China is still largely an agricultural country. Millions of people live in the countryside, as they have for generations. Living in a city as large as Beijing, it is easy to forget this reality. However, my recent trip was a vivid reminder. Because we were quite far south in China, the landscape was also different than Beijing and northern China. It was much more like American stereotypes of China. There were rice paddies, water buffalo, bamboo, and farmers wearing cone shaped hats. None of those exist (or at least they aren’t common) in northern China where I live.
In our travels, I saw one small tractor. But the fields are small—some of them probably around the size of my parents’ garden—so the traditional method is probably just as effective. And those trees in the background that look like some kind of evergreen tree from a distance are actually bamboo. I didn’t realize what the leaves look like in a clump and from a distance. There was a lot of bamboo in Hunan (no, I did not see any pandas).
This area used to a mining area, but most of the substances they were mining (zinc, lead, and something else) are gone. So they are facing some economic difficulties. They got an initial severance payment (for lack of a better word) from the government when the mine closed, but now they are on their own. This photo was in the village where we went to church. In the foreground you can see how almost every inch of space is used to grow food.
This is a tomb. There were lots of tombs/tiny cemeteries in the hillsides as we drove by. Farther north, I saw graves in fields from the train. But in this area, they build graves into the hills. It is rather practical because they don’t waste arable land on graves. In some of these little cemeteries there were a number of graves like this. They were also all very clean and decorated because our visit was about a week after 清明节, Qing Ming Jie, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day. It is an annual festival where traditionally people have visited their families graves to clean and decorate them and burn spirit money to provide for them in the afterlife.
We also visited the pastor we were visiting’s small farm. I am not sure how much of the work he does himself and how much he pays others to do. But he raises some pigs and porcupines, along with a garden. He raises the porcupines to sell for meat (and possibly the quills for use in Chinese medicine). He told us that the meat has a very good flavor, but we were not given an opportunity to try it out for ourselves. I wasn’t expecting to be observing porcupines on this trip, but China is always full of surprises!