Stoned in Liuzhou

My adopted hometown of Liuzhou is not a really well-known Chinese city. Still, like most places it is known for a few things. There is the local delicacy Luosifen, a pungent, spicy noodle dish in a snail stock that I have yet to fully embrace. I’ve tried. Then there are the famous coffins of Liuzhou. There is a very well know Chinese poem that translates something like…

Be born in Suzhou

Live in Hangzhou

Eat in Guangzhou

Die in Liuzhou

Ken has the origins of the poem on his Liuzhou Laowai website. It explains the most beautiful people in China are allegedly from Suzhou. Hangzhou has often been cited as the country’s most beautiful city. Guangzhou is famous for its Cantonese cuisine and as for the Die in Liuzhou line? It seems China’s best coffins used to be made right here in Liuzhou. It supposedly had something to do with the quality of wood. Surprising to me because wherever that wood was it’s clearly all gone now. With space being at a premium cremation is the way to go these days and that of course has put a big dent in the coffin industry. Most coffins sold here now are of the ornamental kitschy variety .

That brings us to the area’s beautiful karst mountain topography. While not as dramatic as nearby Yangshuo, it is still remarkable. The view out my window looks like a classic Chinese ink painting (save the hi-rises) and those same geological conditions that formed the mountains created an array of really cool stones. Yep, stones. They are all shapes, sizes and colors and Liuzhou is famous world-wide for the things. The two largest stone markets are located here in my neighborhood so with my good friend Robert Lio being in town, we decided to do a little exploring with the cameras. Another friend had turned us on to a large artisan center near the main market where woodworkers make ornamental bases for displaying the stones. That’s where Bob and I spent a couple of sweltering hours last Saturday Sunday afternoon. We got a mostly friendly reception with a few maybe not so (photo 2) but it was an education. It is a labor intensive process and the lengths the craftsmen go through to make a base for a stone was staggering. Some of them were very simple. Some completely ornate with all the carving done by hand. Here is a glimpse behind the curtain…

In the way of a disclaimer, I do not recommend taking a photograph of a small, wiry Chinese man holding a chainsaw without asking him first. It’s was 94° and stupid humid and you can see how none of these guys have even broken a sweat. We were soaked within a few minutes. I found myself wondering just how much, or perhaps more accurately how little these guys make in a day. I know I couldn’t do it.

Bob has moved on to Bama where he’ll be posting some no doubt beautiful shots of that part of Guangxi. It is always fun seeing Bob… he’s good people. I’ll be hanging out pretty close to home until my surgery in a couple of weeks. Still not clear how long I’ll be laid up then but hopefully no as long as this last time.

More to come soon… I have a backlog of photos and partially written entries.


10 Responses to “Stoned in Liuzhou”

  1. The link to the explanation of the poem and to the ornamental kitschy coffins is actually The one given is to my pictures of Liuzhou stones.

    Thought you’d want to know. No need to publish this!

    Don’t want to put anyone off their lunch! Stones! Coffins!


    • Even after I asked you about it I couldn’t mage to get it right! I don’t mind publishing it Ken… I’m sure a few people at least wondered what the heck I was talking about. Thanks for the catch! I think I got it sorted out.

      • I actually had the wrong link for Robert up for a few hours as well! My site clearly IS crap…

        • Ken Fletcher says:

          We get there in the end. At our age, what can be expected.

          At least your site is only crap. Mine is crap, inaccurate, and unremittingly negative and everyone in Liuzhou warns new laowai people not to read it because of its general uselessness – according to my troll, who hates the site so much he visits it up to eight times a day.

  2. jesse says:

    Indeed we found Liuzhou to be very beautiful when we drove into it at night for the first time. The pagodas lit up on the mountain tops were very pretty, and can’t argue with those karst peaks all over.

  3. Nancie says:

    You see a lot of these polished stones and the handmade bases in Taiwan. I’m not sure if they make them in Taiwan or if they are shipped from ML China. They are beautiful. Yeah, geez….that guy with the chain saw looks like he wanted to do serious damage to something or someone!!….RUNNNNNNNNNNNNN………………..:) Lovely shots, as always.

  4. Alex Khoo says:

    Very interesting and nice pictures! I hope I can have the chance to visit China! Cheers!

  5. There is an interesting 2005 article on Liuzhou coffins at the link below. It includes information on where the real full sized coffins are still being made (at least in 2005).

  6. Liuzhou will be holding their 7th approximately bi-annual International Fantastic Stone Festival from October 1st to 5th, 2012.

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