The Yangzi River delta region south of Shanghai is known as the water country. Hundreds of miles of canals traverse the land, linking towns and villages. Here, near the city of Shaoxing, water has completely shaped the local farmers’ unique way of life.
This poetic film — the last in the classic four-part series, “A Taste of China” — follows them through their busy daily activities on the waterways: harvesting the huge water-lotus leaves, “farming” fish and freshwater pearls, and making the region’s famous rice wine.
This area was once an immense flooded plain, sparsely populated and uncultivated. Legend says that some 4,000 years ago Yu the Great tamed the Yangzi’s floodwaters. He dug channels, constructed dikes, and drained the lowlands to make fields.
Over the centuries, generations of farmers painstakingly deepened and expanded the canals, built up and enriched the land, and created a highly productive environment. The canals still serve as “liquid highways” for wedding boats, traveling vendors, and the unusual foot-powered rowboats of the local farmers.
In the lives of the Shaoxing farmers the film identifies the traditional harmonious relationship between the Chinese people and their environment.