I recently had the good fortune to go toXinjiang Province in the Northwest of China. This is a culturally andbotanically diverse area dominated by people of Central Asia and plants (andanimals) from the great mountain range known in China as the Tian ShanMountains (Heavenly Mountains). While I was only there for a short time I hadan opportunity to encounter both local culture and local flora (and a small bitof local fauna).
First, I want to take a moment to talkabout the problems in this area, very briefly, and how they are being “managed”(IMO, more accurately “mismanaged”) by the Chinese government. The local peopleof this area of what is within the political boarders of China are anything butChinese. In fact, I, being a European mutt but mostly looking like the Mediterraneandecent that comes from my being half Portuguese, look much more like the local Kazakpeople than that people from Eastern China. The culture and language is entirelydifferent and bares little or no relationship to “Chinese” culture. Over thecenturies this area has been in control of many different countries orkingdoms, but the Chinese control it now and there is little chance that willchange without serious military incursion. Unfortunately, these differenceshave led to many clashes between the local population and the majority Han population(supported by the overwhelmingly Han government and its practice to movemajority Han people into the region and giving them significant financialincentive to do so).
So, what did I find when I go there? Well,at first I had only internet access to Chinese sites, but then later nointernet access at all! When I walked out of my hotel, I saw something I was,unfortunately, not shocked to see, groups of 6-12 soldiers walking the streetswith shields, automatic weapons, and steel clubs. This on top of theexceptionally large police presence gives one the sense that the government isa little nervous, or even scared by the population and needs these measures to “keepthe peace.” I found that when either leaving or entering the city limits I wasmet with check-points where passengers of the buses I was on needed to showtheir ID card, which was swiped, apparently to authenticate it, and, of course,my passport was closely scrutinized. Essentially the people of this city andthe surrounding area are living in a police state.
Some of my readers are saying, “Well, youwere in China, what did you expect?” To them I would say that I have traveled throughnearly every province in China, some extensively and I have neither encounteredthis, nor ANYTHING like it!
So that’s the bad side, and, at least forme, a very disturbing side that I am afraid China may slip deeper into as itgets closer to the huge shift that is coming next year as the 10 year terms ofits most powerful leaders ends and the next generation of leaders take control.What will happen after that is anyone’s guess. The good side was that the localpeople in this area are generally very sweet and kind people, and the mountainsare some of the most beautiful I have seen. I did, unfortunately arrive duringa season when there was not much to see from a botanical point of view outsideof its majestic spruce (Picea schrenkiana) and a shrubby juniper (Juniperus pseudosabina var. pseudosabina). I did,however manage to see a few flowers and I have included some of the photos herefor your viewing pleasure. While some of these have medicinal value, none ofthem, to my knowledge are used beyond minor local uses, if at all. Ofparticular note are the gentians, which are quite prolific in the Northwesternpart of China with 248 species found throughout the country. These two species I have not been able toidentify yet, but the larger of the two with the lighter flowers may actuallybe a genus closely related to gentian.
Also pictured here is a dry specimen of thefamous Saussurea involucrate or inChinese Tian Shan Xue Lian Hua (天山雪莲花). Theentire herb and flower of this plant is used and is considered bitter, acrid,hot and toxic (however it is also considered a cure-all by many locals). Itwarms the kidneys and moves yang, expels wind and quickens the blood. It treatsyang wilting, lumbus and knee weakness, wind-damp impediment, irregularmenstruation, stopped menstruation, cold uterus with abdominal pain, and coughwith cold rheum. Dosage: 0.6-1.5g in decoction or it can be prepared as atincture. For wind-damp impediment with joint inflammation 15g can be tincturedin 100ml of alcohol and taken in 10ml dosages twice a day.
Finally, in spite of the obvious problemsplaguing the area, this is a remarkably stellar range of mountains that desperatelyneed greater protection than they are currently getting and a place I hope tobecome more familiar with in the years to come…perhaps even bring some of youthere for a glorious backpacking excursion of coarsely jagged snow cappedmountains, fields of wildflowers, and some of the most pristine environmentanywhere on Earth.
Do to BlogSpot’s new formatting this blog is poorly formatted and I am tired of playing with it. I am currently looking into switching my blog to WordPress because I have heard it is much easier to deal with and it is not blocked here in China like BlogSpot is.