Asia | China | Yunnan Province | Dali – Taihe
Dali was starting to feel like home. After a brief visit to the city museum, I took a hotel staff’s suggestion and went to his village, Taihe, just a 15 minute bus ride away from downtown Dali.
Before Dali became the capital of the Dali Kingdom, Taihe was the capital of nanzhao Kingdom. Nothing is left of its glory days now except for a big plaque commemorating the friendship between Naozhao and China. The relic still stands where the old Taihe city gate used to be, sheltered by a temple-like structure with rusty iron doors. Most of the characters are no longer recognizable and I couldn’t understand the phrases written in ancient grammar anyway. I asked the only staff working there, but she said her only job was to sell tickets and didn’t know much history either. I felt very cheated for paying an admission to just see a big black stone.
The part of the village by the main road was newly built with porcelein tile covered walls glaring under the sun. The lowe part of the street near Er Hai Lake, however, still retained its old grace. Cacti perche on top of mud walls. Some young women did laundry by a communal basin. Half of the women on the street, from 7 year old girls to 70 year old matrons, carried a bundle of straw under their arms and weaved straw hats as they walked along.
A shring dedicated to the village deity was housed with an abandoned opera stage. Some men played cards in a dilapidated ‘entertainment room’ next door. I asked them if anyone could unlock the door of the shrine for me to have a look, and they pointed me to the convenience store down the street. The store was locked, so I asked another old woman if she knew who the local deity was. She brought me to another granny who was almost blind from old age, but she didn’t know either.
They took me to the house of the head of the village, joined by another old lady on the way. The wife of the village head had the key, and all four of them escorted me to he shrine. The floor was slimy from mold, and bright paint covered the plastic statues. The local deity is a scholarly looking man with a kind face. The ladies told me that the villagers pray here every new year, including the young people who have left the village to pursue their careers. Perhaps it is the devotion that impressed the deity to keep these people’s peace during Taihe’s fall from a kingdom’s capital to a tiny village.