The mountain air was fresh and crisp as we ascended the Longji Rice terraces. We got up before dawn to drive three hours outside of Guilin, China to find these incredible structures and it was one of the few places we had been so far where we felt alone.
The climb was steep but magnificent. And as we all huffed and puffed our way up the mountain, the 70 year old villager that led us to the stop consistently had to wait for us. To be fair, she had been climbing these mountains for 60years.
The view around us was incredible! Thousands of feet of terraces climbed into the clouds and went on for miles and miles in the hills around us. Chickens and ponies spotted the dull green terraces, still wet with winter rains. Villages peaked out from behind the terraces, and guesthouses, still under construction spotted the landscape.
Stairs pathways, navigable only with the help of the guide, twisted and turned every which way, and as we climbed higher into the clouds, there was a faint sound of music from amidst the quiet serenity of the world. Barely audible over the huffing of our untrained lungs, it soon began to grow louder. We seemed to be passing by it, and if there’s anything I’ve learned on the voyage so far, it’s that when you hear music in a foreign country, you follow! So I dashed up the nearest staircase, and followed the music!
After climbing the staircase and winding through a small village I found the music! Four gray haired men surrounded a fire, one held played a flute, two played drums and one sang. But the song didn’t have a rhythm I am accustomed to, the beat constantly changed and the words were half sung, half chanted. And though it was so foreign to me, it was beautiful! Their songs carried gently across the valley; the Heavenly music that rose high into the clouds!
After several minutes, my group joined me and our guide informed us it was a type of prayer, a beautiful song of praise and supplication. Such a lovely accompaniment to the beauty of this world. Always follow the music!