The gate to Southern China


Narrow canal between clothing store and Tobacco shop, Lijiang Old City

If we sat down to a cup of coffee, I would tell you of my favorite cities; Jerusalem, Istanbul, Dahab, Bokara. These ancient cities preserve history and culture, and are in themselves landmarks. In a tasteful way they have been restored without seeming new. In China there are few places that still seem historic, most are flashy, rebuilt replicas of the past. However, in the Yunnan city of Lijiang, if you look past the tourist shops and guest houses, one can get a sense of China’s long destroyed past.


City well, I overlooked as a lady washed clothes below

The Old city was built around a natural water way, with bridges, canals and narrow alleys creating a maze through old stone structures. Large, stone slab streets move past small businesses and restaurants. The city can be somewhat of a tourist trap if one doesn’t walk the narrow paths behind the shops. There one can get a sense of what it is like living in a small village. Washing clothes on the sidewalks, walking to the wet market everyday for fresh produce, and bringing water home from the well. This is what there is to see in Lijiang. There are countless stores selling everything from African Drums to polished rocks but the real city is found on the quiet, narrow alleys.


Chinese Culture is persevered in its people, seldom its place. I watched this girl brush her teeth, wash her face and clean this table cloth at the entrance to her families restaurant. 


This lady was bringing fresh vegetables to the wet market, the real people of the Old City in Lijiang have moved out long ago, and are now found in the countryside.


Acres of Yunnan Tobacco fill the countryside.


It is hard to convince myself to visit Chinese cities when they are surrounded by countryside.


I have crossed the barrier into southern China. Noodles are no longer made of wheat and the staple is now rice or a compressed rice cake called “Erkuai”. Mosquito’s, flies cockroaches, and the sound of cicadas fill the warm humid nights. The weather seems to be controlled by a switch, where one moment it is pouring, and the next it is sunny. The Yunnan accent is rather hard to understand, but my Chinese continues bring smiles and compliments.


Erkuai, compressed rice cake. The objects on the top are “Yotiao” deep fried sticks of dough.


1 thought on “The gate to Southern China

  1. Hello Julian, enjoyed this post. China as I imagine it only existing in preserved areas.

    Summer is going strong. My sister is renting a cabin at Shaver and taking her ski boat. It is very hot lately and there is an abundance of beautiful fruits and vegetables available at the farmer’s markets.

    It is July 4th weekend and I am grateful for the freedoms we have here. But I wish our government would bring all the soldiers home and spend more effort helping at risk children get an early start on their education.

    Hope you have a good week.

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