Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Exploring Guiyang

The capital city of Guizhou, Guiyang, reminded me of old Hongkong. Not that I know old Hongkong, but it must have had a similar atmosphere. Guiyang, roughly 2,500 kilometers from Beijing, doesn't resemble the national capital in any way.

In a taxi in Guiyang 

The relationship north-south China always has been somewhat peculiar. The earliest date, to my recollection, has been 500 B.C. when a young philosopher, named Confucius, was a student of Lao Zi (from Daoism) for a while. Lao Zi came from South China, Confucius from the North. The two didn't like each other and after a few years Kong Zi (Confucius) left Lao Zi and developed his own thinking (Confucianism).

The north, especially Beijing, is more formal, the south more flamboyant. As for me, Daoism is more feminine and Confucianism more masculine. In a way this distinction persists till the present day. It wasn't therefore not surprising that the South to the lead when Deng Xiaoping opened up the country step by step in the eighties. Southerners are more open to foreign influences, the Northerners more proud of their historical and cultural heritage, and therefore more inwards oriented.

Typical houses 

As you probably noticed, I can't explain the difference between Guiyang and Beijing accurately. It is more like a feeling. Guiyang, in some aspects, resembles Southeast Asian cities more than northern Chinese cities. Although in relatively poor condition, Guiyang has a lot of colored buildings. Also the people seem to be more colorful. The 'China feeling' of exploring unknown territory instantly came back when visiting the city. Tom, my companion, unfortunately, was ill that day so I visited the city myself. With the help of my newly acquired language skill it was pleasant talking with the people. The people were less formal in their approach, more relaxed in a way. In the north of China, when meeting somebody unfamiliar, you first have to deal with a lot of social necessities before turning to a more ordinairy level of interaction. This makes China fascinating, however, it also makes it difficult for a foreigner. I know the social rules but I always act a role instead of being myself. So, I liked the uncomplexity of the people of Guiyang.


The next day, Tom already recovered from his illness, we took the train to our end destination, Baotian. They told us it would be another travel of six hours. Eventually, the trip took more than ten hours, but through the beautiful landscape of the South Chinese mountains that connect with the Himalaya.