Jianshui county old towns

Having ridden on Dai Hui and Zhang Xuelin’s coattails twice, we hired them for a fully paid outing to an area three hours south of Kunming called Jianshui. This was a group trip for ourselves and six fellow students, who we hoped would continue to hire our friends after we left.

Our first stop was at a village called Tonghai, whose inhabitants are descendants of the Mongolian troops that came to Yunnan when Kublai Khan took over. It was market day and many were in traditional dress.

We ate river eel for lunch.

Our next stop was a village named Tuanshan that had several lovely old family houses and temples with ornate carvings, including this one that is hardly recognizable as a Chinese character.

Another kind of art dates from the Cultural Revolution, where temples were taken over as granaries.

A wooden building in the center of town still has a fading slogan that means “Raise high the thinking of Mao Zedong, the great red flag forges valiantly ahead.” Once everywhere, these signs are now visible only in the remote countryside.

A nearby stone bridge dates back several centuries.

Jianshui itself is a larger city with a pleasant, tree-lined old town. Wells provide water for the local product of pressed tofu squares.

One of the town’s highlights is a well-preserved aristocratic family house with traditional interiors and courtyards.

Writing on one wall lays out the many rules that family members needed to follow.

Fish are carved in the stone as an omen of wealth: the Chinese words for “fish” and “surplus” sound the same.

Jianshui is also renowned as the home of one of the best traditions of Chinese pottery. Work is still done by hand and is sold at high prices to investors from large cities.

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