Opinion / Featured Contributors

Discovering the physical and ethnic diversity of northern Guangdong

Updated: 2017-11-03 07:09 By Bruce Connolly (chinadaily.com.cn)

Discovering the physical and ethnic diversity of northern Guangdong

A local resident pushes cycle along a country road of Lianxian in 1993. [Photo by Bruce Connolly/chinadaily.com.cn]

Within a limestone landscape reminiscent of Guilin I was driven along a narrow winding road with adobe built villages climbing the slopes - any patch of level land was cultivated, grain was spread out to dry. Walking onwards from the road end we came towards a larger village accessed by a path across a small dam. Children played around a pond where buffaloes wallowed. I was received by the village leader, wearing a red turban-like headgear while smoking a long bamboo pipe. Strong liquor served in a metal bowl is a traditional welcome before being invited to sit within an open-fronted meeting area facing the pond. To my surprise gunpowder exploded. Girls and boys in ornate black and red ceremonial costume, with white or red lower leg gaiters, emerged to bang large drums, play wind instruments while performing Yao traditional songs. At the end of the ceremony I was invited to dress in Yao ceremonial costume for photographs beside the village head. Many bemused villagers came to watch. Was I the first foreign visitor to their village? It certainly felt very far removed from my daily life back in Guangzhou!

As we walked down between the fields I felt reluctant to leave. Indeed back in the car speeding towards Lianxian, thinking I may never pass this way again, I cried "Stop please" and to universal amazement got out and started along the riverside road. Scenery so breathtaking I almost ran out of film! Rivers emerged from caves below limestone pinnacles. Passing through villages, progressing past maturing rice fields, people cycled or pushed bicycles, stopping in surprise at seeing me. Ducks paddled beside bamboo-walled restaurants overlooking the waters. Gravel paths led to remoter villages tucked onto the sides of jagged hills. Men in low boats scooped up river alluvium to spread onto fields while children escaping summer's heat played in irrigation canals Some shyly said "Hello" before running away! Deviating from the road to follow riverbank paths sometimes I had to wade through the shallows passing men casually fishing. A tractor pulled up, the driver offering me a lift back to town, to his surprise I declined! I would rather walk behind farmers herding buffaloes along the virtually traffic-free highway. Weather was glorious, cooler and less humid than Guangzhou. The jagged mountainous backdrop was bathed increasingly in late afternoonsoft sunlight. With the area so incredibly photogenic, stopping repeatedly, it seemingly took hours to reach Lianxian.