The Northern Shaanxi of China

                                                                                              

    Shaanxi province is located in the central part of China. According to the landform, Shaanxi can be divided into 3 parts: the north part is characterized by loess plateau; the central part is dominated by the plain; the south part is mainly mountains and valleys.

    The north part of Shaanxi used to be bleak and poor, for its unique geographic site. It is bordered by the Yellow River and shares the border with Gansu , Ningxia , Mongolia and Shanxi . In the north side, there is a desert stretching to Mongolia. The wind from Mongolia brings yellow desert dust and dirt which have been piling up for centuries, gradually developing into today’s loess plateau. It determines the earth dry and infertile. The hills were bare , only plants which can tolerate the drought are adaptable here. The typical plants are grass and desert willow. Since the wind blows constantly and the soil and water can not be retained, there are crossed lines and various sized gorges in loess plateau. The sunlight here is intensive scorching the already cracked ground, but is suitable for the plants preferring the sun. The agriculture here is abundant in millet, soybean, potato, sweet potato, sorghum, red dates and sunflower. Coal and oil were found under the ground, but left little now. The transport here used to be donkeys which were very helpful for carrying foods and goods;now there are roads built by government from villages to towns, so various vehicles you can see run on the road: tractors, motorcycles, minibuses and private cars.

 

    The people here, not the young or citizens, I mean the typical northern men, especially the village seniors who are survived from those old days .They are rough, hard-working and endurable farmers, working on the yellow earth and raising flocks of sheep on the yellow loess plateau from dawn till night; they are the creatures , simple and sleek, kind and mean. Their sunburned faces are crawling deep and shallow lines which left by the ruthless time and nature. They usually wear a white scarf around their heads, which made from towels or a homemade white cloth, not for fashion just out of practical use. Don’t look down these scarves, for they play an important role in daily life: they can be served as protection against the sun and the wind, wiping inspiration, or dusting off the clothes before they go inside the houses, for they are really fond of sitting on the ground, chatting and smoking.

    The houses here are distinct. They are built along with the hillslope and dug into the hill, just like the Hobbits’ holes. All the rooms are on the same floor and the ceilings are arched, tube-shaped. But the inside are not as nice and comfortable as the Hobbits’, only can ensure cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They’re called cave dwelling. There is a bed in the kitchen room which is made from bricks linked to the wood-burning stove. The inner side of the bed is empty—a hollow. While the stove is working, the smoke will pass through the hollow to be let out of the room, so the bed will be heated. In winter times, family members all crowd on the bed, eating, playing and sleeping. When the weather gets warmer, they will plug up the hole in the stove, so the smoke has to pass through the other passage and leave the bed cool where people can still eat, play and sleep.

    There are 3 famous folk arts in the north part. One of them is Paper-cut which is familiar to us. Another one is Ansai Waist-drum Dancing. Ansai is a county in Yanan city. As it was a frontier area during the Northern Song Dynasty(960-1127), the stability there is critical. The name of Ansai means to maintain the frontier stable and peaceful and it has been kept since then. The Ansai Drum-dancing was originally performed by the Yellow River tribes to drive away evil spirits and beasts, afterwards as a warning and a dance to assist in battles. Now, it is a folk dancing with drumbeats usually performed by villagers dressed up traditional costumes in festivals. There are also competitions among different villages through out the year. The last is a kind of folk songs called The Rambles in The Sky. It’s a style of folk music of northern Shaanxi. It originally derived from shouting. In the past time, if someone stood on one side of the gorge and saw the other one on the opposite, they could see each other but couldn’t talk to unless yelling. Imagine a young man stands on the loess plateau herding his sheep and sees his lover on the other side, the only way he can do is to belt the deep affection out by words then switching to songs. What a romantic way!Also, people can shout and sing in different moods, not always so loving. So the songs are featured in resonance and melancholy.

    This is one of the songs of The Rambles in The Sky. It’s sang by a famous folk singer in dialect language of northern Shaanxi. For it has no English version, I tried my best to translate the lyrics into English, hoping to help you understand it better.

My Tears Drop On The Desert Willow

The headscarf is as white as the sheep’s belly with three blue lines

It is easy for us to see each other, but difficult to chat

One stand on the one side of  the gorge, and  the other one stand on the opposite

We can’t talk, then let’s wave to each other

I can’t see a village ,I can’t see a man

My tears drop on the desert willow

    This is a famous popular song in 1980s’ about loess plateau. The following are my translation, hoping to help you understand it better.

The loess Plateau

my home is in the loess plateau

strong winds blow through the slope

whatever is northwest wind or southeast wind

they are all my songs   my songs

 (repeat)

no matter how much time passed by

from generation to generation

 my ancestors leave me

leave me to sing songs in the limitless area

and the yellow river running by my side

my home is in the loess plateau

the sun walks through the slope

shinning on my cave dwelling

burning my arms

and my cows follow me  

(repeat)

my home is in the loess plateau

four season winds brush through the slope

no matter it is eight hundred years or ten thousand years

 they are all my songs   my songs

  (repeat)

12 comments

  1. Welcome here, Lena!

    It’s the first time for me to read about Shaanxi, to be honest, I don’t know much about China.

    I know that they are hard-working and organized people who care about time and know its value very well, is it right?

    I wish the photos you share were bigger than that so I can understand what the two men are smoking, is it hookah?

    Thank you for this interesting post.

    Matta

    1. Hi, Matta. Nice to meet you and I’m pleased to hear from you!

      Er, I would not say that Chinese people are all hard-working men and the concept of time varies from one person to another. We do have those hard-working men ,but in your country, or in other countries, we also can see the figures of hard-working men, right?  Though we are shaped by different culture, I think human nature ,no matter where you are , is very alike. Being diligent or lazy, organized or disorganized, it depends on the individual.

      And thanks for your advice, I will learn it by heart.

      ps: The two men are smoking tobacco. It’s smoked in a pipe long-stemmed pipe. In the past, men would stick it in his belt. Then wherever he went, he could not only spare his hands ,but could smoke whenever he liked. It’s rarely seen now, but in some remote countries , some seniors are still smoking it ,for it’s cheap.

  2. Hello, Lena.

    I’m glad to meet you on this website. You don’t seem to be new on this site because your writing style and alignment of photos & inserting audio files make me wonder that you have been here for a while. 🙂

    Anyway, It’s an interesting post to learn about your culture. Those photos are breathtaking and lovely. I like those architectures as well.

    You mentioned about the Paper-cutting art, Is that Origami?

     

  3. Hi, nice to meet you,too. Thank you for your commendation. I just spent some time and figured it out. It did take me some time ! ha^^

    Paper-cut is a decorative art. It can be pasted on the walls,windows, doors, mirrors. Paper cutting is all made by hand. It has many methods to cut paper. The simplest way is to fold the paper and then cut with a pair of scissors. It depends much on space imagination and skill, for you have to design it in your mind,like how to fold the paper, how many times you  should fold,etc. You can’t make mistakes during the process,or the work would fail.

  4. Suggestions – Part 1
    (Parenthetical numbers refer to corresponding notes at the end of this comment.)
    (red = inserted; green = relocated; strikeout = deleted)

    —–

    Shaanxi Province is located in the central part of China.  According to the topography (or terrain) landform, Shaanxi can be divided into 3 parts: the northern part is characterized by the Loess Plateau, the central part is dominated by the plain, and the southern part is mainly mountains and valleys.

    The northern part of Shaanxi used to be bleak and poor, [for its unique geographic site](3). It is bordered by the Yellow River and shares the border with Gansu, (1) Ningxia, Mongolia, (5) and Shanxi (is this Shaanxi?).  In the north side, there is a desert stretching to Mongolia.  The wind from Mongolia brings yellow desert dust and dirt, which have been piling up for centuries, gradually developing into today’s Loess Plateau. It determines makes the earth dry and infertile.   The hills are were bare; only plants which can tolerate the drought can survive are adaptable here. The Typical plants are grass and desert willow.  Since the wind blows constantly and the soil and water cannot (4) be retained, there are crossed lines and varioussized gorges in the Loess Plateau.  The sunlight here is intensive and scorches the already cracked ground, but is suitable for the plants that preferring the sun.  The agriculture here is abundant in millet, soybeans, (8) potatoes, sweet potatoes, sorghum, red dates, (5) and sunflowers.  Coal and oil were found under the ground, but there is very little left little now.  The transport here used to be by donkeys, which were very helpful for carrying foods and goods;now there are government-built roads built by government between from villages and to towns, so various vehicles you can be seen running on the roads: tractors, motorcycles, minibuses, (5) and private cars.


    Notes

    1. Do not put a space before punctuation marks like commas and periods.  Put a space after punctuation.  I prefer two spaces after a period at the end of the sentence to improve readability.
    2. We say “in the north” but “on the north side“.
    3. Vague.  If this phrase is trying to explain WHY the northern part is bleak and dry, it needs clarification.
    4. “Cannot” is one word, not two.
    5. In a series (A, B, C, and D), always add the comma after the ‘C’.  This is called the “Oxford comma”.  While the use of the Oxford comma is optional, I highly recommend always using it because there are some cases where omitting it can change the meaning entirely.
    6. “the” is specific and is normally used when (1) there is only one, or (2) an item has been previously mentioned and “the” is referring to that item.
    7. The name of a specific thing is called a proper noun and must be capitalized, e.g., the Loess Plateau, Shaanxi Province.
    8. When to something in general terms, we normally use the plural.
    9. If you have questions on the suggestions I made, please ask!  🙂
  5. Suggestions  – Part 2

    The people here, not the young or citizens, I mean the typical northern men, especially the village seniors who have are (9) survived from those old days.  They are rough, hard-working, (7) and endurable farmers, working on the yellow earth and raising flocks of sheep on the yellow Loess Plateau from dawn till night; they are the creatures , simple and sleek, kind, (7) and mean.  Their sunburned faces are crawling with (8) deep and shallow lines, which have been (2) left by the ruthless time and nature.  They usually wear a white scarf scarves (1) around their heads, which are (2) made from towels or a homemade white cloth, not for fashion but (3) just out of practical use.  Don’t look down at (4) these scarves, for they play an important role in daily life: (5) they can be serve as protect against the sun and the wind, be used to wipe perspiration, or be used to dust off their clothes before they go inside their houses, for they are really fond of sitting on the ground, chatting, and smoking.


    Notes

    1. Multiple men, each with their own scarf, means multiple scarves.
    2. Passive voice is needed.
    3. Conjunction is needed.
    4. Phrasal verb:  to look down at = to scoff at, to sneer at, to disrespect or scorn
    5. Colon introduces a list.  You have three items.  Parallelism requires that these three items be identically structured => they can protect…, (they can) be used to wipe…, or (they can) be used to dust…
    6. “the clothes” is specific but unclear since no clothes have been mentioned previously.  Using “their clothes” makes it clear which clothes we are talking about.
    7. Oxford comma is highly recommended here.
    8. Phrasal verb:  to be crawling with (some pests or bugs)
    9. Talking about the past, not the present.
  6. Teacher Lee, I really appreciate your time and patience for correcting my article.   Your notes are detailed and help me a lot. Thank you a lot!

  7. Suggestions – Part 3

    The houses here are (1) distinctive. They are built along with the (2) hillside slope and dug into the hill, just like the Hobbits’ holes.  All the rooms are on the same floor, (3) and the ceilings are arched and tube-shaped, (3) but the inside (4) is are not as nice and comfortable as the Hobbits’ holes (5) but only can ensures the homes stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  They’re called cave dwellings. (6)  There is a bed in the kitchen, room which is made from bricks linked to a the wood-burning stove.   The (7) inside inner side of the bed is empty—a hollow.  When While (8) the stove is working, the smoke will pass through the hollow (9) inside of the bed to be let out of the room, so the bed will be heated.  In winter times, family members all crowd onto (10) the bed, eating, playing, (11) and sleeping.  When the weather gets warmer, they will plug up the hole in the stove, so the smoke has to pass through the other passage and leave the bed cool where people can still eat, play, (11) and sleep.

    Notes

    1. Distinct = separate.  Distinctive = noteworthy.
    2. The sloped part of a hillside is called the hillside.
    3. Independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) should be separated by a comma.
    4. “Inside” is singular.
    5. Clearer to add the noun here.
    6. They (plural) => dwellings (plural)
    7. A 3D object usually has an inside and an outside.   A 2D object:  “Inner” = toward the center; “outer” near the outside edge.  A road or flat piece of canvas has an inner side and an outer side.
    8. When => time; while => simultaneous action.  “When” sounds better here.
    9. “Hollow” is usually an adjective, so add a noun (“inside of the bed” after it).
    10. Use into/onto when motion is implied.  They crowd (move) onto the bed.
    11. Oxford comma.
    12. “Kitchen” is the name of the room, so “room” is redundant — omit.
    13. “In winter”, “in the winter”, “during the winter”, or “in the wintertime” — use one of these phrasings.

    Very good!

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