I went back out to Manguo Xin Zhai A couple of weeks ago – it was Children’s Day. Next year some of these students will graduate and go to Bulang Shan County or Menghai for middle school. As this is not an old village, there is no long history of children graduating from the village school and progressing to middle and high schools. The teachers aspirations are that children will be successful in moving on to other schools and that the value of education will be appreciated more and more. I had lunch with the teachers and the village head, who gave me a bag of tea as I left. I had taken a few things for the classroom – pens, paper, crayons, colouring pens, etc.
We held a qing ke (open house) last weekend, but building work continues on a gazebo. It’s made from some timber and roof tiles from an old Dai house, supplemented with the remaining pine from the main building construction. It’s going to be a place to hang out and drink tea.
Built in the manner of a local Dai building rather than a Han style pagoda, there are some nominal similarities in design style between the two. Tiles like these are made by Dai people outside nearby Menghun. The village nearby is also renowned for hand-made paper.
The roof superstructure needs to be more substantial to support the tiles.
The toilet block replete with words of wisdom by friends from Suzhou. “It’s too white.” they said. “bu hao kan!”
A view from the road above the site. The white roof can just be seen through the trees.
Xishuangbanna does not have a particularly strong Han Chinese culture, nonetheless, during this season, many different ethnic groups celebrate their own new year ; Aini, Jinuo, Han, all have celebrations.
This last week has been the Jinuo New Year – several days of celebrations, for which cows and pigs are slaughtered and shared out amongts the households of the village. Much is also given away to guests.
Yesterday I went with friends to Jinuo Shan. We were invited to a friends house to eat. This was followed by dancing.
A group of dancers, accompanied by others playing cymbals and makeshift drums, go round the entire village, enter each house to dance and drink bai jiu and finish in the village square to continue the celebrations.
A basket of greens was tossed in the air above everyone’s heads, while the drinking and dancing continued.
In these situations, avoiding being more or less forced to drink home-made maize liquor takes great determination and – as far as the hosts are concerned – a degree of insensitivity to their cultural norms. However, Jinuo people tend not to be as persistent as some other cultures in this matter.
All Jinuo people will wear some form of traditional dress for this kind of occasion; typically a jacket and a bag. Only the woman wear hats. This clothing is made using cotton that people have grown themselves and dyes that come from local plants.
There is very little tea in this particular part of Jinuo Shan now. Old tea trees have been cut down to plant rubber which encroaches relentlessly on more traditional farming areas.