Culture

[Guizhou, China] A Look into the Buyi (or Bouyei) Tribe 布依族

Buyi / Bouyei Tribe (布依族)

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This week (mid-March 2017), I took a 3-day excursion to Guizhou, China to visit a village inhabited by the Buyi tribe (布依族) to take a close look at their rich heritage of craftsmanship into plaid weaving.

To get to the village, I took a 3-hour plane ride from Shanghai to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou and then another 1-hour high-speed train ride to Guanling (关岭). From there, I took a 1-hour car ride to a village close to Anshun (安顺), where many Buyi people reside. 

History

A sub-clan of the Baiyue Clan (百越名族), the Buyi ancestors have been living in the Southern and Northern river basins for around 4000-5000 years. Referred to as "Zhongjia" (仲家) by historians, the Buyi tribe is most-known for their rice-farming heritage.

Currently, the tribe is comprised of over 3.2 million people who live mainly in Guizhou, Yun'nan and Sichuan provinces. 

Clothing

With over 3,000 years of cultural inheritance, the Buyi people's traditional clothing has become part of their identity.

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The Colors of Buyi

Mainly inspired by their rice farming culture, their garments are made with locally grown cotton and traditional crafting techniques such as indigo wood root dyeing, Buyi plaid weaving, brocade, batik, tie-dye, embroidery and silver ornaments making.  

The colors and patterns of their plaids are mainly inspired by their beautiful environment: surrounding blue skies, white clouds, evergreen mountains and clear waters. 

Symbolism of the Plaids

The plaid patterns are characterized by a complex arrangement of tiny squares within squares lined within a grid. The grid symbolizes their motherland, China, while the squares represent the multitude of scattered clans spread across the country. The tiny squares within represent the Buyi people in the clans.

Reflecting their harmonious relationship with nature, specific patterns take the shape of waves, thunder storms, mountain curves, contour of terraced fields, rice grains, fish bones, birds, sunbeams and more.

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Purpose

What an enlightening experience to see these lovely crafts entirely made by hand by these women. Which brings me back to the main purpose of my trip: to learn more about their culture, history and capabilities and help them raise cultural awareness. In short - to help the Buyi tribe sustain their traditional handicrafts and heritage by connecting them with pertinent parties (eg. artists, designers, brands) so they can market their product and sell them at a price that's well-deserved.

YAN Artisans, the organization I'm working for, aims to establish sound institutional structures and sustainable business mechanisms to help them build connections and partnerships with modern markets in the fashion industry. So... Potentially interested artists, designers, fashion enthusiasts or anyone who's keen to learn more - feel free to private message me!

 Me trying to wrap glutinous purple and yellow rice in a leaf

Me trying to wrap glutinous purple and yellow rice in a leaf

 A local lunch in the village

A local lunch in the village

[Quebec City] A Magical Getaway

I never kept an exact count of all the cities I’ve been to but my best guess is around (at least?) 150. Every city is special in its own way and I think more often than not, our judgments or views of certain places reveal more about our own biases and character than about the towns or areas themselves. I frequently get asked the question, “what’s your favorite city and/or country?” and I admit that rarely answer directly. I believe that my experiences are usually so subjective that my response would not be the kind that my inquirers are looking for anyway.   

Quebec City, however, has to be one of the most charming cities that I have ventured to. It is certainly one of the most beautifully-built cities in North America. My heart had surrendered to the white serenity beneath me the moment that I glanced out of my window seat on the busy-buzzing Bombardier Q400 that I embarked from Toronto.

 The view outside my downtown Quebec apartment

The view outside my downtown Quebec apartment

It was a Friday afternoon, late-March, and the temperature was still below freezing. I could feel my bones tremble and my hairs shiver but somehow I felt strangely refreshed—blithe and carefree. Although I hadn’t set foot in this city since I was 2 years old, it felt familiar, welcoming and homey. A local couple generously offered me and my dad a free ride from the airport (I was baffled at first but I came to realize that Canadians are just incredibly kind) and even a mini-tour of downtown Quebec City.  

During my two and half days there, the wind blew incessantly and the temperature continued to wither (it dropped to -10 degrees Celsius or 14 degrees Fahrenheit at one point), but something in the air of the city warmed me from the inside. Nearly everybody I met, from the concierge of the apartment I was staying at to random elderly woman at the local boulangerie, smiled and reached out to help me even before I thought about asking for assistance. Perhaps for the first time ever, my mind joined my heart in the idea that it letting my guards down in a foreign city would be alright; I can consciously and freely lose myself at peace. A chosen, mindful surrender to the unknown.  

 Rue St-Jean

Rue St-Jean

One of the oldest cities in North America, Québec City has a remarkable history and is the only town in the continent outside of Mexico and the Caribbean that still has its original city walls, ramparts, gates and bastions.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me that the city is secretly covered in magic dust. The first recognized European settlers arrived in 1608, headed by a French explorer man by the name of Samuel de Champlain. The area quickly developed and became the capital of New France.  Although the city was turned over to British rule in 1759, a lot of the French heritage remained.

 Me on Rue du Petit-Champlain

Me on Rue du Petit-Champlain

Rue du Petit-Champlain, located in the Basse-Ville or “Lower Town,” of the Old City, is the oldest commercial street in North America. Picturesque and exquisite, the architecture style and buildings are reminiscent of 17th and 18th century Normandy and Northern France; the streets, now lined with colorful boutique shops and bistros, seem to be unaffected by time.

 Since apparently pictures are worth a thousand words, I’m going to let my photos speak. in all honestly, I would say none of my pictures is able to capture even a bit of the city’s ineffable charm.

P.S. I will be detailing some of my marvelous meals here in subsequent posts. 

 7pm sunset in Quebec City

7pm sunset in Quebec City

 View of Basse-Ville and the St. Lawrence River from the Citadel 

View of Basse-Ville and the St. Lawrence River from the Citadel 

 Horse carriage on the street of Quebec City

Horse carriage on the street of Quebec City

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 View of the St. Lawrence River from the bar inside Chateau Frontenac

View of the St. Lawrence River from the bar inside Chateau Frontenac

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[Kenting 垦丁] Kenting National Park & Kenting Main Street, Taiwan

Kenting (垦丁) is located at the most southern tip of the Taiwan island, in Hengchun (Pingdong Country) and is surrounded by water on all three sides: the Taiwan Strait, the Luzon Strait, and the Pacific Ocean. Due to its geography, it has a very warm climate and tropical weather all year long. Kenting is known for its beautiful equatorial scenery and is approximately 90 kilometers, or 56 miles, away from Kao-Hsiung (高雄).  

Even though it was late December when I visited, the weather in Kenting was perfect. Neither too cold nor too hot, the temperature was ideal to relax in the sun. At times, there would be wind but not unbearable. In fact, the breeze was quite comfortable, especially during the day. However, I would recommend bringing a jacket if you come here in the wintertime because it does get a little chilly at night. 

Like all other night markets in Taiwan, the Kenting Main Street night market is full of little stalls that serve all kinds of local snacks, food, and souvenirs.


I stayed at the Chateau Beach Resort, which is located in the Kenting National Park area and by the beach. The resort itself has an exclusive 3-km (1.88miles) long beach with very fine sand. 

Here are some pictures I took from the resort's private beach: 

The resort has an outdoor private pool that faces the beach.

I was so glad to have ended my Taiwan trip on such a relaxing note! :)

[Huangshan] Yellow Mountain 黄山 - 3D2N Hiking Trip

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, has become one of China’s most recognizable and frequented tourist attraction sites. Located in Huangshan City of Anhui province, the massif spans across a total expanse of 1,200 square kilometers with a core area of approximately 161 square kilometers. Renowned for its natural beauty, unique geological history, and geomorphology, the cliffs first formed over 100 million years ago during the Mesozoic era due to crustal movements and subsequent uplifts.

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There is a Chinese saying that goes, "Mount Huangshan is picturesque all the year round.” Most known for its five wonders: sea of clouds, uniquely shaped pine trees, jagged granite peaks, springs, and magnificent sunrises, Yellow Mountain is worth seeing at anytime of the year. It is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is often the subject of traditional Chinese paintings, literature, and poetry. Nowadays, it is one of the most photographed icons of China.

My trip to Huangshan was an impromptu one; I flew in to Shanghai from Hong Kong and hopped on a five-hour road trip with my family and friends immediately upon landing.

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 The famous Flower Blooming on a Brush Tip (梦笔生花). It is a granite formation topped by a pine tree.

The famous Flower Blooming on a Brush Tip (梦笔生花). It is a granite formation topped by a pine tree.

I was very delightfully surprised by how well preserved and logistically organized the site was. The infrastructure of the whole region is generally safe and steady. Tens of thousands of stone steps have been carved into the mountains over the years and the paths are clearly marked. There are directional signs, maps, and checkpoints wherever you go. Two trails are available if you decide to skip the cable cars and start hiking from the very bottom. There is the longer “Western Steps” (14km, ~6-7 hours) with mind-blowing views or the shorter “Eastern Steps,” which is still lovely but comparatively less grandeur (~2-3 hours). Of course, you can always take the cable cars up to the upper reaches of the peaks (which is what we did) and start walking from there. 

 Cable cars

Cable cars

 Map

Map

There are only two things I’d warn people about. One is to keep alert at all times and watch out for the mountain porters who carry food and supplies up to the hotels and stores at the mountaintops. Remember that they’re carrying cargos with weights heavier than themselves (I’m guessing 140-180 pounds) and balancing them on the long poles rested on their shoulders and backs. It would be stupid not to sidestep for them as they’re moving swiftly on the thrust of momentum and aren’t fully in control of their movements. Stay out of their path if you don’t want them to collide into you.

 Just look at that...

Just look at that...

All the materials available to tourists and residents on the mountain are hauled up and down on the backs of the carriers. This includes food, drinks, construction materials, hotel supplies, linens, and all other goods and necessities. To say that I’m in awe would be undermining my respect for the hardworking porters. How difficult it must be to be carrying beasts of burden everyday back and forth on these ceaseless steps...

 Steps

Steps

My second warning would be to plan your hiking route ahead of time and make realistic estimates about your pace. The cable cars shut down early afternoon and being trapped in the middle of the mountains after dark would not be a good idea. It'd probably take (at least) another 6 hours to hike back to where you started (also because there are barely any night lights, so bring a flashlight just in case).

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 Enjoying my mid-hike break with a popsicle. 

Enjoying my mid-hike break with a popsicle. 

There are hotels of various prices at the mountaintops and I recommend staying over for at least a night to try to catch the sunrise at 4:30am. We weren't so fortunate in seeing the sunrise however. We woke up early, climbed to a peak, and waited. We waited and it started to drizzle but we continued to wait, to no avail. The sun had sneakily creeped up behind the heavy clouds. It was beautiful and a great experience regardless and I'd love try it again another time. 

 5 am.

5 am.

 I had high expectations prior to this trip and it turned out to be nothing less than exceptional. There's no question that I'll be back again in the wintertime someday to catch the sunrise and of course, the sea of clouds.

[Paris] Marché Bastille: A Parisian Farmer's Market

Marché Bastille

Categories: Outdoor flea/farmer's market
Address:  Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, Paris 75011 (near the Place de la Bastille)
- Metro stops: Bastille or Bréguet-Sabin 
Hours: Thursdays & Sundays 7:00am-2:30pm
Price: Free
Verdict: A must visit for locals, and highly recommended for tourists if in Paris on a Sunday

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Paris, like most other European cities, isn't very lively on Sundays because not many stores are open. Hence, the Bastille Market is an excellent choice to visit on Sundays either just to stroll through, grab a bite, or stock up on weekly groceries
  • It is an open-air roving market, assembled with shaded canopies along the strip of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir
  • You can find pretty much everything you want here as a local or tourist, from flowers to spices to scarves to perfume, foie gras, and keychains/souvenirs 
  • Numerous breakfast/lunch options on-the-go or take home: crepes, rotisserie chickens, Turkish wraps, Spanish tapas and paella, hummus, and smaller snacks like meatsticks and cakes
  • Also has a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, pastries and baguettes, seafood, local cheeses, meat, sausages, spices, olives, herbs, and jam

WATCH OUT

  • Only open twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays)

OTHER TIPS

  • Grab some amazing gelato from Amorino around the corner on rue de la Roquette near Place de la Bastille