Baisha Stream, The Water of My Hometown
Baisha Stream is the water of my hometown, it continually reemerges in my memory, my dreams, and my designs. To me, it is the most beautiful waterway!
Baisha Stream is a 60-kilometer long river. My hometown of Dongyu Village, meaning “village in the east,” is located on the eastern bank where the stream flows into the Wu River. From there, the stream empties into the Fuchun River, then the Qiantang River, and finally into the ocean. My earliest memories are hanging on the banks of the Baisha Stream, looking towards the Nanshan Mountains. I was eager to go against the stream to explore the wonderland spread from my ancestors: the 36 ancient weirs and irrigation channels built by the Baisha master, Wentai Lu, a commander of the Han Dynasty; the deep pool where villagers prayed for rain and the immortal crucian spirit lived; Yinkeng Village and Menzhen Village in the Shafan Valley, where even the Japanese invaders were afraid to enter, as it was guarded by General Yu Su; the deep pits and cool springs my father treked over when he carried wood out of the mountains; and the mountains my mother walked over to collect ore for commune steel-making…. However, my wish to exploring for the upstream of Baisha Stream Valley has remained unrealized even over my 50s. Hidden in the lush Nanshan Mountains, Baisha Stream has been like the mysterious Mona Lisa’s smile, charming and full of bewitchment, even became a nostalgia and emotional sustenance to me.
Finally, on November 14th, 2016 and January 19th, 2017, I had the opportunity to twice enter the Baisha Stream Valley. After 50 years away, I finally drunk from the same spring as my father. I breathed the fresh air with the particulate level of 3 μg/m3 in PM2.5, compared the 300 μg/m3 of Beijing. I nibbled green tea leaves growing on the hillside, and listened to the dancing breeze of the bamboo forest. Perhaps this was the same forest my mother passed through carrying iron ores as a young woman. And the village on stream sides and under the mountains was perhaps where my ancestors used to have a rest! The familiar village names my parents have mentioned continuously for the past 50 years, Menzhen, Shishuling, Xikou, Shafan, Gaoru, Qingcao, Liaotou, and Shanjiao each revealed, dreamlike and beautiful.
The stream fluctuates from narrow to wide, deep to shallow, and trees extend from the edge of the bank. Lush forest mountains help to regulate droughts and floods, and low stone weirs lead the stream to villages and fields. Houses built along the water contain courtyards with green vegetable gardens. The villages built along the water occasionally flood. The villagers talk about the flooding with a smile, remembering when the carp jumped into the house. They just take the flood as a game between man and water.
I have never seen so many birds in one day, from the egret dancing on the bench to the pheasant flying out of grass. There were more than I could name which flashed across the bamboo forest with a crisp sound, rested on the wire with a long phoenix-like tail and beautiful head crown, and circled above the treetops, screaming piercingly.... I assumed there are still as many fish as in my childhood, however, villagers told me there were far fewer fish than in the past, and far fewer birds and other animals. Still, it was my dream paradise.
This experience inspires me to the subjects of symbiosis and collaborative design of water — in which ways there could be symbiosis between man and water, and how could water ecosystem provide the self-regulating, life-supporting, productive and supplying services? How can water continue to become a carrier of human spirit and culture? Instead of the industrial civilization, it is the agricultural civilization and post-industrial civilization (ecological civilization) that may give the answers.