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Entries in Xijiang (16)


Interview No. 3

Our third household interview in Xijiang (see Xijiang Landscape) was with this delightful 88-year-old Miao man. He only spoke Miao, but this was not really a problem because Mr. Yu Yong Fu from the Leigongshan Nature Reserve (see First Plot) was with us and could translate. More problematic was that the gentleman was extremely hard of hearing and all the questions had to be shouted - repeatedly.

In spite of these difficulties, we learned that 30 years ago all of the local forests were collective forests and that management decisions and harvest allocations during this period were made by a village committee.  Most of the decisions about what happens in the forest are currently made by the provincial Forestry Department. We also learned that there had been no big fires during the last 30 years (see Fire Hydrant).


Morning Market

Shopping for delicacies for a picnic lunch at the morning market in Xijiang. This was the day we did transects 3 and 4 (see Transect 3); we ended up walking about 12 kilometers. The steamed buns and rice cakes were delicious and provided a much-needed energy boost.


The Ride Back

The collective forests were supposed to be about 30 minutes from the village, but after about 5 minutes of driving, our little Toyota van was bottoming out on the rutted road and we had to get out and walk. And walk. And walk. Uphill for about 2 hours. We finally arrived to the site and did our transects, but it was starting to get dark so Mr. Yu called the Leigongshan Nature Reserve office and they sent a truck for us. We were all pretty thrilled about that. All nine of us crammed into the truck and bounced happily back to Xijiang. [NOTE: The truck was designed to comfortably accomodate five people]. 


Transect 3

From left to right, Mr. Yu from the Guizhou Academy of Forestry, Dr. Mark Ashton, professor of Silviculture at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and our local Miao field assistant, size up the (extremely steep) location selected for transect 3. Dr. Ashton appears unfazed.  [NOTE: The Miao gentleman's t-shirt says Tennessee Titans; Dr. Ashton's t-shirt says dbh and has a white dotted line printed at breast height].


Collective Forest

This is what the landscape looks like after hiking six kilometers up the mountain behind Xijiang. Collective forest of shamu (Cunninghamia lanceolata) with a mix of various broadleaf species. Took awhile, but we finally found a place flat enough to run a transect.  Sllpping and sliding and everything that you grabbed when you started to fall had a thorn on it (Smilax). [NOTE: Flat is used in a relative sense here. The site where we put the transect was anything but flat]. 


Household Interview

My colleague Dr. Miguel Pinedo-Vasquez has a local informant check his notes during a household interview in the Miao village of Xijiang.  Everything seemed to be in order. The little guy had a twin sibling next to him on the couch in an identical red jumpsuit. [NOTE: Ethnic minorities like the Miao are exempt from China's one-child policy].


Morning in Miao Land

The sun comes up behind the Miao community of Xijiang. The morning mist starts to burn off. The first cooking fires are lit. Scattered barks from the village dogs. A lone worker quietly sweeps the street with a broom of twigs. Another day begins. [NOTE: Posted from a painfully slow internet connection in Xijiang].


Steep Slope, Slippery Path

Older Miao man in Xijiang, Guizhou slowly walking down a steep sidewalk with his cane.  The wooden sign above his head summarizes quite well the current situation in this community. It is indeed a steep slope and a slippery path to maintain cultural identity while trying to maximize the economic returns and touristic potential of the traditional dress, music, and dance of your Miao ethnicity. [NOTE: It starts by putting up signs in English...].



A lot of different types of people are drawn to the Miao community of Xijiang in Guizhou (see Xijiang Landscape, Road to Xijiang). Some people come to see the elaborate costumes and beautiful dances; others come to count tree rings (see Counting the Rings) and study traditional patterns of resource use (see Fields of Gold).  A final group, perhaps the most attentive of all, come to sketch the local people, the houses (see above) and the landscapes.  


Chili Peppers

A good counterpoint to the freezing temperatures and ice in New York right now. Image shows fiery chili peppers (Capsicum sp.) spread out to dry on the floor of a Miao house in Xijiang, Guizhou (see Xijiang Landscape and Fields of Gold).