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Eighteen Oddities in Yunnan

Yunnan Province is situated in an area of low latitude and high altitude, and accordingly its climate is quite diversified in different places. It is also a province with the greatest number of minority groups. Apart from the Han people there are 25 other nationalities, such as Yi, Bai, Zhuang, Dai, Tibetan and Yao, etc., which constitute almost one-third of the total population. The province's unique geography, special climate and colorful human geography all make its culture and customs very different from any other place in China. While the Eighteen Oddities have spread far and wide long ago, there are the Twenty-Eight Oddities and Eighty-One Oddities of the province that try to capture its special customs. However, increasing communications and a developing economy in the province have made such oddities a thing of the past. Some major oddities are listed below:


1. Eggs are sold in clusters: Local people bundle up eggs vertically with rice straw or bamboo strips so they are not easily broken, and sell them in bars in the market.

2. Bamboo hats are used as cooker lids: Since there are many bamboo forests in Yunnan Province, hard-working and clever countrymen put bamboo to many uses. Woven bamboo hats, for example, are used as cooker lids. Food cooked in this way emits a faint scent of bamboo.

3. Three mosquitoes make up a dish: It is hot and moist in the mountainous regions of Yunnan, and mosquitoes and flies can be seen all year round. The long-legged mosquitoes are very big, and outsiders express their amazement about their size in a very exaggerated and funny way by saying: three mosquitoes make up a dish.

4. Bamboo used for smoking pipes: The smoking pipe is a typical local smoking utensil used mostly in Yunnan. Its length varies from one-half to one meter, while its diameter ranges between five to ten centimeters. People put cut tobacco in the lower part of the bamboo tube, which is filled with water and smoked. A gurgling sound is heard when the bamboo tube is smoked.

5. A local speciality -- Er Kuai: Er Kuai is made of rice and is shaped like a thin pie in a long strip. It can be fried, boiled or braised, and is as white as snow.

6. The same dress for all the seasons: The weather in most parts of Yunnan is always spring-like, and the four seasons do not have clear demarcations in the province. Hence people dress almost the same in different seasons. All kinds of colorful clothes can be seen on the streets any time of the year.

7. Young girls are called Old Lady: In some areas of Yunnan Province, unmarried girls aged 14-18 are called Old Lady. It is said that such an expression embodies intimacy and goodwill, wishing the young girls good health. This has become an interesting local custom.

8. Automobiles move faster than trains: The railways in Yunnan were generally built on precipitous slopes with many swerves, which made trains in Yunnan move very slowly, slower than some automobiles. However, railway conditions are much improved these days and the oddity no longer really exists.

9. Toes are exposed all year round: Some people from the mountainous areas wear straw shoes with holes all year round since it is mild in all four seasons. This custom helps keep toes dry and cool.

10. Rain here but sunshine there: Yunnan possesses a changeable climate. People say the weather varies within a circumstance of 10 kilometers in Yunnan. Even on the same mountain, there can be rain on one side and sunshine on the other.

11. Girls wear flowers in the four seasons: Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is also known as Spring City, and the weather in other areas of the province is similar to that of Kunming. Fresh flowers can be seen in Yunnan in any season.

12. Girls carry tobacco bags: In some areas of Yunnan, girls have a habit of smoking, and a lot of them hang tobacco bags on their waist belts.

13. Green vegetable called bitter vegetable: The green vegetable in Yunnan is a special local product which doesn't actually taste bitter. However, it gained its reputation as being a bitter vegetable from local traditional customs.

14. Grannies climb mountains faster than monkeys: Local women are particularly hard-working and diligent. It is very common for women to chop firewood inside mountains. Even women in their 70s and 80s can climb mountains freely as if walking on flat land.

15. Trains go abroad but not inland: A narrow railway from Kunming to Hanoi in Vietnam was built at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by the French. Until then there was no domestic railway in Yunnan. However, this is no longer the case.

16. Monks can have love affairs: In the north, Yunnan borders with many Buddhist countries where males go to temples to become monks, and can also return to a secular life to get married. Adopting this influence, some local monks can also have love affairs.

17. Children are raised up by men: Yunnan local women are known to be very hard-working. It is the women that do much of the farm work. Hence, men usually stay at home to take care of the children.

18. Automobiles move in the clouds: Roads in Yunnan usually wind up along colossal and precipitous mountains. Fog spreads all over the mountaintops, creating the illusion of driving through clouds in a fairyland.

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