Yunnan Magazine: Utopia? Forget Shangri-La... Bamei and Nanping are where it's at

Culture | by Stephan Larose
Posted: August 4th, 2010 | Updated: April 19th, 2011 | Comments
Yunnan Cave The other day, we just stumbled upon a wonderfully written piece, "Cave Dwellers," that appeared in what we thought was the current issue of Yunnan Magazine. Turns out it's the final issue of the magazine, however, as we learned from a  GoKunming forum. (And, curiously, today the YM site seems blocked; we can access via proxy, but not within the GFW. Mysterious... WTF, GFW? And RIP YM.) Anyway, the story (no byline) that got us excited was about the Bamei and Nanping regions of southeastern Yunnan province. I've been to Kunming and am dying to venture further afield into what, by all accounts, is among China's most diverse and beautiful provinces. "Cave Dwellers" only whets my appetite all the more.  Bamei and Nanping sound like little remnants of primeval Southeast Asian paradise where water buffalo laze in lush fields and boatmen glide through river caves on bamboo punts. It's all deliciously poetic and heady, and definitely a good read (thank you to the author, whoever you are!). Here's an excerpt:
Whereas "Shangri-La" seems etched in the collective conscious as "paradise", it is Tao Qian’s "Peach Blossom Spring" that has come to symbolize "utopia". Similarly, when compared to the soaring Himalayan peaks of Yunnan's northwest, the astonishing topography of the southeast seems to better represent "geographic utopia". Dominated by the crumbling turrets of karst, Southeast Yunnan is a land of isolated mountain peaks, permeated by rivers, lakes, wide basins, thousands of the caves, and relative seclusion. Since ancient times people from an array of cultures within China have been migrating here in search of shelter. The diverse peoples of this land have not only co-existed as communities, but have flourished in a bizarre topographic environment. This, I suppose, is the lesson learned from finding refuge within chaos.
For more about the area's photogenic rice terraces and "thunder veg,"  as well as the basic travel info needed to get there, read  VPN or proxy to view from within mainland China, it seems.) Yunnan guide
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