13th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest
In the provinces of southern China, in Yunnan or in Guizhou, the peasants cultivate their rice terraces as they have for millennia, helped by the strength of water buffaloes.
The poorest of them all, men and women alike, labor in mines or in construction.
Other practical jobs in the villages, such as ceremonies and games, have barely been altered by modern life.
Their living conditions are harsh and their personal interactions have a trace severity.
They have, despite everything, the dignity of those who have a roof over their heads and stable surroundings, and the children glean with passion any knowledge which is available to them.
I went to meet them and they welcomed me with generosity and simplicity, opening their homes to me and welcoming me to their celebrations.
But the dramatic development of the cities threatens even these mountainous backcountries, where you can still find the landscapes made famous in ancient Chinese paintings.
What will become of them when these farmlands have been devoured by the city?
Will they become part of the lumpenproletariat, the poor fringe of the extraordinary Chinese growth?
Or will they find their place in the new world?
© VALERIE LEONARD.
All rights reserved.
||Aug. 3, 2015, 8:50 a.m.