Fishing Villages on the Li River

Taking a boat up the Li River from Yangshuo is like taking a big step back into time.  The villages have a slow, ancient way of life cross-bred with electronic media access and a reputation for beauty and authenticity that has brought the likes of Bill Clinton to visit.  There is some kind of compelling force that keeps people in these villages and loyal to a longstanding way of life.  It is hard to make even a very modest living, and inhabitants are often forced to live for periods of time in the nearest big city, Guangzhou, to make money in order to continue living at any level of comfort in the villages.  Life is slow and very basic.

A kind of primitive grandeur greets visitors from the river.

The gateway from the river is also a landmark on what once must have been a little square, but is now just left over space.

For a rural village, the buildings were remarkably well built.

There is rich ornament and a strong sense of style, though much of the detail is crumbling.

Abandoned home that once housed a wealthy family.

Sweet, evocative streets

Many passages are just muddy lanes--as they might have always been.

Some houses are freshly plastered and relatively well maintained.

Rich patina of time.

Details that indicate status of original residents.

Faded slogans from the Cultural Revolution

Evidence of ancient farm practices still alive and well.

Gaggles of farm animals.

Ubiquitous rural chickens

Elegance and exquisite craft in some of the courtyards

Though deteriorated, some of the interior spaces are quite grand. Mao still rules out here.

Though the domestic life seems very basic and rudimentary, the TV is always in the background.

Will this kid stay in his village after a childhood filled with the outside world via electronic media?

Remarkably, the current generation did make the decision to stay even in the midst of massive urbanization in China.

Even though life on the river is still completely dependent on the traditional river raft, it might be made of PVC pipe today rather than of bamboo. Time marches on.

Thinking about Buildings in Landscape, Cultural Identity
Location:
Posted July 18, 2010