Picture 1: Group photo at Bishan Avant-Garde Bookstore;
Picture 2: Silkworm!
Picture 3: Dong Laoshi holding mulberry leaves, the "baby food" for the silkworms
Picture 4: Hike in Mr. Qian's mountain
Picture 5: Diving from atop the "Flying Stone"飞来石Picture 6-8: Dinner at Mr. Qian's house
Picture 9: "Mutual Aid" in action
Picture 10-11: mountain and rice field on the way to Mr. Qian's house
Today we explored the amazing rural village of Bishan (碧山) in Anhui (安徽) province. The air was clear and the day was beautiful! We were all so excited to set out on our jam-packed schedule to explore a very new and different part of China that none of us has ever been to. We started our day with breakfast at our inn, Tailai Village Inn with yummy foods such as bread and peanut butter from yesterday's breakfast, youtiao (fried dough), and hard boiled tea eggs (yes, tea eggs; they are sweet and delicious)! After our breakfast, we has a guided tour of Bishan by Mr. Wang, Souchang (汪寿昌). From the tour of Bishan, I noticed that there are a lot of crops that farmers grow all around the village. These crops include corn, cabbage, rape seeds, rice and many more. The village dated back to 221 B.C., with many old-styled buildings standing. Mr. Wang showed us around various buildings that the village has. One of the buildings that stood out to me the most was the library. It was mostly for the children who stayed in the village while their parents are in the city working as migrant workers. It was an amazing place where the children can come and read quietly and can take back some books to their home if they so choose to. The library is comprised of books all donated by generous patrons. During the tour, he also mentioned the population of the village. The villahe contains 800 families and 2000 people. There are 541 people all over 60. At the end of the tour, he took us to a bookstore called Avant-Garde, which is a branch from the Avant-Garde bookstore in Nanjing. The bookstore has an amazing feel to it. There are many types of books from art, philosophy to Anhui history and rural reconstruction. Mr. Wang gave us a talk in the second-floor cafe of the bookstore. He showed us postcards with designs that he drew himself. The designs he chose to draw are inspired by different environmental influences and historical landmarks in Bishan. Later, a bunch of my friends and I bought the postcards he showed us and he signed them for us! It is always exciting to get something signed by the author/artist. I really admire his designs and am glad I got the postcards and signature to keep as a great memory of this trip.
After the tour, we were supposed to go to a tofu workshop. However, that plan did not fall through, so we went to see silkworms! We had to be very clean to be able to be even near the silkworms. The silkworms are very sensitive to their environment, so anyone with any perfume, sunscreen and bug spray (obviously) on had to wash themselves before they could touch the worms. I did not wash myself, so I saw the worms from afar. Suddenly, the owners of the silkworm gave us some silkworms as pets! Everyone was so excited. The owners even gave us a few gigantic mulberry leaves as food for the silkworms. I was able to touch a silkworm and held it with my barehands. It was very fuzzy and soft, which was not what I expected. I think I was able to get over my fear of bugs a little bit from this trip. I also wonder how long we can keep the silkworms alive. Hopefully a long time!
After seeing the silkworms, we had a huge lunch at Biyun Inn. All the food served were so good! Everyone at the table gobbled the food right up, nothing remained. As usual, the atmosphere was bright and fun, with loud laughs at every moment. It is meals like these where I see how much a meal is an essential part of Chinese culture. Meals in China is when people gather together in harmony and bond. With every meal in China, I can tell that everyone in the dialogue is getting closer and closer with each other.
After our lunch, we went to visit the School of Tillers ( 理农馆 ) to hear a talk by the founder, Ou Ning (欧宁) on "The New Chinese Ruralism". Ou Ning is an amazing artist, editor, graphic designer and rural advocate. He talked about how villages are disappearing because of the large-scale urbanization and modernization of cities. He has a project, called the Bishan Project, to help preserve the Bishan traditions and old culture from this rapid urbanization. One of his interesting philosophies was his support of anarchy into the village government. He believes that the idea of mutual aid, of people helping each other no matter what their social status is, will be good for the community. I was inspired by how much care he has for the village and how much support he gives to the village in order for its culture to remain intact.
After Ou Ning's talk came one of the most exciting events of the day. We walked through Bishan to visit Mr. Qian Shi'an's (钱时安)'s home. We hiked up on Mr. Qian's mountain, which he bought after he retired at the age of 55. So far he has planted 600 trees on the mountain, many of varying species. The mountain was beautiful and it was amazing to see so many different trees. The most exciting part happened with Mr. Qian and Dong Lao Shi climbed onto a very tall rock. They then told everyone else to climb on as well. At first I was worried, how was everyone going to fit on that rock? But as I climbed up, I saw people starting to walk into a different path of rocks on a river. It looked like we were going on a detour to explore the river! We jumped from rock to rock, some even climbed all the way to the top of an extremely tall rock! We took a lot of pictures and had a blast! Afterwards, we continued to hike the mountain until we reach the stopping point and headed back to Mr. Qian's house to have dinner! The dinner was amazing. It was full of unique and dslicious food. Along with Mr. Qian, we were joined by Mr. Wang from our guided tour, Mr. Ou and two of Mr. Ou's fellow workers. Again I felt the harmony, happiness and bond during the meal. It was another delightful meal full of laughter with very entertaining and interesting guests. We ate for hours and watched the sky go from yellow with light until it was black with darkness.
The dinner was the last event of the day. We went back to our inn happy with bulging tummies. But of course, we had to make a quick stop at the convenience store to pick up ice cream! There's always room for desserts. And now it is truly the end of our day. Today was an extremely busy day, but everyone highly enjoyed each activities. I cannot wait to see what other exciting things we will experience in the future. However, it's going to be hard to beat the beautiful day we had at Bishan, Anhui.