Tag Archives: china

Meet Mrs. Zhang, 93 Years Young – An Independent Woman Living in China

Mrs. Zhang

We visited Mrs. Zhang in Longtan Ancient Village in Yangshuo County, Guilin, China. A retired farmer, now widowed (approx. 8 years) and childless.

She lives independently, cooking and caring for her home with her niece and nephew providing groceries. It’s not an easy life with modern day conveniences. Cooking requires a wood fire and the bathroom has no running water.

A church pew type wooden bench that sits perpendicular to her front door and she and her two lady friends pass the day visiting – as they were upon our arrival.  Watching others playing cards is enjoyable as well.

A proud woman, she insisted on sitting tall with a pensive look and I found her most adorable when I could get her to smile – capturing her youthful past in her twinkling eyes.

A large bag of recently made dried persimmons and sweet potatoes rested on the long wooden farm table. Upon leaving, with her infectious girlish smile, she filled bags for us to share.




Yao Women and the Longest Hair in the World

Meet Mrs. Pan – she is 56 years old, lives with her parents in their ancestral family home along with her son and grandson in Dazhai Village – in the foothills of the Longji Rice Terraces in Guilin, China.

Normally when a daughter marries she moves into her husband’s family home. Since Mrs. Pan is an only child she lives with her parents so that she may help care for them.

Mrs. Pan is a Yao ethnic minority – famous for having the longest hair in the world.  Women only cut their hair once in a lifetime – when they are 18.  The cut hair is kept and made into a hair extension – perhaps saved for when they marry.  As years pass the women also collect their hair that falls out during combing and washing to make an additional extension. These two hair extensions are added to the hair on her head to create cultural and symbolic hair style.

They hair is worn in two different ways. If a women has been married it is worn in a bun in the front of her head.  If she is single there is no bun.

I tried to learn what Mrs. Pan’s feelings were about cutting her hair at 18.  It was something that was normal and feelings are not something that is talked about or shared within their culture.

Since we left Guilin I was about to google more information about their hair growing tradition.  It seems that they wash their hair with the left over rice water.

In the first couple of photos you can see her extension hanging on the fence.

Click to enlarge photos.




Portrait of Great Grandma Pan – A Yao minority

Meet great grand mother Pan – a Yao.  Yao people are an ethnic minority group that live in the mountainous terrain in Southern China.  The Pan family lives in Dazhai, a village in the foothills of the Longji RiceTerraces.

Mrs. Pan is in her 80’s, married to a man 4 years her junior.  She has a daughter, grandson and great grandson.  They are farmers and help out in their daughter’s restaurant.

Their house is simple.  The living area has a table, a few chairs, a wash basin, bags of rice, corn, peppers and supplies for their animals which live under their floor boards.

We were treated to a home cooked meal prepared on an open flame on the kitchen floor.  An experience to behold – so far removed from our modern kitchens at home.

Portrait of a Great Grandfather

Dazhai Village, Guilin, China

I had the honor of photographing the Pan family, Yao people, in their traditional home where four generations live together.

The home is wooden.The ground floor houses their livestock – a horse and 3 pigs. The floorboards of the 2nd level living quarters are removable in two different locations and allows access  to feed them.  Meet Mr. Pan, great grandfather and farmer.  He is in his 80’s.


He tried to look formal which only caused us to crack each other up. Especially when he smoked his pipe.

Apparently his wife is not crazy about the smoke but posing for portraits allows him the opportunity.




Neither of us could speak the other’s language. However, we got along famously laughing.

Fascinated with Tibetan Buddhism

Our guide is somewhat of a Tibetan Buddhism scholar; knowledgable, curious and practicing.

We have learned about Songtsan Gampo, The Lord Buddha, Compassion Buddha, Longevity Buddha, Horse Buddha (helps you sleep), Protector Buddha, Wisdom Buddha, 1st thru 14th Dalai Lamas, the Panchen Lama, Mandalas, etc. – ours heads spin with a plethora of information.

The architecture of the Potala Palace, Jokhang and Deprung Monastery rank the highest of all of our travels to monasteries, pagodas and temples. However, the most exciting part to see is every day life taking place.

Monks are in every room going about their daily business – filling candle drums with wax (not so much Yak butter used any more), sorting through the scarves, collecting and sorting the copious amount of yuan left by the followers, chanting, singing…..

Pilgrims walk the Kora with prayer wheels and beads in hand saying the mantra over and over. A handful of pilgrims prostate themselves for days, weeks or even months.

Their faces are worn by the harsh cold and sun of the Himalayan Mountains. Every person wears a hat, from toddlers to the old. Most are dressed in Indigenous clothing, colorful and worn – showers or baths not high on the priority list. The old or not so old’s faces tell a story of a hard life – skin leathered and wrinkled, teeth missing or blackened.

Tahshi Delek is shared when our eyes contact theirs. They take a swift moment to pass us good fortune but resume their kora as if time is running out.

Lhasa is hot, cold, wet and dry all in the same day.

Photo opportunities abound.