Chinese Street Scenes. Order and Philosophy.

In a country like China, where everyday life is complex, busy, and often crowded, order creates harmony. It enables Chinese life to work smoothly. Orderliness can be seen in the cleanliness of the streets, the hygiene applied to food preparation and the behaviour of the Chinese people. The ancient principles of Confucianism, a system of norms and propriety that determine how a person should act in everyday life, underlies many aspects of Chinese society, with later overlays of buddhism, daoism, communism and capitalism. Below: some sketches of everyday life in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

Scene below the Ohm hotel, Chengdu. A very orderly dumpling operation.
Not a leaf or butt in sight. Kunming.
Street Recycling, Kunming.
Beautiful brooms made of twigs. Sichuan Province.

Woman with Peaches, Dali, Yunnan

Yunnan province in China has the largest population of minorities with 25 different ethnic minorities, 16 of which are indigenous to that area. Wandering around the town of Dali, you will recognise many different ethnic groups largely by their dress, traditional customs, cultures and language. The town is a awash with colour and makes an exotic first stop after leaving the capital, Kunming.

Here a Shaxi woman arranges her peaches for sale on market day.

For this week’s WordPress Photo prompt, Heritage.

The Road to Indigo

indigo 7

Fabric speaks to me. I collect it, stash it, feel it. Antique European linens, worn Irish cloth, functional and timeless, faded Ikat from Java, Sumatra and Flores, woven wall hangings from Myanmar, mid-century Japanese Kimono sprinkled with shibori, or little fabric offcuts featuring sacred cranes, plush velvet Italian betrothal bedspreads, alive with colour and kitsch cherubin, or hand worked pillow cases and curtains from the antique market in Arezzo in Italy, embroidered table cloths, ancient filet crochet edging with worked in stories, words or historical events, crocheted jug covers featuring Dolly-Varden shells and beaded weights, Indian silk saris and long dupatta scarves, visiting every floor of a Sari shop in India: fabric hunting is a central part of my journey. It is often the history of women’s work, or a window into a culture, or one that is about to become obsolete, that appeals so much.

indigo 4

Hand dyed indigo fabric is a recent addition to my textile addiction. I discovered some wonderful indigo fabrics at the Chatuchak ( Cha-Cha) Market in Bangkok in 2013. The following year, I toured an indigo factory in Dali, on the banks of Erhai Lake, Yunnan, China. And this year, I found another small producer of hand died indigo clothing on the banks of the Mekong River, in Chiang Khan, Thailand, as well as some lovely long lengths of deep indigo died linen in the back streets of the Warorot market, in Chiang Mai.

My next step is to learn this ancient art and dye my own cloth. I envisage drifts of indigo muslin, irregular in colour, floating in the summer breeze.Thanks Ailsa for this week’s travel theme, Fabric, at Where’s My Backpack. If I dug out all the representatives of my fabric collection, this post might fill a book.


These images were taken in a new Buddhist temple found on the windswept plains above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Sometimes a Buddhist temples can be ornate, at other times, just plain scary.

ornate and scary
ornate and scary

The ancient city of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful place to visit. The centre of the old Naxi people, today the place thrives on local tourism. Like other UNESCO sites in China, it is a pedestrianised city: all traffic must remain outside the city walls. Yunnan province is full of surprises.

1-natIn ancient times, the Old Town used to be the center of silk embroidery in the southwest of China and the most important place of the Ancient Southern Silk Road, also called the Ancient Tea and Horse Road or Ancient Tea Route.. The Ancient Silk Road started from Burma, crossed Lijiang, Tibet, journeyed through Iran, the Fertile Crescent and ultimately to the Mediterranean Sea.

A Door in an Ancient City, China

Doors in China are the most important feature of a house. The front door lets in good energy and welcomes family and friends, but also keeps away demons and intruders. Inviting but guarded. Solid and protective.

Another door in Dali, Yunnan, China.
A door in Dali, Yunnan, China.
Doo, Lijiang. Just for the texture.
Door, Lijiang, China. Just for the texture.
A door in Dali, Yunnan, China
Another door in Dali, Yunnan, China
Door, Lijiang, China
Door, Lijiang, China

I adore a good door! Some great doors in China may be found in Dali and Lijiang, Yunnan Province. Both are ancient walled cities and free of traffic, the latter being a Unesco world heritage site.

Travel Theme: Broken in Yunnan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATravelling around Yunnan Province, China this year, it was a pleasure to spend a week in the ancient town of Dali. After each long day of walking and touring around Lake Erhai, we would return to our comfortable guesthouse, the Jade Emu, run by a Chinese -Australian couple. Next door, they also run a quaint little restaurant, La Dolce Vita, with an Italian menu, wine, along with a book exchange, cafe and DIY laundry. These Western services are most welcome, especially for the long term guest,  but then so are the broken bikes used as decor.

Cafe in a Melbourne suburb? No, Dali, China.
Cafe in a Melbourne suburb? No, Dali, China.

The husband is from Melbourne: this would explain the broken bikes in the cafe garden, an appealing idea to copy.  Melbournians love to up-cycle junk.

The Jade Emu is located in a quiet precinct just off the Yunnan -Tibet Highway, a road that I wouldn’t mind travelling along next time.

Thanks once again to Ailsa for the travel theme.

Travel Themes: Merchandise

Scarves and wraps re essential at night.
Scarves and wraps re essential at night.

Merchandise in the old towns of Dali and Lijiang, in Yunann Province, China,  is colourful and tempting. Lijiang is a Unesco World Heritage site with an altitude of 2,500 meteres above sea level. It can get cold at night, even in summer. Both towns are popular with young Chinese travellers, particularly on the weekends, when they come to party and shop. The cobblestoned streets are closed to traffic, making the evening promenade a pleasant experience.  An appealing travel challenge from Ailsa this week.

All the tea in China.
All the tea in China.
A basket of combs for sale!
A basket of combs for sale!
Young girls shop for strawberries.
Young women shop for strawberries.