A day off from rehearsals today, and Monday plus the religious holiday Epiphany means no museums are open, so it’s off for a wander around Bologna to see some porticos, churches, terracotta colours, window shutters, more churches, more porticos, some excellent doors, not many trees at all, a lot of alleys and winding streets, a couple of city gates, quite a few relatively new-ish modernist buildings which are in sense architecturally identical to the old ones and are well-tasty in that high, internationalist modernism way, churches again, various small religious icons of the Mary (with or without Jesus) variety embedded in façades competing with plaques and coats of arms for quantity, and finally the grand Piazza Maggiore where I met Dasniya for coffee and cake while sitting outside Palazzo Re Enzo. Very tourist, me.
I’m an avid map-reader. I’ll spend hours pouring over all kinds of maps looking for something, nothing. Lately it’s been maps of Guangdong province, looking for places where there might be climbing, or might be something worth seeing. Especially mountains. Anyone who’s read my stuff on climbing in Jiulong and nearby knows how beautiful these places are, and how close to Guangzhou, and also the horrific and stupid short-term crappy-profit-driven destruction going on.
From one of the sites I read daily, CSR-Asia, came this link to the Global Institute for Tomorrow on Eco-Tourism in Heyuan, which is in North-East Guangdong. Looks beautiful. Maybe it’s the perfect place to go for post-art burnout.
Heyuan, one of the smaller and more remote counties of northeast Guangdong Province, is taking steps towards developing eco-tourism. Naturally beautiful and with a cultural history that dates back many generations, the potential is there –but the question is, how are these first steps going?
With this in mind, the Hong Kong Institute for Promotion of Chinese Culture decided to see for itself, a year after the local government held the inaugural Hakka Culture Tourism Festival. I joined them, and over two days (the 6th and the 7th of May) visited cultural and nature sites in Heyuan city, on the Dongjiang River and in the surrounding countryside.
Three hours by coach from Shenzhen, Heyuan’s remoteness has made it unattractive to the kind of commerce and industry that has powered Hong Kong’s neighbour into one of the south’s economic boom-towns.
But this has proved a blessing in disguise, leaving its countryside unscarred, and its ancient precincts free from the developer’s wrecking ball.
Heyuan and its capital city of the same name is predominantly Hakka. The northern Chinese migrants began settling there from AD 300 and over the years established their own language and culture, distinct from those of the southern Cantonese.