Guiyang to Lijiang – Bus Rides & Chinese Opera

Group Email update from July 10, 2009:

I am currently on a layover while flying from Guiyang to Leijing and I’ve found internet access, so I thought I would send a quick note.  I belive since I wrote last, I’ve been to Xi’an and Anshun (I’d look at the last email, but they have dial up internet here that hates my Gmail account).

During the past few days in Anshun, we have driven about the countryside, visiting local villages.  Our bus driver’s name was Master Lyu (sounds kind of like Leo).  He gets the term master because he is such an excellent driver (we didn’t name him that, but he deserves it).  Traffic in China is very interesting.  While there are rules, they are more sort of a set of loose guidelines.  Remember that China has not had a large number of cars for very long.  The primary mode of transportation was bicycles for a long time.  The roads vary dramatically from the famous super highways to muddy back roads (worse than anything on the way to hunting camp in Michigan).  This bus driver took our tour bus down every extreme.  It was like a roller coaster ride, bouncing up and down and trying not to hit your head or fall out of your seat.  But we always got where we were going fairly quickly and always safely.  I was floored the day we took the tour bus, filled with us and all of our luggage, down a small dirt track through the rice paddies to a rural village.  The trees scraped the sides of the bus on the way, and he maneuvered the big air-conditioned behemoth like he WAS the bus.  We had to stop at one point for the local villagers to move a pile of gravel out of the road so we could pass. (By the way, there is construction EVERYWHERE in China…but that’s a topic for another day).  When we made it to our destination, he deftly turned the bus around where there really was no room so it was really to go when we were done.

Cow looking out from a cemetery over the switchback roads we took in the bus.

Just before going down the dirt track, we visited a mask factory.  Factory makes you think of something large.  A more appropriate word would probably be “workshop.”  Several men were carving masks and sculptures out of wood, primarily for the tourism trade.  However, the specialty of the factory is Chinese Dixie (pronounced dee-shee) masks, a form of martial arts type opera.  They are finishing a commission that will go to be on display in Beijing’s National Theater and then travel around the world.  Then we traveled to the nearby village to watch a Dixie performance put on for us by the villagers.  First we wandered around the village and I had the chance to see the home of an 82-year-old woman.  We also had the chance to get at least somewhat close to a stream full of water buffalo.  They were a big hit with our group.  Then we settled onto benches on the village’s dirt basketball court for the performance.  I really have no way to describe Dixie to you.  I’ll try to find a YouTube video of it when I get home and send it out (YouTube is blocked in China).  The drama of the performance is amazing with the elaborate costumes and masks.  The music consists of drums and a gong, and the distinct singing of the male actors.  It was quite an experience.

Dixie Opera masks

Well, I have to go get ready to catch my next flight.  I’ll write again when I can get internet.

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