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Thursday, July 26, 2012

About Huan, China (Videos and More)

Today, these videos come from Huan County, Gansu Province. This is the hometown of my best friend, Benjamin Xi.

It is a really great little town nestled in the mountains of southeastern Gansu.

As you can see on this map, it's in that weird little fin that borders Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the southeast of Gansu.

Huan is one of my favorite places because it's one of the places that is pretty much untouched by Western influence, or at least as untouched as it can be. There are no McDonald's, no KFCs, no Pizza Huts, Starbucks, foreign investors, foreign teachers, foreign firms or anything like that. It's a completely Chinese city, and that's cool. Lanzhou is pretty much a Chinese-only city, but the number of foreigners in the city has definitely increased in the past few years. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing - I'm just saying it's a trend. I'm not one to really make that kind of call.

I visited Huan last year as well, and it's still pretty much exactly as I remembered it.  It's still a great place that's way out of the way of most foreigners.

Huan is a very old city, with parts of it dating to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) and before, including this wall.

Amazing, yeah?

 It's crazy, nothing this old stands in America and as someone who studied and has a degree in History, it's beyond amazing to be able to see and touch something that's been around for so long. 

I'm not knocking America for being too young or anything - it just hasn't had the chance to stick around for that long yet.

Seriously though, how cool is that?!

One of the things Huan is famous for is its embroidery, particularly its handmade insoles. It may not be famous abroad, but in China, Gansu is the home of artful embroidery. This photo on the left is an example of it, although not a great one. Unfortunately I am away from the pair I was given by Ben's mom -- it's much more beautiful than this one. This one's only so-so.

The amazing thing about these is that they're totally made by hand. The firm inside is basically extremely hardened dough (that will never cook again), and the outside white cover is handsewn.

Then the fun begins.

It's all done by needle and thread. One needlestick and colored thread at a time. Ben told me that the pair I was given took about 300 hours of solid work. Wow. 300 hours - imagine putting that kind of time and energy into something that you'll walk on and ruin.

I didn't wear mine. They're too beautiful.

I can't wait to go back again - the people of Huan are hard-working, friendly, very hospitable people. The only complaint I have is that their dialect is hard to understand, but maybe that's because I'm just a white boy who can't speak enough Chinese to understand......


That's about all I have to say about Huan County at the moment - maybe when my friend Benjamin comes to the States, he can write something about his hometown for you guys! Until next time! My comment section is always open for you!

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