On a trip to China with Helen Wong’s Tours in 2008, we fell in love with the very photogenic city of Jianshui, in Yunnan province. It is famous for its tofu made with water from a well near Ximen (West Gate). After tea and a show at the Gonfu teahouse, where one of the dances is themed around the Ximen water, I asked our very affable guide, Scott, if we could see the 1000-year-old well. A woman as strong as an ox was scooping up buckets of water and carrying them on her shoulders to a water cart, making countless trips upstairs and down while the driver looked on. She then proceeded to push the cart uphill while he steered! We were told that people fetch the Ximen water for free, selling it to teahouses, restaurants and hotels for 2 yuan a bucket. Next to the well is a shrine where the locals pray to the water dragon that is believed to be in the well. Their prayers must be answered for the well is said to have never run out of water.
Photo & text © Christine Salins
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