Telescope: China | Jiangxi Province Pt. 1

July 30, 2014
– By James Elaine

Every year for Chinese Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) I will to go visit a friend’s hometown in a remote countryside area. I have been to many places since I arrived in China in 2008. You can find these posts in my earlier Hammer Blogs: Guangdong (Canton), northeast China’s Liaoning Province, Hunan, Anhui Province, and others. Last January I went to visit my friend He Xiangying’s home in Jiangxi (pronounced: Gee-ahng-shee), a southeastern province that is bordered by six other provinces and by the Yangtze River on its north side. Jiangxi is famous for the beautiful Mt. Lushan and Jingdezhen, the “city of porcelain.” Since the Eastern Han Dynasty, over 1700 years ago, the people of Jingdezhen have been making the most famous porcelain in China and the world; “as thin as paper, as white as jade, as bright as a mirror, and has the sound of a bell.” 

From Beijing it is about a 2 1/2 hour flight south to Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province. From the airport I took a taxi to the bus station to catch a bus going further south for a 5-hour ride to Ji’an, a small city of 5 million people. There I found a hotel and spent the night to wait for my friend who would pick me up the next morning to take me on another bus ride to his hometown in Yongxin, a remote village in southwest Jiangxi. Before I went to bed in Ji’an I took a walk to just look around. I love to walk the streets and discover a China that is off the books and not on any tour. The simple and real places and ways of life are just as interesting to me as any major tourist attraction. This time I found a huge city plaza alive with 100’s and 100’s of people in different sections of the plaza dancing in unison to different deejay’s selections of Chinese pop music. There were at least 8 or 9 areas each with a portable sound system, devoted synchronized dancers, and someone playing their own cassette tapes or cd mixes. Some of the music was more traditional Chinese folk and classical but most was outdated Chinese cha-cha pop! What a joyous occasion. Hopefully some day I can post on a Hammer Blog my personal mixes of old pop music I have collected while living in China.

All over the plaza were families, children, people talking, playing, eating, drinking, and selling and spinning huge colorful tops. These handmade looking tops are placed on the ground then slapped by whips (cords on the end of long sticks) that make a loud firecracker like pop to make them spin faster and faster. This nightlife is not unusual in China, everywhere I go in every city in the evening people come out (even in winter) and congregate in city squares to dance to their favorite music and play their local games. I spent hours there walking around, listening to the music, talking to and photographing the people, and eating the street foods. This was a trip and an experience in itself, and I had not even seen my friend or visited his hometown, or even been to bed yet.