Guangxi Museum of Nationalities

twenty-fourteen

In twenty-fourteen, I: Got waylaid in Denver after snow and de-icing delays on a flight from Washington to Burbank, California.  Shared Sunset Rolls and Fire Dragon Rolls, Sapporo and warm saké, with my little sister Stephanie, and then met The Invisible Woman in LA.  On foggy Venice Beach, wandered past muscle men, tattoo parlors, surfboards and funnel cakes, and contemplated the medical marijuana advertised for sale.  Caught glimpses of adorable houses, with secret patios and lazy cats, on a stroll through the Venice Walk-Streets.  Went window shopping on Abbott Kinney Boulevard.  Drove six hours to San Francisco from LA through a parched California landscape to meet my friend Jayne. Laughed at the antics of harbor seals at Fisherman’s Wharf and met Monarch butterflies that looked like clusters of densely packed brown leaves at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Monterey. Drove 17-Mile-Drive at Pebble Beach.  Sampled some wine on the Silverado Trail.  Saw the iconic cloud-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from the deck of the Sausalito Ferry. Laughed at the antics of sea lions at Pier 39.  On the way back to LA, vicariously lived the high life at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  Dropped by Old Mission Santa Barbara, walked through fan palms and California chaparral at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and ate fish tacos on Stearns Wharf.  Visited the garden at Mission Buenaventura in Ventura.  Met Rosie of wandering rose and listened to the reverberations of classic rock at Bob’s Big Boy‘s classic car show.  Was inspired by a Poets & Writers LIVE! event in Los Angeles, where I embarrassed myself in front of Chinese writer Da Chen (My Last Empress) when he asked me the for the title of my book and a business card (I had neither).  Had cocktails at the Brig and ate dinner out of a food truck on Abbott Kinney.  Took a hike with Rosie around Corral Canyon in Malibu and ate more fish tacos at Malibu Seafood.  Left behind sunny California to head back to icy Virginia (nomad, interrupted).

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

Saw tundra swans and parchment-like leaves dangling like wind-chimes on American beeches at Mason Neck State Park. Was inspired by National Geographic’s 2013 Travelers of the Year.  Saw seagulls walking on water at ice-encased Annapolis Harbor.  Learned 20 things about Storytelling Photography from National Geographic photographers Ami Vitale and Melissa Farlow.  Chased freight trains and photos along the CSX Main Line at Henryton, Maryland.  Suffered through snowstorm after snowstorm in Northern Virginia, and then searched for spring at Green Spring Gardens.  Heard the thundering roar of Great Falls while strolling with Alex, Bailey and Mike along the Patowmack Canal.  Took a photowalk through the hardscrabble part of Baltimore.  Found the gravesite of the patentee of the Ouija Board at Green Mount Cemetery.  Walked Richmond’s Monument Avenue 10k in the rain with my daughter Sarah.  Drifted with cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin in D.C.  Said “ahoy, matey!” to pirates at the Privateer Festival in Baltimore.  crisscrossed flowing streams & waterfalls at White Oak Canyon.  Stayed overnight at a sleep clinic to test for sleep apnea. Wandered through flowering trees at the Virginia Arboretum.  Was charmed by wisteria at Dumbarton Oaks.  Finally found spring, after a long and grueling winter, at Meadowlark Gardens.  Celebrated Sarah’s 30th birthday in Richmond by sipping wine with the whole family amidst Chihuly’s Red Reeds at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, topped off by a feast at Bacchus.  Cloistered myself at the Franciscan Monastery. Sampled wine and cheese with the family at Doukenie Winery.  Won prizes in photography competitions through Vienna Photographic Society and had my Hot air balloons over Cappadocia photo featured by National Geographic on Instagram.  Finished the third draft of my novel, Scattering Dreams of Stars, but never got around to sending out query letters.  Applied for 40 jobs stateside and didn’t get anything.  Applied for jobs in China and got an offer from Sino-Canadian International College of Guangxi University in Nanning.  Went on safari with sculptures of metal animals in the “American Metal” exhibit at the Corcoran in its last days.  Was awed by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Opened my heart to water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.  Worked on joining hearts with Mike at Eastern Market in D.C. Saw “Words & Letters” made into art at the Athenaeum.  Felt general malaise at a Civil War Encampment at Sully Plantation. (nomad, interrupted).

Searched in vain for a happy 4th of July, as both my mother-in-law and my father were admitted to the hospital; my father’s problem was corrected without complications, but my 88-year-old mother-in-law’s health went into decline and she went into hospice care in early July.  Went with Alex on a road trip to New Hampshire, where we stayed in a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee, seeking a reprieve from Shirley’s illness and our sadness.  Drove the Kancamagus Highway through New Hampshire’s White Mountains, topped by a hike at the Flume Gorge. Stopped to buy a bird nest ornament in a garden shop in charming Woodstock, Vermont, where I was mistaken for Alex’s girlfriend (ha!). Admired painted “meeses” and mountain lions in Bennington, and scrambled over rocks at Kaaterskill Falls in New York.  Returned home to watch helplessly as my mother-in-law continued to decline; she passed away on July 17.  Went in search of light-crazed sunflowers in memory of Shirley, who loved gardening.  Visited the George Washington Masonic National Memorial as we waited for Shirley’s memorial service, which was on Thursday, July 25.   Took our 12 1/2-year-old border collie, Bailey, to the vet when he got sick the day after Shirley’s memorial service; he died the next day, sadly, at the human age of 88.  Searched for summer, and solace, at Solomons, Maryland, where empty boats conversed in a language of their own, groaning, clanking, lamenting and whining.  Hiked at Calvert Cliffs State Park where a kid told me: “My dad says your name is Stranger.”  Dropped off my passport at the Chinese embassy to get my work visa, and while in D.C., stopped in unannounced at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral for a brief tour in darkness. Came full circle and revisited summer at Meadowlark Gardens, as I did when I first arrived back in Virginia from Oman (nomad, interrupted).

Shirley and Bailey: both left us in July

Shirley and Bailey: both left us in July

Sampled rum & grapefruit juice with Mike at Mango’s upon our arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Was coated like a sugar cookie by a maelstrom of sand at Ocean Park.  Savored every bite of mofongo — mashed plantains — at Raices in Old San Juan.  Had a close encounter with the Baño Nazi on Paseo de la Princessa.  Took a self-guided walking tour through colorful Old San Juan, admiring views of Bahia de San Juan along the periphery of El Morro.  Came face-to-face with an iguana at Castillo de San Cristobal and together we enjoyed views of the Atlantic.  Climbed into a cloud forest on the Mt. Britton Trail at El Yunque rain forest.  Ate fabulous Caribbean Benedicts at El Convento.  Sought shelter from the rain at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.  Visited the “ghost town” of Aguirre in the south of the island.  Was disappointed at Hacienda Buena Vista to see only the historical buildings and not any actual coffee plants.  Got roared at by painted lions at Ponce and took pictures of the historic firehouse and famous landmark, Parque de Bombas.  Looked in vain for 007 (“Bond, James Bond”) and Jodi Foster at the Arecibo Observatory, the setting for Goldeneye & Contact.  Enjoyed a day at the Ocean Park Beach and gorgeous sunset at El Morro before returning home to Washington. Continued to work with Mike on our reconciliation after our seven-year separation and felt good enough about it to go abroad again.  Spent the next two weeks getting ready to move to China.  Left the U.S. on August 30 (notes from north america).

Arrived in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on September 1 and was installed in a gritty apartment with a view over a lotus pond.  Spent the first couple of weeks in Nanning getting a phone, internet, a medical exam, and the visa.  Took a walk with another new teacher, Caleb, on Qing Xiu Shan in dreadful heat & humidity, where we saw koi in Sky Pond and a 1350-year-old Cycas King in the Cycad Garden.  Climbed to the top of Longing Tower where we saw views of Nanning and the Yongjiang River.  Encountered communication problems when haggling in a Chinese market.  Experienced the fringes of Typhoon Kalmaegi as it brushed past Nanning. Spent a frustrating day trying to figure out how to buy train tickets to Guilin.  Finally acquired a bicycle after much rigmarole and rode to Nanning Zoo, where I watched Chinese visitors feeding junk food to the animals.  Began fall semester on September 22.  Encountered students with funny English names: Maleah, Kitty, Yuki, Albert, Hebe, Lancy, Shally, Amber, Azura, Nyako, Spring, and best of all: Yoyo, Echo, Coco, Smoothies and Evita.  Heard tell of other teachers’ students: Biscuit, Yogurt and Potato.  Was flummoxed when trying to find simple household products such as shampoo, conditioner and floor cleaner at Nan Bai Supermarket.  Learned how to say Xièxiè (thank you), Ní hǎo (hello), and Wǒ yào yīgè daizi (I want one bag).

Overcame numerous communication problems and made it to Yangshuo for the National Holiday.  Took a motorized bamboo raft with hundreds of other Chinese tourists down the Li River to Xingping, the scene of the picture on China’s 20 yuan bill.  Strolled around Yangshuo and Green Lotus Hill, where I was surrounded by magical karst formations.  Met Audrey, the niece of an elementary school classmate of mine, at Demo Tiki Bar and then ate Thai food together, accompanied by lots of wine, at Rock-n-Grill.  Bicycled with Audrey through the Yangshuo countryside, where we took an almost-skinny-dip in the Yulong River.  Ate a late lunch at a Passion Fruit Leisure Farm.  Went on a motorbike tour through kumquat orchards to Xianggang Hill, where we saw karst formations with names like Nine Horse Fresco Hill, Lad Worships Goddess, and Grandpa Watching Apple.  Traipsed through the Seven Star Tea Plantation.  Took my own private bamboo boat ride down the Yulong River.  Returned to Nanning, where I began teaching an English Interest Course on Storytelling Photography.  Got hooked on Mad Men and watched all the seasons.  Walked through artistic trellises at the Guangxi Medicinal Plant Garden.  Encountered crazy communication problems on a trip to see Detian Waterfall on the Sino-Vietnamese border.  Straddled the border of China and Vietnam in a bamboo boat and was sprayed by the Ban Gioc-Detian Waterfall on my 59th birthday.  Received a cake for my birthday from the Student Union; I happily shared it with some of my colleagues, cherry tomato toppings and all.

Went to a student-teacher Halloween party on a sweltering night where everyone was sweating in their costumes.  Visited the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, where I saw excellent exhibits on Guangxi’s twelve indigenous ethnic groups.  Ventured to Nanning People’s Park where hordes of Chinese people were dancing, singing, and playing traditional instruments. Watched all 8 episodes of True Detective and began to watch Breaking Bad.  Took a trip to Ping’An, where a Zhuang guide led me on a hike to see Nine Dragons and Five Tigers and a Yao long-haired woman.  Posed in traditional costume at Seven Stars with Moon.  Took a 5-hour hike alone to the Longji Rice Terraces, where I got lost numerous times.  Spent an afternoon of disillusionment at Elephant Hill Park in Guilin.  Treated myself to a whole body massage, a foot massage and pedicure in Guilin to try to alleviate my four days of sickness while traveling.

Encountered a styrofoam lady on the way to Wal-Mart.  Watched a Chinese love story with English subtitles, Fleet of Time, that shed some light on the lives of my college students. Watched all 10 episodes of Fargo Survived another challenging Chinese bus ride to Yangmei Ancient Village. Spent Christmas day alone wandering downtown Nanning, sipping a Toffee Nut Latte at Starbucks, watching The Taking of Tiger Mountain at Wanda Cinema, and finally Skyping with my family in Virginia.  Went to a Christmas party arranged by my students, where I attempted to make proper dumplings, played and won a REAL game of Chinese checkers, and sang karaoke.  Went to a free acrobatics show in Nanning.

Happy New Year!  May all your dreams come true in twenty-fifteen. 🙂

Related posts:
twenty-thirteen
weekly photo challenge: my 2012 in pictures

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the guangxi museum of nationalities

Friday, November 7: It has been raining here in Nanning off and on all week, and though I’m tempted to just stay inside all day, I don’t want to let the rain defeat me.  I have such a long list of things to see in Nanning and in greater China that I feel like I should do at least some kind of outing every weekend, rain or shine, sleet or unlikely snow.

So, I pack an umbrella, bundle up in a rain jacket, and take off for the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, #5 on the Trip Advisor list of 84 Things to do in Nanning. It turns out I find the museum delightful.  The exhibits are beautifully done and descriptions are written in both Chinese and English.  The museum is huge.  It includes 3 floors in the main building, as well as an outdoor village with traditional folk residences representative of those found throughout the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Guangxi Museum of Nationalities (GXMN)

Guangxi Museum of Nationalities (GXMN)

Established in 1958, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is located in the southern border area of China.  Guangxi hosts 12 indigenous ethnic groups including the Zhuang, Han, Yao, Miao, Dong, Mulao, Maonan, Hui, Jing, Yi, Shui, and Gelao, and the population of these ethnic groups ranks first in China.  The total population of the Autonomous Region was 51.59 million by the end of 2010, of which 19.57 million are those of ethnic groups, accounting for nearly 38% of the total.  The Zhuang population of 16.58 million is around 32% of the total (according to information from the museum).

The ethnic groups of Guangxi live together harmoniously and have done so for generations, according to the museum.

Inside the entrance to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities

Inside the entrance to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities

I decide to start at the top and work my way down.

Up to the third floor

Up to the third floor

Guangxi Museum of Nationalities (GXMN), launched in 2003, sits south of the Qingxiushan Scenic Area on the bank of the Yong River.  Construction was started in June 2006; its purpose was to be a professional ethnic cultural museum, centering on the collection, research, protection, exhibition and public education of the physical evidence, cultural and artistic relics, classics, intangible cultural heritage and research results of the 12 native ethnic groups’ survival and assimilation.

The exhibition adopts both dynamic and static methods of display, combining words, materials, live-scenes, and pictures.

Guangxi: A land of colorful ethnic cultures

Guangxi: A land of colorful ethnic cultures

I begin my journey in the Exhibition Hall of Homestead.

Wooden houses

Wooden houses

drying peppers

drying peppers

Every family of the White Pants Yao (named for their distinctive costume) has a barn separated from their house for storing grain.  Their design discourages rodents.  The pillars are covered with bottomless clay jars, too slippery for rodents to climb up, thus protecting the grain stored above.  These exemplify the barns in Nandan.

White Pants Yao barns

White Pants Yao barns

relief carving of ethnic house and farm

relief carving of ethnic house and farm

farm implements

farm implements

Spring ploughing of Jingxi Zhuang

Spring ploughing of Jingxi Zhuang

Decorations for spring festival

Decorations for spring festival

According to a plaque at the museum, “Jing people make their living by the traditional form of fishing with a stilt.  They use stilts to fish in the deep-sea as fishes and shrimps usually live more than one meter below the surface.  To solve the knotty problem of catching fish and shrimp, the Jing who live near the sea invented the method of stilt-fishing.” These fishermen can be found in the only coastal area in Guangxi at Beihai.

Dongxing Jing Fishing with Stilts

Dongxing Jing Fishing with Stilts

Taming cormorants to catch fish is a tradition that has lasted hundreds of years on the LiJiang River in Guangxi.  The cormorant is a kind of dark-footed, web-footed water bird similar in appearance to a crow, and known colloquially as a “water crow.”  Cormorants are good at diving and live near the water.  They’re good at catching fish because of their long beaks.  They store fish in small throat pouches under their jaws, but fishermen tie a string around their throat, preventing them from swallowing the fish.

Fishing with cormorants on the LiJiang River

Fishing with cormorants on the LiJiang River

The next stop is the Exhibition Hall of Ethnic Costume.  Here the exhibit revolves around textiles and the costumes of the various ethnic groups.

silk merchant

silk merchant

weaver

weaver

Ethnic costumes

Ethnic costumes

The Exhibition Hall of Fine Arts and Craft blows me away with its fascinating exhibits of Dong wooden buildings, cave paintings, lanterns, dragons and other creatures.

The outstanding cultural art of the Dong is their woodwork and wooden architecture.  The most famous examples are the wind and rain bridges and the drum towers.  Wind and rain bridges consist of 3-5 stacked stone abutments.  Pavilions with double-sloping eaves are built above the abutments and then connected to make a bridge.  Drum towers always have four symmetrical pillars as their framework in the middle of the structure.  The architects and craftsmen follow the rules of balance, symmetry and harmony and use wooden joints with parts crisscrossing vertically with each other.  Not a single nail is used in the whole framework, but it is nonetheless sturdy and elegant.

These wooden buildings by the Dong are on my list of things to find in Guangxi while I’m here in China.

Cliff paintings in Guangxi are painted in walls of caves or on cliffs along rivers.  Most scenes show sacrificial activities in groups. The cliff paintings along the Zuo River emerged in the Warring States period and the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Next I head into the colorful Exhibition Hall of Traditional Culture.  This has so many fascinating displays, I stay in here for quite some time.

The Firecracker Dragon Festival in Binyang County is a unique form of the common Lion Dance held at 7:00 on the 11th day of the first month in the Chinese Lunar calendar.  Lion dancers pay a New Year call to every household. People can throw lighted firecrackers at the dancing dragon as they believe the firecrackers will get rid of misfortune and bring them good luck instead.  It is also believed to make them prosperous and healthy in the coming year.

Firecracker Dragon Dance of the Binyang Han

Firecracker Dragon Dance of the Binyang Han

“Mang Hao” is a transliteration from the Miao language. Mang means “mask” and Hao is a Miao god.  Every year on the 17th day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, young Miao men will wear masks and grass-made coats, lurking in the forest like their god “Hao.”  They dance wildly to the music of the Lusheng as a prayer to their god for a good harvest in the coming year.

This is something I would love to see!

Rongshi Miao ~ "Mang Hao" dance (the mask dance)

Rongshi Miao ~ “Mang Hao” dance (the mask dance)

During a Pan Yao wedding, the bride and groom kneel and kowtow to their parents and relatives many times to show their gratitude under the auspices of a Taoist priest.  The ceremony can take one to two days because they are expected to kowtow nine times to every single relative attending the wedding.

Hezhou Yao Wedding Ceremony

Hezhou Yao Wedding Ceremony

Guangxi has long been famed as the “sea of songs,” according to a plaque at the museum. All ethnic people “sing on all occasions and everyone is a singer.”  They replace their speeches with songs and meet friends with songs.

The Jinxiu Yao Yellow Mud Drum Dance is also called the Long Drum Dance, involving a female drum and four male drums. It is a sacrifice to the Yao King Pan.  Drums can be classified by their pitch male (low) or female (high).  During the dance, dancers turn, whirl and jump to pay a tribute to the legends of the King Pan.  The dance involves the reenactment of scenes of Yao life such as migrating, ploughing, hunting and sowing.

Jinxiu Yao Yellow Mud Drum Dance

Jinxiu Yao Yellow Mud Drum Dance

After visiting all these exhibitions on the third floor, I head to the second floor where I visit the Exhibition Hall of Bronze Drum Culture.  By this time, I must admit I’m getting a little tired.  Apparently in this section is a Beiliu bronze drum of the West Han Dynasty, which was considered as the king of Chinese bronze drum, but I somehow miss this.

Finally, for my last stop inside the museum, I drop in to the Zhuang Culture Exhibition.

I can see out the window of the museum that it’s still raining, but I’m determined to go outside to see the ethnic village.  As it’s rather wet, I zip through quite quickly, but here’s a bit of what I see.

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

The museum is a great tribute to the 12 aboriginal minorities’ customs, festivals, clothing, and architecture, as well as its precious historical relics, such as bronze ware, pottery ware, porcelain ware, bamboo and wooden articles, jade ware, glass utensil, and lacquer ware. I really enjoy my day at the museum where I am able to experience the cultural achievements Guangxi ethnic minorities have made with their hardworking, intelligence and solidarity.

Now my quest is to experience these minority cultures firsthand in my travels throughout Guangxi.

To get to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities:

By taxi from the main gate of Guangxi University: It’s about 56 yuan each way. It will take about 45 minutes. (This is what I did)

By bus: Take no. 10, 32, 33, 601, No. 1 or No. 2 Around-the-City-Bus.  Stop at Qingxiushan Damen station, then take Sub-line Bus No. 71 and stop on Guangxi Minzu Bowuguan (GXMN) station.  Mon-Fri: 8:30  12:30  16:30 / Weekends and statutory holidays: 8:30  10:30  12:30  14:30  16:30  17:00  (From the museum’s brochure – I did not test this out!)

Address: No. 11 Qinghuan Road, Nanning

Tel: 0771-2024599 (Visitor Service Center)

Website: http://www.gxmn.org

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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