It was an eco-culture weekend getaway from Shanghai. The destination was Shanghai Yacht Club at Dianshan Lake, which is 60 km from People’s square, not too far. While Andy took a day resting, a few families joined Green Initiatives canoeing through the canal into the Dianshan Lake, and exploring the aquatic plants and creatures floating on top of the water as well as the village fishing boats on the side. While kids returned back to their natural playground, climbing trees and building sand castles, parents joined friends from the Lakeside Art Community for a tea ceremony under the giant tree. On the second day, kids also had a good time taking Joan’s eco-learning class, where they tested the water quality, learnt about the soil types, and explored the local flora, and fauna.
“But we, as human, sometimes focus solely on biodiversity,
but forget about our own human culture diversity.”
-Stone, Gaeml Culture
This weekend, Andy and Cynthia walked through the eastern Jiangnan villages, took a slow boat and visited an old house recovered by a team of local and international volunteers. Introduced by Wenyu, the founder of Lakeside Art Community, the 460 pieces of carved wood that built up this house were originated and transported from an old ancient earthen building village in Anhui. “The entire village was about to be taken down. Antique collectors saved these pieces and that’s why they are here.” In the future, this place will be used as a platform for local and international artists to perform, to preserve the local village culture, and to build a space for art, culture and nature to interconnect.
Andy was amazed to witness the old house, as well as to hear the story and the vision behind. However, to Andy, the most memorable time of his China tour so far goes to the night sitting in the SYC Clubhouse and listening to stories of the Guizhou ethnic minority group.
We stopped talking and took off our shoes, hands holding hands in a special pattern, bare feet walking on the wet post-rain concrete ground in the darkness, following the melody sung by Stone, a Chinese ethnics minority culture anthropologist.
The village that her family is from and lives in is in crisis, both environmental crisis and human crisis. There’s no written language for the local villagers. Singing songs are the only medium to tell out their stories and their histories. The economic plants are replacing and taking over the local biodiversity. The locals are losing their native rice grain species. …
Living in a globalized world, we are blinded by the similarity we share. There was so much happiness seen when these local villagers danced their daily life out to the outsiders. It was sharing and connecting of culture differences. But sometimes in our mind, the indigenous dance we see might be just a simple form of performance, but not a type of traditional life. Maybe in an urbanized world, “farm to table” is how we understand our connection to land. We are over driven by our selfishness and ego that we forget about our ancestors who were once living on this land, and our future generations who will be visiting the same land soon.
“It's a series of approximation towards an ever-changing goal,” Cynthia said. Thanks to these individuals who tell the stories, bring the words out from the village and let us know. Even though we don’t know where the action can lead to, taking every little step is like steering the wheel of the boat. It will lead us to a final goal.