1983 and 1987



This time we bought "soft sleeper" berths, in which there are only four beds to a compartment and a door. But we now had to put up with two unpleasant "cadres" (they were the only Chinese who could afford to travel first class) who chain-smoked half the night and kept their bed-side lights on even when they slept. I finally complained. 1200 miles and 27 hours from Chengdu through incredibly wild mountains, two days and a night before we reached Yunnan and the sun.

Christine had made the acquaintance of a half-deaf Malaysian-Chinese owner of a former rubber plantation and his two aging daughters, who entertained us well with old fables from his life. And Christine told me about Rudolf whom she was going to marry in the spring.  

Here she is in Kunming surrounded by the curious. It is the only picture of her from China. The old rubber baron had given us the address of Cui Hu Binguan — Green Lake Hotel, a rather splendid place in a neighborhood of old "villas" adjacent to Green Lake. To my surprise and that of the hotel clerk, Christine asked for a separate room....

 View from Green Lake Hotel on one of the villas and the encroaching new apartment buildings. The classical compounds of the influential families consisted of a number of houses (one for the master, one for the first wife, another for the preferred concubine, etc) distributed over an extended garden surrounded by a wall and service buildings.

 Ciu Hu Lake in the early morning — soon after the hundreds of Tai Chi gymnasts had left for work. The character Cui is old and refers to green as well as blue, a similar confusion of blue and green exists in Turkish, is this connected with the love of turquoise (Turkish Fr.) that all Central Asian people and the American Indians share?

 The greatest discovery in Kunming for us color-hungry long-noses was Lake Dian Hu and Xi Shan — the Western Mountains overlooking the azure expanse of water. Both are twenty minutes by bus south of town. Northern end of Dian Hu.

 A narrow causeway crosses the lake at its waist. View to the southeast. The Dian culture was discovered in the hills off the far shore on this picture.  

 Kunming in the distance and the northern tip of Dian Hu. We puzzled for a long time about the regular patterns dotting the lake's surface. They are fish and sweet-water-pearl gardens. The mansion on the peninsula is an imitation French chateau built by a rich Vietnamese-Chinese and now an orphanage or sanatorium.  

 In 1987 Barbara and I spent several days in Kunming and walked across the causeway of Dian Hu. At its end one has to take a ferry to reach the other shore. A wonderful place to watch the boats come and go.  

 One morning Christine caught a very early flight to Hong Kong, and I was left behind, alone again. The Kunming canal shrouded by the smoke from the kai shui huo— hot water fires in the morning. Every morning every family boils their drinking water for the day, which is done on very inefficient open coal fires that leave a dense cloud of smoke over the city.

 An original bong in a teahouse frequented mostly by men. One night we listened to the sing-song voice of a story teller in this place. Fascinating, I had only once come across this age-old custom in Turkey in the fifties.

 A romantic hutong — neighborhood/lane not far from the Provincial Museum. This quarter has surly disappeared in the ongoing redevelopment for the 2004 Olympics if not already years ago.  

 Flower boxes in the windows! Unheard of in Northern China - and a slender lady with bound feet walking without crutches!  

In the markets of Kunming one can watch many of the approximately 22 non-Chinese minority people. Many Bai girls from Western Yunnan (Dali) in their colorful red-white-and blue costumes. This woman might be a Miao from the South or a Yi from the mountains.

 An old Chinese woman picking over the hot peppers.


 And this old lady is hiding a puppy from my camera, because it is actually forbidden to cook dogs.


 A Miao woman with her baby and the handheld scales she uses to weigh her vegetables.


 Two women carrying chicken in their beautiful baskets. The building in the distance is the Yunnan Provincial Museum.


 Barbara in the garden of the Bamboo Temple in Kunming where we spent most of a day. Don't miss the remarkable (and garish) collection of Arhat sculptures at this active Buddhist monastery

 With infinite patience I purchased tickets at the China Airline counter for us to fly to Xian, circumventing Sichuan where I had spent two weeks in 1983. Before we left we visited the Yunnan Provincial Museum in the hope of seeing some of the artifacts that had just been excavated sotheast of Lake Dian.

 This sculpture in front of the Provincial Museum is a much enlarged copy of a ritual altar found by German-Chinese archeologists at the southern tip of Dian Hu. The Dian Kingdom lasted from 6-5th cent BC (the original table is 43 cm high) to around 100 BC when it was conquered and subjugated by the Chinese (Western Han Dynasty). Unfortunately in October 1987 most of the excavated objects were on tour in Germany (Cologne) and Switzerland. Barbara and I only saw photographs in Kunming. But Christine sent me the catalogue of the Cologne exhibition from which I copied the following two reproductions.

 A cowry-shell container,. 50-cm high, bronze cast partly gilded, Western Han Dynasty, 100 BC, , excavated in Shi-zha-shan 1956. Cowry shells were used as money. Numerous such containers were found. Tiny sculptures on their lids depict rituals (e.g. a human sacrifice), domestic scenes (a house and stable), and festivities. They are of great anthropological interest. The Dianians bred horses and revered steers. Their jewelry has a definite steppe flavor (e.g., Scythian-Greek ornaments). Yet their small sculptures are artistically and technically far more sophisticated (see below) than any of the (earlier) pieces found in Siberia (Ordos,) Southern Russia, and Central Asia — Where did they come from? Were they Indo-Europeans like the "Mummies of Ürümchi," (2000-700 BC) found in the Lop Nor region of the Taklimakan? Not much seems to be know beyond a Chinese seal given to the king of Dian by the conquering Western Han emperor.... 

Dancing jugglers, an example of a small Dian sculpture. 12-cm high, cast bronze gilded, Western Han, 100 BC, excavated at Shi-zhai-shan 1956