pulse of it all. The bottom line, it is good for the heart and soul.

Dancing in a Park, Beijing, China

Dancing in a Park, Beijing, China

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Open Street Barber, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Open Street Barber Stall, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cahors, France

Cahors, France

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

Apologies for no photos of the streets of Italy. Our camera was lost…

 

 

Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog

 

The exception to the rule (mask-wearing in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China)

Mask Wearing (Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Almost a year ago I wrote in my posting “China as I See it“:

[I]t is not uncommon to see city-dwellers wearing face masks to protect themselves from dust, pollution, and germs in general. All across China, cities are experiencing extraordinarily high levels of air pollution. In Kunming, (where pollution levels are somewhat lower than in many other cities in the country), most people do not wear masks that filter pollution particulate matter. Instead, fashionable face masks are often worn as accessories; people want to look good while trying to avoid dust from ongoing construction, germs, and smog. When the pollution is “high” it looks as though there is fog outside. I have experienced this grey/yellow atmosphere in Beijing, produced by extremely dangerous levels of pollution (one can barely see a few blocks away). My teachers claim, as do many others, that it is just fog, but I have noticed that I am sensitive to the air quality as it worsens, and I monitor the air quality index so I know it is definitely not fog when the mountains surrounding the city, or the tall buildings in the distance, are shrouded in a cloud of grey. I bought myself approved masks for heavy pollution conditions, but the majority of the Chinese population buys its masks in convenience stores or other stores where the fashionable models are available. Very few people wear masks that really protect them – although this is beginning to change, thankfully. It’s a small first step because, of course, the greater issue of the pollution itself needs to be addressed.

In Kunming, where I lived from September 2013 until March 2014 and where the air was relatively clear and clean (you could actually see the stars at night), pollution levels would occasionally go above 150 – which means the air quality is unhealthy and that “[e]veryone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects,” according to http://aqicn.org ). I sometimes found it insufferable. Yet, compared to other areas in China, the air in Kunming was relatively breathable.

Exception to the Rule (most people who drive motorbikes in Kunming still do not wear masks - at least not in early 2014)

Mask Wearing (Many people who drive motorbikes in Kunming still do not wear masks – at least not in early 2014)

Walking Kunming

Walking Kunming (During my six months in Kunming it felt as everyone wore a mask but when I looked through my photographs it was practically impossible to find anyone wearing a mask as the three photos in this blog posting attest to.)

Flying over Beijing the pollution is like a wall that one collides with. As you get closer, suddenly, you can barely see a thing outside the airplane window – and what you do see is masked in a thick haze of yellow. This situation is tragic and China has claimed that it wants to reduce its pollution by 2017. Unfortunately, the government has barely taken a stab at it and has censored Chai Jing’s film, Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog, which *was* posted on Youku and Tencent until about a week ago (it is still available on YouTube – a site that is blocked in China). This film could have had a key role in promoting public awareness to pollution’s environmental and health issues. No longer.

Yaxue Cao, the editor of the website China Change, comments in his article Under the China Dome – A Reality Check: “The film galvanized public opinion and consolidated its awareness to an unprecedented level. It peeled apart the multi-faceted causes of pollution. It is a mobilization of the public, and it sets expectations for a war against environmental disasters. The film works on many layers of the public psyche, and not all of them are welcomed by the government. This probably explains why it was spectacularly promoted and then shut down.”

And another article in China Change: The Four Forces of China’s Politics of Smog, by  Wu Qiang.

I can only hope the Chinese block of this film is lifted. If you are reading this, however, YOU can watch it: Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog

About Face

Yuang Yang Rice Terraces, Yunnan Province, China

Yuang Yang Rice Terraces, Yunnan Province, China

The portraits I took in China between September 2013 and March 2014 are predominantly of the elderly and the very young. As a “laowei” (foreigner), I was particularly struck by the faces of both the children, who will be carrying the impact of the country’s rapid change into the future, and the elders who remain the bearers of centuries-old history and tradition.

I have always considered connecting with people to be one of the central aspects of travel. At heart, instead of going to many of the “must see” travel sites, I would rather meander and observe, interact with, learn about, and photograph people I encounter.

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

I discovered early on that Chinese people rarely look someone in the eye. Apparently, steady eye contact is viewed as improper and can be regarded as an act of defiance. My attempts to establish a link in this manner were not always reciprocated. However, perhaps because I smile a lot I was often rewarded with eye contact and a smile in return. When I photograph, I approach a person because something about his/her face or demeanour strikes me as worth recording. I seem to have a facility for getting people to agree to let me take photographs of them. Despite the fact that I often get uncomfortably close to their faces, somehow they allow me into their personal space.

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

I met many wonderful individuals in China with whom I broke bread or had the opportunity for brief conversation (despite my fledgling Chinese). Asking permission to photograph them often allowed me to engage and connect with them. Even if we could not easily communicate, many still let their guard down. I tried to capture those moments.

inhong, Yunnan Province, China

Jinhong, Yunnan Province, China

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong, China

Le Ju Village (Temple Caretaker), Yunnan Province, China

Le Ju Village (Temple Caretaker), Yunnan Province, China

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Tulou, Fujian Province, China

Tulou, Fujian Province, China

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

A Letter to the Newton (Massachusetts) Community

“Henry Degroot is a student at Newton North High School, Massachusetts. He wrote a pro-democracy note in a Chinese student’s notebook during an exchange program in Beijing and signed it. A Chinese teacher found out. Henry was detained for five hours, forced to apologize by his American teachers, and, back to America, the school barred him from prom.”

Read more:  A Letter to the Newton (Massachusetts) Community from China Change

 

China Seen Through the Eyes of a Venture Capitalist

A friend read and forwarded a blog posting about China to me. It was written by a venture capitalist in the health care industry. She wondered if this person’s interpretation of China might have a slightly different slant than that of an artist. It turns out the article was of great interest and written clearly (i.e., not in business-speak so that I could enjoy it!!). I pass it on to you: VC Road Trip Across China.

And to round out the above posting… a blog entry from China Change: What does it mean for the world, for the US, and for us as individuals to have an authoritarian China, with the world’s biggest economy soon and 1/5 of the world population, that rejects universal values?

Was I Truly There??? China? Vietnam? Cambodia?

Me in Front of Storefront, Dali, Yunnan, China

Here I am in Front of a Storefront in Dali, Yunnan, China

It is hard to believe that only a few weeks have gone by since my return from Asia; I am so completely into the swing of things at home in the Boston area. It is ALMOST as if I never left. I can just barely “touch” China (where I lived and travelled from September 2013 until the end of March 2014) and Vietnam and Cambodia (where I travelled afterwards). They are elusive memories. And yet, profoundly, as I was out and about yesterday a large group of Chinese walked past me. Suddenly, a familiar feeling marked me and tied me to my time in China – I had a pleasantly warm and physical sensation throughout my body. My brain reminded me that I did, in fact, have particular experiences at particular times.

I left China feeling indifferent to the place, or so I thought. Now, I find that I miss it. I never thought I would and yet I do… I cannot figure out what it is that I miss; it is completely intangible – especially since while I was there I had mixed feelings about the country itself. But I realise there is something intangible about life there that I wish I could put my finger on. No matter. China did get under my skin and into my heart. I may not recall all of it, and certainly not necessarily on demand, but my past makes me who I am, now. The reality is, I truly was there.

Below is a small sampling of the photographs I took during my final three weeks in China: Shaxi, Dali, Fujian Province.

Shaxi, Yunnan Province China:

Grandmother and Grandchild out for a Stroll, Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Grandmother and Grandchild out for a Stroll, Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Shaxi Cultural Revolution Maoist Headquarters ("If the country wants to prosper and become strong then follow the birth plan" -- jie hua shen yu : one child one couple)

Shaxi Cultural Revolution Maoist Headquarters (“If the country wants to prosper and become strong then follow the birth plan” — jie hua shen yu : one child one couple)

Doorway (detail), Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Doorway (detail), Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Building a House, Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Building a House, Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Dali, Yunnan Province, China:

Street Scene, Renmin Lu, Dali, Yunnan, China

Street Scene, Renmin Lu, Dali, Yunnan, China

Bai Woman, Dali, Yunnan, China

Bai Woman, Dali, Yunnan, China

Woman, Dali, Yunnan, China

Woman, Dali, Yunnan, China

Alley, Dali, Yunnan, China

Alley, Dali, Yunnan, China

Fujian Province, China:

Fisherman, Fujian, China

Fisherman, Fujian, China

Sansazhen, Fujian, China

Sansazhen, Fujian, China

Fishermen. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian, China

Fishermen. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian, China

Sansazhen, Fujian, China

Sansazhen, Fujian, China

Xiamen, Zhongshan Park, Fujian

Xiamen, Zhongshan Park, Fujian

Xiamen, Nan Putuo Temple, Fujian

Xiamen, Nan Putuo Temple, Fujian

Xiamen, Near Zhongshan Park, Fujian

Xiamen, Near Zhongshan Park, Fujian

Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Woman, Nanxi, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Woman, Nanxi, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village, Fujian Tulou, Fujian, China

Final Weeks in China: Fujian Province’s Fishing Villages, Xiamen, and Tulou

Fujian, Fishermen

Fujian, Fishermen

Xiapu / Sanshazhen Areas

After a flight from Kunming to Fuzhou, a night’s stay there, and a quick one-hour ride on China’s Shenzhen to Shanghai fast train line, I reached Xiapu. From there, I took a taxi to Sanshazhen – a fishing town that is about a 40-minute drive northeast of Xiapu. Once you get off the main autoroute, the winding road leading to Sanshazhen passes by many villages; on either side you can see the nets and bamboo poles of the fishermen preparing for their outings at sea. I did not know where I was going and thought I’d just wing it; this was the place that was recommended to me by multiple people I’d spoken with after getting off the train. It is a grungy village but is surrounded by beautiful landscape and has its own unique charm and culture.

Sansazhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian

SanSaZhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian

SanSaZhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian

SanSaZhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian

SanSaZhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian (scraping the husk off sugar cane)

SanSaZhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian

SanSaZhen, Fujian

Sanshazhen, Fujian

Through sheer luck (and again, by speaking with people who knew people – when I arrived in Sanshazhen) I found a very sweet man, He Kai, who is a photographer in this town (and whose photos appear on the local where-to-take-the-best-photos-of-fishing-villages map). I met him over tea at his home and after an hour we agreed that I would spend the next two days on a photography tour with him – leaving at 5:20 a.m. and 4 a.m. for the best photo ops on our two morning outings and going out, as well, for late afternoon shooting! As we travelled together, I realized that finding the places I wanted to photograph would not have been an easy feat on my own. I’d highly recommend taking a tour if you wish to visit these parts!

As I’ve described, I generally try to avoid tours. But, this was not a typical tour. Since I was the only person joining He Kai, I paid as much as a larger group would have. The upside of this was that I was given lots of attention and got to spend extra time with him both at his home and on site. I received the added benefit of some photography instruction and post-photography processing tips from He Kai. I was reminded, once again, that Chinese sensibility is very different from that of the West. The Chinese believe that landscape shots should display the vastness of nature: humans are small in comparison, and should be seen accordingly in photographs. We (and other avid photographers we encountered on our outings) focused on our subjects from high vantage points.

He Kai is a well-read man, has travelled Fujian extensively, and enjoys imparting his knowledge and thoughts on life. From him I learned that Xiapu is part of the municipal Ningde region and stretches ~400km along the East China Sea coast. Much of the shore and inlet areas are surrounded by mountains.  Bamboo structures and poles jutting out of the water, fishing nets, and vessels in the mudflats during low tide, provide human scale counterpoints to the area’s vast natural beauty. The coastline is well known for its fishing and seaweed harvesting. The coastline is decorated with the intricate patterns created by these bamboo poles and mudflats at low tide. With the right light, photographs taken here can turn out amazing. The distant mountains were enveloped in fog, which moved even closer during the two days I was there. I considered a third day with He Kai but decided against it; as luck would have it, that third day was rainy, extremely windy, AND foggy. The weather does what it pleases! Despite the fog-limited visibility, I was able to get a few decent shots. Timing is key; if there are boats in view and fishermen doing their thing, that’s a perfect moment to capture. Shadows on the water are also worth paying attention to; they can enhance a beautiful shot.

 

Fisherman, Fujian

Fisherman, Fujian

Fishermen, Fujian

Fishermen, Fujian

Fishermen. Fujian

Fishermen. Fujian

Bamboo Poles. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Bamboo Poles. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Bamboo Poles. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Bamboo Poles. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Mudflats, Nets, Bamboo Poles. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Mudflats, Nets, Bamboo Poles. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Fishing, Fujian

Fishing, Fujian

Muflats. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Mudflats. Near Sanshazhen, Fujian

Photography Tours:

Unfortunately Sanshanzhen is not known for its cuisine or accommodation. There are a few places that sell soup but other resto stalls only offer buffets of lukewarm, pre-made food consisting of preserved and fresh vegetables cooked in lots of oil, meat, and fish. But!! If you want a great photography contact there, He Kai is your man. Here is his website: http://xphxs.cn/ (tel: (011 +86) +139 5937 1505). I highly recommend him. His price is 1000RMB/day but you may be able to join a group so the cost will be divided by the number of participants. He Kai also does tours of Tulou. I have heard very good things about Vicky Yeow’s tours as well: http://www.vickyphotographyworkshops.com/

Xiamen

The small, coastal city/island of Xiamen is surrounded by beaches and mountains. Jimei and Haicang, are both just across bridges, on the mainland, and Gulangyu island (a large tourist attraction), is a five-minute ferry ride from Xiamen; it is administratively part of the same city. Xiamen has been an important port for centuries, and is a gateway to China. In fact, the cargo ship that brought me to to this part of the world from the U.S., stopped in Xiamen, although I debarked in Hong Kong!

The first night, I stayed at the wonderfully comfortable and quirky Yoga Village Guesthouse. This guesthouse is centrally located and the perfect place to chill should you desire to do so – somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of the central part of the city. It was exactly what I needed that first twenty-four hours, and I barely left my room, though they have a lovely courtyard for relaxation too. To boot, the guesthouse has best shower I’ve come across in my seven months in China. What a pleasure! The rest of my time I couchsurfed with a welcoming, interesting, and fun Israeli couple in Jimei.

Xiamen, Zhongshang Lu (downtown pedestrian walkway), Fujian

Xiamen, Fujian, (Zhongshang Lu – downtown pedestrian walkway)

I spent my days in Xiamen strolling through alleyways, the Bai Lu Zhou and Zongshang Parks, and winding my way to Nan Putuo Temple (a Buddhist temple that is considered a pilgrimage site and thus full of worshippers and monks). It is a stone’s throw from Xiamen University campus, (known by locals as Xia Da) via Siming Nan Lu and back streets. Many of the streets in Xiamen are tree-lined.  Xiamen University is a spectacularly landscaped campus and close to the botanical gardens, but could itself be considered a botanical garden. It has a park and large pond in the middle of the campus and is green throughout. I was initially skeptical about wandering XiaDa but it is definitely worth a stroll. The city’s waterfront was full of people out enjoying the spectacular weather. I was lucky to experience Xiamen’s mild spring temperatures and bright sunshine.

Xiamen, is probably not known for its food – there are many street stalls and vendors and so much of the food appears to be made of pure oil. BUT!! on my second night I feasted with a group of CouchSurfers at the Da Fang Vegetarian Restaurant, not far from the Nan Putuo Temple. Here the meal was excellent; I highly recommend this resto. Not only is the food terrific, but the restaurant itself happens to be in a very convenient location, near other sites you’d want to visit. I spent my remaining days in Xiamen babying a cold and resting up so that I would be ready for an almost-week-long trip along the Mekong Delta during the first week of April.

Xiamen, Nan Putuo Temple, Fujian

Xiamen, Fuujian (worhshipper at Nan Putuo Temple)

Xiamen, Baichang Beach, Fujian

Xiamen, Fujian (Baichang Beach)

Xiamen, Alleyway, Fujian

Xiamen, Fujian

Xiamen, Alleyway, Fujian

Xiamen,Fujian (alleyway)

Xiamen, Zhongshan Park, Fujian

Xiamen, Fujian (Zhongshan Park)

Xiamen, Near Zhongshan Park, Fujian

Xiamen, Fujian (small side street near Zhongshan Park)

Xiamen Park

Xiamenn, Fujian (Bai Lu Zhou Park) (photograph courtesy of Ruth Sheffer)

Accommodation:

Places to Eat:

Fujian Tulou

Much has been written on the Fujian Tulou. Please take a look at the link at the Unsesco website for all the the vital information. You can also watch the CCTV English series, ” Secrets of the Fujian Tulou”  I will therefore keep the writing here brief and let the photographs speak for themselves.

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village

There are many Tulou houses (also called roundhouses — although some are square) throughout the region and one can either take a tour, or rent a driver and car, or motorbike to see the various tulou in various condition, with many near collapse. Tourism is growing here and these buildings are gradually becoming reminders of a communal way of life that is disappearing. I had the opportunity to learn about both culture and architecture at the Earth Building Cultural Village; Nanxi Tulou; and Chuxi Tulou.

Fujian, Chuxi Tulou Clusters

Fujian, Chuxi Tulou Clusters

Fujian, Chuxi Tulou Clusters

Fujian, Chuxi Tulou Clusters

Fujian, Chuxi, Street Scene

Fujian, Chuxi, Street Scene

Fujian, Chuxi Child's Drawing on a Outside Wall

Fujian, Chuxi (child’s drawing on an outside wall of home)

Some sites have entrance fees; both the Earth Building Cultural Village and Chuxi are Unesco sites. One of the five tulou in Chuxi acts as museum of the Hakka People, who still live in the area and occupy many of the Fujian Tulou villages. Admission fees allow you to meander through the area, where you will see dogs lazing in the sun, farmers working their land, many people selling tea, the elderly sitting and talking with each other, mothers or grandmothers carrying their babies on their backs, and vegetables and leaves drying in the open air.

Fujian, Chuxi (drying mustard greens for pickling)

Fujian, Chuxi (drying mustard greens for pickling)

The Hakka, who occupy this whole area, were originally part of the Han Chinese until they migrated to the southern region of China because of an infusion of minority groups into the region. Originally the Hakka were not an ethnic group unto themselves. “Hakka” first appeared in registries during the Song Dynasty; it was used to indicate “guests” who had left their homelands to settle  in other parts of the country. The Hakka religion is a blend of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and ancestor worship; they are believers in warding off bad luck to improve their lives.

Fujian, Chuxi, Temple Artifact

Fujian, Chuxi (temple artifact)

My couchsurfing hosts recommended that I stay in Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village at the Fuyulou Changdi Inn. This square Tulou house was built over 130 years ago and the Inn portion was added about 110 years ago; it has belonged to the same family for four generations. The accommodation is a basic (and musty) room with a shared bathroom (squat toilets) and shower on each floor. The owner is friendly, helpful, and quite the businessman. The meals (and coffee) are excellent – unlike the other food I ate during my short travels across the Fujian coast. It is heavy on meat (predominantly pork), but there is a good variety of local vegetable dishes, too – many of which are pickled.

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village (pig)

Fujian Tulou, Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village (pig)

Fujian, Yongding County's Earth Building Cultural Village - Fuyulou Changdi Inn.

Fujian, Yongding County’s Earth Building Cultural Village (Fuyulou Changdi Inn)

Accommodation: