A county for the ages

Updated: 2013-09-04 08:28

By Li Yang (China Daily)

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Folk tunes as therapy

"If food is the material wealth of the Bama people, the folk songs they sing every day are their intellectual assets," said Chen Jinchao, chairman of the village's Longevity Research Institute. He believes that singing folk songs encourages the elderly to maintain an open nature and helps them shed anger and anxiety.

But the elderly seldom come together to sing folk songs nowadays, except as entertainment for tourists. Instead, many sit at the doors of their family inns as living advertisements of the healthy local lifestyle.

"I'm sorry you cannot understand my language. I wish you a pleasant stay in Bama," said 110-year-old Huang Masongmou, speaking in the language of the Zhuang ethnic group.

Huang has two daughters and one son, all in their late 80s, and more than 200 offspring through five successive generations in the village. Her grandson-in-law, Ya Hanzhong, said: "She lives a regular life and eats two bowls of corn porridge every meal. She's happy that we've moved to a new house and have visitors everyday."

Huang Makang also lives in the neighborhood. At 107, she may be the world's oldest pumpkin and wine saleswoman. Dressed in clean, tidy clothes, she is talkative and happy to have her photo taken with visitors. Her sister died in her sleep last year aged 103.

A county for the ages

Huang Makang, 107, and 110-year-old Huang Masongmou, live in Longevity village in Bama county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo by Huo Yan / China Daily]

Huang Lilin sells local specialties in Longevity village. "Harmonious family relations make the local people happy during their long lives," said the woman in her 30s who hopes that she will live until she is 100, "But I'm not sure about that, because life has changed here."

Companies have also arrived in Bama, hoping to tap into the "bird people market" and develop longevity products, and pyramid sales outfits have also come to sell healthcare items.

Two water companies have monopolized the spring water resources. Their slogans are "Some people drink me for more than 100 years" and "The water with a life of its own."

Ding Ling, who owns a hemp-processing business in Bama, said: "Hemp is the key to Bama's longevity because of its power to promote cell regeneration." The locals drink soup made from hemp every day and Ding's hemp oil and cosmetics are popular overseas.

Despite her success, Ding is concerned about the changes, "It's disturbing to see so many sick people elbowing their way into Bama before the county has the ability to deal with their influence on the local environment."

Although many medical experts believe environmental therapy can help medical treatment, they stress that it can't replace formal hospital treatment and say it's dangerous for so many patients to live in a place that lacks basic medical care facilities.

"The bird people, mostly poor urban residents, are afraid of death. But local people take death lightly. The sharp contrast between the natural beauty and the artificial lethargy created by the bird people has instilled a weird feeling in me", said Ding.