October 25, 2010


Amidst the modernity of a fast developing nation, it is always possible to find fascinating traces of the past. 100 kilometers from Beijing lie a series of ancient caves carved out of the cliff side at Guyaju. The original inhabitants of the largest cliff dwellings discovered in China lived here over a thousand years ago. Not much is known about the cave dwellers, with both their origins and disappearance from the region still a mystery. Archaeologists have made guesses on which cave was a temple, which belonged to the village chieftain, which was a stable for horses, and which was a storeroom based on clues such as size, location, and shape of the specific cave.

Although the rock is soft, life was hard for the residents of Guyaju. Not only the walls of their homes, but their tables, beds, and tools were all made of stone. Carefully climbing the steps etched into the cliff, I examined a small sample of the over 120 caves in the complex. From atop I could see the odd modern day reconstruction of a town from the American West down below. This development, ostensibly to allow wealthy Chinese to have vacation homes where they could imagine they are living in 19th century America, is called Jackson Hole.


"Here we stand in the middle of this new world with our primitive brain, attuned to the simple cave life, with terrific forces at our disposal, which we are clever enough to release, but whose consequences we cannot comprehend." ~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi