Some of the earliest visions I have of a Chinese peasant come from story books in my childhood. This was very much a British colonial view of “coolies” carrying heavy loads on both ends of a wooden pole and wearing baggy clothes and a flat conical straw hat. While fashions in language and clothing have changed through the years, the ubiquitous wooden pole is still commonly seen in the streets of towns and villages all over China.
At the end of our Yangtze River cruise at Chongqing our cases were carried off the boat by men with poles. Here in The People’s Square in Chongqing a woman carries heavy baskets full of grapefruit which she hopes to sell. It was China’s National Day when we visited the square and it was thronging with people who had gathered to watch performances of dance and drum by groups from the surrounding municipality.