The beauty of Niuji village

The beauty of Niuji village

Sometimes we forget the beauty of simple things. I have been living Niuji, a small village north of Anhui province for a few months now. And there are times when I hate this place. Living condition can be rough here, and most people have very low to no education at all.

However, even though I feel this dislike sometimes, I try to force myself to see the good sides of this place as well. As this is a small village, everyone knows everyone. This can be negative, but also very positive. Whenever we feel like, we can just go and visit our neigbours. It is even ok, to just go over for a chat while they are having dinner. No one thinks this is an intrusion into their privacy. They are always very welcoming. I appreciate how much they have let me into their lifes. There still are a few people who treat me like a “stupid laowai (foreigner)”, but for the most part, people have accepted my presence and let me into their homes and lives.

welcome to niuji village

What I love the most about living in Niuji simply is the peace here. I love the summers here (but am terrified of the winters). Whenever I am fad up with the behaviour of some village people here, my husband takes me on a ride on our electric motorbike.

Last weekend we went to the north of Niuji where my father-in-law’s sister has some land. Niuji is not just a place where people grow tobacco plants, but whatever the family wants to eat. I think there is nothing more satisfying than planting your own food. Our family has several fields in and around Niuji. The part we went to is pretty dry, so tobacco plants would never grow as good as needed to sell them for a high prize. That is why my family grow all kinds of vegetables there.

On our Sunday walk we discovered tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants (green and violet ones), Chinese cabbage (or better known as Pak Choi), green beans (the long ones and the shorter ones).

Another interesting thing about Niuji is, as it is so close to Bozhou, the city known as the center of Chinese medicine, many villagers plant all kinds of plants used to make Chinese medicine.

We find a whole field with plants which looked like little stars. I asked my husband what they are and what they are used for. I would never have guessed that those beautiful stars are actually the rest that is left after a peony opens. So it’s a normal peony plant. Or a Chinese tree peony mudan 牡丹 (which are apparently bigger than the once we have in Europe) to be exact. It is weird, because I remember we had peonies in our garden when I was younger, but I don’t remember those stars. In Chinese medicine just the root bark is used and called mudanpi 牡丹皮 in Chinese. For over 2000 years they have been using this part of the peony to clear heat or cool blood (terms in Chinese medicine).

I enjoy every single walk we take. It just reminds me how beautiful this place is. And no matter how uncomfortable I might feel some times, how hard it is to adapt to some living conditions and behaviour of some people, at the end of the day it is still one of the best experiences I have had in my life. And I should remind myself ever now and then…

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

11 thoughts on “The beauty of Niuji village

  1. Looks great with all the nature and gardens! We actually have some fields and fruit gardens on this island as well :) My in-laws have dragon’s eye and lychee trees for example, the fruits are delicious! I’ve also seen mango and start fruit trees here as well.

    • Southern china has amazing and exotic fruits. Here we just have the usual fruits like apples, peaches… Also loads of watermelons. We have a friend who works in Guangdong and every autumn/winter brings us a sack full of oranges :)

  2. Beautiful photos!

    It’s always so helpful to remind yourself of the things you appreciate. I catch myself thinking similar negative thoughts about being a 老外 in China. It does get uncomfortable at times! But I would miss out on so much if I never lived here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    As a side note, pak choi (or 小白菜, I think) is one of my favorite Chinese vegetables. :D

    • Yes very true. I would not change my life here for another one… Ok maybe I would like to have my own place and a car for convenience, oh and my own kitchen hehe

      And pak choi is also one of my favorites! I finally convinced my mother-in-law that it is essential for everyone that we start growing it ourselves :D

      • I can see how a car would make things far more convenient for getting around! How far is the nearest city?

        I don’t know if I’d want to drive in China. Even though our city is relatively small (about a million or so), I don’t think I could ever get used to the Chinese rules of the road. :P

        Have you had much success with gardening in your Niuji home?

        • I would also never drive in china but my husband should :) the nearest city is just 30mins from our village, so it is even ok to ride a electric bike. But soon it’s gonna be winter and it’s gonna be very cold… Also that ‘city’ is really small.

          My parents-in-law are very successful at gardening haha but they are professional farmers, so it doesn’t count. I don’t have a garden (yet). Hell, I don’t even have a kitchen. We live with my in-laws, but in October we move to the city… I doubt though we will be able to do gardening there xD

          • That must be so nice to be able to get fresh (and free) produce from your in-laws!

            My wife and I have talked about the possibility of growing our own vegetables at some point. But it’s really hard to find the time and motivation to do so when you’ve got fresh vegetable markets just outside your apartment complex! Haha.

  3. I really love to eat fresh vegetables/ fruits and so forth. It just taste so much better and in case these are even your own plants EVEN BETTER! Whenever we visit my parents cottage some neighbours bring some fresh things they grow themselves and catch (fish) which is very nice as well.

    For several years I try to persuade my wife/ her mother that we go visit their relatives in the countryside (in Shaanxi near Xi’an) as I really want to see them and the nature but so far I had no luck :(:( However as we have now our son I believe MIL is just waiting for any chance to show him around all relatives!

  4. It looks like the land is fertile and the farmers are skilled and hard working. Adjusting to life in a new country is also hard work. Best wishes to you and your husband.

  5. Your village looks very nice, and it actually has blue skies!

    You mentioned having your own gardening in the city, and I think I read somewhere that urban gardening has taken off in some Chinese cities. So, maybe gardening in the city won’t be impossible for you?

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