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Heshun: Rural charm in western Yunnan

By in Travel on

From atop the surrounding hills, Heshun (和顺), a rustic village in western Yunnan near Tengchong, is only a small cluster of tile roofs huddled together in the green valley below. Looking down on it, there is none of Tengchong's urban drabness. The tiled roofs are squeezed together so tightly it is difficult to discern if the town has any streets.

It does, of course. I discover the next day that the meandering stone paths are all being torn up, pipes being laid beneath. Even with the construction, the town is very quiet and slow-paced. The mornings come early and old women sell pickled vegetables and rice noodles outside the village's library. I hear the sloshing of water by seven; clothes are already being washed.

The evenings also come early and children skip home downhill in the darkened alleys. Beside the lake, families have made small fires and sit around on heavy, ski-lodge wooden benches warming their hands. There are few sounds after 10 pm.

Heshun is a beautiful old village, but with a twist: half the town's inhabitants haven't returned yet. For the 6,300 residents currently living in the village, nearly 6,000 others are still overseas working, waiting to retire and return to Heshun. It appears the town is destined to become a retirement home for overseas Chinese.

Despite its remote location near China's border with Myanmar, the town has always had connections to the outside world. Back in the Ming Dynasty, Heshun's first generations of overseas traders traveled frequently to Myanmar