China celebrates Arbor Day on March 12 each year. This year we joined Naturewize at Yu Zhang Shu Yuan in the countryside north of Guiyang to help out with their family nature activities.
It was a typical early spring day in Guizhou with thick fog clinging to the hills and mud everywhere. Neither of these things deterred young families from escaping the city to prepare seedlings, take a long walk, adopt a tree in the peach orchard, and do some kung fu!
As we were walking from the culture center to the orchard. These boys all of a sudden start hiding behind Charlie pulling on his jacket obviously scared of something. It was then that we saw the farmer coming down the road leading two impressive water buffalo.
He was cooing to these beasts and noticeably amused by the fearful boys. The mountainous landscape mixed with very real poverty results in the continued use of water buffalo to work the fields. The water buffalo is hugely important to rural life. Many of the Guizhou minority people incorporate the shape of the buffalo horns into jewelry designs and some make combs and cups from the horns.
Down the road past the small village, we found a peach orchard. In the summer, many people flock to this area to pick peaches, but on this day we were content to just pick a tree to adopt. The families each chose a tree to take care of, monitoring its progress through the spring and summer. Many of them also found wild onions growing in the orchard, so there was an informal competition to see who could harvest the most. In the end, it was too close to call.
Crops in the fields are constantly rotated leaving very few fallow. This flooded field will soon be plowed under for canola then rice. The Chinese New Year blessings ring the door still vibrant and new.
Back at the cultural center, members of Martial Arts World from Guiyang demonstrated Kung Fu gong qi (“chi gong” in the West) a practice similar in intensity to yoga. The adults were challenged to do it for five minutes. That proved to be a very long five minutes. The master, for comparison, spends about one hour at a time.
Then one of the Kung Fu masters demonstrated a more intense practice, one that he does for at least thirty minutes at a time. Charlie tried for a few minutes and conceded that this man is truly someone to be respected and quite possibly feared, in the best way possible. These guys were truly sweethearts explaining to us the power of their art form. I loved seeing the grandmother, purse and all, outlast everyone at the gong qi.
Hide and go seek never grows old. After learning their Kung Fu form, the kids played a final round of games before loading up for the ride into Guiyang. Yu Zhang Shu Yuan is less than 50 km north of the city, but Sunday afternoon traffic adds an additional hour to the trip. We packed in to a minivan surrounded by four Kung Fu masters. We snoozed back to Guiyang feeling more than a little protected by our companions.
The Guizhou countryside is a beautiful place, but don’t mess with the water buffalo. Just look at that guy!