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31/05/2013

Longevity Paradise—Bama

Bama County is situated in the Northwestern part of GuangXi Province (a popular destination included in affordable China travel packages). Covering an area of 1,971 Square Kilometers, with a population of 238 thousand, Bama is home to twelve different ethnicities. Listed as the five officially certificated villages of longevity by the International Society of Natural Medicine in November 1991, Bama has the highest concentration of centenarians (People over 100) in the world: 58 out of 220,000 people, centenarians to total population. Bama, therefore has often been reputably referred to as the “Village of Longevity, Sanctuary of China.”

Bama terrain is mostly rocky and mountainous; farmland is very sacred and precious to the locals. The highest peak of Bama extends as far as 1,216 meters off of sea level, while the lowest point is 221 meters above. About the height of 600 to 800 meters, Bama is severed by the BanYang River, known to locals as the River of Life, running from north to south.

Bama is located in a tropical area, with an annual temperature of 20.4 C. and weather relatively mild and gentle throughout the year. Proven by studies, the air of Bama is especially natural and refreshing. Researches show that negative ions, which are highly beneficial to the people body, is vastly abundant in the atmosphere of Bama. With 2,500 in every cubic centimeter, and thirty plus thousand in the upper atmospheres of the Banyang River and the villages, it is 100 to 750 times the amount of Beijing City.

Bama is also home to great historic events. During the 20's and 30's, it was headquarters for many of the most renowned revolutionary leaders, like Deng XiaoPing, Zhang YungMing, and Dian PuoQuen. It was here, where strategies and central planning was discussed. Here you can also learn some history about China to color your    popular China travel package.

Due to Bama's mountainous terrains, living conditions are very poor. However, in the village of BaTun, a population of 515, is now home to amazingly 7 hundred year old seniors, exceeding the United Nation's longevity mark by 200 times. (UN requires an longevity village to have 7 hundred year old seniors out of a population of 20,000) Due to the lack of educational funding and facilities, children in Bama start school at a late age of 10. Only when they reach the stage of high school, would they be expose to T.V., radios, or other mediums of communication. But statistics show a level of educational success that is unmatchable by many metropolitans; there is practically a teacher in every household, two kids accepted into the world renowned Qinghua University, four others are currently studying abroad, etc.

The village of Bama is listed as one of the ten best traveling sites of the GuangXi. On this mysterious land, a place full of attractions, the Bai Muo dong (Name number one cave of the world by British Royal Discovery Team), the surreal Zihu lake, the preserved natural forest,and many many more, together with exotic Yao tribe customs, create a rich, must-see traveling site included in package of China best tours.

In addition to its mystery, Bama is also an area of abundance in nature products. The roast pork of Bama, pearl-like corn, its sesame goat, banana noodles, just to name a few, are selected by the international medical community as the “Green longevity products”.Major natural resources of Bama include Zinc, Iron, Gold, Antimony, etc.

Foundational construction for Bama is moving rapidly. Located on the intersection of City 323 Line and State 323, it is chokehold to Southwestern China, 70 Kilometers from the NangQuen railroads. The city is continuously improving its water, electricity, transportation, and communication systems. Banks, insurance, commerce, hospitals, broadcasting and computer web institutions are well established and accessible.

Benefiting the Chinese National Southern Development Encouragement scheme, Bama is enjoying many beneficial national policies. Simultaneously, the municipal government of Bama, has also adjusted a set of more fitting, and state-orientated decrees. Aiming to attract domestic and foreign investors, Bama welcomes you to come to relax during vacations and enjoy the celestial sites. Local China tourism also make contribution to the development of economy.

09:27 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

30/05/2013

In Anhui, China, Centuries-Old Charm

JUST 250 or so miles to the west of the gleaming high-rises of Shanghai sits a window into a world hundreds of years old. Despite the dramatic upheavals brought by war, the Cultural Revolution and industrialization, the hamlet of Xidi which is one of world heritage site and an optional for China vacation deals, in the mountainous province of Anhui, along with other villages in the area, has managed to remain largely untouched since the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, starting hundreds of years ago. Wander the narrow, labyrinthine lanes and peek into the open-air courtyards of grandiose homes, with their wooden lattice windows, rock gardens, watercolors and calligraphy scrolls, and it can feel as if you are slipping back in time to the days of the Chinese emperors.


As more and more Chinese move to cities, the small villages of Anhui offer a respite. And perhaps even more surprising, young artists and entrepreneurs are embracing these spots with a renewed sense of pride in their modest scale and tangible sense of history. And the locals can earn revenue depending on local China tourism.

After the sun begins sinking behind the whitewashed walls of Xidi’s houses and the day-trippers board their buses home, the art students, visiting from the large provincial capital of Hefei and other nearby cities, linger overnight or for the weekend. Perched behind easels in the granite-tile lanes or on rocks in the shallow streams flowing through the village, they appear inspired by the classical architecture, which has all but disappeared in their skyscraper-studded cities. “Young people don’t typically like this; they prefer big-city culture,” said Wang Nanyan, an 18-year-old from Hefei. “But I’m different. I’m an artist — I like these kinds of buildings.”

Two reasons these villages — about 20 of which are worth visiting, spread across the southern part of Anhui, an area roughly the size of Belgium — have retained their centuries-old charm are location and economics: they are set deep in the countryside of one of China’s poorer provinces, where residents have lacked the resources to tear down the old and start anew.


But preservationists have played a key role, too. In 2000, Xidi (pronounced shee-dee) and the nearby village of Hongcun were declared Unesco World Heritage sites. Rather than force residents out, Xidi officials wisely devised a plan to guarantee them a share of profits from entrance tickets to the town (104 renminbi, about $16.60 at 6.25 renminbi to the dollar), as long as they maintained the traditional appearance of their properties. Seeing opportunities, entrepreneurs from other parts of China began to trickle in, snapping up rundown properties to refurbish and turn into shops and inns. The result is that tourism is booming — aided in part by the villages’ proximity to another attraction, the famously striking Huangshan (Yellow Mountain which always contained in top China tours), but mainly thanks to their historical and aesthetic appeal.

Xidi, in particular, has an illustrious history. Founded in 1047 by the Hu family, Xidi began to grow rich as a trading center during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). As the population swelled, the Hus gained power as imperial officials and built elaborate two-story compounds and giant archways, one of which still stands at the entrance to the town. The fortunes of the town began to decline came after the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), but signs of Xidi’s former glory still abound. (The name Hu, for one, is shared by about 80 percent of residents.)

The size of many of the former merchant homes still impresses. The most majestic were built in the 1600s and designed in the traditional Huizhou style (as the region was once known). Interior courtyards, filled with gardens and small fishponds, open on to formal meeting halls where portraits of ancestors hang from the highest points on the walls. Nearly every surface, whether wood or stone, is elaborated carved — the door frames, the braces supporting the ceiling beams, the second-story balconies. But perhaps the most distinctive features are the “horse-head walls” that bookend the rooftops, so called because the upturned edges of the multitiered walls resemble horses’ heads.

Li Guoyu, an artist from Shanghai, was drawn to this graceful architecture when she started looking for a property to turn into an inn in the early 2000s. The one she settled on wasn’t nearly as grand as others in Xidi — it was a teacher’s home during the Ming dynasty and was being used as a pigsty when she found it. But Mrs. Li saw potential in the 400-year-old property. “Many people dream of finding a paradise, but they never really find such a place,” she said. “But I did.”

 

In 2006, she opened the Pig’s Heaven Inn — named in honor of the building’s one-time function. The hotel is modest in size, with five bedrooms, a small courtyard garden and a third-floor lounge with stunning views of the village’s black-tiled roofs. But what it lacks in space, it makes up for in character: Mrs. Li has carefully appointed the interiors with antique chests, chairs and wash basins, as well as cheerful touches like mirrors painted with Peking Opera stars, vintage floral wallpaper, and lanterns and birdcages hanging from the rafters.

A short time later, Mrs. Li purchased a second property in the nearby village of Bishan — a Qing dynasty merchant’s home — which she transformed into a nine-bedroom inn and opened in 2008. She scoured the countryside to find interesting antiques (including a spectacular red and gold Qing-era wedding bed for one bedroom), hung art by her son, Mu Er, on the walls and planted an organic vegetable garden in the back. She believes her restoration work has inspired her neighbors to fix up their properties, too. “Old houses have memories,” she said. “When I’m old and pass this house along to my son, he’ll remember his childhood here. If I go back and look for my own childhood house, I wouldn’t find it because it’s gone already.”

Most tourists focus solely on Xidi and Hongcun because of their Unesco status and proximity to each other, but there are other hamlets in the Anhui mountains that have equally exquisite architecture and, more important, a fraction of the visitors. One is Zhaji, a two-hour drive north of Xidi. The tiny village is also made up of whitewashed homes with black-tile roofs clinging to the banks of a muddy stream, but the houses here are far simpler, belonging mostly to farmers. There are few shops and restaurants and no art students. Locals dry peanuts on giant bamboo baskets in the sun and make their own tofu. Xidi feels like Shanghai (a hot tourist city for popular China tours) in comparison.

08:19 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

29/05/2013

A Remarkable Rediscovery: the Xiaohe Tombs

Dawn broke on a day in March 2005, Idelisi Abuduresule rose from his archaeological tools and precious relics and he stretched his stiffened body.

A researcher and head of the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute, Idelisi had just returned from the blowing sands of the Lop Nur desert. Rather than rest, with zeal he had immediately thrown himself into sorting and researching the cultural relics unearthed from the Xiaohe (Small River) Tombs which can make contribution to local tourism of China.

Idelisi and his fellow archaeologists began the formal excavation of the Xiaohe Tombs two years ago, with the approval of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. On an early morning in October 2003, Idelisi and the archaeological research team he headed set off from Alagan. Their caravan first traveled northwest and passed through an expanse of withered red cedars.

Then they headed northeast and entered the dry sands of the Lop Nur. As they traversed countless hills of sand, all seemingly low and regular, the team came upon a particularly huge dune carpeted by an array of dense wood stakes. They had arrived at the No.5 Cemetery of Xiaohe Tombs.

Idelisi and his team conducted a field excavation for three months, until the spring of 2004, when desert sandstorms prevailed and nature again reclaimed the region. In late September that year, Idelisi again organized his team and trekked back to the desert to continue excavation.

It was the summer of 1934 when the tomb complex was first formally discovered by Folke Bergman, a Swedish archaeologist. It once again was left alone in the remote Lop Nur desert until the late 1990s, when Chinese scientists translated Bergman's book on his expedition, Archaeological Researches in Sinkiang.

Decades passed, but the scene at No.5 remains as Bergman described in his book. On the surface of the dune are bended wood blocks of a sort rarely seen at other burial sites. Across the scene are scattered human bones, dismembered mummies and woven pieces of ancient wool.

"The scale of the Xiaohe Tombs is unprecedented," explains Yang Lian, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The site may be the imperial tombs of the Loulan Kingdom. Regardless, the rediscovery of the tombs will no doubt play a very important role in the research of the Loulan civilization and the climatic changes in Lop Nur (a mysterious lake which are not suitable for China travel deals)."

The complex has so far revealed hundreds of tombs in several layers as well as other relics. Its exterior is an oval-shaped sand dune protruding from the desert, rising 7.75 meters high and covering 2,500 square meters. Before excavation, a total of 140 wood stakes rose from the dune, and a south-to-north wood fence is well preserved at the center and the western end of the complex, while the central array divides the complex into east and west sections.

After complete excavation of the upper two layers in the west section, 33 tombs had been discovered, 25 adult-sized; eight for children. Unearthed from the tombs were 15 intact mummies, a wooden male corpse, and a rare wooden dried corpse. In addition, two sets of important remnants of sacrificial offerings and nearly 1,000 other relics were brought to light.

"Never before have such a large number of mummies been found in a single site anywhere in the world," Idelisi said. "And it is still unclear how many more will be found."

At No.5 archaeologists also discovered miscellaneous large wood-carved figures, small wooden masks, engraved wooden arrows, red ox heads, snake-shaped wood poles and wood carvings of male and female genitalia.

"All these led us into a mysterious world permeated with an original, religious atmosphere," said Idelisi. "The rich cultural connotation of the Xiaohe Tombs is unparalleled among Chinese and foreign archaeological discoveries. The excavation and research on this site will not only play an important role in the archaeology of Xinjiang's ancient era, but it will also exert a deep and profound influence on continued archaeological research into the vast peripheral areas of Xinjiang." So if you are interested in it, you can consider to include it in your China vacation packages.

After the field excavations of the No.5 Cemetery, the archaeological team shifted into indoor sorting and research. Also known as the "Cemetery of 1,000 Coffins" (to an exaggerated degree), the burial site is actually home to about 330 tombs. According to Idelisi, archaeologists have numbered 167 tombs and excavated 163.

"Most of the tombs here still retain the same appearance as when they were buried, and this can help us better understand the social life back in the day," he said. "We have brought back 30-odd coffins and mummies, including boat-shaped coffins. And we have set samples from all the five burial layers for a research and determination of age. We've also taken samples from the stakes and coffin boards for a further determination of their age in light of the wood's growth rings."

The dead were asleep in the dune in their boat-shaped wood coffins, arranged upside down on banks, thus symbolically separating life and death; time and space. Buried together with the dead in their coffins were simple articles. In addition to costumes, necklaces and bracelets, in each is a small straw basket, and the corpses are mostly covered with grass and wattles. Archaeologists are still at work attempting to interpret these special burial habits.

"When we unraveled the cowhide used to wrap the coffins, the wood looked as fresh as the day it was buried, and the tombs' occupants lay cleanly in their coffins, free from the invasion of a single grain of sand," said Idelisi. "From the excavations so far, we can deduce much about the burial process. The first step was digging a pit. Then the dead were put carefully in their coffins, which was later covered with a board and wrapped with cowhide. The final step was the erecting of wood stakes, filling the pit with sand and piling up the dune. While most of the wood stakes around the coffins were buried, the highest and largest stakes were exposed above the ground as notable marks of the tombs."

According to Idelisi, the excavation of the Xiaohe Tombs suggests that in their time, bronze ware had already appeared. But instead of being used for tools or articles of daily use, the metal was used mostly for ornamentation, including being inlaid to wood with symbolic meaning. Grass, wood, fur and hide were probably the elements of daily life.

The small baskets buried with the dead were tightly woven with plant stems and root fibers, and each was equipped with a handle. The ancient people of this area made use of the diverse texture of straws and skillfully wove triangle and terraced veins on the baskets. More extraordinary, the straws, which typically decay quite rapidly, were still fresh, despite the passage of thousands of years. In many of the baskets, there remained dried kernels of wheat and millet and other varied grain.

In writing his book, Bergman praised the ancient craftsmanship suggested by the baskets. Great skill was required, he wrote, and their mastery of shape and proportion was amazing, paralleling the patterns engraved on the wood stakes.

The corpses were wrapped in wool garments and the straw baskets were placed on the right side of the bodies. Idelisi inferred that the clothes worn by the long deceased were primarily a kind of cape that measured about 1.6 meters long and 1.2 meters wide. Tabby knitting was used to weave white, gray-white, light brown and dark brown wool. Decorative tassels made up the hemline.

Perhaps the most important discovery in the latest excavation is the few clay coffins. Unearthed from the bottom layer of the tomb were four clay-covered wooden coffins, each surrounded by a circle of six or eight high wood stakes. The coffin covers, in rectangular shape, were wrapped with thick clay. Under the covers were wood chambers, in which straw baskets and wood articles were buried along with each of the deceased. Discovered beneath the wood chambers were boat-shaped coffins for the female dead. In death, they were accompanied by such articles as wool capes, gold earrings, wool necklaces and wood-sculpted male genitalia.

The archaeological team also discovered a baby's tomb, which was believed to be the smallest of its kind in Xinjiang. "It is estimated that this infant died shortly after his birth... the boat-shaped coffin is just 55 centimeters long," Idelisi said. "The infant's entire body was wrapped in a yellowy wool cape, only his face exposed."

Also found were two boards of a coffin displaced due to tomb robbery and, according to a measurement of their sizes, it was theorized that (the one that had) gone missing was a boat-shaped coffin. If still intact, this coffin would be 245 centimeters long and would have been the largest in the archaeological discoveries in Xinjiang.

According to Idelisi, a formal report on their research will be soon be released. This will enable a better understanding of the unique burial habits and promote the study of the site. It is expected that this will also positively influence research into the rich archaeological past of Xinjiang (a destination for Silk Road tour).

09:26 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)