NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 

  Field Notes From
China Hotspot



<< Back to Feature Page



Virginia Morell

View Field Notes
From Author

Virginia Morell



Mark W. Moffett

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Mark W. Moffett



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mark W. Moffett
 

Virginia Morell On Assignment On Assignment
China Hotspot

Field Notes From Author
Virginia Morell
Best Worst Quirkiest
We followed the Tibetan people of the Hengduan Mountains region on their pilgrimage to a sacred waterfall. As we walked, the guides broke into songs that were written by past Dalai Lamas. I was amazed at how beautiful their voices were. It was so exquisite that it made my heart tremble. Bob Moseley, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy, told me that this is still a common way for young lovers to communicate in the forest. Oftentimes they can’t see each other, but their voices carry through the forest of oaks and conifers and giant azaleas.

Professor Yin Kaipu and our other Chinese associates kept urging us to sample Cordyceps sinensis, a fungus the people eat to improve the immune system. Once caterpillars hatch from moth eggs, they burrow into the soil and are invaded by fungi. At some point the fungus shoots up from the ground, forming tiny black stalks. Professor Yin always chose where we ate every day, so at one restaurant he made an advance request for a special chicken dish prepared with herbs and broth and topped with this fungi, an arrangement that made each long, skinny, black fungus look like the legs of a tarantula. His idea was to have everyone take one and eat it to gain strength. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But the rest of the group tried to persuade me. When one of them finally told me that it was only grass, I held my breath and took a bite. It had a mildly grassy taste, but once was enough.

We were invited to a big party, and everyone in the village took turns singing. They all had beautiful voices. Then they decided that they wanted to hear American folk songs, so they asked us to sing.Mark Moffett, the photographer, stood up and sang a few bars of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” complete with dramatic movements. I did a little bit of “Streets of Laredo,” goodness knows why! I think it was because the men were wearing traditional hats that looked something like cowboy hats. Then Bob Moseley sang a very American Woody Guthrie song. We were terrible! The villagers just looked at us with puzzled expressions. We were relieved when they started singing again.



© 2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe