Archive → April, 2014
Walking the Ancient Tea Horse Road: The Rise of the Outdoors and China’s First Long Distance Branded Hiking Trail
We are well into the first semester of teaching here in Australia. The search for MH370 continues not too far away from Perth. A tragedy indeed but it has certainly put ‘Perth’ (珀斯) on the map in China. My research and other duties continue also, although perhaps not at the pace I would like. I was fortunate enough, however, to be able to travel to Yunnan recently to conduct further fieldwork on the rise of ecotourism and lifestyle migration. The latter is emerging as quite a fruitful project as I make contact with Chinese and foreigners who have relocated from the polluted and congested cities of the eastern coast to the blue skies and more relaxed lifestyle of places like Dali and Lijiang. Stories in the Western media on this subject are now becoming regular – such as this recent report in The New York Times. With a focus on the trendy and chic lifestyle migrants – or ‘mountain changers’ as I refer to them – these reports miss the point that there are many migrants engaged in much more mundane work who don’t have the luxury to spend time sipping coffee in some trendy cafe. Some of the locals are also now complaining that the mountain changers are bringing the congestion and pollution with them. In China almost everything comes back to scale. I hope to have more to say on this matter later in the year. On my way back to Australia I went via Canberra and gave a seminar on my research on the cultural politics of the Ancient Tea Horse Road at the Australian Centre for China in the World. I think it was well received, certainly the hosts were very kind. Thanks to all who attended and gave feedback. You can read a summary of the seminar here: CiW Centre Sigley Seminar 2014. Also good to catch up with friends in family in ‘Canbra’.
Whilst in Yunnan I paid a special visit to the Departments of Culture and Nature Conservation in Baoshan. I’ve described Baoshan on a previous blog which you can access here. You can see where Baoshan is on Google Maps here. The main outcome from this trip is that Baoshan has agreed to be the host of the next ‘Australia, China and the Great Outdoors Forum’ (Forum 2014). Forum 2014 is scheduled for November and promises to be bigger and better than the inaugural forum (‘workshop’) held at The University of Western Australia last September 2013 (you can read the full report on that event here). This event will also include a site visit to a nearby trail. The site, most likely to be the ancient road crossing the Gaoligong Mountains (part of the Gaoligong Mountains Nature Reserve) from Baoshan to Tengchong, will hopefully become a pilot project for promoting sustainable hiking with an emphasis on ‘leave no trace’ principles and grass-roots community participation. More details will be forthcoming in due course so stay tuned.
As an outcome of the previous forum and to stimulate further discussion, Ed Jocelyn and I have drafted a discussion paper on the feasibility of developing China’s first branded hiking trail. You can access the discussion paper here: China Hiking Trail Discussion Paperion Paper – Jocelyn and Sigley 2014. The discussion paper proposes to use a ‘brand’ such as the ‘Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (or possibly the ‘Southern Silk Road’) as a means to create a well managed and sustainable trail experience. Feedback and comments welcome. We are also seeking sponsors to assist with the Forum 2014 and the Test Pilot Project. Contact me directly if you’re interested. A more formal ‘call for sponsors’ along with a draft forum program will be issued in the coming weeks.
In the near future I will upload an interesting interview with Mr Zhou Chonglin (周重林), a Yunnanese based author of several books on tea and history, who is currently heading up a special project to ‘revitalise the [Chinese] tea industry’ (茶叶复兴). It’s quite an illuminating discussion of recent social trends in China and the role tea is taking in discussions around coping with the demands of modern society.