CHINA—People of the Yi race make up 93 percent of the population in Butuo County, an autonomous state in the center of Liang Mountain in Sichuan Province in southwest China. Liang Mountain is a cold and high place. There are a dozen different races in Butuo County, but the Yi race predominates.
I took a train to southern China this summer; a trip that took over 30 hours. It's not easy to describe everything I saw in the mountains. Because language is so limited, I will let the pictures do the talking. The fields are beautiful but barren. At 3,000-meters (1.86 miles) above sea level only potatoes, buckwheat, and oats can grow there.
The locals are warm and hospitable. They boil the potatoes in a big pot on a stove, and always offer the food to guests first. The host eats after the guests have eaten. After the host has eaten, then the pigs are fed.
It's dark inside the cottages because there are no windows to allow light to penetrate. The only light we could see came through the chinks in the wooden roof. The host turned on the light for us. There's no regular supply of electricity here. The villagers installed a generator that harnesses power from a small river. However, it only runs from June to September when the water flow is sufficient. Even in August, it can only supply electricity for five-watt bulbs.
People and livestock live together in the cottages, and there is insufficient light or air circulation. Not surprisingly, many kinds of diseases, such as gastroenteritis and fever, are quite common due to the drinking of contaminated water and lack of basic hygiene.
Other diseases such as cataracts and gynecopathies are also common. Villagers ignore minor ailments because it takes two to three hours to reach the nearest hospital located on the other side of the mountains. When a minor illness develops into a more serious illness, they can only let nature take its course.
Out of about 80 families, four to five children die in the village every year. Sometimes, more than ten children die in one year. As a result, they try to have many children. Nevertheless, difficulties in childbirth are a major problem for the women.
As I was interviewing the old woman, I watched the flies on her hand. I don't know how you feel when you look at the picture, but I felt sad and cold. I took the picture, and then started to weep.
It takes two hours for the children to walk to school as they have to go through several mountains and cross a river (in which six people drowned last year).
The elementary school was set up just two years ago.
All children who are seven to 10 or older attend the third grade because there is only one classroom. The other children can go to school only after the present pupils start to attend fourth grade in the town center.
Thanks to donations, the school obtained desks, chairs, and colored pencils last year.
Although the teacher could hardly speak Chinese, and wrote 359 as “300509”, school has started. There is hope.