Asian Traditions


The biggest reason I came to teach and travel across Asia was to get out of my comfort zone and most importantly, to learn.

Xingping, China
A fisherman demonstrates the dying art of using cormorant birds to catch fish on the Li River. The 1,000 year old tradition dates back to 960 A.D. and is scarcely used anymore except by a select few fishermen. The fishermen send the cormorants into the water to catch fish and bring them back into the boat. To ensure the birds do not swallow all of the fish, a snare string is attached to the bird’s neck, stopping the cormorant from eating the larger fish. The cormorant is trained to return to the boat and spit the larger fish out for the fisherman. To keep the birds happy, the fishermen reward their birds with feeding them the smaller fish that were caught.

In the heart of the Longji rice terraces is Huangluo Village; better known as “the long haired women village.” In this unique tradition, women may only cut their hair once in their lives; when they turn 18; to symbolize adulthood and that they can now marry. When the hair is cut, it is kept as a symbol of luck or wealth and made into a ornamental headpiece; given to the groom on their wedding day. It is also worn in different styles depending on social status. If her hair is wrapped around her head, she is married and doesn’t have children. If it’s in covered with cloth, she is looking for a husband. And if there is a bun in front, she is married with children such as the woman pictured here, sewing the traditional Yao outfit. You may ask why would these women grow their hair to an average of 6 feet in length? It’s believed the longer they grow their hair, the more luck, fortune and wealth they receive.

Yuanyang, China
These cute little Hani girls were helping their mom sell hard boiled eggs on the street. The small one ran up and opened her palm, proudly displaying the egg in her hand. I bought two for a good morning snack and made this picture.

I returned from hiking Zhangjiajie with swollen knees and all I wanted was some ibuprofen and a cold beer. I settled into the one foot tall chair on the hotel patio; which overlooked a rice paddy and centered among the towering peaks.
A Chinese family with a young woman, her parents and uncle sat down at the table beside me. I quickly learned the young woman spoke some English and I used my broken Chinese for conversation. Ironically, she was a teacher like me and was also 30. She taught in a fishing village a thousand miles away in Eastern China. She radiated a quiet, confident glow that I knew I wanted to photograph. After a meal of spicy pork, bamboo chutes, and roasted potatoes, she posed in the doorway and I made this photo. As she and her family left, she told me “hou hui you qi” which means maybe we will meet again in the future.

Kindness in Jiuxian

We walked the remote village of rural Jiuxian, China and wandered into the back alleys to check out the interesting traditional architecture. This sweet woman peeked outside of her house and was curious with what we were doing. I snapped a couple quick photos of her and then asked for a portrait which she politely declined, saying “I am too old; I am not beautiful anymore.” To be honest, that response shocked and saddened me a bit and all I could think to say was that I disagreed and thought she was beautiful. She responded with a bit of grin and livened up in conversation so hopefully that made her day.

The Last Day of the Chinese New Year is celebrated by the Lantern Festival; a tradition that dates back to the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago. Also referred to as Chinese Valentine’s Day, it’s celebrated by a stunning display of lights, decorated lanterns and fireworks. It’s a day of great importance in the Chinese community and marks the excitement of the coming of Spring. There were thousands of people walking through the festival streets in Shenzhen, admiring the illuminated displays. Our group of teachers even brought out our own lanterns that we lit on the shores of the South China Sea.

I had the opportunity to a 3 day trek through Laos and we came upon Mokchong Village for our homestay. Mokchong is a tight knit village of 60 farming families, with no running water or electricity. There were two community showers where sometimes up to 7-8 people would bathe at a time without privacy. Happy kids ran around, with farm animals milling about and you got the sense that the neighbors looked out for one another. It was a beautiful thing.

A happy village boy and the family pig.

Mokchong Village. A Laos boy and his bird. If you look closely, you can see a insect in his hand, trying to feed it.

Met this gentleman and his brother in the rural farmlands outside of Siem Reap. They were fishing the flooded plains in muddy slack water with wooden fishing rods, pulling out small panfish.