Hainan Highlands

The island of Hainan lies off the South coast of China just to the East of Vietnam. Haikou, in the North, is the provincial capital and is much like many other provincial capitals. Sanya is a resort town on the South coast that is sometimes sadly marketed as the Hawaii of China. Street signs are in Chinese and Russian. The water is warm and waves dump on the well managed beaches. Body surfing is possible, but firing handheld roman candles at friends in a cheap alcohol fueled haze is more fun after dark.


The town of Tongzhi is in the highlands in the centre of the island. It is easy to walk across it in less than an hour. Outside the the town are a number of small Li - Miao villages, holding firmly to a way of life that has existed for thousands of years. The Li - Miao are slash and burn, or swidden farmers, an agricultural practice that is far from beneficial for the environment, consisting of clearing and exhausting a swathe of rainforest, to raise crops like rice, and then moving on. It therefore poses a dilemma regarding environmentalism and cultural preservation. The Li - Miao are most often viewed in touristified theme parks, of which there are a few, mostly, littered along the Hainan coast, where, clad in traditional and colourful costume, they demonstrate weaving and dancing etc.


The architecture of the Li - Miao is somewhat temporary for the most part, although, more permanent buildings have started to appear in the villages and modern materials are being appropriated into the construction of traditional homes. They mostly consists of low, vaguely, boat shaped homes built of wattle and daub walls without windows and rudimentary bamboo framed thatched roofs The following photographic essay was taken in 2007.