The rice terraces of Longji are scattered all over with small villages. From Dazhai at the mountain’s base, through Tiantouzhai to Qiang Bei at the mountain’s top, and another twenty or so . For no other reason than it looked like the right distance for a walk between breakfast and dinner, we had decided to walk to Zhongliu Village, and had a lovely Yao woman from Tiantouzhai to guide us.
The walk took three hours, along stone-paved mountain paths across rice terraces, over cold clear mountain streams, and through forest. Along the way we met the younger sister of our guide out working the family’s rice terrace, alongside her fifteen year old son who was finishing off a log bridge across one of the streams. They live in Zhongliu but their terrace is over an hours’ walk away from their home. The two sisters decided to walk the rest of the way together, chatting all the while in their Yao dialect.
When we reached Zhongliu, it was now mid-afternoon and we were starving. We could smell cooking smoke as we walked down the hill towards the village, and imagined sitting down at a little mountain inn just like in Dazhai, tucking into some mountain food. Except that Dazhai receives hundreds of tourists each year, and Zongliu, practically none. As we turned the corner we realised that the sum total of Zhongliu is four houses. Population thirteen. Nowhere to eat!
Except that this is a small mountain village, not Shanghai, and the Yao people are extremely hospitable. Our guide’s sister took us into her home and made us a late lunch of freshly laid eggs stir-fried with wild greens, home smoked bacon (cut from a blackened hunk of flesh hanging above the fireplace) with beans, and a wild water vegetable with garlic. All washed down with Longji smoked tea first, then tianjiu, a kind of fermented rice wine served warm in bowls.
Our guide’s sister
Tamped earth lower floor with a chicken basket
The kitchen wall
A neighbour dropped in with her twin grandchildren when she heard we were there. This means the house now holds 60% of the village population. Despite her traditional appearance, the embroidered pouch at her waist is for her mobile phone.
Wild greens stir-fried over the flames
A shared lunch, with thanks.