Back to previous post: Open thread 58

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: In which culture moves from a traditional base in a consensual collective endeavour to forms which are rationalised by commodification and led by individuals with interests which are separated from the purposes of the population as a whole

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

January 24, 2006

Beautiful China
Posted by Teresa at 11:15 PM *

Amazingly beautiful photographs of China’s Guilin area. I was particularly struck by the photos of its immaculately maintained, labor intensive agricultural terraces. I have to wonder how long those are going to last, given China’s massive population exodus from rural areas, and its increasing ability to buy food from areas of the world where you don’t have to terrace 45-degree slopes to grow rice.

Comments on Beautiful China:
#1 ::: Lawrence Watt-Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 12:10 AM:


We're going to China next week, but alas, we won't get to Guilin this trip. Maybe someday.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 12:19 AM:


#3 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 12:41 AM:

It's not just that it's beautiful; those are breathtaking photos. Especially the first one. Wow indeed.

#4 ::: JdB ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 03:20 AM:

Those mountains look impossible, don't they? Like that one all by itself in the middle of the second one. Amazing.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 06:27 AM:

Those are truly wondrous. Thank you.

#6 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 06:34 AM:

Those are stunning.

#7 ::: Little Mr Square Eyes ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 06:48 AM:

A nice reminder that those old school Chinese landscape painters weren't making it up.

#8 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 07:17 AM:

Just beautiful and I saw them early enough to share with my children (born and adopted in China and Cambodia). We haven't been back to China since adopting our oldest in '95, but it seems that almost every picture I took was breathtaking. Of course, that entire trip had a magical quality.

#9 ::: Sigrid Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 07:34 AM:

I am most struck by the photos of agricultural endeavors. It puts me in mind of the old, and I think misguided, belief that there is "Nature" and there is "Man." That Nature is unspoilt and pure, and Man is essentially a contaminate on her face. These photos demonstrate that people are of the natural world just as much as termites, bless 'em.

#10 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 07:48 AM:

Having lived in China for a few years, I'm not sure that all of those photos are from Guilin. Considering some of the ethnic garb that they're wearing in certain photos, I think some of them are from southwest China.

However, the majority of them are from Guilin. It really is a beautiful place. When we went, the fog was hanging over the top of the moutains and it looked like some of the scroll paintings that one sees all over the markets.

As an interesting sidenote, Guilin was the only place we were ever pickpocketed in the entire time that we lived there.

#11 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 11:12 AM:

Those's the sort of thing where it's hard to imagine that those are real places.

Maybe it's that I've lived here all my life, but I don't think western PA has that kind of beauty; it makes it hard for me to accept it in other places.

#12 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 02:03 PM:

Im currently living and working in Guilin - (Cultural studies teacher) No the ancient Chinese painters, nor the photographer didnt make it up - ofcourse as in most places in China Guilin has another side some of it just as beautiful some of it not
As a side note - Guilin is famous for its Minority groups so perhapes all the images are indeed from the Guilin area -

#13 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 02:04 PM:

Went to Guilin when I was a kid and yeah, Little Mr Square Eyes is bang on the money: the weirdest experience is realizing that no, they really didn't make that landscape up.

Also, Madeleine's right that those are fantastic photos. Thanks for those, and the memories they've resurrected.

#14 ::: Michael Falcon-Gates ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Looking at these, I can't help but think that "beautiful" is another word for "marginal." An endless set of flat paddies would be much less impressive, precisely because they would feed so many more people with so much less work. Maybe it's just because I grew up in Colorado, which has heaps and piles of beautiful, uninhabitable land.

#15 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Michael: I grew up in SE Texas, home of lots and lots of rice fields. It's the very definition of "unimpressive landscape," but not "precisely because" it's productive farmland. It's boring as hell, is why it's unimpressive. Summer? Hot, damp, and flat. Winter? Cold, damp, and flat. Even our clouds are dull...all their bottoms are flat.

#16 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 02:44 PM:

Guh. Splendid.

Which reminds me, I have a book on Chinese, Korean, and Japanese organic agriculture that I need to read soon...(Farmers of Forty Centuries, from Dover.)

#17 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 03:04 PM:

Michael: I don't think that's quite right. For example, there's the one picture in which the paddies are flat; it's the one that has the lone hill in the middle. But it's just as gorgeous as the terraces. Conversely, the Laurel Mountains are just as up-and-down as the terrace pictures, but they're not as pretty.

#18 ::: ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Beautiful, but I'm glad that I didn't have to help build those terraces.

#19 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 07:56 PM:

Wow. I am struck dumb. WOW.

#20 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 11:03 PM:

wrt the last para: how much maintenance do the terraces require, and how much more work are they to ]operate[ than flats? On the north side of Lake Geneva there are terraced vineyards, reportedly dating from Roman times, that must have been even more work to build -- because they're terraced into basalt, which makes them longer-lasting.

This area is so beautiful I can imagine it being kept active as a tourist destination when less picturesque regions give up agriculture. Just imagine people bringing home little bags of genuine Guilin rice as gifts or souvenirs....

#21 ::: Leonid Korogodski ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2006, 11:51 PM:

Guilin is beautiful. Stonefinger Grove in my WIP novel is based on the Guilin landscape.


#22 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 05:15 AM:

Is it the contrast? The flat land is studded with volcanic chimneys thrusting through it, and the terraced hillsides are landscapes of wild power contrasting with the human effort needed to sculpt them. A lake of miraculous flat calm reflects ragged sudden peaks, so that with the faintest shift of perception, both are seen, together but apart.

#23 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Karst, actually.

#24 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 12:42 PM:

I've long thought of Guilin as the antipodes of North America's karst regions: the sinkholes here pop up over there.

#25 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 01:05 PM:

wow. absolutely beautiful. stunning.

#26 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 01:56 PM:

Dave: that was pretty too.

#27 ::: Leonid Korogodski ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 04:24 PM:

The rice paddies too are beautiful. But, personally, I'm much more impressed by the karst caves and peak forests.

#28 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2006, 11:25 AM:

O so beautiful! Thank you!

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.