There are eight ‘strange’ peculiarities in Shaanxi Province, called 陕西八大怪:
面条像裤带 – belt-like noodles
a famous noodle dish is called biang biang mian, featuring the most complicated Chinese character: biang
There is a poem to remember it, look it up if you’re interested. The origin of the word is unclear, it is assumed that ‘biang biang’ is the sound made while chewing the noodles. Why the character looks like this though, I have no idea.
锅盔像锅盖 – pancakes looking like a lid of a pot
referring to another dish or side dish, there are many variations of it, it is a kind of bread or savory pancake baked inside a pan which gives it its shape.
辣子是道菜 – chili is a dish
The neighboring province Sichuan is known for eating spicy, but it is more of a numbing spicy of the Sichuan pepper. Shaanxi people will say that although in Sichuan or Hunan, the dishes are spicy, chilies are only used as a spice, whereas chilies in Shaanxi are eaten as a main dish. Preferably with biang biang mian.
碗盆难分开 – serving dish like washing bowl
Another one connected to food. It is the last one, I promise, but it just shows that food played a great role in people’s everyday life (and in mine, too). Noodle dishes (biang biang, I hear you) are typically served in big bowls, big like basins, with diameters well exceeding 45cm. Yum!
帕帕头上戴 – wearing a bandana
In Shaanxi, it gets hot. So especially in rural areas, people wear bandanas to protect themselves from the sun, dust, rain, anything.
房子半边盖 – houses are only built halfway
Usually, a house has a roof shaped like an upside down ‘V’. In Shaanxi, however, houses have only one inclining side, like half a rooftop. This ensures that the precious rain only falls into one’s backyard to nurish the plants, not anywhere else.
姑娘不对外 – keeping the girls close
The Loess plateau is a place isolated from the rest of China or even neighboring areas. Men stay in the same area and girls don’t wander outside of their village.
唱戏吼起来 – the opera turns into howling
I haven’t seen a local opera 秦腔 (Qin Qiang) but apparently it is loud and involves howling.
不坐蹲起来 – do not sit, squat instead
Who needs a chair when you can squat instead and get some serious squad workout? If you must have a chair, squat on it, do not sit.
睡觉枕石块- stones as pillows
While they may not be as comfortable as soft plush pillows, they are cooler to sleep on during the hot summer days.
Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but those are actually ten peculiarities, different sources I found included different ones…so I included all of them.
The drive from Xi’an to the Hukou Waterfalls was quite long and exhausting, the seats were not that comfortable, and it was my first time travelling with a Chinese tour group. It can be quite an interesting, but somehow tiring experience. We were a diverse group, coming from all over China (and abroad, but they did not know that), many of them speaking Mandarin with a heavy accent or dialect so that communication was not always easy.
There are two ways to get to the waterfalls, one is from Shaanxi Province, the other from Shanxi Province. The Yellow River (and therefore the waterfalls) seperates the two. Since tourists equal money income for the adjacent towns and villages, regulations on entering the tourist sights are strict. Cars with license plates from either one of the two provinces can only pass through the entrance of their own province, securing large incomes for Shaanxi Province, which has more turnover due to numerous tours departing from Xi’an.
When approaching the waterfalls, there is a bridge which connects Shaanxi and Shanxi. They were financed seperately by the two provinces, meaning that each province started building from their side and the bridge was joined in the middle. The weastern half (Shaanxi, and actually more like 2/3) is a steel construction with thick pillars. The other side looked shabby.
The sight itself was impressive. When I went, the water was plenty and the current stirred up the mud of the riverbed that gave the river its name. It was my first time seeing the Yellow River, and it made me feel somehow more connected to China, it seemed as if coming to its birthplace, I myself came a bit closer to understanding my heritage. Modern China centers around the Chang Jiang (Jangtze), but the beginning of Chinese civilization took place here, by the Yellow River.
A bit further, we could spot a statue of Da Yu (大禹), a legendary figure who was the first to control the Yellow River’s flood by digging a new canal through a mountain.
We spent the night in a nearby village, the area is very poor due to geographical conditions and weather. Very little crop grows in the Loess Plateau (黃土高原), people rarely leave the village and most of them do not have mobile phones yet. They live in caves called Yaodong (窑洞) which are basically just holes dug horizontally into the Loess cliffs, some have a stone façade like the one in the picture. People here depend on tourism, there were farmers trying to sell apples and small items like cigarette holders and Mao hats. Some effort has been made to pull more tourists into the area by restauring and constructing several attractions, mostly places where Mao has lived or spend time.
My next stop was Anhui Province, where I recovered from my travels at my grandparents’ house. Most of the time, I slept or watched television, stuffed my face with food and took a nap afterwards. I was in desperate need of it.