San Yue Jie

1-San Yue Jie GateEach year, our local town, Dali, hosts an event called 三月节 (or “San Yue Jie” which literally means “3rd full moon festival”).  Because it is based on the lunar calendar, this festival is usually held in late April or early May.  For over 1,000 years, people from across China and neighboring countries like Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam and Tibet* have made the trek to Dali for this annual event!  Today, over 1M people come to Dali for this event each year.
Historically, this was the time when people from the region’s villages gathered to buy and sell handmade crafts, tools, Chinese medicine and other special items that would last for the next year.  One source says this is the largest fair of its kind in all of China.
This year, I managed to attend the opening ceremony which features a variety of local minority songs and dances, including the traditional Chinese dragon dance.  One of the things that makes this type of festival special to me is the realization that most of these dancers are local parents, daughters, sons, siblings, shopkeepers, farmers and students.  These are our neighbors!
Horse races are also a big draw each year and this year I went on Day 1 (which features much better horses than Day 2).  With all these people coming to town from all over the SW part of China and beyond, it’s a great opportunity for people-watching.
Rather than write too much more about this event, I’ll share some of this year’s pics in a photo-essay format.  Hope you enjoy!

Opening ceremony crowd


After watching this officer for an extended period, I concluded he was genuinely serious about giving his very best to the job of providing public security.  Impressive, since crowd control in China can be a seemingly impossible task!


These are not “costumes” per se.  They are traditional ethnic minority clothing, still worn by many local minorities.  These are local Bai ladies.


My favorite minority dress at this event.  So colorful!



Dragon ladies waiting patiently for the official start.


Local Bai ladies having fun with their dragon dance!




I thought the umbrella and flowers really completed these men’s pretty outfits!


Boys from the “hood”


Boys all lined up for their dance.


My guess: beauty queens for the event.


And the winner is…?!


What’s a big event without the local VIP’s?!


Even after a long event, these local ladies were willing to pose for pics…thanks!


Modern-day Zacchaeus!




This little girl was so tired and bored while waiting for the event to begin.  I watched as she tried SO many emotions and distractions to deal with the long wait!



Couldn’t resist sharing 2 pics of this cute girl!


At times, she seemed fascinated with her new balloon!


So glad these ladies were willing to stop and allow me to take their photo.  Thanks!


What would a fair be without a clown making balloons!


Such a sweet granddaughter just sitting on the curb with her grandpa.


This lady was very friendly, did not mind me taking her picture and even happy to chat!





Young muslim girl…she seemed to have such a gentle, quiet spirit.


Look, an “old-fashioned” selfie without a stick!


I watched this man for a long time, as he stood near me…likely waiting for family or friends.


It took a long time to get a picture of this elegant lady…and it was worth the wait as the camera captured her having a friendly banter with a man who seemed to her husband.


Too bad this photo could not capture this woman’s walk…not to mention the stories I’m sure she could tell of living in China over the past 65+ years.



Even in a crowd of thousands, it would have been difficult not to notice this striking man walking by!



Not sure “who” or “what” she sees…just glad it’s not me!



The photo that almost got me in big trouble!


The photo that saved me:  June with her husband (they are from LA!)


Entrance gate to the horse races


Crowd-watching at the horse races…



Parting shot of the entrance gate to San Yue Jie


This view tells you this is “Bai country”…more on that later!

In case you’re interested, there are two leading versions of the historical origin of San Yue Jie.  The following story is the most popular among locals today:
“Once upon a time, a young fisherman near Er Sea married Third Princess of Dragon King.  On March 15, the moon was round and bright.  The Princess looked at the moon, and remembered the Yue Jie held by Chang E.  Therefore, she and her husband went to Yue Jie by riding a dragon.  She liked all the goods on the moon, but she couldn’t buy them.  The couple made up their mind to hold a Yue Jie of their own at the foot of the Diancang Hill, so that the civilians could buy anything they liked.  Subsequently, they planted a tree on the slope of the Zhonghe Hill and the fair was held every March 15.”

*NOTE:  Today, Tibet is an Autonomous Region under Chinese government authority.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

Ancient Chinese Secret – Part 3

Chinese Pharmacy

My local Chinese Pharmacy

I am the son of an independent Texas pharmacist.  As a young boy, I spent many hours behind the counter at our drugstore watching as my father and his partner counted out pills and compounded drugs.

Fond memories!

Self Serve Rx Records

Searching through Self Serve Rx Records

During a recent return visit to my Chinese doctor (and medicine shop), I learned more about how the system here actually works:

First, the queue begins forming at 6:00 AM, each day.  We arrived before 7:00 AM and were still #10 in line!  Phone reservations are accepted beginning at 8:00 AM (when they open), but only about 10-15 slots are reserved for call-in patients, and only for that day.  Those 15 slots are usually gone by 8:10 AM.  In other words, the best strategy is just show up…early!

Then, you search (self serve) through the handwritten Rx records (in Chinese, of course) to find your previous prescription – no computerized records!

Follow-Up Consult

Follow-Up Consult

After a follow-up consult with the doctor, he often adjusts your prescription slightly and his assistants use an Abacus to tally the ingredients (no calculators), then hand scales are used to measure out each ingredient.

Here’s a fun video clip that captures the process:

Almost takes me back to those happy days at Longhorn Drug!

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2015.  All rights reserved.

Ancient Chinese Secret – Part 2

IMG_1860 - Version 2

Chinese medicine requires much more personal interaction than modern medicines.  It’s not simply a matter of taking a pill after a meal, or just before bedtime.

First, there is a strong visual and aromatic interaction with the medicine!

My own personal Chinese medicine (zhongyao) appliance.

My own personal Chinese medicine (zhongyao) appliance.

Then, there is the whole cooking process which involves waiting 30 minutes after each meal then adding water and boiling/simmering the concoction for 30 minutes before drinking.  This process must be repeated (consistently) 3 times per day.

In fact, the cooking process is so tedious that they make a dedicated “Chinese medicine” appliance for making this routine chore a little more convenient.

Finally, there’s the most important part: drinking it!

Cheers!   Ganbei!

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2015.  All rights reserved.

Ancient Chinese Secret

My first traditional Chinese medicine - complete with snake!

My first traditional Chinese medicine – complete with snake!

No, I haven’t gone “native”…but this experience puts me one step closer!  I’ve been experiencing a very strange nerve-related pain in my leg for the past several months.  Basically, it’s like a burning, numb sensation along the outer surface of my lower left leg.  Oddly enough, very strong electrical pulses can be triggered in this same location by simply touching the inside surface of the left leg, just below the knee.

While in Bangkok last month, I saw 2 doctors and had a full EMG test conducted.  None of these efforts produced a diagnosis.  So, after returning to Dali, I paid a visit to a traditional Chinese doctor at a friend’s suggestion.

Traditional Chinese doctor preparing to "check my pulse" (bamai)

Traditional Chinese doctor preparing to “check my pulse” (“Bamai”)

As he sat on one side of his desk, and I sat on the other, this doctor simply monitored my pulse by holding both of my wrists for a couple of minutes.  He had no idea why I was visiting him or any of my medical history.  The first thing he did was ask if I ever have any lower back pain (“yes, occasionally”).  Then, he stated that I was having some pain in my lower left leg!  Seriously.  He said it was caused by my lower back.  He went on to ask about two other chronic health conditions I have experienced.  All of this based on a simple check of my pulse…and with no prompting or input from me.  Wow.

Doctor's Script (Rx)'s even harder to read than some US doctors!

Doctor’s Script (Rx)…it’s even harder to read than some U.S. doctors!

He explained that he could not begin treating the second two conditions until the lower back/leg pain was healed.  At that point, he wrote up a detailed script that included tree bark, snake, cherries, sticks, grass, and a number of other unidentified organic items!

Doctor's assistants assembling the magic ingredients

Doctor’s assistants assembling the special ingredients

His assistants mixed up the ancient remedy and prescribed a couple of specific exercises (including walking backwards for 30-60 minutes per day!).

Words cannot describe the aroma or taste of this medicinal concoction (neither are very pleasant), however, I plan to post a follow-up video that captures my initial experience!  At this point, I’m committed to following his regimen the best I can to see if it actually works.  When it comes to cultural differences, this one is HUGE!

Will let you know how it turns out…

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2015.  All rights reserved.