从十堰站转大巴至竹溪，如今可走谷（城）竹（溪）高速，耗时3小时左右。谷竹高速于2014 年 12月 26日正式通车，时间比以往的线路快了2个小时。
It took you 79 yuan to take a coach from Shiyan Bus Terminal to Zhuxi, plus 1 yuan for the life insurance. “When there was no highway, we used to spend 5 or 6 hours on the mountainous road, on which the drivers feel more comfortable than passengers.” The coach driver said.
As it was during the summer vocation, many young men, carrying baggage, could be found go in and off at each station. “But for the highway it would be troublesome to go home.” Xiao Li, who was a student in one of universities in Wuhan, told us. “In the past, it was so hard to walk through the mountainous path that nearly every time I didn’t arrive until night fell.”
In the days when the traffic is utterly backward, the villagers lived an isolated life, going out to work at sunrise and going back home at sunset. Today the connection between villagers and the outer world is on the increase as the traffic becomes convenient.
A Land of Tea Trees, Benefiting the Villagers
In China, there are 500 counties rich in natural resources and Zhuxi is listed among them. The rates of vegetation and forest coverage are 81.2% and 76.8% respectively and the timber stock is over 8,000,000 steres which tops No.1 among all other counties in Hubei.
The terrain of Zhuxi is high in the south and low in the north. It belongs to the north subtropical climate and its
12℃ 16℃. annual average temperature is between and It has the typical mountain climate with ample rainfall and mild climate, providing a favorable environment for tea planting.
Zhuxi has a long history of planting tea. It was first entitled “the Land of Tea in China” and later “the County of Chinese Organic Green Tea”. Tea has already become one of its shinning “green card” of Zhuxi.
In Zhuxi, tea is regarded as one of the pillar industries which can raise up the farmers’ income and improve the agricultural efficiency. Organic green tea plays a dominant role. Now tea plantations occupy a land of 220,000 mu (146.7 square kilometers), which is the largest in Hubei province.
There are two main tea companies in Zhuxi now, one is called “Longwangya” and the other is named “Meizigong”. In 2016, both of them were entitled “the Thirty most Beautiful Tea Plantations in China” by the tea sub-council of China Association for the Promotion of International Agricultural Cooperation (CAPIAC).
After driving over 10 kilometers from Zhuxi County towards the southeast, you can reach Longwangya Tea Plantation. Far off, the Plantation is deeply embraced by surrounding mountains covered by green pines and bamboos; Near, a belt of green tea terraces stretches over the slope, which constitutes a splendid green ribbon of tea world. Once you step in, you will be surrounded by a sea of tea, trees of tea, tea leaves and the smell of tea… In a word,
all you can feel is green.
Rambling in the tea world, you can enjoy the fresh air and have a good time here. The hills, groves, tea, flowers and birds perfectly match the tea culture.
When you feel tired and prefer to have a rest, you can go to the hall of tea pavilion in Mingjian Tower. Here, you can experience an ancient poetic life by asking for a cup of tea accompanied by the Chinese Zither music and the performance of young tea masters. After tasting the tea, you can wander around the “Longfeng Lake” , appreciating the landscape. Also, there is a platform for fishing where you can see a school of fish swimming in the lake.
Intangible Cultural Heritage, Sparkling in the Human World
The local folk arts in Zhuxi are characterized of abundance, richness and peculiarity, which are closely related to the origin of people and culture of Chu.
Folk song, one form of the folk arts, enjoys a longest history. It reflected the life and willpower of working class in content, and also showed the aesthetic standard and artistic creation in form. It plays an important position in rural culture, today and in the past.
“Mountain Erhuang”, also named “Erhuang in the tune of Han Opera” is the origin of what we called “Han Opera”. It is a kind of opera popular among the northwest of Hubei Province. As a rare local opera, it was listed into the directory of the first national intangible cultural heritage.
Tong Jueping ( 1900- 1983) is a veteran artist of Mountain Erhuang in Zhuxi County whose ancestral home was Loutian County, the Prefecture of Huangzhou. And they moved here during Qianlong period. At first, they made a living on business. They were not famous for performing Mountain Erhuang until the third generation.
Today, the Opera Troupe of Mountain Erhuang in Zhuxi County is a professional art group, and the only one that creates and performs Mountain Erhuang in China.
Except for Mountain Erhuang, Xiangba Township was entitled “Land of Folk Songs in Hubei Province” by the Association of the Folk Artists in Hubei Province. In 2013, it was listed into the fourth directory of intangible cultural
heritage in Hubei Province. Han Shaogong, a famous writer said: “Xiangba folk song is the only living fossil of Han nationality.”
Generally the villagers in Xiangba like to hold the bonfire parties to entertain guests. Although it was raining that night when we arrived, the villagers were still hospitable and enthusiastic and insisted on holding the party. With the pattering of rain, the whole valley echoed with sonorous singing.
Zhouxi Shadow Play, also known as classical cartoon drama, is similar to Shanxi and Henan Shadow Play in its shape and style which best illustrates the cultural exchange between the three provinces.
In the old days, Zhouxi shadow play was very popular. It was closely related with some local customs and ceremonies, especially in worshipping gods and ancestors. The shadow play performance could be found in many folk activities and even at weddings or funerals.
Zhuxi, a poetic name it is! In Zhuxi, it seems that even a road, a clump of flowers, a piece of tea, a house or an elder all have their stories to tell you.
At that night , after it stopped raining, we looked outside the window and surprisingly found a hazy moon hanging in the dusky sky. With bird’s singing in the distance, the clouds changed their shapes constantly. it made us forget where we were. 著名作家韩少功在考察向坝民歌项目后认为： “向坝民歌是中国汉民族仅存的一块活化石。”
● Shadow Play Photo by Wang Daguo 皮影(王大国摄)