The Li River meanders placidly through a huge expanse of what are geologically known as Karst formations - tall irregular limestone protuberances that cheek by jowl thrust straight up out of the earth. Wholly or partially covered with what distantly looks like mossy vegetation they look like the miraculously preserved finely embroi-dered denizens of some ancient kingdom. Seen from a passing boat, they drift by like clouds of earth readily lending themselves to local names like Lion Watching the Nine Horses, Camel Crossing the River, and Yellow Cloth in the Water. As a photographer I have learned of myself that any new landscape is for a while thereby a source of excitement, but it was readily apparent how this astonish-ing realm has remained ever new and a constant source of spiritual refreshment and artistic inspiration for centuries.
At the town of Yangshuo, a “dream within a dream,” one can continue to explore this nourishing land-scape by bicycle, leisurely traversing narrow dirt paths that wind across flat, wonderfully fertile farm land. There are a myriad of crop fields, gardens, oxen, fowl, and fish ponds. Everywhere is the benign, ordered look of cultivation. Farmers pass on foot with an energetic “Ni hao!” or frequently “Hello!.” And everywhere, like stoically meditating giants, loom the fantastic peaks seen only passingly from the river. There is a harmony in this landscape inhabited not by elite aesthetes of old but by the friendly farmers who feed the most populous country on earth.
© David Bartlett/Silver and Ink