Last month I went Daxu with a group from UK. Actually they only plan to stay in Guilin
for two nights with full activities, but the second day the Li River
got big flooding, the cruise was canceled. People can't stay in the hotel doing nothing. So I recommended they go to visit the Ancient Town of Daxu
Daxu is my favorite place, where only 16km from Guilin. I like Daxu because you can see something very original there. I like those old residential houses with beautiful wood carving, I like the old stone paved street, what I like most are those people who are masters of traditional workmanship, and especially they still keep it. Even though they become few and few every time I went there, I found.
Here I tell you a story of my old friends. Uncle Cheng was a native of Daxu who made palm tree products, such as rope, raincoat, and bed mattress. Now it is hardly can see some of those palm products. But in old time it was very popular, palm tree skin rope, farmers use it to pack firewood and rice stalks. The palm tree raincoats farmers wear it can do works outside in rainy days, in early spring time of busy season. It also was important for fish man and boat people. Palm tree mattress is very healthy for people. It's different from plastic products, it is airy, well-ventilated. It can stop the wet air to your body from ground floor close to the earth.
Uncle Cheng started to do this job when he was 14, till he retired at 84. I am lucky to buy one rain coat from uncle Cheng before he retired. It's a real masterpiece, one of my best collections. Uncle Cheng was so proud of his job; you can feel that from his working, every procedure, from comb the palm hair to weaving. He was so concentrated to every procedure of work. Many people from old generation love their jobs, and they keep them for life time. It reminded me something that mother taught me when I was a child: "A skill of workmanship is better than 1000kg of gold." A good skill workmanship you learn, nobody can steal from you. That's true, in this society, everybody wants to make money fast and easy, every one want to be manager. I think every workman should be respected, especially for those who still keep jobs of traditional workmanship.
After retirement, Uncle Cheng was not used to his new life very much. I often met him on the street, sometimes stand there to watch people play card, but he never join them, sometimes he sit there to hear people chat. Several years ago, I found Uncle Cheng's hair was getting black when I went Daxu. He became a part of Daxu in my heart. Till last year I heard that Uncle Cheng was passed away. Short time after that, his old house and workshop was rented to a vendor for souvenir. People come and go, nobody remember this place ever for a man who was very good at palm tree skin making. The raincoat that I got from Uncle Cheng is hanging on the wall of my sitting room, thanks Uncle Cheng, you leave something beautiful to us, we are missing you.
My another friend, doctor Wen, his clinic is on the middle street of Daxu, close to the old stone bridge, the Bridge of Longevity, which was built in Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Doctor Wen's clinic is always full of patients, especially in the market day. Patients come to see doctor Wen, they are from villages around, some of them even from remoted mountain area where takes half day to get there by bus. People trust doctor Wen, because his good reputation, it accumulated for five generations. Doctor Wen is the fifth generation of this job; he has done it for more than 70 years. His professions are rheumatism and fracture of bones, and well known for it. Doctor Wen's therapy is unique from others. He embrocates his home made medicated liquors first, then uses some bamboo tube cupping around the affected region, after a few minutes, you can see some dark blood are sucked out. Normally patients feel much better after treatment. Farmers always to bring something extra home, like a bottle of liquor or a plaster, and the charge won't surprise the farmers.
Doctor Wen's another special is, sometimes he uses "mao shan" with therapy, "mao shan" is a kind of witchcraft, was popular in the countryside. In the old time, especially for those minority people, I found that from one of his therapy. He read something towards the region after cupping. A friend of mine was a native told me: he is using "mao shan" to help with.
Witchcraft sounds ridiculous, especially in this information time. But I believe it, because I have seen it by my own eyes, and even I almost became a witch doctor myself. It happened long time ago, during the Culture Revolution when I was in the countryside, I knew a man through several drinks. We called him "brother long". He was about 40's, he was not a lucky man, his social status was from bottom, he was a land lord before liberation (1949). But he was a man with rich life experience, he was a "kongfu" master, and an herb medical doctor as well. Of course most of knowledge was not from book and school. Brother long became my good friend; we were getting closed, till one day we stayed together after some drinks, ha said something seriously to me. He wanted me to be his successor and taught me "mao shan". He said he knew three kinds of "mao shan", the first one was catching fish, you could be taken to any pools or rice fields, then you know how many fish in that place, and easy to catch all of them. But you should put the last one fish back. The second one was stealing chicken, you can steal chicken anywehere, they won't move and cry. The third one is what brother long wanted to teach me, and also I was interested, that was "mao shan" therapy. It was called "fu shui", which means charm water. I saw how brother long used "fu shui" for his operation, one day when I was in his clinic, a man who got a very bad bone fracture was send there. Brother long held a bowl of water, another hand stretch out with two fingers, made a shape like a sword, wrote something on the top of bowl, and he hold of a mouth of water, then spray to the affected place. I could hear the sound of bone-rubbing when brother long had his synthesis. At the moment the patient felt no pain at all. So it plays the role like narcosis, it was real amazing!
The pity was when I went home to ask my mother to get her permission, she didn't agree of that. She said "it's not simple as you seen." Yes, if you learn it, your whole life will be guaranteed. But you can't change your job in the future since you decided, even you won't have children if you use it too much. I gave it up after I heard my mother's warning. I like children better than making money. Yes otherwise I have another kind of life, became a witch doctor, instead a tour guide.
Anyway, these was a big change in 40 years, many old people disappearing with old culture, we just can do nothing about it. The only thing is missing them.