#GetAtHome in China: Deep in Hunan Countryside. Writing on the Road Less Traveled

Shanghai, as seen in my previous posts, provided several nice impressions.

Still, I keep saying that Shanghai is not quite China, and there’s a very #GetAtHome reason for that:

I lived in China for 3 years, in Hunan (with a few months in Beijing and in Shanghai), and a lot more of the country and its culture is based on such rural and deeply local circumstances.

The Tourist Problem

The problem with a place like Shanghai is also that it is typically visited/seen in a tourist pursuit.

In the combination of visitor numbers and extraordinary places, only that which is somehow particularly noteworthy stands a chance.

Shanghai Bund at Night, Full of Tourists
The Shanghai Bund, for example…

(That was to be seen with my visits to the different Buddhist temples in Shanghai already, where only the Jing’an Si is much-visited, as it is most easily reached and, well, simply most-visited.)

What really gets you closer to an understanding of a place, though, are the slow and deep impressions.

How to #GetAtHome in a Place

Stay, have a look at special places and ordinary ones, experience life mundane and pedestrian… – Then you have a chance of really getting to know a place and its people, such as the authentic, original China.

That is what I get a good dose of when we visit my wife’s parents and relatives in Hunan.

Rural Hunan. Farm Workers on Break
Where much work is still done by hand, and you just meet ordinary people…

Chances are, of course, that not many people will find a post like the one I’m writing now; we may think and know of googling for Shanghai, but nobody is likely to know anything about Youxian County, let alone Jiubujiang and Jiuxian Lake, “Scenic Area” or not.

It is, more and more, developing into a tourist area, but even that is not for international tourists but rather for day trippers from the nearest town(s), Zhuzhou and maybe, just maybe, Hunan province’s capital of Changsha.

Good news, though: If you are interested in seeing what the China you are not likely to visit on any usual journey or tour looks like, you’re in luck. You have found the right place.

This is China.

This year, we went for both a look at the local market and the fields and streets of the small Hunan town of Jiubujiang, and for some trips into other parts of You County.

Interestingly, these included places we went that TripAdvisor is aware of – but with zero information about them.

When I went to register my short-term residency there again, like a good foreign visitor would, it was also clear enough that the police officer who now manned that station had never before had to do that.

Taihexian Temple Statues
Statues, and a curious visitor, in a temple you’ll learn about

Yes, places in China where you are the first Western visitor to get there do still exist.

Typically, they are small counties.
As in, the size of the smaller US states or European ‘dwarf countries’ like Liechtenstein, with population numbers to match…

First, however, in the next post, let’s just go for a walk around Jiubujiang, Youxian, Hunan.

Out into the fields, past the tourist village’s construction site, up to an aerial view of the landscape, and back into the small town  just as it wakes up early in the morning…

And what's your take?