China: By Journalists Eyes XI: On The Yaks Farm
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
We leave the city and our bus headed on perfect new highway to the west into the mountains. We find ourselves in a charming unspoilt nature Tibetan plateau. Meandering path bordered on both sides to three thousand meters high two mountain peaks, among them a large valley on the slopes of mountain meadows, where we see here and there a few sheep, but the people gone. Even on the highway we own almost all the time - when you meet someone, so family on a bike with a load greater than the machine itself or horse-drawn dray. We pass the car really rare.
We are in fact almost the poorest and least populated province of China. Qinghai, with its more than 700 thousand square kilometres, most extensive in the country live here, but only 5 and a half million people - that is otherwise normal population of the average Chinese provincial town. Most of the cultural and business life takes place in the metropolis, the rest of the country is very, very backward, many people here live below the poverty line, illiteracy is quite common. And until he Chinese government did not rely, that worked just fine agriculture. As we will know soon that everything should be changed.
After about an hour drive we leave breathtaking scenery and mountain peaks behind the highway and turn on the road much less comfortable. Finally, we pass the villages, we meet people. We observe storey houses with flat roof, fair-faced, unkempt, at first sight miserable and all are almost the same. Here and there we see the poor child in grubby clothes, men in gray uniforms and the kind of woman in long skirt. They stop when they see our bus and curiously watch faces that they see behind a little window.
Uneven road turns into a dirt road, far and wide is nothing but stony pastures, and then in front of us in the distance appears a cluster of several buildings - it's a local farm and we're going to listen to farmer. As an agenda item, it looked magnificent in place but we have a lot of surprises. The homestead consists of only three low shabby building, and a kind of backyard fence, where yak skulls and old rusty ploughs. The local staff means genial and old farmer with a practiced smile and expression, his quiet woman with an impenetrable expression, daughter, helper and assistant.
They welcome us by the white neck scarves - a traditional symbol of friendship. The farmer brought to us a small room decorated with dozens of photos of "Me and the minister of agriculture" and we sit to the old divan. The host has a place of honour – wing chair. His wife carries something to eat and drink. The only thing, from that farmers can live in this part of the province with an average altitude of 3000 meters above sea, are sheep and yaks. Behind the house, although we saw only two yaks, mountain pastures few droves, but farmer tells us how it's governed at large, helping to organize peasant to produce more effective and explains what everything is such as useful.
Without the yaks to the local people still can´t imagine life. They are extremely hardy, tough and hardy creatures that can survive in up to five thousand meters above sea level. They are used to carrying costs, such as draft animals, bred for milk, meat, wool and have the quality of their dung is dried for the winter, when people heat with it and they can also use it as insulation. So almost all in one.
I listen carefully rehearsed and expurgated speech of the old Chinese, which should apparently convinced us of how beneficial is the local effort of "collectivization" and my sight while stopped at his huge hard working hands and faces thousand times weathered by frost. I scan carefully his wife - the embodiment of a hard life in harsh conditions. I wonder why this family left someone to manipulate to do "tourist attraction". Well, it probably was not voluntarily...
We are still near yaks, colleagues ask, the farmer gives professional smiles into the camera and our glasses were filled with milk. Of course the yak one and freshly got. To eat there are bowls full of donuts - they look really tempting, but proud farmer note that they are fried in yak fat, took out my taste. In rooms you can smell a lot of unknown aromas and not at all pleasant to me. It is clear to me that nothing and I will not touch the hunger and thirst. Otherwise, I probably ended up with his head in the local toilet bowl, or in something that is used for these purposes. But lo and behold! The farmer raises his glass of milk and invites us to toast. I could feel the sweat on my forehead, it can´t do it and in the same time I must not offend the host. So I trick that I am drinking, holding the glass with both hands so as not to know that it diminished and quietly move to the weight of the flowers, it hides everything, fortunately.
Audience thankfully coming to an end, still get to the two viewing photo albums, over which we do now and oh oh (farmers family, yaks and guests), and finally we get to fresh air. Saying goodbye is warm, family pose us many times, wave, while we on the horizon and we're going to meet the Yellow River.
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
China - land of unlimited possibilities, a country which, unlike the developed world is growing and whose economic growth in today's world seems like a miracle. Country with many cultural and historical monuments, a country, that sends a man into space.
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
Huge China is a country of contrasts. It consists of several climatic zones, there you can find a noisy city full of glass skyscrapers and smog, but also the traditional mountain village with mud houses and rice plantations.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
Visit of Beijing food market and edibles of all kinds, shapes, smells, often of unknown origin and a long life even more dangerously we were really stunned for a moment and quietly wandering Chinese traders staring at the blonde, which move at a rate of marathon runners. Phew. We are off and miraculously in front of us pleasantly familiar signs shucks "Starbucks Coffee".
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský