Zhongdian (Shangri-la) horse festival

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, June 15, 2008

It was a on-again-off-again affair. Usually held when the rest of China has its Dragon Boat festival, the Zhongdian horse festival has a patchy history. Forced to fit around other events - the renaming of Zhongdian to Shangri-la, the 50th anniversary of liberation last year, and this year, the Olympic Torch.
Last year it was held in the Napa hai grasslands, but rain put an early end to the races, with many spectators going home early. The year before it was a mix of fine weather followed by heavy rain. Spectators went home early then too.
This year the event was delayed and downsized, despite moving back to the newly renovated stadium. The old stadium had a stand that was covered for VIPs, and concrete bench seats around the perimeter, but folk were allowed to go inside into the middle. There was a festival atmosphere, with people camped in the surrounding hillsides or having picnics high into the forest. Not any more.
The new stadium has a running track, a football field (for the Chinese teams to play and train at high altitude), covered areas and large rooms underneath it all. And with the Olympic Torch arriving and leaving the day before, there was still lots of Olympic banners around. The army were camped out in the rooms below too. Their large trucks were lined outside the main entrance.
Perhaps because of the postponement and the scaling down, there weren't as many people around, and after two days, I left and it seemed that maybe the races were finishing too. Usually as well as horse races and yak races, there are events such as archery and also shooting from a moving horse at a stationery target. This year they just seemed to have a slow trotting around the track and it wasn't til the second day that we saw some of the scarf-picking up - where riders race as fast as possible around the track and on each straight have to pick up as many silk scarves as possible - without falling off.
Despite the improved facilities, we still had to walk a long way to the venue, which is out of town, as buses (charging extra for the day) could only go to the main road, where large new Communist buildings dwarf mere mortals like ourselves. The buildings, three or four at last count, seem to be common in these parts, and are probably in the list of those built in poor areas at huge expense. Throughout Yunnan you see schools falling down, old medical facilities, peasants toiling away, etc, and then you look up and see a bright hope - a new flash government building, made to dominate the landscape and give those government workers a nice place to work their 9-6 jobs, five days a week.
I find it funny how China makes a big deal about how feudal old Tibet was, and how much of a caste system had developed, with the monastery as the castle. China seems to be doing the very same thing. The rich are getting richer. The poor, poorer.
Well, maybe we;ll have a real revolution after all . . .

Here's pics from the horses . . .
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