Far from the Great Wall and the Grand Canal are the remote villages and towns of Southwest China.
Post Magazine reports, “Historically, this area, which spans the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan, was a hotbed of ethnic insurrection and separatist movements. The region proved so difficult to pacify that the Chinese have long dubbed it ‘the land of a hundred barbarians’ and even today, ethnic minorities, as well as local Han, eke out lives as removed from mainstream affairs as one can be in today’s China.”
While I have never visited Southwest China, a few years ago when my daughter was a student at Stanford University, she volunteered to travel to this area with a nonprofit that provided heart-related health care for poor children. The closest I came was when we flew to Southeast China and visited the Dragon’s Back and cruised along the Li River.
Southwest China is also where Pu’erh tea originated, and the beginning of the Tea Horse Road to Tibet.
In 225 A.D., when China was divided into the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, the prime minister of Shu led a military expedition to Yunnan. Historical records say that many of the Shu troops came down with eye diseases. After they drank boiled Pu’erh tea, the troops recovered.
Wild China reports, “Deep in the heart of Southern Yunnan there exist tea trees unlike any other on Earth. The jungles of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the districts of Simao and Lincang are home to the oldest tea trees in the world. In these regions grow tea trees that range in age from several centuries to over a millennium, and the tea that is made from their leaves is called Pu’er.
“Over the past 30 to 50 years, however, the number of these ancient trees has steadily decreased. Since China’s reform and opening-up policies were implemented in 1978, the Chinese tea industry has grown rapidly.” …
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.