Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Day Tripper


San Yue San 三月三

San Yue San 三月三, the third day of the third lunar month, is the most important festival for many of the ethnic minorities in southern China. This year it falls on Tuesday 22nd April.


For the second year running, a public holiday has been announced in Guangxi only. So, Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd will be work free.

The festival, also known as 上巳节, is celebrated mostly in the countryside with dancing and sports. Bull-fighting, horse-fighting and cock-fighting is also enjoyed by many people.


These activities can best be seen around the various villages of Sanjiang and Rongshui counties in the north of Liuzhou Prefecture. The fighting is best not seen.


Late in Liuzhou

Part of Liuzhou fame is a bit grizzly. As I have mentioned before, the place is famous for its coffins. The real things are hard to come by now, although miniature versions are relatively popular souvenirs.

More about them here.

Less popular perhaps the actual contact with the dead, although I have seen more stiffs in Liuzhou than ever before in my life. All road accident victims – usually e-bike or motorbike riders. I saw one just two weeks ago.

The media have been running this story about a local embalmer who prepares corpses for viewing prior to cremation. He says he tends to avoid friends and families in his spare time as he doesn’t want to bring them ‘bad luck’.


A couple of people he may have had to work on recently are a young girl who jumped off the Liujiang Bridge and drowned a couple of weeks ago, then her boyfriend who travelled from Guizhou to burn fake money on the bridge in her memory, then decided to jump in too! He also died.


What a waste.

I love the way the local media highlight the thing in the picture we are meant to look at. In case, we are all too thick. Idiots.

I have known two foreigners to die here in Liuzhou. And a few in other places in China. Most were posthumously repatriated, no doubt at great expense. I have given my family strict instructions to do no such thing. When I go, I will be gone. No point carting my body half way round the world. I won’t be in it.

But I have no immediate plans for bowing out yet, although the driver of the bus I took this afternoon may have had different ideas!

Bus Cuts

Shatang (沙塘) is a small market town on the northern outskirts of Liuzhou, 18 kilometres from the city centre. It serves the local rural population and farming villages. Shops in the town mainly sell agricultural goods and tools. And cheap clothing.

Unemployment is high and, most of the time, groups of young men can be seen hanging around doing nothing much in particular. Same as any small Chinese town.

What marks Shatang out is that it is also home to a number of higher education colleges including Guangxi Animal Husbandry and Veterinary School, Guangxi Liuzhou Electromechanical Engineering School, Guangxi Eco-Engineering Vocational and Technical College and Liuzhou Teachers College.

hengdaThe only viable way to  travel by public transport between the city and Shatang is to use the service supplied by Liuzhou’s Hengda Bus (恒达巴士) company which operates all Liuzhou buses. The No. 3 bus runs between the northern end of the main pedestrian street in the city centre and Shatang. Unlike most buses in Liuzhou, it has a flat fare of ¥1.80 rather than the normal ¥1.

No 3 bus

No 3 bus

Unfortunately, Liuzhou Teachers College (柳州师范高等专科学校)* and Guangxi Eco-Engineering Vocational and Technical College (广西生态工程职业技术学院)** lie a couple of kilometres beyond Shatang where the no 3 terminates.


Guangxi Eco-Engineering Vocational and Technical College

Guangxi Eco-Engineering Vocational and Technical College

So, every second No 3 bus would continue past the normal terminus and out to the two colleges which lie adjacent to each other in Junwu Forest Park area. It is a very rural setting.


Liuzhou Teachers College

Liuzhou Teachers College

On March 16th, Hengda Bus Company cancelled this arrangement and cut the extended service to a mere one bus per hour (leaving the city on the hour) as opposed to the three an hour previously. The reason for this seems to be that the Teacher’s College is in the process of relocating to Laibin city (a long story)  and the number of students on the campus has fallen from around 6,000 to a mere 1,000.  No date has been set for a full move to Laibin. They are still building the new campus. However, the Ecology School next door still has around 7,000 students. And the every twenty minute service was usually busy even after the Teacher’s College reduction.

The students (and car-less teachers) are far from happy. They now have to contend with long waits for buses and ridiculous overcrowding.  Weekends, when the students want to go to Liuzhou are a nightmare. That said, the bus stop outside Liuzhou Teachers College is the only one in Liuzhou where people stand in line to board the bus. The college enforces it.

But. Well done Hengda. You really know how to keep your customers satisfied.

The only alternative now is to take one of these ramshackle, dangerous, overcrowded death-trap buses which serve some outlying villages and run infrequently to the northern edges of Liuzhou city proper, then change to a city bus to get down town. The minibuses are filthy and stink of petrol. They charge ¥2 for the trip, then you have the cost of the next bus. This can be a lot for some students. Of course, they can’t carry 8,000 students.



A taxi from the city to the outlying colleges costs upwards of ¥40, depending on your bargaining skills (prohibitive for most students), but most drivers are very reluctant to make the trip. They probably can’t get a return fare.

* Usually abbreviated to 柳州师专

** Usually abbreviated to  广西生态学院

Lost in Translation


A couple of nights ago, I took a short taxi trip home. The relatively young driver and I had a maybe 15 minute conversation. The usual questions. Where are you from? How long have you been in China? 18 years! You are joking! Where do you work? Blah! Blah! Blah!

As we approached my destination he asked “Can you speak Chinese?”

I was baffled. We had been speaking Chinese the whole time I’d been in his vehicle. “I said, ‘yes’.

“Can you speak 柳州话?”*

“Er, yes. That is what we have been talking the whole trip!”

I have no idea what language he thought we were conversing in.

Then, when I paid, he handed me my change and said in English “Thank you!”


*  (the local dialect more technically known as ‘桂柳话‘)

It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas.

I know I’m getting repetitive in my old age, but this is important.

Since January, Liuzhou has seen 412 cases of gas poisoning and 15 deaths.  All when showering. This will slow down now that it is getting warmer, but …

If you want to stay alive, only use gas water heaters in well ventilated spaces. Or die. It’s that simple.

I lost one friend that way.

Global Garbage

Many years ago, I lived in Xi’an, Tang dynasty capital of China, now most famous for being home to the Terracotta Warriors. I loved the city, but it was time to move on.

After a lengthy spell in the beautiful west of Hunan, I ended up in Liuzhou.

One day, early on, I was standing at the roadside way to the north of the city proper, and saw this bus roll past.

xi'an bus

One of those what I call half buses. Privately operated and generally dangerous. This one was clearly stating that one of its intermediate stops was Xi’an (西安). Hundreds of miles and and a thousand memories away. Some mistake surely.

No. It turned out that just to the north of the city there is a village called Xi’an.  I’ve never been.


GlobalTimeslogoGlobal Times is a tabloid offshoot from People’s Daily and is a notoriously ridiculous propaganda nonsense source. Well worth reading.  For a laugh.

Now, they are reporting on a very important and welcome topic. Unfortunately, they screw up their own report.

They are pointing out the lack of educational facilities in rural China, something even a half interested observer couldn’t fail to notice.

At the same time time they display their own lack of education. I’m not going to mention their English errors. I have a life to get on with, but their maths amused me. And as everyone knows, Chinese people are the world’s maths experts. Not.

Er?  Maybe they don't know couple means 'two.'. I see four.

Er? Maybe they don’t know couple means ‘two.’. I see four.

I would have put this down to an innocent typo of the sort I frequently make, but this convinced me that they haven’t a clue.



Please don’t misunderstand. I desperately want the education in rural areas to improve.  But this crap just annoys me.

The Sound of Silence

I’m well aware that I haven’t posted much recently. Largely because nothing officially happens during the Spring Festival. But happily, that is all over.

Recent silence has been due to my main computer’s hard disk dying. RIP. And some low-life stealing my beloved camera. It has been an utterly shitty couple of months.  I won’t go into details.

I’m slowly stitching myself and my web of computational matters together again, but it has taken up much more time than it should have.

I lost little data but a lot of resources which may or not be refindable.

The “experts” supposedly helping me have largely turned out to be “donkeys”. Again.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

(Was it ever normal?)

A Different Festival

Rongshui Miao Autonomous County (融水苗族自治县) lies to the north of Liuzhou city, but is under Liuzhou’s jurisdiction as part of Liuzhou Prefecture. It is a poor area, with around a 70% non-Han ethnic minority population. 40% are Miao. There is no real autonomy, of course. As with Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, autonomy just means that the Governor or county chief is from the relevant minority. The real leader, the local Party Secretary, is always Han Chinese.

While the world was or wasn’t celebrating Women’s Day yesterday, the Miao people of 安陲乡, a township in Rongshui had already had their big celebration the day before.


The festival is known as 芒篙节, although Xinhua and other Chinese English language news pages have decided to transliterate it as “mang ge”. I’ve also seen 芒蒿节. I have consulted an ethnic minority friend  who is as baffled as I am.

Whatever it’s called, the locals believe it can can drive off evil and bring people prosperity in the new year. Or they are just having fun.

The peak for Miao and other local ethnic minorities in 三月三, the third day of the third lunar month, which this year falls on April 21st.

A Woman’s Place

Liuzhou celebrated yesterday’s International Women’s Day. Known in Chinese as 三八, it is taken relatively seriously through China, unlike in many western countries.

Of course, Liuzhou celebrated by having the party-controlled trade unions hold a cooking competition! Get in the kitchen, bitch!


How any women are in China’s politburo? Zilch. For an article on women in the legislature, see here.

For more on China’s patronising attitude to women, see here.

%d bloggers like this: