For the previous two days, the Deerfield group has be visiting the city of Dali in the Yunnan Province. Ceci Swenson ’16, Gene Thagard ’15, and Allie Roberts ’16 discuss the cultural diversity they have found there:
Ceci, 7/3: Today we visited the home of a traditional Bai family. The Bai people are one of the 55 minority groups that live in China. Their unique culture, which includes special ceremonies, colorful clothing, and their own dialect, makes them a special part of China’s history. At the family’s home, we ate lunch, and when we were done we proceeded to take part in a Three Tea ceremony. The mother and father prepared three special teas that symbolize different aspects of our lives. The first tea was a bitter green tea with rose petals. This tea represents the difficult times in our life that we must struggle through to reach the sweet parts. That brings me to the second tea we were served. We drank a sweet tea with cheese and sesame seeds, which was supposed to remind us of the sweet and interesting times in our lives. The third tea was a ginger and sugar tea that was a little spicy. The strong aftertaste was a symbol of the memories that we should cherish in our life.
I found that this tea ceremony was very intricate and well planned, even more so than the one we did in Beijing. This shows us how rich of a culture the Bai people have and how unique their culture is to their area. In China their relationship with tea is very old and rich, and their tea means much more to them than a cup of caffeine in the morning. Especially in Yunan province, their tea has symbolic meaning and is such an important part of their culture and their history. These people work so hard to preserve the culture of their ancestors through their mutual love of tea.
I have observed that in China many people respect their elders and their traditions. The family we visited had four generations living under the same roof. Not only did they live together but they also practice the same profession as their family, such as tie-dying. I found this very interesting and unlike our culture in America, because it is very rare to live with your extended family. But I am sure that the young people in the house benefit from the wise lessons of history and tradition that can be provided by the elders. Overall I find the culture of Yunan very interesting and well preserved by the native people living here.
Gene, 7/4: This morning we woke up and gathered at 9 for a journey to the Three Pagodas. A religious landmark in Yunnan, the Three Pagodas tower over the city with 16 floors, and interestingly, they have survived several earthquakes. The two smaller towers are leaning a little, but they still stand strong. Once you walk past the pagodas, there are a number of Buddhist temples. Each temple has a giant statue of Buddha or one of the other Buddhist figures. They also have incense and a kneeling cushion for praying. The temples becomes more and more impressive as you climb the hill, and the long walk culminates with an absolutely incredible temple. It has upwards of 20 massive statues ranging from warriors to an emaciated Buddha. It was incredibly spiritual and really was inspiring to be in front of. It was incredible how many people waited in line to pray to these Buddhas, including some of us. Although this park and religious monument was a 5k walk, the magnitude and power of the temples were worth the sore legs. It was a phenomenal way to begin the day.
Allie, 7/4: After we visited the Three Pagodas, our tour guide James took us to Erhai Lake to go on a boat ride and watch some of the Dali locals catch fish. A 58 year old woman was rowing us around the lake for about an hour. We stopped to watch another boat go fishing using their unique method. They throw birds off the side of their boat and have them swim for fish until they come out with a winner and get rewarded with some treats. Their method of catching fish is much more efficient than the typical American method of sitting on a boat with a fishing pole waiting for hours to find an acceptable size catch. Within ten minutes the birds had already brought up two large fish. We were all really impressed with their level of efficiency. On the way back to the dock we stopped for a few minutes to watch a traditional chinese dancing performance from some young Dali people. Each dancing show we’ve seen so far varies in some way or another and it is really exciting to see each variation from place to place.