Hey Hey and a Huge G'Day to ya Remember a couple of entries ago when I wrote how difficult it is to find a Chinese girl that loves to travel to small villages, walk, ride etc....well...maybe...I dunno...we'll see...but she loves travelling and does so mostly alone, riding alone and walking alone. She doesn't like cities much, travels to little towns and villages on weekends...why...for no reason!
Pretty much most of the things I love doing. Why alone? Most times because you get to do it your own way and at your own pace. You get to think, enjoy the silence, change your plans at will, spend an extra night, leave early. Other times it's because no one wants to ride for six hours in the humidity. No one wants to go to a small village for no reason. No one wants to climb that hill over there for no reason. No one wants to walk around town for a few hours just for exercise, half an hour maybe.
No one wants to walk and ride through endless rice fields for no reason. At the end of this day we were walking in the fields out of Heping Town and I asked her if she was tired and if she wanted to head back into town and catch the bus back. Her reply was; No I want to climb that hill over there. A little stunned I asked her why. Do you know what her reply was? For no reason. It is there! Needless to say she is a Silly Bugger just like me and has invited me to her tiny town next weekend. Anyhow, to the entry...I met Mary awhile ago through a friend. She lives in a small town two hours bus ride away. She is a Chinese English Teacher and her speaking and comprehension are well above normal for an area such as thing. We've sent a few text mails to each other as she has been trying to find the time to come and watch one of my classes. She even made it to Shaowu once but her bus was late and she missed it. We got to meet each other so there was a new friendship gained. I have been hearing about an ancient town about an hour away from Shaowu called Heping. I've been planning to grab a bus and go visit it but the school has said several times, no we will organise an outing and all go together. So far it hasn't happened due to other plans and rain etc. I got a call from Mary last week asking if I would like to visit a small town with her. A small town and a beautiful girl! Just try and hold me back! She arrived in Shaowu around ten and we grabbed the next bus to 'the small town'. The 'small town' ended up being Heping, the ancient town I've been dying to visit. The bus ride there was fantastic. Well, really it was bumpy and the local bus was pretty much buggered. But the ride gave us time to get to know one another a little more. It was a strange experience because the answers she gave made it kind of like interviewing myself. We warmed to each other pretty much straight away which made the day so much more beautiful.
We talked a lot about little villages, walking and our teaching and how they made us feel. An hour or so after leaving Shaowu we arrived in Heping. The town itself is one of the oldest communities in northern Fujian. While other towns its age or old her been partially restored this town has pretty much retained is uniqueness. The town dates from the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) when it was a simple rice farming town. The name Heping is made up of two Chinese characters which mean 'Rice Plain'. The village itself dates well beyond that. Moss covered cobblestone alleyways allow you to zigg zagg your way around town and visit some of the 300 or so buildings. These buildings were built during the Ming (AD1368-1644) and Qing (AD1644-1911) Dynasties. On both the inside and the outside of many of the buildings you can find beautiful stone carvings.
Heping town is actually regarded as a rarity in modern China. The town has a famous history when it comes to education. One of Chinas oldest Classical Learning Academy's was first opened in Heping in AD926 during the Tang Dynasty by government official named Huang Qiao. He retired from his position in the capital of Luoyang and moved to Heping town. Now many people who share the same name from surrounding provinces travel to Heping to pay their respects. Many scholars, officials and members of the elite were graduates of the academy. It was such a beautiful and peaceful place to visit.
A lady attached herself to Mary and took us from place to place giving Mary the run down as we went. As for English signs etc. I did notice there were several that all said the same thing 'Tourist site this way' with an arrow pointing up an alleyway. Without our guide or Mary for that matter I doubt I would have been able to locate which building was the one to see. All buildings you can enter for free and some homes you will be invited into. They are so beautiful. For lunch we sat for Won Ton soup. It was a hard choice between that and Joutsa for lunch. I haven't had Won Tons since leaving Tianyang so they won out in the end.
Seriously, visiting a place such as this or many simple villages that have been around for several hundred years or like this one well over a thousand, is like finding a lost world. From the moment you enter you are forced back in time. I seem to lose the will to talk and just walk around in amazement of the beauty.
It really is like walking through a real life movie set. It's hard to explain how it makes you feel but I guess the one feeling I can explain is the feeling of being lucky to live such a wonderful life. To experience the places I am lucky enough to visit is such a precious gift. I am a very lucky boy! After spending nearing two hours walking the little alleyways we headed out of town happily chatting as we walked. Soon we found ourselves out fields of green. To the left of us was a field of purple and to the right was a field of pink. I have no idea what they were but Mary said they were used for cooking.
Soon we were climbing a small hill coved by a tea plantation. The farmer and his wife were picking the tea tips and we stopped for a short chat. The view below was beautiful. We looked down on a patchwork of purple, pink, yellow and green. There was a gentle breeze keeping us cool on such a warm day and there was also complete silence. In China, that is a beautiful thing to have! We stopped and stared in our own silence for a time before heading back down to catch the bus back to Shaowu. Luckily for us a rickety old bucket of bolts came our way and after flagging it down we spent the next hour happily bouncing around in our seat whilst chatting about anything and everything. Sadly Mary had another two hour bus journey ahead of her and we said a very excited good bye until the following weekend when I get to visit her town for the first time. A new adventure awaits! Many exciting Beers N Noodles to ya...shane The soundtrack to this entry was by Daft Punk and the album 'Discovery' A nice groovin album for such beautiful memories!