In US terms, our trip was like seeing New York City and Washington D.C., the countryside near Atlanta, Georgia and Biloxi, Mississippi, as well as visiting Taos, New Mexico...different in levels of urbanness, climate, history, ethnic mixes...
Dunhuang, in Gansu Province,
|Tang Dynasty tomb, Xian|
|pandas in Chengdu|
|Shu mask, Sanxingdui Museum|
more than 1000 BC
|Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from Lijiang|
|Mixed forest, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yunnan|
We took the gondola to Yak Meadow, at about 10,000'. The yaks were away. Even that high the plants were numerous and diverse. At elevations where the Rocky Mountains have much simpler forests of mainly pine and spruce, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain had many different broad-leaved trees and vines as well as pines. A fascinating ecosystem!
|Rice in Dali, Yunnan, Chi|
Chengdu is a city of some 14 million...Dali half a million. So Dali is relatively small, rural and agricultural.
|Shore of Erhai Lake, Dali|
Then we flew to Shanghai, very much a 21st century city.
|Shanghai, looking a different direction|
How do I pull all of that diversity together?
The China I saw was modern -- internet and cell phones, superhighways, bullet trains -- with modern problems such as traffic gridlock, air pollution and unsafe consumer goods to solve. At the same time, China has thousands of years of history setting traditions, customs and infrastructure, some of that helpful in the 21st century, some of that problematic. And diverse! Wet to dry, warm to cold, sea level to over 10,000'. As a result, the south grows rice, the north grows corn (historically millet). Some places they get three crops a year, other places just one. In the deserts, nothing grows unless it is irrigated.
The people are no less diverse. The government recognizes 55 official minority groups. In Lijiang our guide was Naxi, the dominant group there, and she recognized several significant Naxi subgroups, so 55 is a minimum number of minorities. The small glimpse we got in Dunhuang, Lijiang and Dali included different costumes, different favorite holidays, different local economies...all kinds of differences.
The books I read tended to make simple assertions about China--but the China I saw is difficult to summarize.