Friday, July 25, 2008

Lijiang Rains & Reads

Today, the rains of Lijiang began. Despite my 6 years living in Seattle, I am unaccustomed to it—and so spent most of the day inside, reading. Here is an excerpt from my latest read on Lijiang--

In 1955, Peter Goullart of Russia wrote his book Forgotten Kingdom reflecting his experiences while living in Lijiang. Highlighting a time over 50 years ago, this book serves as an English account (through a foreigner's eyes of course) of what Lijiang was like before the effects of the Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, and everything else we see today. He noted this:

It was probably the only marketplace in the whole of China which was thoroughly washed every day, but this was done with the help of nature. Early in the morning the sluices of the canal which flanked the hill and was, therefore, slightly higher than other streams flowing through the city, were opened and about a foot of water was allowed to rush through the place for an hour or so. All rubbish was swept away by the water into a lower stream of the Likiang River at the other end of the market.

Likiang was covered by a network of these swiftly running streams which flowed at the backs of houses and, with the bridges, created an illusion of a miniature Venice. They were shallow and too swift for any navigation and, anyway, there were no boats in Likiang, but they served the town well, providing fresh water for all purposes. The streets of Likiang were paved with stone slabs or stone bricks and were scrupulously clean. Sweeping was frequent and thorough and the refuse was swept into the streams, which also received the rubbish from the houses. One might think that these streams and canals would get clogged and polluted in no time, but the water rushed unceasingly, crystal clear, and nothing but pebbles were seen on the bottom. The force of the current was so great that all and everything was immediately swept down the stream out of the town. It was only further down the valley, where the current became slow and opaque, that one noticed how unclean the river was. Whilst the people were indifferent to the dumping of rubbish into the water in the city, they were careful about upper reaches of the river and tried to prevent pollution by all available means. This was not difficult as the river originated in a beautiful park, a quarter of a mile away, at the foot of the Elephant Mountain — a name derived from its resemblance to a sleeping elephant. Here, out of the mouths of subterranean caverns, rushed sweet, ice-cold water from the glaciers of the Snow Range.

If only I could get myself to wake up early enough to see if they still do this!

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