"Dawn's Early Light"

"My name is Macy, just like the department store". The tiny twenty-four year old chatterbox was a graduate of a four year tourism and management school and currently working for CITS (China International Travel Service) in Guilin. Our 1.5 hour transfer to Yangshou was filled with a one sided conversation about her family and friends. I was booked into the Li River Retreat and we arrived at the most inopportune time. Macy had told me that between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. the road is blocked when an access street becomes a market jammed with vendors' stalls and crowds of tourists from the river cruises. She suggested that I rent a small bamboo boat and started negotiating with the owner to take us there. I told her that I would make my way from the dock as I did not want her to walk the six kilometers back to her waiting car. She would have none of that and told me she wanted to check me in and make sure that everything was alright. After checking in Macy made contact with a self taught guide that she knew named Joanne (Xu Xu Juan) and we would meet at 5:00 p.m. Joanne arrived on her bicycle and told me that she had been guiding for over ten years. I asked her if she had worked with photographers in the past and her answer while looking away was "no". My notebook was filled with photos and ideas of places to photograph and as I showed them to her she burst out with the most amazing revelation. "My uncle is the one who took those photos" "His name is Zhang Liping, I will call him right now". Zhang was known to me as I had admired his phographs of life on the Li River while researching ideas for this trip. I went back to my room while Joanne finished her conversation and could not beleive what had just happened. Joanne entered the room and told me to be ready at 4:00 a.m. as Zhang was meeting us in Xingping and she had booked a car to take us there. 
 
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved © Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Zhang was waiting for us at the dock and we quickly sped along the Li River for about 40 minutes to a small stoney outcrop with enough room for the three of us. A fisherman dressed in traditional costume with two cormorrants suddenly came into view and a conversation erupted through the gentle splashing of water against his bamboo raft. He began to prime his age old lantern which illuminated the bamboo groves lining the river. We waited patiently for the first rays of light to reveal the crystal clear water and the uniquely shaped limestone peaks.
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved © Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Xingping - A lantern illuminates the scene. As morning unfolds along the Li River the limestone hills reveal themselves. Cormorant fishing is an age-old art that is long past its glory days. Today, it exists largely due to the tourism industry.  
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
                               The sun slowly rising illuminated the scene in a misty red and orange glow.
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved © Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Zhang instructed the fisherman to dunk the uncooperative cormorrants into the water and place them back on the raft. This would make them spread their wings to aid in drying. It became increasingly difficult to get more than one bird into a photographic position.
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved © Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
After spending more than an hour photgraphing the fisherman with his birds, Zhang instructed him to demonstrate the skill at casting his fishing net.
© Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved © Kieron Nelson 2008 "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
Shrouded in mist as the sun climbed over the Karst peaks we were invited to the home of Zhang Liping. Over cups of tea I was shown the photographs that lined the walls of his home. I felt very humbled to be in the presence of a generous and truly talented man. 

 

'The things we take for granted'

The hotel I was staying at in Yangshou, Guangxi Province, had a waitress named Rils. Every night after serving the last meal I would see her sitting in a corner with a small translator. When she waited on my table she always had a big smile and took my order shyly in broken english. She asked me if I had the time to teach her some words in english that her translator could not manage. She had noticed that I was always skimming through the "Rough Guide Phrase Book Mandarin Chinese".
I was more than happy to try and accomodate her the best I could. She seemed thrilled that the book had chinese characters and showed the english words. She told me that she was from Beijing and came to this area to learn english. I asked her if her parents and family still lived in Beijing and she said that she had no family. When I left Yangshou I gave the book to her. She was visually upset and said it was very valuable to her, and  she would always cherish it.
 
 
 
My journeys to China in 2007 and 2010 were arranged through Eric Xu at China Connection Tours

 


Comments

Vanishing Cultures Photography
Thanks for the wonderful comments, I always appreciate them.
Priya Balan(non-registered)
I really like these images . There is no denying that these images are very beautiful. All your shots are fantastic in this article is very well captured. they look like a scene from the movies. Imagine meeting with the Uncle who took the images that you researched for your trip. Its a small world as the saying goes!!!
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