CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (2/6/2020 Thu.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (2/6/2020 Thu.)

People's Daily app

01:57, February 06, 2020

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From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

To gather wild honey from cliffs in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, honey hunters risk their lives every day, facing swarms of bees and being stung repeatedly while standing on a rope ladder. 

Collecting honey is an arduous and challenging process that has been a tradition for thousands of years. Hunters wear protective gear and use smoke to scatter the huge bees from their hives to reduce the risk of confrontation.

Cliff honey gathering is a long-standing cultural tradition and the main way of making a living for the people of Lisu ethnic minority, who live in the mountainous southwest area of Yunnan Province.

Today, the Lisu people are thriving as there is an increasing demand for raw honey by those who live in China’s bigger cities.  

And thanks to e-commerce development and online shops, honey can be delivered thousands of kilometers away.  

Today’s Story in the Story looks at how this ancient tradition of cliff honey gathering has become a poverty alleviation endeavor in Southwest Yunnan Province.

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A honey gatherer is enveloped in bees while working on a rope ladder. (Photo: IC)

Recording the work of the honey hunters has become a daily routine for Ru Qiukai, who is originally from Taizhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. The 26-year-old man left his well-paid job at a bank in July. He now pursues his dream in a gorge of the mountainous Dehong prefecture in Yunnan. Ru calls himself a spokesperson for cliff honey hunters.

Ru uses new media and online platforms to promote the cliff honey hunters' stories, including their moments of danger and hardship. Through his efforts, cliff honey hunting on the China-Myanmar border areas has garnered much attention. The sweetest part of it is that this particular way of extraction of a natural treasure is lifting people out of poverty.

In 2018, Ru met a group of Lisu honey hunters during a research trip to the countryside in Dehong of Yunnan Province. He learned about their stories of using extraordinary courage and skill and risking their lives, to climb a 100-meter cliff to collect precious honey.

Born in a peasant family, Ru witnessed the hardships of his father on the farm work. He says he always had a dream in his heart - to reward hard-working farmers. As a graduate of Zhejiang University, one of China's top universities, Ru hopes to use his knowledge to boost Dehong's rural economy and ecology.

He quit his job at a bank in Taizhou and joined two internet companies to help farmers develop agricultural projects, teach them how to use the internet, develop industries and polish the image of their brands.

Giant bees and dark giant bees are two types of the apis dorsata, a species of the world's largest honeybees. The bees can measure up to almost 3 centimeters in size and are mainly found in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. 

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A honey gatherer works on a rope ladder. (Photo: IC)

Protecting and retaining the cliff honey gathering skills of the Lisu people has also become a driving force for Ru. In July, Ru started a business with farmers and honey hunters in Dehong. 

Some cliff honey is guarded by people living in nearby villages, who are called "honey guardians.”  The guardians are usually prestigious people in the village. 

In the past, collective farming, including gathering honey, could decrease the risk of survival. For example, each family sent out a person to gather honey with the others and got their own portion afterward, each receiving different proportions.  Some took cliff honey to the market to swap for groceries. The tradition of half farming and half collecting is common in mountain areas in Yunnan province.

One guardian thinks this is progress, that the internet has infinitely compressed the distance among honey hunters, honey gatherers, and honey guardians. Many of them have become good friends since honey hunters are quite honest with the buyers. Villagers believe this is a highly efficient and economical profit-earning method.

The improved international brand image of cliff honey also helps Dehong locals improve their income. For a long time, the economic returns for cliff climbing honey hunters were low, leaving only older honey hunters to climb the cliffs. Younger generations have been lured away by more lucrative jobs.

Ru said his future plan will focus on further building the brand of cliff honey to shape the image of this border village and create a honey mining-themed tour. 

He said he hopes to keep maintaining the skill of honey gathering while lifting farmers out of poverty through maximizing the economic value of their tradition.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Paris Yelu Xu. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times and China Daily.)

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