Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Zhuang people in Jiuzhai, Sichuan China

The one thing about Louisiana is that I miss the mountains so much. As I mentioned in a previous post, I got to spend a few weeks in Sichuan last summer. One leg of the trip was to Jiuzhaigou, Valley of Nine Fortified Villages, located at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau at about 4000m above sea level. High altitude living indeed. The air is more crisp, fresh, and absolutely rejuvenating. 

One ethnic minority group that lives in this region are the Zhuang. They are actually the same ethnic minority as Tibetans and share the same language and culture. The Zhuang people here are mountain people. Those that still decide to live traditionally herd their yak and invite people to their homes to share their rich culture. Being mountain people, they are naturally sky people as well. Their dead are offered to the sky, their heirlooms are tian zhu, "pearls of heaven*," and the winds of the mountains fluttering the prayer flags endlessly send their devotion towards the open skies. Spinning prayer wheels is another ritual that Zhuang people practice to continuously chant the sutras. They claim that they are simple people though, for they love living close to the skies, herding, and singing. 

At this family's home, I was able to try the original bulletproof tea. Yak butter is served with their hot tea for a sharp savory tea with cream. Not much grows at such high altitude, so vegetables are not as prominently featured as their stewed and smoked yak. However the highlight of the meal was the rich broth that the stewed yak was served with. It was soothing and warm and went well with the live performance of their operatic singing. 

*Tian zhu / "pearls of heaven"are mysterious stones that are designed by divine 
means. They collect positive energy and provide the beholder with health and 
fortune. The more you meditate, the more transparent the stone becomes. 
They are worth fortunes and are currently a commodity in China. Especially 
the original ancient red-colored stone ones are finite. Even the goverment are 
buying them up from locals to sell to domestic tourists to meet demands.

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