"Qingcheng" Qingcheng by mke1963
Qingcheng Travel Guide: 7 reviews and 34 photos
Two hours from Lanzhou and is another world, one which is fast disappearing even in rural China. Small villages lies in the deep valleys and alongside the streams tumbling into the mighty Yellow River. This is not an easy land for human sustenance: geology has presented the farmers with fertile deep soil, but the climate is harsh and dry. The rain comes in short sharp bursts or as hard, bitter snow in the long winter. Spring comes for just a few weeks, before the thirst and shimmering heat of summer takes over. Autumn too, stays for just a few short weeks before the cold creeps in from the north once again.
Here, on the banks of the Yellow River is a town called Qingcheng, which has managed to avoid the 20th century. Sitting below stark, bare slopes of 3000 metre mountains, the town sits peacefully, much as it has done for 500 years. A daily bus service maintains a line to the outside world but Lanzhou, and even Baiyin City - only 45 minutes north - seem distant memories. Qingcheng sits on no great roads and the Yellow River has never been a trade artery because of its waterfalls and shallows: Qingcheng sits pleasantly oblivious to the modern world, sowing its crops, tending to them and then harvesting them in due course.
Maize fields spread from the town, along the river banks, but within walking distance, the townspeople make good use of the soil fertility to grow garden crops - aubergines, tomatos, melons - in long greenhouses. Each family has a greenhouse, south-facing and stoutly built with a long back wall of adobe brick, ended by two arched walls. Thick translucent polythene is tightly stretched across a bamboo framework; at night, strips of rush matting are unrolled from the top to keep the cold out. It's hard work, but it is successful, and both agents and buyers live in town to negotiate the best prices for the distributors and markets in Lanzhou and Urumuqi.
The centre of Qingcheng has remained almst untouched, and a tight network of streets is home to remarkable late Qing dynasty courtyard houses, most still inhabited and used as they always have been. These are no museum-pieces, but living families whose courtyards are stocked with all the accoutrements and appliances needed to farm the soils: hoes, spades, ploughs, pots, stocks of seed and fertiliser, piles of wood, stone and bamboo and usually a lamb or too bleating in the corner.
The town has also managed to preserve its older public buildings and there is the old imperial academy, where once the hopefuls sweated through the examinations for entry to the civil service, the Guo family ancestral temple, the town temple with its quite remarkable public arena and stage, and the Luo family home, now the government and party offices for the township.
On the esge of town, 200 year old walnut and pear trees are enclosed in a small garden overlooking both the river and the mountains; to the east several kilometres lies a wonderful series of lotus and lily ponds, home to the town's fish but enhanced by several little pavilions for sitting and relaxing: even the locals come to enjoy the peace and the view.
One of the most remarkable aspects is the role that the local community have played in both protecting the local architectural and natural heritage, and safeguarding local arts, crafts and traditions. No less than six community associations work to both preserve and also to promote the town and its surroundings, its produce and its products, its places and its peoples. It's a process both encouraged and supported by the mayor and town and county officials. Even the municipal and provincial officials point towards Qingcheng as an example of the new, evolving role of the community in modern Chinese rural development.
The streets are definitely worth wandering - in any season. This is a wonderful town, with something marvellous at every... more travel advice
Just north of the town, between the houses and the Yellow River is an old orchard with pear and walnut trees. The trees... more travel advice
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