Yanzi: my past life has been in Dali.



I think my past life has been in Dali. I came to Dali for the first time several years ago when I went to Lijiang on business. There was no expressway then. I loved the trees, they’re called Anshui, they’re famous in Taiwan. A lot of them are gone now, but they’re still on the mountains. In the autumn they change to a beautiful red colour. I didn’t have the same feeling for Lijiang as I do for Dali.

This place is different to where I come from. On the left, you’ve got the mountains, green, and on the right you’ve got the lake. Another thing is the buildings: the Bai people here paint their buildings white, it makes things look so clean. The Bai girls traditionally wear white, too, with a pink or blue colour as well. So everything’s clean and beautiful.

Later, after that first trip, I tried to take a chance. I finished university, and I was the only one who wanted to work in Yunnan. Every time I came here I got more experience, and several years later I thought I should move here to live.

YanziI studied English at university. My father was a language professor. I always wanted to be a lawyer, and then changed my idea while at middle school. My father wanted me to take Chinese language classes, but I didn’t want to do the same work as my father! I knew I didn’t want to earn lots of money, and I didn’t want to work with machines. My father thought English would be used very widely in China later, so I choose that.

I always concentrated on talking and listening, I was always bad at grammar. To me, language is about speaking and listening. Later I’ll learn Spanish, and next either German or French. Now most people in the world speak English no problem. Later, perhaps, they’ll speak Chinese…

My bookshop is like a hobby. The cost of living here is lower than compared to, say, Kunming. I go back to Beijing to work a little as a translator for an export company, then return. In Dali, you can be more relaxed. Like the bookshop – the sorts of people who like the books come and enter by themselves.

I’ve lived here for seven years now, I’ve run my bookshop, Bookworm, for four years. I want Bookworm to be the best bookshop in Dali run by a Chinese person. Later I hope that foreigners will come, interested in Chinese for exchange.

In Beijing, books are sold by weight – they weigh the books. Here, I swap books. I’m not poor, I’m not rich. It’s like a hobby. I choose who can stay at in the rooms, I don’t choose young people. Writers, documentary people come here. If I don’t like someone who wants to stay, I start telling them about the bad things…and tell them about the other places to stay!

I’m a little lazy about cooking things. We only eat baked things at movies – only Americans want popcorn! But nearly 95% of foreigners want baked things. When the bakery began we were authorised to sell for two weeks. I do it in cooperation with a German couple, they do the baking. It’s good for the bookshop customers too, they see the bakery and come in. It’s a good feeling, and then they buy books too. I’m living in Dali to enjoy it – and to help each other like with the bakery is beneficial.

Now Chinese artists come to Dali too. Young ones, not famous, they do art more as a kind of hobby. Here, it’s relaxed, there isn’t the pressure of the other cities. My friendscape here is people from 24, 25 to 60 years old. On the surface, everyone’s doing nothing, but everyone has their own thing that they’re doing.


YanziI spoke to Yanzi on the 20th of December, 2007.


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