One morning the TV was running in-depth political analysis previewing a meeting that would take place that day. It was quite a big deal – all the various decision-makers for China were having their annual gathering and live cameras were ready to record their arrival. Later that day I was walking to the underground station, when I wondered why there were so many police around? …And where was all the traffic??! I proceeded to witness a convoy of 20 or so coaches and minibuses full of suited Chinese. …Oh my goodness, these were the highest VIP’s in China on their way to that meeting!! The security was immense – police officers lined the route and some of the busiest connecting roads in Beijing had been completely shut. With all this protection, the only people that could even see them were the handful walking this road. …I can’t believe that included me! It was fascinating to watch how it was all done. We were headed for the same destination, so a couple of hours later I arrived at Tianenmen Square and there were those same vehicles, quietly resting outside the Great Hall of the People. This had been like stepping straight into the TV. I had just watched something important enough to be broadcast to the world!
I live in the capital city of China. This isn’t a place just significant for politics. Skilled performers, representatives of cultural minorities – anyone with something interesting comes here to present it! This country is about the size of Europe – It’s huge! I couldn’t possibly see all that this country has to offer, in years of living here! But that’s fine. The country comes to me!!
I watch a lot of travel programmes on CCTV9. They’ve taken me places that take days to get to. More importantly, they’ve explained things to me that they only found out by talking to the locals! I’d struggle to even find the place I wanted! Even if I could talk well, there are dialects in Chinese that would still prevent me communicating! I see beautiful scenery at the best time of the year. I see ceremonies from culture minorities that are rarely performed. I see the best of China.
One of the most prominent of the ethnic minorities in China are the Miao (said exactly like a cat’s ‘meow’!) They are often used as a symbol of Chinese ethnic groups because their traditional costume is so distinctive. The ladies are absolutely covered in silver jewellery! I’m not kidding. Maybe you’re thinking of lots of bracelets and necklaces? You’re right – but bracelets half-way up the arm, and as well as necklaces that look like a ruff, they also wear a huge silver chest-plate! Finally, were you thinking of ear-rings? These aren’t groups that stretch their skin or pierce it lots like some tribes. The extravagance here is in the form of a huge crown on their head! Sometimes this crown even has massive horns growing out of it or a chandelier!! They wear silver belts too – they basically try to wear as much silver as they possibly can! Click the picture for more images. These people move elegantly. They probably have no choice! They jingle as they walk.
I thought it was wonderful when I visited an exhibition one day, and as I returned to the lobby I saw an amazing sight. Rows and rows of these Miao people I had seen on the TV were lined up ready to pose for a professional photograph. You have no idea how frustrated I was to not have a camera! Not only were their costumes amazing but also each smiling face glowed with demure pride. I was seeing something that I knew would be admired throughout the world. I kept looking around in sheer disbelief that I was actually standing there too! This picture gives an idea, but doesn’t do them justice. I think I pinched myself a few times.
I visited a couple of Miao restaurants. In my fickle Westerner ways, the thing I loved most about these places was the entertainment! All the staff wore their traditional costumes and performed traditional dances for us, playing traditional instruments. At one meal it made me feel very special to have a Miao lady feed me a shot of their traditional alcohol, which is their traditional way of welcome visitors. At another meal long bamboo was laid on the floor and people at either end bashed them together in time with the music. This was the basis of a traditional Miao dance, but as everyone joined in it became a game of jumping the fast-moving sticks! Fantastic fun! I love where I live!