Rediscovering China

February 15, 2010

China has turned into a tourist destination—for the Chinese.

Before Nixon visited China, the country was surrounded by an invisible bamboo curtain. It’s citizens were not allowed to travel far—even from their homes. In September and October 2008, there were so many Chinese tourists, that we were the minority.

Sedan Chairs Waiting to Climb the Dragon's Back

The Dragon’s Back is in Southeast China near Vietnam. After our bus climbed a narrow, winding mountain road, we reached a parking lot. For a few yuan, we gained entry and men with iron legs were willing to carry us to the top in sedan chairs. We walked.

The construction of the Longi Rice Terraces started during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368). Today, many Zhuan and Yao ethnic people live simple lives that honor the laws of nature. China’s central government encourages that life.

A hundred feet further, vendor’s stalls lined both sides of the road. It was China’s market economy in action reminding me of Disneyland and the shops that sold trinkets no one needs.

Halfway to the top, we reached a village built on stilts clinging to the mountain. The steep slopes were terraced to grow rice. Since it was mid afternoon, we stopped to eat local rice cooked in sections of bamboo on a hot bed of coals.

Cleaning Home Grown Rice Safe from the Sun

Mao’s Cultural Revolution ended decades in the past, and China is moving on while time seems to stand still on the Dragon’s Back.

See About iLook China

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart.