Filed under: China
So, one of the things that’s impressive about the area surrounding Yangshuo is the sophistication of the water systems. For illustrative purposes, I provide one of my trademark “What is that supposed to be a photo of?” images:
The first thing to notice in this image is that the water level in the channel on the left is about 40 centimeters higher than the level in the channel on the right. The fields here are maintained at varying water levels all the way down to the river, and the levels need to be just right — high enough to keep the rice seedlings under water at their bases, but not so high that they drown or that the small dikes between fields overflow. There are also a wide variety of other crops growing here — orange and kumquat trees, cabbages, beans, corn — all with varying water levels and at varying heights from the Li River.
The second and more remarkable thing, which you can’t really see in the photo, is that the water in the channel on the left is flowing towards you, while the water in the channel on the right is flowing away from you. Then, at the point on the right where the greenery bulges outwards from the path, the channel meets another channel of water flowing towards you, and the two channels combine and flow away to the right to water different fields. These intricate networks of water heading in different directions are all maintained by gravity.
The sophistication of the waterworks in these areas reminds me of the feeling of Tai villages in mountainous areas of northern Vietnam. And the main ethnic minorities around here, who are known as “Zhuang” though that’s apparently a designation largely invented by the Chinese government in the early 1950s to cover a wide variety of different clans, are linguistically related to the Tai, so maybe that’s significant. Anyway, there’s just something incredible about seeing these different precise channels of water, right next to each other, at different heights, flowing in different directions, heading out to water carefully laid out fields full of rice, cabbage, and frogs.
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