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  • James Tam 谭炳昌

Xishuangbanna 西双版纳 (2) — Ancient Tea Mountains 古茶園

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Dusk at Jing Mai Shan 景邁山暮色

Inside Jing-Mai Shan (Shan means Mountain) is one of the oldest natural tea plantations in Yunan Province with over 1800 years of history according to Bu Lang Tribe records.

The Bu Lang plant tea trees at the fringe of the forest with minimal disturbance to the flora and fauna, just as their forebears had done for nearly two millennia. To ancient farmers, protecting the natural environment upon which they depend for food and survival is just common sense and self-preservation, not delusional “magnanimity” towards pitiful Mother Earth.

There are no fences or spray painted logos around the tea trees. The farmers recognise which tree belongs to who. The ability to tell trees apart might seem incredible to some, but it’s actually quite easy, provided one has nominal vision and intelligence. 景邁山是雲南最古老的茶園之一。根據布朗族的記錄,大概有一千八百年的歷史。



Lakeside at Jing Mai Shan 景迈山的湖畔风光

We had a fabulous lunch — extremely fresh and well cooked — at a tea chateau.

After lunch, the owner gave a demonstration on how newly picked tea leaves are processed.

However, I was distracted by his boy toying with two dead birds. Watching him squeezing the squashy and feathery carcasses was oddly peaceful and soothing. Though fragile urbanites who prefer their bespectacled children massacring electronic enemies on handheld devices might cringe at the thought.

REALLY good cooking starts with kitchen design... 要弄得一手好菜,先从厨房的设计开始...

First round dehydration is hand-fried 茶是用手炒的

Kneading of fresh tea leaves 揉茶



Little boy with his favourite birds 小朋友和他的两只爱雀

Many people have a beehive at home 很多人都在家里自已养蜂

Terrace Fields Near A Wa Shan 往阿佤山途中的梯田

Woman slightly out of focus 对焦稍微失准的山地妇女

A vigilant roadside vendor 帮妈妈手在公路边摆卖的小姑娘

Organic Childhood 有機童年

A Dai Monk seeking enlightenment through social media 傣族僧人尝试經微信悟道

A Dai stockaded village 傣族寨村

Solar panels are everywhere, making a big difference 寨村四處可見的太陽能

Next stop was A-Wa Shan, where the once headhunting Wa Tribe originated.

After the revolution in 1949, they quit the time-honoured tradition of cutting off others’ heads, in order to keep their own on the neck. I wonder if new-age missionaries who have attained enlightenment through capitalism regard the authoritative ban an infringement on native heritage.

Anyways, sacrificial killing of cows has continued. Their sacred site Long Mo Ye is thronged with bovine skulls affixed to trees and the hillside, creating a bewitching sight. Fortunately, most animal-rightists are from cow eating nations. Had the Wa rite called for the heads of fluffy pooches or purring Siamese, liberal journalists who love all wars and non-human animals might have a field day pointing fingers at “barbaric China”. 下一站阿佤山是佤族的聚居地。佤族一直到1949年還有獵頭的習慣。解放後可能為了保護自己的頭顱,放棄了這個有千多年歷史的傳統。



Totem at the roof of every house 每家每户屋顶上的图腾

Another tribe, the La Hu, have cohabited with the once fierce Wa along Lan Chang River for many centuries. Their ancestors were northern nomads who had migrated southwards eons ago, and settled in the Lan Chang area.

Although La Hu means Tiger Hunter in their language, they are now gentle Chinese hobbits comparing with the spirited Wa. La Hu sway softly in the wind when dancing, celebrating harvest and praising woodchopping lads, whereas the Wa swing their heads wildly, twirling long hair to ferocious thumping of big drums.

Most mountain dwellers tend to be small in stature, and are great singers and dancers. Singing and dancing are still their primary forms of entertainment amidst the foggy hills, even in this age of telecommunication. 與佤族長期在瀾滄江流域共處的民族之一是拉祜族。雖然拉祜是「獵虎者」的意思,但比強悍的佤族要溫純。


A junior Lahu Tribe "Sheng" player 拉祜族的小笙手

Little La Hu Girls 拉祜族小姑娘

La Hu Elderly 拉祜族父老

La Hu father and baby, probably 大概是拉祜爸爸和小寶寶吧

Off-season Lotus Pond 殘荷掠影

Lone survivor 冬日荷塘死剩種

In the middle of busy Jing Hong at the border with Laos is You Ran Tai. The exquisite retreat was designed and built by Swiss biologist Gerard, aka Lao Bo, and his Taiwanese wife Lynn during 2003-2005. They turned a dying rubber plantation into an urban paradise which makes every first visitor “wow!” upon entering.



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