By Mason Philip Smith (Provincial Press 2008)
Review by Craig Dietrich
Early in 2008 I received an email from my friend Ma Tongchun inviting me for lunch at his ancestral farm northwest of Kunming, Yunnan. So in May I returned to China, accompanied by Brian Dorsk a friend from Cape Elizabeth.
Before proceeding to Xiamacun, “Mr. Ma” accompanied us to Heijing, on the rail line between Kunming and Chengdu. This is one of the best-preserved, and little-touristed, towns in Yunnan. For over 1,000 years the surrounding hills were mined for salt. At its peak in the Ming Dynasty, Heijing provided more than 70% of the imperial salt. It is still small, with a single main street running parallel to the Longchuan River. The town combines a strong sense of history with a pleasing lack of commercialism. Popular with visitors from Kunming on weekends, it is a gem, a place lost in time, rarely visited by Westerners (although Marco Polo knew it). More