We are in Menghai in Xishuangbanna, southwest China, a farming region, with tropical climate. The women of China have impressed me. I find them friendly, helpful and curious about foreigners. But here are several groups that particularly stand out. One are the women workers. They do manual labor and they physically work very hard. They work in the markets, cooking food, cleaning vegetables, sewing fishing nets. They work on hillsides, often wearing long dresses, carrying bundles of firewood or sugarcane on their backs 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide. Or today, there was a group of women cutting thick steel re-bar with huge heavy shears. Another woman was out in a field in the hot sun. She had planted an entire plot by hand, probably 100 feet by 25 feet with tiny rice seedlings, one at a time. They are sweeping the sidewalks with palm brooms, cooking in food stalls on the streets, carrying huge baskets filled with fruit or riding bicycles stacked with produce. You seldom see a woman idle. Even the most elderly will be sitting peeling vegetables, or taking care of the young children. You do see them driving scooters alone, but they are never the driver if their is a man. Many people smoke in China, but I have yet to see a woman with a cigarette. In this part of China, the men have all adopted western dress, but many woman still wear traditional native dress, purple beaded silk skirts, green woven with gold thread, bright yellow or red embroidered with silk. The fabrics are beautiful. Often an entire group of woman will wear the same pattern head scarves, maybe similar to the old Irish clan tartans. Times are changing in China, but in these rural areas, so much of the old life is still present. And it is a hard life, even in this fertile province.
Another group that stands out, are the young affluent Chinese, who are usually wearing make up, dressed in short-shorts with tights and high boots with very high heels. Usually they wear lots of jewelry, carry a large flashy handbag and often wear a leather cowboy hat. They look very fashionable, but I wonder if they are comfortable. The pavement is often uneven, and they seem to have difficulty walking. Patrick said, it is almost like they exchanged bound feet for stiletto heels. Posing for photos and dressing up in costumes is frequently done. The ‘V’ or ‘peace sign’ means ‘you are having a great time’ in China! Rah Rah! And you see it in many photos. Also, when a couple are married, they rent bridle clothes to have their photos taken. The clothes they are actually married in are quite different, not the traditional white gown and tuxedo.
They are many other groups of Chinese women, with differences between those in the cities, in the tourist areas and in the rural counties. Most are well dressed, soft spoken, very polite and sometimes a little shy or nervous around tall caucasians. But a ‘Ni hao’ and a smile, brings out their beauty and sometimes a giggle.