Thunderhorn Archery In With The Nu


As you sit in one of the small and messy departure lounge at kunming airport, waiting for a connecting flight to xishuangbanna in the south-west, you turn your attention to two large billboards situated prominently near a window facing thunderhorn archery cluttered airstrip. the posters, with shiny disobedience, celebrate the continued development of two large hydropower stations on the jinsha river, the western branch of the yangtze. the plant, built also to reduce siltation pressures on the three gorges dam further downstream, was airbrushed clean and shiny white and grays, and the waters around them remains a perfect blue and implausible.


These are among many such construction projects currently considered to yunnan, where economic development is given priority above almost everything else, and where power management from the east are rushing to take advantage. a thunderhorn archery project that eventually submerge the famous tiger leaping gorge – the section of the jinsha north of dali – also conducted, arousing significant international opposition. the international rivers network says that the damage caused by the flooding of the valley to the local ‘cultural heritage site’ would be ‘irreplaceable’. they are concerned by irreversible changes in a unique ecosystem. meanwhile, the provincial capital of kunming continues to grow.



Thunderhorn archery – Nu & Jo Ke – Who Loves The Sun (Original Mix)

The train station, known as the most unbearable in the whole of china, is still surrounded by rubble and a temporary wooden partitions marking some new streets or buildings. the whole city, cowed by roadblocks and scaffolds, taken by cranes, it seems – like many others in china – to be on the verge of an explosion. as the government announces slogan, peremptory and beyond refute, ‘progress is inevitable’. in the far west of yunnan, the nu river seem untouched given something of a reprieve of a few months ago.


thunderhorn archery_2249310

China’s sole remaining virgin waterway, which winds north through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the province, is thunderhorn archery about to be seeing big-to-mad energy by national authorities. earlier this year, premier wen jiabao is said to have intervened, asking developers to reconsider their plans. still, one imagines that the ‘rape’ nu is only a question of time. the philosopher martin heidegger, chosen to illustrate two different approaches to nature by comparing the construction of a bridge with the construction of a hydroelectric dam. modern technology, he wrote, is “a method of unprotecting ‘nature.


A bridge, connecting the two banks, show ‘respect’ for the river, but a hydropower station actually turns the nature of his own ‘inventory’. the power plant is not built into the river, but the river was built in the power plant. to illustrate the difference in perspective, heidegger compared to the rhine as part of the inventory of modern technology in the rhine described in a poem by hölderlin. it has been devastated by technology, the river remains as ‘a given object of inspection by a party of tourists sent there by a holiday industry’. such a description seems appropriate to modern yunnan.


2249311

While the power companies work their way through the rivers of the region, foreign and domestic tourists have transformed the old cities such as dali and lijiang, and plans to improve the transport infrastructure in the west and the south see the character of the prefecture of xishuangbanna and like the nu river has changed beyond recognition. there are a number of small bridges connecting the banks of nu, but the favored method of crossing by local farmers seem even purer than that. hooking themselves into a harness consisting of a rope and a piece of flat canvas, they will sweep back and forth with tremendous speed on a cable attached to a couple of trees, and carry bags of cement, grain and sometimes even pets between their knees as they do.


A farmer agreed to bring me. slung over the gray water and fall on a patch of grass worn on the left bank of the nu river, the intestinal-shaking fear quickly gave way to a feeling of delight. i was taking a long trip from dali with an incompetent local tour guide in town liuku in western yunnan, right on the banks of the nu river. the area is a picture of health, ruddy, rugged and robustly green. farmers rotate past on motorbikes, trading chunks of meat in local guest houses and restaurants. a stop along the way, standing on a bend in a country road, a three-legged horse skipped past – cheerfully enough, considering the circumstances.


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The half-whistle, half-moo of local birds can be heard everywhere. tiny community lived in wooden shacks on the hills, emerging every tuesday thunderhorn archery to trade in the local market. it is tempting to call this place unique, and worthy of any protection order can be made to stick. it is, however, dirt-poor, and even much better and more vibrant than a decade or so ago (according to our guide), most of the people living here would love to replace their unnatural hut, their toilets, their drafty outhouses, with new buildings and indoor plumbing.


Usually, it is only the outsiders who get sentimental. we, after all, can go home elsewhere. one is quite sure that the lives of poor people all over china will be improved by any level their barns, their slums, their shanty town to be ‘heritage site’. on the other hand, it is clear that the mass destruction caused by the economic growth is not much benefit to the communities affected. it is also clear that the ecology of the yunnan – one of the most diverse and vibrant in china – will be put under threat. still, crossing the upper reaches of the mekong, watching the silt-filled, chocolate-colored waves and negotiating the old van past the piles of stones cast down during a recent landslide, one can not fail to be impressed in any way.


2249323

I have been battered, stupefied and generally thrown by hundreds of low-quality roads across china. here, the biggest challenge is the occasional ford cutting across a narrow but most can not go wrong mountain pass. in harsh conditions, the road builders were performed. roads are the big thing in yunnan. plans are underway to complete a regional high-speed road network that will connect kunming to singapore. returning from wild elephants in xishuangbanna park, we were stopped by a fleet of trucks and steamrollers inching along to help a team of miscellaneously-dressed laborers sp grit throughout the track.


Above us is the outline of an overpass, the naked stanchions planted in the fields nearby. the old road will eventually become redundant for the majority of freight traffic surging by region and in south-east asia. things will change, we thought, and jinghong, capital city of the region but run at a painfully slow pace, will no doubt be brought up to speed by an opportunistic migrants from sichuan or in northeast. liuku is a small urban center and trade area for hundreds of small counties and villages scattered throughout the area, a few hundred kilometers to the west of dali. whatever purists may think, the locals love it if the flow of tourists suddenly pour in from the more fashionable areas further east, but aside from the way it nestles comfortably – if a little chaotically – in the mountains that run along the banks of the nu, there is little to distinguish the area.


2249324

Its biggest advantage is its location, and visitors remember the great potential of the riverfront, where a couple of cafes now provide much of the nightlife of the town. as one enters the town, an old ming dynasty temple lies on the mountain above the intersection of yagoujia river and nu river itself. as is customary, the temple appears as though it was constructed out of papier mache and painted yesterday by the energetic local schoolkids. a large laughing buddha decked out in gold paint seems to dominate the gaff from its small stage.


Dogs patrol the high steps, and spiders, each two inches in length, nest on the door frame and the overhead lights. across the other side of the river, the effects of the rain storm last night is plain to see, with police knee-deep in mud and the road – the only route to the north – were blocked by piles of stones displaced. the aliens, so prevalent in dali, and more so in jinghong further south, is nowhere to be seen. hardcore travelers head north to see the enclaves of tibetans, or the old way of ethnic lisu, nu and the drang nationalities.


2249325

Some come to see the immense quantity of native butterflies, with a couple of japanese collector even managing to steal some rare specimens under the noses of local thunderhorn archery authorities a few years ago . there are stories of a pair of american travelers crossbowed back by lisu hunters after trying to abscond with some significant local religious icons as well – the man in the story was not quite sure what the object is. the rest of the local legends about aliens involve them attacked by tibetan dog and brought out of the woods, bleeding.


Still, the foreigners here are once again the object of attraction, rather than the kind of seen-it-all-before mocking one gets in shanghai, or the dollar sign gazes at dali and lijiang . guidebooks like lonely planet hate the current pace of chinese development, of course, and as the years passed and the new edition into print, the lamentations about the high-rises and highways seems to get longer and longer . china is losing its character. we can understand it. and yet, after a week on the road along the nu river, speaks no english and dingiest staying in the guest house, we still longed for pizza, banana pancakes and foreign influences on dali.


2249326

Many agreed, and many tour-hatched plan was thwarted by the lure of the bar and cafe in town. some foreigners in the year-long tour find themselves thunderhorn archery stuck, unable to leave, trapped in a perpetual marijuana haze and remaining sober enough to teach some classes in major cities and pay for their lodgings. traveling further north from liuku fugong on the road the next day, rain clouds lingered like smoke in the high mountains, and dozens of blue, three-wheel buggies chugged down the slope in the only way out. we took the building site, where workers squatted on the dunes of mud, and through the village where cows and old nags wearily wandered past, and where small, friendly little dog lounged in almost every stoop.


Water flow, bloated by a heavy rain storm the previous night, cascaded nu rough water. we stopped off at a small market village called gudeng, built near snow mountain, and watched the local farmers manhandling a couple of undisciplined black pig. another offered us a glass of warm corn wine he had made a makeshift stove attached to a dirty plastic pipe. the dominant presence in the town is the family planning center, where government slogans about improving the quality of the population is pumped out from a pair of loud speakers, drowning the chinese disco beats emerging from the market itself.


2249337

Apart from the center of family planning, there are other things that seem to be ubiquitous throughout china, from xinjiang to shanghai from guangdong and yunnan. one of them is the pool table. another is that the bill poster advertising cures for sexually-transmitted diseases. come we understand that the pretty little town of fugong, where we spent the mid-autumn festival, local residents – mainly the lisu minority – have also longed for the kind of opportunities afforded to dali. cafes, restaurants, and a place of tourist trail will revitalize the area, and it would ultimately be of far more value than a hydropower station.


Can the two connectivity? some of the villages along the banks of the nu river does not even have a watt of electricity until the last decade. it is a fact of life that the further development – including the tourist industry – will require more power. purists are not likely to consider the contradiction, and may in fact prefer slum – for a week in any case – in tents or in dirty, second-rate guest houses available en route. still, the woman at the reception of the guest house gongshan seemed apologetic. ‘are you sure you want to stay here?’ he says.


2249338

Heading across the river, we came across a large wooden public house built in an old water mill. wheel driven by the nu river itself churned away under a section of the room lined with soggy carpets woven and old lisu paraphernalia – the traditional costumes and weapons of the bulk of the local people. a dozen women from a local hair salon dancing in the middle of one of the stages in the upper tier of the building, moving two steps forward and two steps back, hand in hand. they greeted us favorably, encouraging us to join their drinking game.


We had a ‘one-heart drink’ (tongxinjiu) – where two people who drink from the same glass, their cheeks and mouth touch – every one of them, the sweet local wine dripping onto our clothing. after some time, after crossing the bridge again and singing lisu song as we parted company with our new friends, we managed to stumble through a tunnel and on the basis of the local public security bureau, where fugong police are also celebrating the mid-autumn festival with a type of dance that, at that time we started to participate, seems to involve running at top speed while kicking our legs as high as possible in the air.


2249339

Local police chiefs, conforming to the stereotypes of alcohol that looks more or less international, told us that national boundaries are not important, and that friendship transcended all nations. we agreed. the next morning, driving out of town and past a long row of old wooden building with red sliding door and a range of low-grade garage that serves shops and diners, we went to gongshan along a magnificent stretch of scenery, part of a 300 -km gorge lined with waterfalls, brooks and white clouds pierced by mountains on both banks. houses seem to balance precariously on the cliff, just a storm away from complete collapse.


Women carried large square of corrugated iron along the slope, their children following. the whole gongshan region, an old man in the guest house told me, has now been renamed the ‘three rivers region gongshan. ‘they are creating a trademark,’ said the man, shrugging his thin shoulders. the mekong, nu and jinsha all pass through before reaching their origin, and the local government is trying to draw in trade. the town itself, another sleepy cluster of apartments, restaurants and trade posts all piled up in layers along the slope that leads from the river to the mountain, is really far from untouched.


22493310

As is the case with liuku, the missionaries have been and gone, leaving a curious legacy of roman catholicism among the local minority communities. mother sat weaving in the steps of a church – a square, squat one-storey affair with a bright red cross built on the mountain – waiting for the evening prayer. prayer notification wrought-iron gates of the church is transcribed in a romanized version of the local lisu language. a few hours later, an implausible disco beat pounded out from a wooden house further up the hill, and the church was empty.


A tibetan woman, working in a curious entertainment complex near another catholic church further down the valley, we were asked if we were sisters. and he said to her christian name mary, and are from dimaluo, a jumble of ethnic tibetans, lisu, drong, and different ways further north along the river. there was a sadness in him as he told us his life story, about his stalled education, about the death of his father after a sudden and inexplicable ‘infection’, and about his preference for the countryside from which which he hailed. nearby shops, posters zhou enlai, sun yat-sen and the panchen lama swayed slightly in the wind, and lay them under the usual clutter of mooncakes, cigarettes and cheap, defective battery.


22493311

What worried us about the ‘untouched’ areas such as fugong or gongshan is not so much the prospect of development, and the ‘exploitation’ or ‘erosion’ or ‘swamping’ of local culture and character, but thousands of local residents, educated to a degree, certain aspirational, but cut off even from the possibility of ambition, marooned in a remote town linked to the nearest city ??only by a single mountain pass requires two days to traverse. as we did in the three gorges, we began to wonder if the sacrifices of the local scenery can be made in any way useful, if it can allow these people a way out.


After all, it might be more appropriate to judge the vitality of a culture by its porousness, and more pertinently, by the opportunities it provides to its members to escape and try something new. heidegger hated the way of the rhine has become a thing of the tourism industry as well as the hydropower industry, but on the nu river, we have to allow for the fact that the proposed construction of an airport in remote gongshan, the construction of highways, and the development of local industry can actually be good for the area, in the absence of any other options. heidegger hated tv and spent most of his final decade disgraced in a wooden shack in the black forest, but he has chosen.


22493412

The local residents fugong and gongshan have tv, and they saw the glitter of wealth and opportunity. but they treasure. and no chance. and yet, thunderhorn archery the ‘current mode of development’ is about exploitation and the further enrichment of the eastern coast of china at the expense of the west. the scenery is broken, the ecology is damaged, old farming community moved to nearby urban slums, where they have little chance of employment or prosperity. here, as in the three gorges and other regions, one imagines that the local people will reap some of the rewards of ‘opening up’.


David stanway is a shanghai-based journalist covering economic and development issues in china. things will change, we thought, and jinghong, capital city of the region but run at a painfully slow pace, will no doubt be brought up to speed by an opportunistic migrants from sichuan or in northeast. liuku is a small urban center and trade area for hundreds of small counties and villages scattered throughout the area, a few hundred kilometers to the west of dali. whatever purists may think, the locals love it if the flow of tourists suddenly pour in from the more fashionable areas further east, but aside from the way it nestles comfortably – if a little chaotically – in the mountains that run along the banks of the nu, there is little to distinguish the area.


22493413

Its biggest advantage is its location, and visitors remember the great potential of the riverfront, where a couple of cafes now provide much of the nightlife of the town. as one enters the town, an old ming dynasty temple lies on the mountain above the intersection of yagoujia river and nu river itself. as is customary, the temple appears as though it was constructed out of papier mache and painted yesterday by the energetic local schoolkids. a large laughing buddha decked out in gold paint seems to dominate the gaff from its small stage.


Dogs patrol the high steps, and spiders, each two inches in length, nest on the door frame and the overhead lights. across the other side of the river, the effects of the rain storm last night is plain to see, with police knee-deep in mud and the road – the only route to the north – were blocked by piles of stones displaced. the aliens, so prevalent in dali, and more so in jinghong further south, is nowhere to be seen. hardcore travelers head north to see the enclaves of tibetans, or the old way of ethnic lisu, nu and the drang nationalities.


22493414

Some come to see the immense quantity of native butterflies, with a couple of japanese collector even managing to steal some rare specimens under the noses of local thunderhorn archery authorities a few years ago . there are stories of a pair of american travelers crossbowed back by lisu hunters after trying to abscond with some significant local religious icons as well – the man in the story was not quite sure what the object is. the rest of the local legends about aliens involve them attacked by tibetan dog and brought out of the woods, bleeding.


Still, the foreigners here are once again the object of attraction, rather than the kind of seen-it-all-before mocking one gets in shanghai, or the dollar sign gazes at dali and lijiang . guidebooks like lonely planet hate the current pace of chinese development, of course, and as the years passed and the new edition into print, the lamentations about the high-rises and highways seems to get longer and longer . china is losing its character. we can understand it. and yet, after a week on the road along the nu river, speaks no english and dingiest staying in the guest house, we still longed for pizza, banana pancakes and foreign influences on dali.


22493415

Many agreed, and many tour-hatched plan was thwarted by the lure of the bar and cafe in town. some foreigners in the year-long tour find themselves thunderhorn archery stuck, unable to leave, trapped in a perpetual marijuana haze and remaining sober enough to teach some classes in major cities and pay for their lodgings. traveling further north from liuku fugong on the road the next day, rain clouds lingered like smoke in the high mountains, and dozens of blue, three-wheel buggies chugged down the slope in the only way out. we took the building site, where workers squatted on the dunes of mud, and through the village where cows and old nags wearily wandered past, and where small, friendly little dog lounged in almost every stoop.


Water flow, bloated by a heavy rain storm the previous night, cascaded nu rough water. we stopped off at a small market village called gudeng, built near snow mountain, and watched the local farmers manhandling a couple of undisciplined black pig. another offered us a glass of warm corn wine he had made a makeshift stove attached to a dirty plastic pipe. the dominant presence in the town is the family planning center, where government slogans about improving the quality of the population is pumped out from a pair of loud speakers, drowning the chinese disco beats emerging from the market itself.


22493416

Apart from the center of family planning, there are other things that seem to be ubiquitous throughout china, from xinjiang to shanghai from guangdong and yunnan. one of them is the pool table. another is that the bill poster advertising cures for sexually-transmitted diseases. come we understand that the pretty little town of fugong, where we spent the mid-autumn festival, local residents – mainly the lisu minority – have also longed for the kind of opportunities afforded to dali. cafes, restaurants, and a place of tourist trail will revitalize the area, and it would ultimately be of far more value than a hydropower station.


Can the two connectivity? some of the villages along the banks of the nu river does not even have a watt of electricity until the last decade. it is a fact of life that the further development – including the tourist industry – will require more power. purists are not likely to consider the contradiction, and may in fact prefer slum – for a week in any case – in tents or in dirty, second-rate guest houses available en route. still, the woman at the reception of the guest house gongshan seemed apologetic. ‘are you sure you want to stay here?’ he says.


22493517

Heading across the river, we came across a large wooden public house built in an old water mill. wheel driven by the nu river itself churned away under a section of the room lined with soggy carpets woven and old lisu paraphernalia – the traditional costumes and weapons of the bulk of the local people. a dozen women from a local hair salon dancing in the middle of one of the stages in the upper tier of the building, moving two steps forward and two steps back, hand in hand. they greeted us favorably, encouraging us to join their drinking game.


We had a ‘one-heart drink’ (tongxinjiu) – where two people who drink from the same glass, their cheeks and mouth touch – every one of them, the sweet local wine dripping onto our clothing. after some time, after crossing the bridge again and singing lisu song as we parted company with our new friends, we managed to stumble through a tunnel and on the basis of the local public security bureau, where fugong police are also celebrating the mid-autumn festival with a type of dance that, at that time we started to participate, seems to involve running at top speed while kicking our legs as high as possible in the air.


22493518

Local police chiefs, conforming to the stereotypes of alcohol that looks more or less international, told us that national boundaries are not important, and that friendship transcended all nations. we agreed. the next morning, driving out of town and past a long row of old wooden building with red sliding door and a range of low-grade garage that serves shops and diners, we went to gongshan along a magnificent stretch of scenery, part of a 300 -km gorge lined with waterfalls, brooks and white clouds pierced by mountains on both banks. houses seem to balance precariously on the cliff, just a storm away from complete collapse.


Women carried large square of corrugated iron along the slope, their children following. the whole gongshan region, an old man in the guest house told me, has now been renamed the ‘three rivers region gongshan. ‘they are creating a trademark,’ said the man, shrugging his thin shoulders. the mekong, nu and jinsha all pass through before reaching their origin, and the local government is trying to draw in trade. the town itself, another sleepy cluster of apartments, restaurants and trade posts all piled up in layers along the slope that leads from the river to the mountain, is really far from untouched.


22493519

As is the case with liuku, the missionaries have been and gone, leaving a curious legacy of roman catholicism among the local minority communities. mother sat weaving in the steps of a church – a square, squat one-storey affair with a bright red cross built on the mountain – waiting for the evening prayer. prayer notification wrought-iron gates of the church is transcribed in a romanized version of the local lisu language. a few hours later, an implausible disco beat pounded out from a wooden house further up the hill, and the church was empty.


A tibetan woman, working in a curious entertainment complex near another catholic church further down the valley, we were asked if we were sisters. and he said to her christian name mary, and are from dimaluo, a jumble of ethnic tibetans, lisu, drong, and different ways further north along the river. there was a sadness in him as he told us his life story, about his stalled education, about the death of his father after a sudden and inexplicable ‘infection’, and about his preference for the countryside from which which he hailed. nearby shops, posters zhou enlai, sun yat-sen and the panchen lama swayed slightly in the wind, and lay them under the usual clutter of mooncakes, cigarettes and cheap, defective battery.


22493520

What worried us about the ‘untouched’ areas such as fugong or gongshan is not so much the prospect of development, and the ‘exploitation’ or ‘erosion’ or ‘swamping’ of local culture and character, but thousands of local residents, educated to a degree, certain aspirational, but cut off even from the possibility of ambition, marooned in a remote town linked to the nearest city ??only by a single mountain pass requires two days to traverse. as we did in the three gorges, we began to wonder if the sacrifices of the local scenery can be made in any way useful, if it can allow these people a way out.


After all, it might be more appropriate to judge the vitality of a culture by its porousness, and more pertinently, by the opportunities it provides to its members to escape and try something new. heidegger hated the way of the rhine has become a thing of the tourism industry as well as the hydropower industry, but on the nu river, we have to allow for the fact that the proposed construction of an airport in remote gongshan, the construction of highways, and the development of local industry can actually be good for the area, in the absence of any other options. heidegger hated tv and spent most of his final decade disgraced in a wooden shack in the black forest, but he has chosen.


22493521

The local residents fugong and gongshan have tv, and they saw the glitter of wealth and opportunity. but they treasure. and no chance. and yet, thunderhorn archery the ‘current mode of development’ is about exploitation and the further enrichment of the eastern coast of china at the expense of the west. the scenery is broken, the ecology is damaged, old farming community moved to nearby urban slums, where they have little chance of employment or prosperity. here, as in the three gorges and other regions, one imagines that the local people will reap some of the rewards of ‘opening up’.


David stanway is a shanghai-based journalist covering economic and development issues in china. things will change, we thought, and jinghong, capital city of the region but run at a painfully slow pace, will no doubt be brought up to speed by an opportunistic migrants from sichuan or in northeast. liuku is a small urban center and trade area for hundreds of small counties and villages scattered throughout the area, a few hundred kilometers to the west of dali. whatever purists may think, the locals love it if the flow of tourists suddenly pour in from the more fashionable areas further east, but aside from the way it nestles comfortably – if a little chaotically – in the mountains that run along the banks of the nu, there is little to distinguish the area.


22493622

Its biggest advantage is its location, and visitors remember the great potential of the riverfront, where a couple of cafes now provide much of the nightlife of the town. as one enters the town, an old ming dynasty temple lies on the mountain above the intersection of yagoujia river and nu river itself. as is customary, the temple appears as though it was constructed out of papier mache and painted yesterday by the energetic local schoolkids. a large laughing buddha decked out in gold paint seems to dominate the gaff from its small stage.


Dogs patrol the high steps, and spiders, each two inches in length, nest on the door frame and the overhead lights. across the other side of the river, the effects of the rain storm last night is plain to see, with police knee-deep in mud and the road – the only route to the north – were blocked by piles of stones displaced. the aliens, so prevalent in dali, and more so in jinghong further south, is nowhere to be seen. hardcore travelers head north to see the enclaves of tibetans, or the old way of ethnic lisu, nu and the drang nationalities.


22493623

Some come to see the immense quantity of native butterflies, with a couple of japanese collector even managing to steal some rare specimens under the noses of local thunderhorn archery authorities a few years ago . there are stories of a pair of american travelers crossbowed back by lisu hunters after trying to abscond with some significant local religious icons as well – the man in the story was not quite sure what the object is. the rest of the local legends about aliens involve them attacked by tibetan dog and brought out of the woods, bleeding.


Still, the foreigners here are once again the object of attraction, rather than the kind of seen-it-all-before mocking one gets in shanghai, or the dollar sign gazes at dali and lijiang . guidebooks like lonely planet hate the current pace of chinese development, of course, and as the years passed and the new edition into print, the lamentations about the high-rises and highways seems to get longer and longer . china is losing its character. we can understand it. and yet, after a week on the road along the nu river, speaks no english and dingiest staying in the guest house, we still longed for pizza, banana pancakes and foreign influences on dali.


22493624

Many agreed, and many tour-hatched plan was thwarted by the lure of the bar and cafe in town. some foreigners in the year-long tour find themselves thunderhorn archery stuck, unable to leave, trapped in a perpetual marijuana haze and remaining sober enough to teach some classes in major cities and pay for their lodgings. traveling further north from liuku fugong on the road the next day, rain clouds lingered like smoke in the high mountains, and dozens of blue, three-wheel buggies chugged down the slope in the only way out. we took the building site, where workers squatted on the dunes of mud, and through the village where cows and old nags wearily wandered past, and where small, friendly little dog lounged in almost every stoop.


Water flow, bloated by a heavy rain storm the previous night, cascaded nu rough water. we stopped off at a small market village called gudeng, built near snow mountain, and watched the local farmers manhandling a couple of undisciplined black pig. another offered us a glass of warm corn wine he had made a makeshift stove attached to a dirty plastic pipe. the dominant presence in the town is the family planning center, where government slogans about improving the quality of the population is pumped out from a pair of loud speakers, drowning the chinese disco beats emerging from the market itself.


22493625

Apart from the center of family planning, there are other things that seem to be ubiquitous throughout china, from xinjiang to shanghai from guangdong and yunnan. one of them is the pool table. another is that the bill poster advertising cures for sexually-transmitted diseases. come we understand that the pretty little town of fugong, where we spent the mid-autumn festival, local residents – mainly the lisu minority – have also longed for the kind of opportunities afforded to dali. cafes, restaurants, and a place of tourist trail will revitalize the area, and it would ultimately be of far more value than a hydropower station.


Can the two connectivity? some of the villages along the banks of the nu river does not even have a watt of electricity until the last decade. it is a fact of life that the further development – including the tourist industry – will require more power. purists are not likely to consider the contradiction, and may in fact prefer slum – for a week in any case – in tents or in dirty, second-rate guest houses available en route. still, the woman at the reception of the guest house gongshan seemed apologetic. ‘are you sure you want to stay here?’ he says.


22493626

Heading across the river, we came across a large wooden public house built in an old water mill. wheel driven by the nu river itself churned away under a section of the room lined with soggy carpets woven and old lisu paraphernalia – the traditional costumes and weapons of the bulk of the local people. a dozen women from a local hair salon dancing in the middle of one of the stages in the upper tier of the building, moving two steps forward and two steps back, hand in hand. they greeted us favorably, encouraging us to join their drinking game.


We had a ‘one-heart drink’ (tongxinjiu) – where two people who drink from the same glass, their cheeks and mouth touch – every one of them, the sweet local wine dripping onto our clothing. after some time, after crossing the bridge again and singing lisu song as we parted company with our new friends, we managed to stumble through a tunnel and on the basis of the local public security bureau, where fugong police are also celebrating the mid-autumn festival with a type of dance that, at that time we started to participate, seems to involve running at top speed while kicking our legs as high as possible in the air.


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Local police chiefs, conforming to the stereotypes of alcohol that looks more or less international, told us that national boundaries are not important, and that friendship transcended all nations. we agreed. the next morning, driving out of town and past a long row of old wooden building with red sliding door and a range of low-grade garage that serves shops and diners, we went to gongshan along a magnificent stretch of scenery, part of a 300 -km gorge lined with waterfalls, brooks and white clouds pierced by mountains on both banks. houses seem to balance precariously on the cliff, just a storm away from complete collapse.


Women carried large square of corrugated iron along the slope, their children following. the whole gongshan region, an old man in the guest house told me, has now been renamed the ‘three rivers region gongshan. ‘they are creating a trademark,’ said the man, shrugging his thin shoulders. the mekong, nu and jinsha all pass through before reaching their origin, and the local government is trying to draw in trade. the town itself, another sleepy cluster of apartments, restaurants and trade posts all piled up in layers along the slope that leads from the river to the mountain, is really far from untouched.


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As is the case with liuku, the missionaries have been and gone, leaving a curious legacy of roman catholicism among the local minority communities. mother sat weaving in the steps of a church – a square, squat one-storey affair with a bright red cross built on the mountain – waiting for the evening prayer. prayer notification wrought-iron gates of the church is transcribed in a romanized version of the local lisu language. a few hours later, an implausible disco beat pounded out from a wooden house further up the hill, and the church was empty.


A tibetan woman, working in a curious entertainment complex near another catholic church further down the valley, we were asked if we were sisters. and he said to her christian name mary, and are from dimaluo, a jumble of ethnic tibetans, lisu, drong, and different ways further north along the river. there was a sadness in him as he told us his life story, about his stalled education, about the death of his father after a sudden and inexplicable ‘infection’, and about his preference for the countryside from which which he hailed. nearby shops, posters zhou enlai, sun yat-sen and the panchen lama swayed slightly in the wind, and lay them under the usual clutter of mooncakes, cigarettes and cheap, defective battery.


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What worried us about the ‘untouched’ areas such as fugong or gongshan is not so much the prospect of development, and the ‘exploitation’ or ‘erosion’ or ‘swamping’ of local culture and character, but thousands of local residents, educated to a degree, certain aspirational, but cut off even from the possibility of ambition, marooned in a remote town linked to the nearest city ??only by a single mountain pass requires two days to traverse. as we did in the three gorges, we began to wonder if the sacrifices of the local scenery can be made in any way useful, if it can allow these people a way out.


After all, it might be more appropriate to judge the vitality of a culture by its porousness, and more pertinently, by the opportunities it provides to its members to escape and try something new. heidegger hated the way of the rhine has become a thing of the tourism industry as well as the hydropower industry, but on the nu river, we have to allow for the fact that the proposed construction of an airport in remote gongshan, the construction of highways, and the development of local industry can actually be good for the area, in the absence of any other options. heidegger hated tv and spent most of his final decade disgraced in a wooden shack in the black forest, but he has chosen.


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The local residents fugong and gongshan have tv, and they saw the glitter of wealth and opportunity. but they treasure. and no chance. and yet, thunderhorn archery the ‘current mode of development’ is about exploitation and the further enrichment of the eastern coast of china at the expense of the west. the scenery is broken, the ecology is damaged, old farming community moved to nearby urban slums, where they have little chance of employment or prosperity. here, as in the three gorges and other regions, one imagines that the local people will reap some of the rewards of ‘opening up’.


David stanway is a shanghai-based journalist covering economic and development issues in china.