Sophie and Frédéric Houlier: exploring minority villages

Culture, Travel | by Sophie and Frederic Houlier
Posted: February 1st, 2012 | Updated: September 6th, 2012 | Comments
China Photography_travel photography_chinese culture_chinese landscapes China travel We came to China as married, French expatriates in October 2007 and made Suzhou our home. Since then, we have developed a real passion for photography and traveling throughout the country. Our photography focus' on people, the streets, architecture and landscapes. As we have continued to discover more of China, our focus has shifted to isolated regions, places where life still holds some testimonials from the past. One of those travels brought us to the borders of Guizhou and Guangxi, far away from any city or airport, populated by Miao, Dong and Yao ethnic minorities. The first picture here shows Dànián (大年), which is the main town of this area. We spent one week discovering the surrounding villages and the minorities living there. No tourists, no hotels.... Parts of the city still have original wooden houses, which are slowly disappearing and being replaced by concrete and brick constructions. More after the jump! Miao minority This picture is a typical example of the landscapes that can be admired there. Villages are located on mountainsides surrounded by endless rice terraced fields making them difficult to access. China travel photos For those still living in the villages, life has not changed so much. But we were surprised not to see more people working in these thousands of rice fields. A large number of middle-aged locals have indeed left their villages to look for jobs in the factories near big cities in Guangxi and Guangdong. Only time will tell if these fantastic landscapes can be maintained in the future. China travel photography Miao houses are made of wood and are generally dark and without windows, lit only by the fire or an open door. Electricity is coming to the villages slowly, but combined with the fireplaces that are usually placed in the middle of the living room, there is a tremendous danger of fire and parts of villages regularly burn. Houses are then rebuilt in a safer, more modern style or entire villages are moved down into the valley. Miao house Household equipment is limited to the strict and necessary minimum; but can give the passing photographer a nice visual arrangement and composition! Miao minority This picture was taken in the house of Miao farmers who invited us in for lunch. Despite their very limited resources, people receive guests as well as they can and are very proud to do so. When we arrived, some of them saw foreign faces for the first time in their lives. Miao families This elderly lady’s face tells a story of hard work. What kind of lifestyle stands in front of her granddaughter? Changes are coming fast now in those regions. Miao villagers The picture above was taken at the end of a school day in Longpei (Lóngpéi, 龙培) village, which belongs to the Dong minority. All classes are waiting in rows in the school playground for the final signal to go home. China travel Schools usually receive a few hundred children, from primary to junior school. Not every village has a school. Even if the distance between villages does not exceed a few kilometers, it can still be too long of a walk for a daily commute, thus many children only go home on weekends. Dormitories are used for everything, including dining, playing, studying and sleeping. Miao minority A moving moment from our visit was witnessing lunchtime at a local school. Young kids are queuing outside to get their bowl of rice. This, and the picture below, show the simplicity of their young lives. Miao minority Motorbikes are the easiest way to access the villages via the difficult sand roads, but are often used by the younger generation as a sofa. A nice and happy good-bye from Miao kids! A hearty thanks to Sophie and Frédéric Houlier for their wonderful photos and insightful commentary. Keep up with their travels at their Flickr Photostream.
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