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Wu Guangmin, famous Wuyi Mountain photographer, has photographed everything from architecture and king cobras in combat to the Queen of the Netherlands (when she visited Wuyi Mountain)

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Journey thru Wuyi Mtn. Wonderland!

King Cobras

Square Bamboo!

9 Bend Stream

Jade Maiden Peak

Heavenly Tour Peak

Minyue Museum

barrow Wisdom!
Tao of Tea!

Tea's Holy of Holies

Wuyi Nature Preservation Area Xiamei Village -- Poker Faces and Blacksmiths

Wu Guangmin froze! Two king coFamous Fujian Wuyi Mountain photographer froze when he came across these two king cobras facing off!  Finally, he took a photo; the cobras fled one way and Wu Guangmin another!bras were facing off in the clearing, hoods flared, fangs bared, tongues darting. Slowly, he pointed his camera at them. “Flash!” Both serpents turned towards Wu Guangmin. “I couldn’t outrun them,” he said, “So I took another photo. The flash scared them. They fled one way and I fled the other!”

This snake totem carved in a granite stone is over 2,000-years-old, dating from the time of the Minyue Kingdom, in Wuyi Mountain,If Min is the Snake Kingdom of China, Wuyi claims to be the “Snake Kingdom of the World.” As this 2,000-year-old stone shows, ancient Min worshipped snakes. And some temples are dedicated to serpent worship even today.

In spite of the king cobras, bamboo vipers, and 33-foot pythons, How many snakes do you see?  There are at least 4 in the photo.  Wuyi is the snake kingdom of the world. Wu Guangming spends evenings and weekends traipsing about Wuyi Mountain. Since the late 1700s, European, American and Japanese naturalists have delighted in its biological diversity, which probably rivals Eden itself. Fully 92% of Wuyi is forested, and at last count (though I wonder who on earth counted?), Wuyi boasted 2,466 higher plant species, 840 lower plant species, 475 vertebrate species, 100 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, and 31 insect orders with 4,557 species (half of which we had in our Xiamen University apartment before we screened in the windows).Square Bamboo!  Yes, it really does exist in Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province--and also in Ningde's Taimu Mountain (northeast Fujian)
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Square Bamboo Bamboo lovers delight in Wuyi’s 80+ bamboo groves, which have 1/3 of the Chinese species of bamboo—including the exotic, black-skinned square bamboo (Fangzhu). Square bamboo was immortalized by the ancient poet Guo Mou Ruo in a poem that you can find proudly printed on “Wuyishan Cigarette” packs. And as a Wuyi native said, “Square bamboo is great to eat!” (Makes a good square meal, I bet!)

(By the way--you can also find square bamboo in Northeast Fujian's Taimu Mountain, in Ningde).Back to top

Wu Guangmin is bent on capturing old China on film before it vanishes. He said, “Wuyi Guangmin's wife posing as traditional wife--though this beautiful lady is as modern as anyone you could meet!   Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province   In another decade you won’t see farmers with plow and oxen, or 3-wheeled homemade tractors, or grannies with bound feet. And the beautiful architecture is vanishing—hauled away by antique dealers from Shanghai and Xiamen. In a few decades all we’ll have is photos.”

Armed with black and white film for architecture and color for people and scenery, Wu Guangmin averages ten rolls of film per day, from which he may get 3 or 4 acceptable photos. Endless photography is accompanied by endless questions. “Why did the artists use a dragon theme here, a phoenix there, a Chinese unicorn between them?” He has published an entire book on nothing but ancient architecture, with shots of everything from carved window frames and stone lintels to bed posts. Beautiful ancient architecture in Xiamei Village, Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province

A friend in his hometown of Jian’ou hooked Guangmin on photography in 1993. He moved to Nanping’s MinBei Daily in 1996, and since moving to the Wuyi Shan Daily in ‘98, Guangmin has photographed premiers, presidents, and queens, but his heart is still in culture, tradition—and nature.
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Wuyi Welcomes UNESCO The 60 sq. km. Wuyi National Scenic Spot, 15 km south of Wuyi City, is best when spring rains create countless waterfalls coursing through the rich semi-tropical foliage. And if you book in advance you need never fear getting rained out, because Wuyi officials have guanxi with the man upstairs. One man solemnly informed me, “It always pours the few days before official functions, but never fails to clear up the day of the event.” ....

Shannon poles a bamboo raftNine Bend Stream (Jiuqu Xi) The two-hour rafting excursion isn’t cheap—80 Yuan a person—but it’s the best part of Wuyi (besides the climb up Tianyou—Heavenly Tour—Peak). And you’re actually paying for two rafts strapped together, two pole-men, the cost of hauling the raft back upstream by truck, and two hours of nonstop commentary and poetry by men gaily decked out in traditional blue Chinese jackets and nontraditional bright green plastic boots.

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Great King Peak (Da Wang Feng) is at the mouth of the Nine Bend Stream. Given a little imagination, or a couple of swigs of Chinese riceJade Maiden Peak Wuyi Mountain whisky, it resembles an ancient Chinese official’s hat. On the east side you can see the Immortal Transformation Cave (Shengzhen Dong). The great philosopher Zhuxi claimed that King Wuyi once lived in this cave, but it’s just a hole in the wall.

Jade Maiden Peak Our poetical pole-man waxed most lyrical about Wuyi’s most celebrated landmark, Jade Maiden Peak (Yunu Feng). “She resembles a maiden standing gracefully. The bare rock is smooth as skin. The grass and shrubbery on top are her hair. If you gaze at her reflection in the pool below, you’ll see a beautiful, traditional maid, deep in thought, dreaming of a bright future.”

He’d better lay off the rice whisky! I didn’t think her face or figure was anything to swoon over, and her hair was a mess. She was nice for a rock, but I’d never marry her.

Heavenly Tour Peak, Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province  Heavenly Tour Peak (Tianyou Feng) Wuyi’s best view, by far, is from Heavenly Tour Peak, which can be seen from the 3rd, 5th, and 6th bends in the Nine Bend Stream. The path begins at the Tea Plantation Cave (Chadong) and winds past the Clothes Drying Rock (Shai Bu Yan). Bird’s Eye Lookout (Yilan Tai) offers a spectacular view of islands of mountains in a sea of clouds (which Chinese call "The Ends of the Earth")
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Min Yue Kingdom Museum (Chengcun Hancheng Yizhi)
About 35 km south of Wuyi City, south of the 101 highway’s 341 km marker and the railroad track, lies the 2,000-year-old ruins of the Ruins of 2,000-year-old Min Yue Kingdom Palace, south of Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province.Minyue King’s palace.

The 10,000 sq. m palace foundation rises like a lopped off Mayan temple. It once boasted south-facing palatial buildings, east and west gates, side gates, east and west wing rooms, and a 10m x 5m bathing pool.

Minyue Well My companions used the 2,000-year-old well to refill their water bottles. “The water is still pure, Professor Pan, and cures many illnesses!” But I wondered how pure it could be with a constant stream of tourists. Only minutes ago an unfortunate fellow had dropped his eyeglasses down the well, and who knows what had preceded it.

Today, nothing remains of the ancient Min splendor but the great foundation, a few reconstructed walls, outlines of the rooms’ foundations, and a large expanse of grass. Here and there, glass-covered square casements on the ground allow tourists to see the original baked gray tiles, with their geometrical designs.

The MinYue Museum, a castle-looking affair a few hundred meters south of the ruins, has a large mural of peasants adoring the skirted MinYue King, a statue of the mighty man, and some excavated pottery to shed light on how the kingdom went to pot.

It’s worth a stop, but even more fascinating is the marvelously preserved Ming Dynasty Village just a couple of kilometers further up the road, past the ruins...37th generation wuyi resident

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Tea House & Roots Our first stop was the teahouse opened February, 2001, in a house built in 1620. The proud young proprietor, Mr. Zhao Shan Zhong, showed us his Ancestral Records book, and boasted that he was the 37th generation of the line in the middle. He asked about my own roots and was surprised to learn that I had no idea who my great, great grandfather was...

The ancient cobble stone path was awkward, but it beat mud. It did have a narrow six-inch smooth stone path down the middle, monopolized by bicycles and the ingenious one-wheel wheelbarrows that epitomize Chinese ingenuity and practicality.

Wheelbarrow Wisdom It is said General Liang invented ingenious Chinese wheelbarrowwheelbarrows about 1800 years ago. With the center of gravity over the one immense wheel, the user has only to balance and steer the “wooden ox”—unlike western wheelbarrows, in which the user must heft much of the load.

The imminently practical Chinese wheelbarrow transported everything from produce to people, and with only one wheel, the wooden ox easily navigated the rice paddies’ narrow dikes that were South China’s only roads well into the 20th century. Back to top

Nitpicking Tea Pickers A couple dozen people in an old Ancient European wheelbarrow woodcutcourtyard were sorting tea leaves. I vowed I’d never again take tea for granted. It is an amazingly tedious job, sorting and selecting the tiniest, most perfect leaves, and tossing the stems. It’s hard to imagine tea can be so cheap, given the labor behind one pot of the stuff.

While I shot photos, two of the ladies began yelling at one another in the local dialect. Finally, the taller lady dragged the smaller one outside the house, to box her ears I two grannies fighting it out!suspected…

After more fierce arguing, she ran inside and grabbed her victim’s plastic flip flops and hand fan, wrestled with her some more, and finally grabbed her by the back of her shirt and led her, triumphantly, down the street. To the judge? To jail? Wu Guangmin laughed as he explained. “She was simply inviting her next-door neighbor to lunch! Chinese keqi (ceremonial politeness) of course requires her to refuse at least 2 or 3 times—but even I have never seen it carried this far!”

ancient wuyi ferry crossing at start of tea routeGucheng Ferry Behind Gucheng was an old reddish temple to Mazu, the sea goddess. The granny caretaker invited me in and said, “Some foreigner left this hat here. Is it yours?” And here I thought I was blazing new trails....

“Twenty and Seven tally with the doctrine ‘Three times Nine.’ One will be calm and feel moist in the throat and sweet between teeth. It’s a great pleasure to travel and drink the famous tea in the Wuyi Mount.”
...............................................From Wuyi brochure

The Tao of Tea When the Dutch Trading Company first shipped tea from Macao to Europe, back in 1607, they called the blissful brew “Wuyi,” pronounced just like the noise my West Virginian uncles make after swigging home brewed white lightning: Wooyee! Tea doesn’t pack the same punch as that Appalachian ambrosia, but it does have enough caffeine that ancient Chinese medics prescribed it for everything from impotence to palsy.

Chinese, especially Fujianese, take tea seriously. A Taiwanese friend gave me a small canister of tea that set him back $200 US. “Don’t’ waste it on me!” I protested. “I can’t tell Coke from Pepsi, much less $200-a-pound tea from the local fifty-cent variety.”

“You must learn,” he argued, “To savor the bouquet like a fine wine, and allow a few drops to tantalize the tongue, and enjoy the bite and the sweetness that follow the swallow.” So he prepared the elegant Minnan Tea Ceremony, which is the father of the elaborate Japanese version, but simpler. While Chinese seem to “stand on ceremony” regarding all else in life, they never allow ritual to spoil their enjoyment of fine food or tea (or women, judging from their 1.3 billion population).

My friend proffered, with two hands of course, the tiny Minnan teacup, which is little more than a clay thimble, and frustratingly inefficient for someone used to Super Big Gulps and two-handed German steins. I sniffed it dutifully, then downed the cup and smacked my lips. “Good stuff,” I said. My Taiwanese friend sighed in resignation, and probably regretted the waste of good tea on his barbarian friend. But it was not wasted. I served it later to my Chinese guests, who reveled in it.
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Tao of tea Buddhist abbott enlightens us barbariansThe Tea is Within You! Near the large stone statue of Maitreya (Milofu) is the Heavenly Heart Eternal Happiness Meditation Temple (Tianxin Yongle Chansi), Wuyi’s largest Buddhist complex. It was built about 879 A.D. on one of Chinese Buddhism’s eight holiest mountains. The temple’s Abbot expounded for me the spiritual ramifications of tea tasting.

His overview of Buddhism was obviously tailored to his barbarian audience. He said Guanyin has a master’s degree and Buddha a Ph.D., but that no one has yet reached the post doctorate pinnacle of enlightenment.

As the Abbott brewed his beverage he explained, “Some people can’t tell good tea from bad.” Before I couldvolunteer myself for that category he added, “That’s because those people have nothing spiritual about them. A taste for tea cannot be taught or learned. It is in one’s heart.”

I wonder how the Abbott would fare spiritually at Starbucks? ...
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One Size Fits All One size fits all storyA dozen vendors hawking carved stones, glass-cum-crystal necklaces, and miniature bamboo rafts and palm fiber capes besieged us as. We haggled over a mini raft and rain cape, and the granny exclaimed, “You’re great at bargaining! Ok, I’m losing money on this sale—but for the foreign friend…” They turned out to be half the price in town.

No one dickers like the Chinese. Years ago in Longyan, Sue told a street vendor that a sweater was too small. The lady replied, "Bu yao jin! (No problem!) They stretch when you wear them!”
“I don’t know…” Sue said. She tried another but it was too large.
Bu yao jin!” the granny said. “They shrink when you wash them!”

Tea’s Holy of Holies After the gatekeeper ripped our tickets in half and handed us the stubs, we made our way up a narrow stone path winding beside a cold creek that meandered between narrow blackened cliffs covered with moss, ferns and wild azaleas. Little striped fish, like clown loaches, frolicked in the icy creek.

Wuyi’s climate, the rich nutrients in the soil, the narrowness and direction of the valley (strong sun at noon, weak the rest of the day), and the high humidity from the continual runoff have created the perfect environment for growing Fujian’s finest tea.

If you aren't into hiking through surrealistic scenery, you can pretend to be a Mandarin and be borne by quaintly clad Chinese on a colorful litter. They don’t provide cymbals and shouting attendants cracking whips to clear the path ahead, though I suppose you could pay extra for it....

Big Red Robe We crossed the creek on small stones, passed a small Chinese pavilion (for small Chinese tourists?), and entered an ancient gate that warned, “No Smoking!” because the three bushes within are the planet’s sole source of Big Red Robe tea, and irreplaceable.

Many legends explain the origin of the name “Red Robe.” One claims that monkeys helped the kind monks of Tianxin temple to pick the best leaves from the highest branches. The Emperor owned the monkeys, so they wore red robes, and clamoring through the tea bushes they resembled bright red flowers. Another legend claims an imperial official sent to supervise tea picking hung his red robe in the tree and joined in the picking himself.

The three Big Red Robe bushes originally grew wild on top of the mountain, but centuries ago slid halfway down and have clung there since. All other Red Robe bushes descend from these three, and are called Little Red Robe.

Big Red Robe bushes are never watered, so the flavor varies year to year, depending upon the mineral content and the weather. The flavor is flowery some years and milky others. Little Red Robe tea, I was told, almost always has a somewhat milky flavor—though the flavor improves as the bushes age (and the higher the elevation, the better the flavor).

Since less than a pound of Big Red Robe is grown annually, it is usually reserved for Big Red Bigwigs, at the 2nd Canton Tea Fair in 2002, a mere 20 grams of this most famous of Oolong teas was auctione-for 180,000 Yuan! That’s more than we spent on Toy Ota! (That’s a bit over 400,000 USD a pound.) I’ll probably never taste Big Red Robe, and I wouldn’t appreciate it if I did, but Wu Guangmin did give me some Shuixian Hong Cha (Narcissus Black Tea). “It’s very rare,” he said. “It is grown in the nature preserve, and only 20 pounds were picked this year. It was roasted with wood, not coal, with a layer of stone over that, so it preserves the taste of stone and wood.” That was the second time someone had raved about the flavor of wood and stone. I wonder if Chinese ever make stone soup?

Later, Wu Guangmin brewed up a pot of Narcissus Black Tea, and I sniffed the bouquet, and rolled it around my tongue, and sipped slowly from the Minnan tea thimble. It still tasted the same to me as the 50 cent stuff--but I’ll never tell that to the Buddhist Abbott.
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beautiful water curtain falls at wuyi  mountainWater Curtain Falls (Shuilian Dong) Our guide gave Shannon and Matthew bottles of mineral water and said, “Refill them from any spring along the road. They’re all pure!” Then she asked, “Anyone need to sing a song?” Karaoke in the mountains?! It turned out this was a local euphemism for going to the bathroom—so I sang several stanzas.

An elderly couple at the Water Curtain Falls’ base charged two Yuan for photos with their pigeons. The granny placed corn in the boys’ hands, blew her whistle, and the birds shot into the air, flying about madly like the birthday party scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” It took several whistles to get a photo with a bird in each hand, and I was bushed, but a bird in each hand is better than twenty in the bush.

The so-called Water Curtain looked more like runoff from a gigantic leaky faucet than a curtain, but the sheer granite cliff, the pond, and the tropical plants gave the frail falls an exotic setting. Shannon and Matthew pose with birds

The Hall of Three Sages, who in their day dispensed thymely advice, is halfway up the trail to the right of the pond, was built in 1147 as a memorial hall for Master Pingshan, and renovated in 1923. Folk from all over Fujian flock here to pay homage to Liuzihui (1101-1147), Liufu (?-1181, student of Liuzihui), and Zhuxi, who founded Neo-Confucianism in his “Wuyi Institute.”

Wuyi Nature Preservation Area The following morning we headed for the Wuyi Nature Museum on lofty Huanggan Mountain. A bus makes the trip daily from Wuyi’s Short Distance Bus Station (Duantu Chiche Zhan), and several buses a day go to the lower areas. Laowai need passports to enter, as this is a UNESCO preservation area.

The road was so bumpy I had to clutch the seat in front with both hands. I finally said, “I’m moving to the front of the bus.”
“Good idea,” the driver said. “The bad road’s coming up.”

The museum’s vast display of stuffed animals, birds, reptiles, and mounted insects more than made up for my disappointment. Tourists remarked, “Oh yes, this one is good to eat. That one is too. But that one is so expensive—$2000 yuan each!”
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Sue monkeying around with the monkeys at the Wuyi Mountain Natural Preservation Area  Monkey Business The monkeys heard our bus approach and raced down the mountainsides to the parking lot to snatch tourists’ peanuts. One man saved his entire breakfast for the simians: fried eggs, tofu, fruit, and pickled vegetables. But they wouldn’t touch a bit of it. Maybe he should have offered them chopsticks as well...

Worker Exploitation A few years back it was reported that a tiny 7-ounce mouse-sized Chinese monkey had been rediscovered in Wuyi Mountains. A 12th century Chinese scholar supposedly trained these miniature monkeys to prepare ink, pass brushes, and turn pages. But it was sheer exploitation of labor, because the monkeys slept in tiny pots and worked for peanuts.

Animal Rescue Restaurant The Animal Rescue Center, just up the road from the Museum of Natural History and across a small wooden bridge, housed a peacock and a few other small creatures, including a blind bear and a bear missing a paw. Maybe the paw went to the restaurant across the lawn, where we had a lunch of wild veggies and creatures. So many tourists exclaimed, “Wah! Those are good to eat!” that I wondered if the Rescue Center wasn’t a joint venture with the restaurant, but the restaurant manager assured me, not without a touch of regret, I think, “No protected species on our menu!” ancient dragon kiln

YulingTing Song Dynasty Dragon Kiln Just west of Wuyi, two long narrow buildings snake up facing hillsides like dragons—which in fact they were built to resemble. Dragon kilns originated in south China about 2,000 years ago, and this site is all that remains of two of the Song Dynasty’s longest dragon kilns (2m by 113m). Shards of Song Dynasty porcelain and pottery molds are so numerous that locals use them to build field walls.

The extinct dragons lie with heads at the base of the hill and tails at the top. Each kiln had a fire bore, kiln house, and smoke outlet, and could produce about 80,000 porcelain pieces at a shot. The wares were fired at 1100? to 1200? for forty hours or so, and cooled for another 24 before they could be taken out to produce the exotic gold-accented black-glazed porcelain so prized by the Japanese and Koreans.

Potters A potter demonstrated his craft outside the Ceramic Café, which is by the pond and the wooden waterwheel. He had two electric potter’s wheels, but the power was out that day, so he tried his hand at the stone potter’s wheel, which didn’t even have a foot pedal and had to be spun by hand.

But every time he’d spin the wheel with one hand, the other hand would knock his creation out of round, and after scrapping the piece three times he finally gave up, explaining, “I’m used to the electric wheel.”

He should have fired it anyway, and sold it to Americans who think ‘handmade pottery’ necessarily implies misshapen mugs with big handles and designs painted by a child who has yet to finish his first coloring book.
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ancient xiamei town wuyiXiamei Village Some of Wu Guangmin’s most prized black and white photos of classic Chinese architecture were taken in the farming village of Xiamei, 13 km east of Wuyi City on the road to Wufu (which means “Five Husbands”). But Guangmin was as shocked as I when a Xiamei farmer at the village gate demanded, “20 Yuan admission—each!”

Wu Guangming flashed his Press pass but the man said, “I don’t care. Everyone pays 20 Yuan to enter.”
“I’ve been here many times!” Mr. Wu protested. “My articles and photos put Xiamei on the map!” And Mr. Wu and his wife strode past the angry farmer with my sons and I in tow. What a contrast from the usual, “Come in! Have some tea!” Guangming was embarrassed, and apologized. “This is rare. People here aren’t like that.” And he was right. Except for one granny who yelled, “No ticket, no photos!” the rest of the village treated us like long lost relatives divvying up the inheritance.

Bony is Beautiful? One ancient courtyard had a board displaying news articles and photos that Wu had taken about women with bound feet. “It was a horrible practice,” a man said.
“True—but we bound women’s entire bodies with corsets,” I said.These Chinese peasant poker players invented the poker face!
“At least that’s behind us now,” he said.
“True,” I agreed. “Nowadays bony is beautiful and women voluntarily starve themselves for fashion.”

Poker Faces and Blacksmiths Half a dozen grandpas playing poker were proof positive that Chinese invented not only playing cards but also the poker face. What expressions! Not even the foreigner snapping photos broke their concentration!

Just opposite the poker game were two blacksmiths, husband and wife, hammering away at red-hot steel. “I do it the same way as my forefathers before me,” the man said proudly.
blacksmith in wuyi He was bearded and wiry, but strong, but his wife wielded the bigger hammer of the two (though she wasn’t bearded). They proudly let me photograph them at work, even suggesting various poses, and stoking up the flames for better effect. And they didn’t charge me 20 Yuan for it.

Chinese worked with iron and steel 2000 years before Columbus discovered America. By 400 B.C. (1600 years before Europeans) they used cast iron to make everything from tools and weapons to pots, pans, and utensils (and even a solid cast-iron pagoda, in Luoning, Shandong Province!). By the second century B.C. they’d figured out how to make steel from cast iron....
snake doctor
Snake Doctor It’s no surprise that the Snake Kingdom of Wuyi has a Snake Garden (Dazhu Gang Sheyuan) boasting over 10,000 snakes within its 6,000 sq. m domain (entrance fee cheerfully refunded if you’re fatally bitten). It’s also no surprise that Snake Doctors like Xiamei Village’s Master Wang are in high demand.

Master Wang’s uncle taught him the ancient Chinese herbal cures from a dusty old tome, and since Wang is illiterate, he memorized them by rote. There’s no telling what kind of pharmaceutical treasures are in the man’s head—though he admits to some close calls at times. “Sometimes, I have to care for patients 8 or 10 days, especially if they’ve been bitten by a five stepper or a bamboo viper. If they’d have gone to the hospital, they’d have probably died, or at least lost an arm or a leg.”
“People lose arms and legs all the time in American hospitals,” I said.
“Really?” he asked, in astonishment.
“Really,” I said. “Hospitals cost an arm and a leg.”

Snake Oil For Chinese, snakes are as much boon as bane, because virtually every part of the snake is considered medicinal, and capable of miraculous cures. In the Tourist District’s Bite and Sup Street, you can find shops selling an unimaginable variety of snakes, some pickled in alcohol in jars of various sizes, and others coiled and dried.
My first intro to snake medicine was in Taiwan, when aborigines milked a cobra’s venom into a glass of rice whisky and gave it to me to drink. “Makes you potent!” they said.
“No thanks. Don’t need it,” I said.
“Ohhhh!” They said. But they pressed the issue, and so I drank it, knowing that it wouldn’t harm me unless I had cuts or ulcers in my esophagus or stomach. I probably developed ulcers waiting to find out.

Snake flesh and internal organs all have their uses. The gall bladder alone can sell for as much as $1,000 US, depending upon the type and size of the snake. Gall bladders alleviate arthritis pain, and are usually taken with alcohol, which speeds the snake essence through the body...

Snake penises, soaked in herbs and liquor for 2 to 3 years, are sold for a small fortune as a Chinese version of Viagra, though more sophisticated snake experts claim the benefit comes not from the penises but from the herbs and liquor they’re soaked in.
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Snake Oil Magical Wine It’s a wonder there are any snakes left in China, given that this has been going on for a few thousand (plus 14) years. Back in the Tang Dynasty, Liu Zong Yuan wrote about the Yi snake ("strange snake"), which was black, with a white stripe:
“Yishe can recuperate palsy, sprain and swelling, eliminate dead muscles and kill harmful germs. So imperial physicians began to collect Yishe twice a year following imperial edicts. People who can catch Yishe are in great demand, and since they can hand in snakes in lieu of taxes, many people of Yong Zhou risk their lives to do it.”
Today, a Hunan firm produces “Yishe Magical Wine,” which, among other things, cures......

Wuyi City Sprawling Wuyi City is, on the surface at least, not much different from thousands of other modern Chinese cities—though there is a marvelous little street along the riverfront, lined with ramshackle old wooden buildings, and the 100-meter TuQing wooden covered bridge (circa 1187).
But most of Wuyi’s action is in the newly developed Wuyi National Tourism and Holiday Area, 11 km south of the city proper (or improper, late at night). On “Bite And Sup Street,” you can shop and eat to your heart’s content.

bite and sup streetBite & Sup Street’s sidewalk restaurants serve up every dish you can imagine and a few you’d rather not. Breakfast features tiny pickled onions, sad dried minnows, rice congee, zongzis (triangular bamboo-wrapped sticky rice with veggies or meat), deep-fried spring rolls, miniature Chinese steamed buns and dumplings—and of course the old standby of hot soy milk and youtiao (deep fried dough sticks).

Bite and Sup Street is best in the cool of the evening when the brightly illuminated stalls showcase colorful displays of vegetables, fruits, and assorted carcasses—some of which are still alive and kicking in cages and aquariums.

Rabbit, pheasant, miniature mountain deer, king cobra—Bite and Sup Street is Wuyi’s best zoo. My favorites included the wild mountain veggies, mushrooms and fungi, and the sweet ‘n sour potatoes, though the tofu and snails weren’t bad either. One exquisite treat you can’t miss: Tempura Tea! These are delicate little Rougui Tea leaves, battered and deep fried. Only in Wuyi can you have your tea and eat it too!

Wuyi Handicrafts—the Best Buys in Fujian The shops around Bite and Sup Street offer the best bargains in Fujian on teas, mushrooms, funguses, and Chinese handicrafts. The locally made wood, bamboo, and snakeskin products go for 3 times the price even in neighboring Sanming.

Our favorites include the wooden Chinese puzzle boxes with their secret compartments, and the miniature reproductions of Fujian farmers’ hand woven palm fiber capes and hats (which take a couple of days to make and are rapidly giving way to lighter but stifling plastic raincoats).

Antique Alley An abundance of extinguished forebears makes for a bustling antique business in Wuyi. Dealers from all over China come here to buy ancient pottery and carved wooden lattices, which they resell at several times the price in Fuzhou, Xiamen, and Shanghai.

Wu Guangmin introduced me to Mr. Zhou Gao Ying, one of the few art dealers he trusted. Mr. Zhou had sold antiques out of his home for ten years, parlaying his profits until he was able to open Gu Yue Xuan. He showed me some marvelous Tang and Song Dynasty wares, and when I asked how to tell the real from the fakes, he admitted, “It’s hard to tell. But these came from local graves, so I know.”

A grave undertaking, to be sure—but the only reliable way of insuring you’re getting the Real McCoy and not a clever copy. Even then, caveat emptor. Back in 1932, a Fuzhou Laowai, Malcolm Farley, warned the wannabe antique collector:
“Since about five years [1927] ago the demands of the museums of the West and Japan ever increasing for these wares and the supply diminishing somewhat, certain potters in the north, notably in Honan set out to meet this demand artificially and have succeeded so well in doing so that now when even a collector of some acumen buys one of these Han and Tang pieces he is not sure of whether he is getting one a thousand or two thousand years old or one made within the past five years or two months. I mean this literally. The reproductions are so perfect, so well done as to deceive the expert often and it is hardly to be doubted that almost any museum may possess some fakes along side of genuine specimens in their cases.”

Back to topducks covering the whole road
Wuyi Mountain Villa Wuyishan City has 18 travel agencies, over 130 hotels, and 10,000 beds, so plenty of room and board. Literally, because the beds are generally about as soft as a board. My favorite hangout is where the Queen of the Netherlands stayed: the Wuyishan Villa (Wuyishan ShanZhuang), which has been included in a book on the world’s best architecture. Great rooms, excellent food, and some of the best service we’ve seen in China. Try it! But like the Queen of the Netherlands, you’ll have to go Dutch.

Homeward Bound Our Wuyi sojourn ended, we bade many new friends farewell and piled into Toy Ota for the trip home.
Just out of town, and just beyond the “Toll—Run Slowly!” sign, a flock of ducks blocked the road.
“How many ducks you got?” I called out.
“Oh, about five hundred” the duck herder said proudly, as he swished his pole, slowly, to clear a way for me to pass.
“Bu yao jin!” I yelled back. “No worries, Mate!”

elderly couple carving rootsRoots About the 297.7 kilometer marker we came to a village that specializes in root sculptures....

And on to Sanming.....




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