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By Fong Michelle H. W.

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The Naxi created a written language over 1000 years ago using an extraordinary system of pictographs – the only hieroglyphic language still in use today. WHEREABOUTS Western Sìchuān is made up of Tibetans (see p394), mostly Khambas from eastern Tibet or Goloks from the northern Amdo region of Qīnghǎi. Also resident here are small numbers of Tibetan-related Qiang (see boxed text, p396). The south of the province is home to the fascinating Yi people of the Liáng Shān (Cool Mountains), who remained a slave-raiding society strictly divided along caste lines until the end of the 1950s (see p434).

Foreigners generally find breakfast the most difficult meal to get their stomach around in China. Locals often have a bowl of rice porridge (zhōu; 粥; or congee) with pickles and yóutiáo (油条; deep-fried dough sticks), along with steamed buns, served plain or with fillings. This is usually washed down with hot soya bean milk. Other common breakfast dishes include rice-noodle soups, fried peanuts and pork with hot sauce, accompanied with a glass of beer. Just what you had in mind at 7am. DRINKS Nonalcoholic Drinks The Chinese were the first to cultivate tea, and the art of brewing and drinking tea has been popular since the Tang dynasty (AD 618–907).

Impressively, the public has also begun to join in the discourse on conservation. Since the advent of China’s first environmental nongovernmental organisation (NGO) in the mid-1990s, more than 2000 environmental groups have sprung up. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese now participate in activities ranging from politically ‘safe’ issues, such as biodiversity protection and environmental education, to cutting-edge environmental activism like dam protests. So far, the government has largely tolerated these activities, perhaps conscious that environmental NGOs can fill gaps in official efforts to protect the environment.

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