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Notes on the Geography of China: Guilin

A famous part of China, figuring largely in Chinese landscape painting and, from that, in the modern tourist industry. The desk clerk is too polite to disagree when told that the countryside is beautiful, but she knows that you can't eat beauty.

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China: Guilin picture 1

Tourist boats cruise downstream through karst towers.  A thick layer of calcium carbonate has dissolved along joints and fissures and left them behind.

China: Guilin picture 2

Bloomingdale's once ran an advertising campaign in which models posed before towers like these.  Sweating peasants were cropped or air-brushed.

China: Guilin picture 3

Rustic imagery sells airline tickets and women's clothing, but the people of Guilin are pushing for change. Are those power lines? Is that asphalt paving? Are those bicyles? Well, the place has actually been changing for a long time: look at that un-Chinese crop in the background, good old American corn. It's just that things are changing faster now, fast enough to be perceptible.

China: Guilin picture 4

Plenty of people stay busy with ancient tasks, such as distributing buckets of human waste caught in latrines and carried out to the fields.

China: Guilin picture 5

A tripod and scoop, swung back and forth to raise water, a gallon at a time.

China: Guilin picture 6

Down the road: a concrete-lined canal, from which water is raised into a canal not by muscle power but by simple mechanical ingenuity.

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