This morning we returned from a trip, staying for a few days in the mountains, in Banpen village (~4km from Lao Banzhang). This village is home to the LaHu minority – a minority which has been traditionally looked down on by surrounding minorities as being backward & lazy. As a result, these people have become distinctly insular, shunning too much contact with the outside world and with outsiders. I knew this before I arrived, and even though I’m well used to the stares I get as a westerner in the mountains, this village caught me a little off guard. Usually I manage to coax a smile out of at least the children, but this time it was just timid, blank stares. Luckily some kind farmers agreed to let us stay & as time wore on they began to open up a little more.

Although, like the nearby Lao Banzhang, this village has a lot of dogs, this minority don’t eat them but worship them, believing that their people were born from flowers and then suckled on the milk from dogs to allow them to grow. The LaHu people have 3 festivals each year to worship dogs and even feed the dogs before they themselves sit down for their meals, rather than throwing them a few scraps at the end.

This minority has been cultivating tea for hundreds of years and as a result, their villages are surrounded by many many ancient trees…

Banpen

Picked leaves – Wei Diao (resting the leaves – let the leaves wither slightly) …

Banpen

Sha qing (kill green)…

Banpen

Rou Nian (rolling the leaves)…

Rou Nian

Banpen

Shai Qing (I didn’t get a photo of them outside, but the leaves are left on these bamboo mats to sun dry outside. They are moved inside when it looks like rain is coming or to rest them overnight)

Banpen

The surrounding environment is very pure, with ancient forests surrounding the trees. Many parasitic plants such as orchids are a common sight on the old tea trees.

Orchids on ancient tea tree

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