That title sounds considerably more ponderous than this blog might merit. But I did want to take the time to post some pictures of the houses in the villages along the road into Bin Yu Gou. One of the things I like a lot about traveling out in the countryside is getting to see how the people live. While I’ve been out of the cities many times, my trip last November to the temple in Haicheng was first time I was really off the road – driving down dirt lanes between tall corn sheaves and stacks of dried bamboo. Forage for the animals and fuel for the homes stored up to get everyone through the hard northern winter.

But while the farmyards and the fields are interesting to me, it’s the architecture that I find most fascinating. Stone houses with those canonical Chinese roofs, upturned on the corner and paved with shiny red or blue tiles. Most houses have a gate that encloses an inner yard, home for the small animals and whatever vehicles the dwellers might own. The walls are always brightly decorated with signs and posters bearing characters placed there to bring luck and fortune to the owners. Depending on the season, plants and ears of corn might be drying on the roof. Geese and chickens run loose up at down the tiny farm lanes that are almost always lined with flowers, as the Chinese decorate their fields with bright splashes of color wherever room permits. Once in a while you’ll find a house that has a huge tangle of pumpkin vines covering the eaves, the ripening gourds hanging down over the edge. There are so many little details to see. I stopped a half dozen times, getting wet as it was now raining again but enjoying each little farm for what it had to offer. Often there are four or five individual dwellings attached side by side forming a long block. They share so much of the same rural character that you expect from farmers everywhere, yet they are distinctly Chinese.

Heading down the valley from the park I asked Ben to indulge my wish to take some photographs of the houses we’d passed on the way in. We made many stops and even went off road on some muddy tracks – the beauty of a 4×4 in the countryside. It was raining hard and I got pretty wet but the pictures were worth it to me. And some of the things we saw defied our city-person imagination. Like the long bamboo mat covered huts, drying or providing shelter for something. One suggested silk worms, another mushrooms. We’ll never know as there was no one to ask. Instead we went away pondering long shelves holding what looked like baguettes. I doubt though that that is what they were.