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Real Guangxi

作者:admin 2020-10-17

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A fisherman on the Lijiang River Photo: VCG

Before going to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in South China, I had already heard of its well-known tourist spots, such as the beautiful Lijiang River and the majestic terraced fields. I had also experienced the local food culture and various rice noodles, which are also popular thousands of miles away. But it was only when I stood on its soil that I understood the mysterious beauty of Guangxi.

Although I later realized that what I saw was just the tip of the iceberg, the feeling Guangxi brought to me was very real, combining pleasure with disappointment.

If you can get away from the tour groups and tour guides, you will be able to find different aspects to this place, most of which will leave a lasting impression on you.

Ordinary people's lives

I had come to Guangxi to attend my university roommate's wedding, and I was particularly grateful for the invitation as it gave me a reason and opportunity to live with the locals, which is always one of most attractive parts of a journey for me.

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The Longji Terraced Fields Photo: VCG

Although shared bikes are sweeping the country, Guangxi people still have a preference for electric bicycles.

Each day, during peak traffic hours, the army of electric bicycles usually overwhelms cars and cab drivers, forcing them to a halt.

As I walked through the city of Liuzhou, I was stunned by the incredible sight of an army of helmet-wearing people riding electric bikes of different colors.

"Yes, the electric bike troop is one of our local features. I rode one to high school years ago and yesterday I was taken on one to bring details of my wedding by my friend," said the bride, glad that I was able to get a glimpse of this street scene.

It could be because of the hot and humid weather that the region sees for most of the year, she said. "Trust me, if you can't afford a car here, buy an electric bike. Riding a bike on the street is a very bad idea when the weather gets hot."

The bride then told me to come to the wedding the next evening, surprising me again. I initially thought I would be able to send my best wishes to the young couple at noon, which is the norm in northern Chinese cities.

"No, our wedding will start at 7 pm. Don't forget it."

This was a traditional Han ethnic wedding. The bride's red auspicious wedding gown impressed me, and made me curious about what weddings in other ethnic groups in Guangxi were like, so I decided to go to the popular tourist city of Guilin to find out.

Ethnic folk customs

On the train to Guilin, I began to imagine what I would see once I left the train station. Would I see people with colorful ethnic costumes? Would I see architectural works in ethnic styles?

The answer was no. The urban area of Guilin is much like any other place in China - large malls, tall buildings by the streets and vehicles everywhere. The cultures of the different ethnic groups have gradually blended in the downtown area.

"Four ethnic groups have the largest populations in Guangxi - the Han, Zhuang, Yao and Dong. Han and Zhuang people are used to living in the plains, while Yao and Dong people like living in the mountains. So if you want to experience their folk customs, you have to go to mountainous areas," a tour guide said.

I chose to go to the Longji Terraced Fields, also known as the Longsheng Rice Terraces, as my first stop, and visited a village of the Yao ethnic group where women are known to grow their hair to amazing lengths.

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Yao ethnic costumes Photo: Ji Yuqiao/GT

Many of the Yao women cut their hair only once in their lives: When they are 18 it is shorn off in a public ceremony. After that, the locks are left to grow to surprising lengths. Unmarried women are not allowed to show their hair to other people, so they hide it in a head scarf.

Women here have the tradition of keeping long hair. They use fermented rice water - the water that's left after rinsing rice - together with natural ingredients such as tea seeds and orange peel to wash their hair. The natural shampoo keeps their hair healthy, smooth and shiny.

In a Yao family, it's the woman who is the breadwinner and not the man, which is reflected in the wedding ceremony. Female relatives of the bride take gifts to the bridegroom's family, which is the reverse of most customs I am familiar with.

If a man marries a Yao woman, he should be prepared to take care of the children at home, the tour guide said. "Even for plowing work, women are the ones standing at the front pulling the plough."

While having lunch at a local restaurant, I realize how true the tour guide's words are. I saw the male owner of the restaurant babysitting beside the door while his wife served all the customers.

Beauty of the Lijiang River  

Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to visit the Dong ethnic group villages, although I am really longing to see what a matriarchal society is like.

The Lijiang River is one of "the world's top 10 watery wonders" according to National Geographic, and is a symbol of Guilin, and even the whole of Guangxi. Almost all tourists who visit Guangxi make it a point to see the river. So I expected a lot before arriving in the famous scenic spot, but was actually left a little disappointed.

When getting out of the taxi, the driver told me to prepare a 20 yuan note, as one spot on the river is printed on the bill. I actually saw some visitors holding up the note to compare it with the scene and take photos.

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A 20 yuan note portraying the scene in front of it Photo: Ji Yuqiao/GT

I had booked a bamboo raft online and imagined making an unforgettable trip on the mist-shrouded river, but I did not expect to be given a raft propelled by a crude oil engine.

Accompanied by the annoying noise of the engine, I started the journey as the boatman tried to tell me how the mountains resembled animals by the river, although I couldn't hear much of what he said.

Despite these minor flaws, I still enjoyed the trip. The gentle and cool wind that blew over the river and abundant greenery helped to ease my nerves.

Healing is the ultimate goal of any journey.

  • Aerial view of Longji terraced fields in Longsheng County, Guangxi
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