Friday, March 27, 2009

China 2009 - 5

13 February 2009 - Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden.

We were given a tour of the museum as part of our program during the first day. The entrance had this living sculpture.

A ficus tree with the stems fused into a vase form. It kind of reminds me of the sculptural project ongoing at John C. Campbell folk school.

There was a large koi pond on either side of the walkway to the entrance as well.

The reception desk is made from an interesting piece of wood. I didn't get to take a close look at it to see what it was, but it reminded me of a strangler fig skeleton.

Here's a relief map of the garden and conservation area.

The first room we visited showed a lot of botanical and zoological specimens from the region, including these very interesting Dipterocarpaceae fruits.

Winged seeds are always of interest to me. I use the textural motif of these kinds of specimens as inspiration in my wood art.

Giant legumes!

Shelf fungi also serve as inspiration for some of my artwork.

The strangler fig remains was beautiful - I think that may be what that reception desk was made from.

One area of the museum was devoted to the Dai people, the largest ethnic minority in the Xishuangbanna region. There was a reconstruction of a Dai house there, which made a good Woodcentral sightings pic.

The low table and short stools is typical of the region.

We didn't have enough time to really explore this room, but it seems as if plants are used for just about everything in the home.

Fish traps and earthenware pots.

Nets and seins for fishing.

A bamboo fish or crab pot?

Lunch pails made from large pieces of bamboo.

I can't remember the name of our guide, but she told us about the Dai water festival. It sounds very colorful. Aside from the splashing, our guide said that the Dai have a tradition of dallyance that I haven't seen described on the web. For three days you are allowed to sleep with whomever you want to and after the festival, everything goes on as if nothing happened. Maybe something's missing in translation?

Pu'er tea comes from this region of China.


Jugs and pots

A beautiful box

Drop spindles

A Dai loom

One of the Dai patterns

This embroidery pattern is also typical of the Dai people.

A bark cloth suit.

The bark hat that goes with the suit.

This case featured traditional wind instruments. The one in the middle looks almost like a pipe and chanters. It's made from a gourd with bamboo pipes.

Dai candles


A drum that looks very much like a djembe.

A xylophone

Fireworks made from bamboo sections

A very interesting instrument that reminded me of a zither.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

China 2009 - 4

13 February 2009 - Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden

We arrived at the garden sometime in the late part of the morning. This is the hotel that is run by the garden and it is situated within XTBG. It's kind of run down on the inside, but everything was relatively tidy. We were housed on the third floor. There were no elevators, so getting luggage up was a bit of a challenge for me. The van driver carried my suitcase up the stairs, which was very nice of him.

These are the pavers in front of the hotel, which serve as the driveway for drop off and pick up at the entrance.

We had a few minutes before lunch so I took a quick walk around the area of the garden closest to the hotel. The garden has several gateways that are embellished with cultural symbols. This is one side of a gate that has a dragon on each side.

I thought, at first, that this structure was a temple, but it is actually a well.

Some Dai people touring the garden. The women wear such beautiful clothes, and almost all of them carry parasols to protect themselves from the sun.

Here's a closer look at the well. It's kind of lopsided.

These reminded me of the birds of paradise plants I see in Africa. They weren't in bloom, so I'm not quite sure what they were.

A palm tree with large, dissected fronds.

Lunch was served in the hotel restaurant. The greens there are from the pumpkin family. The brown stuff was a delicious mushroom.

Lunch included a variety of dishes, a soup with veggies and meat. I can't remember if this was a fish soup - it might have been chicken. Those two meats were the most common ones to be found in soups in this part of China.

Ummmmmmm, how are these to be eaten? They were deep-fried fishes and eels, whole, that is.

You eat them whole, heads, bones, fins and all. Kind of like a fishy french fry. They're very crunchy.

I got such a kick out of watching YQ enjoy his food. Every meal came first with hot tea in a glass, and then with beer. The local brews were actually quite good.

I had a bit of time to walk around the garden after lunch before our official tour was scheduled.

Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden has an emphasis on the ethnobotany of the Dai people. Throughout the garden are exhibits that show how plants are used in the region. This display is on agricultural and medicinal uses of native plants.

There are also groves of tropical trees found in the forests in the area, including a diversity of palms.

These are leaflets from an interesting species of palm.

Public toilets in the park are odiferous, even with the open air ventilation (and I thought American pit toilets were yucky).

Aquatic plants are featured throughout the garden.

Another dragon.

This bit of time was about all I had for some real birding. I'll show some pics of some of the birds I saw.

Red-vented bulbul

Oriental Magpie Robin

Oriental White-eye

Blue-throated barbet

Black-crested bulbul

Common lora

The garden is a popular place to visit and I enjoyed watching the people that came to walk the paths.

The bees were interesting, too.

I'll show some other bamboo pics in another post, but the garden has quite a large collection of species - about 250 or so, I think. Some of the stems are nearly a foot across at the base.

This looks like an arrowroot of some sort.

I'll have to look it up sometime, but if anyone knows this plant, please leave a comment for me.

The thatching pattern on some of the shelters was interesting, and very different from what I've observed in southern Africa.

Lepidopteran diversity is also very rich. I would have liked to have spent several hours chasing butterflies, but I could only snap a photo here and there.

The waterlilies were gorgeous.

That's worth another look, up close.

It's always fun, as a biologist, to go into an area totally new. Everything is very interesting and you just undergo a sensory overload trying to take it all in. I've never seen such an unusual color of ant before.

Hibiscus is familiar, though, but this one is native to southern China.

The garden has a large collection of cycads, and these were unusual in that they are branched. Cycads had their time of dominance back when dinosaurs ruled the land.