2009 we move to Shanghai and ended up staying for one and a half years.
I was there on and off. We learned about cricket fighting and how to
play with them. Champion crickets become famous. When they die they
receive a special funeral service, while losers are fed to the birds.
During the Cultural Revolution cricket fighting was banned as a bourgeois
leisure activity. Today many famous hotels host cricket fights. In
2010 more than 400 million yuan were spent on crickets. I had to think
of Donna Haraway’s When Species Meet where she describes how
dogs became both a commodity and consumers in the same time.
We also learned how to feed the crickets, to make them feel comfortable so
that we could listen to their chirping sounds. They travelled with us. In
the spring and again in autumn, we went to Yuanjang in the Yunnan mountains
to inquire into rice-paddy terrace farming. Hinterland, hills, mountains—giants—can
be spaces of both refuge and resistance. The rice-paddy terraces are at least
1300 years old and built on the steep mountainsides by Hani or Ho and Yi
people. Different societies went to the hills to escape the stratification
of Chinese civilisation and culture. Down hill running water floods the terraces
controlled by a collectively developed and controlled irrigation system.
Today China officially recognises ‘its’ minorities, trapping
them in folklore, while developing a (tourist) economy around them. Even
though the mountains are huge and the paddy fields can reach up to 2000 meters,
it never freezes in these heights due to the sub-tropical climate. The Hani
claim to recall all the names of their ancestors, starting with the first
one down to the latest newly born. Once a tree tilted, which was more then
100 years old. The people from Xinjiezhen came to set it upright. While
they maintain a spiritual relationship with their surroundings, the Chinese
administration is mainly concerned with tidiness, forcing them to keep their
village ‘clean’ from garbage, so the tourists won’t be
irritated. The spirituality of the Hani was hard to ignore, famous for their
great devotion toward the spirits of their ancestors and for their polyvocal
singing. A death in a near village inspired weeks of singing, music-making
and celebrations. We learned to sing along with Zhou Hong: ài... ài... ài...
bái yún piao piao xio chuán yáo
yòu yáo... White clouds floating and little ships swing... During
the rainy times opaque mist with its color of white dust moved like water
creatures through the small town and along the mountainsides, which
were covered with ghost forests.
Many thanks to: Mei Wuchang, Olaf Hochherz, Lina Persson, Zhou Hongxiang,
Maya Schweizer, Laura Horelli, Zhang Li, Justin Sebastian, Zhang Yi,
and Li Xiaofei