Tongling: A Historic City of Mines and Bronze
After a well night's rest and a break from Tongling's notorious "ganbei" culture, my day began with a trip to a very special destination. As mentioned previously, Tongling is known throughout China for its mining resources and its international appreciation for bronze, so it would only make sense that myself and the CRI team would visit one of the most historical mines in all of China.
I took a bus ride heading south to the outskirts of Tongling to Feng Huan Village to visit the legendary Jin Niu Dong, otherwise known as the Golden Bull Cave. The Jin Nu cave got its name because of an ancient hole found on the west side of the hill. It dates back to over 2,000 years. Although Tongling's mining reputation goes back almost 3,000 years, this particular site is probably the oldest and most preserved area in China that honors the mining industry of the past.
Once the bus arrived, at the entrance stood a beautiful bronze bull in honor of the site and of course bronze itself. Our guide took us along a path used by miners thousands of years ago. The area was surrounded by beautiful green trees and plants, and with the overcast and cloudy sky, I felt transported for a brief moment to another period of China's ancient civilization.
The ancient Jin Niu Cave, which operated all the way through the Han Dynasty, is nestled in a small and steep valley. In December of 1995 the cave was announced as the country's important protective unit of heritage by the State Department. To imagine carrying copper and other minerals out of this site is to probably imagine some of the most grueling labor ever. One can see first-hand how it was the Chinese who were the true pioneers of the mining industry.
My next stop was a walk along Qian Nian Gu Bo. The path surrounds the small farming community that lives in a lush and fertile valley engulfed by green and rich mountains. At the center of this valley is a small waterfall which provides fresh water to the local community. Various people were engaged in farming tasks of some kind, while the elderly sat in nearby stores playing mahjong or relaxing. Chickens and ducks were scattered throughout the area as well.
The entire valley was indeed a site to behold. It was extremely quiet and peaceful, and there was no outside noise or the buzz of technology ringing through the air. The small community is obviously not a stop on most tourist treks, and it is precisely that right there that made visiting this place even more special.
To have the experience to explore underexposed parts of China is worth any amount of time and effort. If you're lucky enough to also learn some history along the way, then of course the trip will only serve you better in the long run as you try to understand a culture and country different from your own.
Once we finished walking around the small valley the director of the area's tourism bureau gave us a moving talk and warm thanks, thoroughly appreciating the visit. I of course took with me knowledge and information that I didn't know was available, and look forward to sharing my experience and photos with everyone I know.
Tongling is a hidden gem within the Middle Kingdom, and its early citizens knew this all too well. They learned how, before most civilizations, just how to extract its precious minerals without ruining their environment. The areas I went to today were easily a testament to that kind of mentality. It was something I'll never forget.
By Lance Crayon