#204-003 In 1979, people in northern Shaanxi Province were still living in caves. In the countryside, one-cylinder tractors converted to mini-trucks were slowly replacing pony carts that have been in use for over 2000 years. For hundreds of years, the combination of China’s government policies and the extreme and vast remoteness of the country made a white foreigner a rare visitor. These girls are surprised to see a foreigner and greeted me with amusement and puzzlement. But when I spoke out in fluent Chinese there was a warm response and hospitality.
#204-162 Most Yunnanese ponies wear a leather collar ringed with bells so that they tinkle with every step and the effect of a convoy of ponies is very charming. In 1979 long strings of these ponies entered Kunming City every morning bringing fresh produce to market. The small wooden contraption on the pony’s back is for fastening cargo and for hitching a wagon. These ponies are patient, docile, hard-working and sure-footed animals. Every morning just at dawn I would hear a long train of about twenty ponies passing by my hotel. The sound of so many pony bells was unforgettable. Truck replacements and exhaust fumes can never match that charm.
#046-039a This is the main Yunnan highway from Dali to Shaping. It is also a highway where the old China collides with the new resulting in many tragic accidents due to mixed traffic. Ponies have been used in China for over 2000 years. It is only natural for them to run the center of the road.
#204-164 This pony cart with passengers is travelling through Yunnan Province on a section of the old Burma Road that was made famous in WWII. It has now been replaced by a modern superhighway. For over 2,500 year, little Yunnanese pony carts like this one were a common sight. The ponies are hardy and the passengers who rode in such carts had to be hardy too, for the roads were rough. There were no springs on the wagon and no cushions on the seats.
#103-005 A young woman captured in a pensive moment guarding her family’s pony cart at the village market. The pony cart is a combination of old and new. The wheels are spoked and feature modern rubber tires but the woodwork joinery of the wagon is reflective of old world skills handed down for centuries.
#204-150 These stout little Yunnanese ponies found all over the provinces are depended upon to do much of the transportation work. The carters haul passengers as well as cargo. The charge was for distance unless a load was particularly heavy, and of course it involved a lot of spirited haggling. The Chinese have been using ponies for over 2,500 years and are still in use in many areas of the country.
#204-007 For over 2,500 years, pony carts have been used in China for transportation of goods. This particular old cart has been “modernized” with inflatable rubber tires. The clay pots have been manufactured in the countryside and are destined for commercial establishments such as restaurants or hotels in the city. The small openings and the size of the jars indicate they are used to store liquids such as soy sauce or cooking oils.
#026-051 These little Yunnanese ponies wear a leather ring of bells around their neck that jingle with each step. You hear caravans of them every morning as they head into Kunming with produce from the surrounding countryside. Ponies have always played an important role in Chinese culture and have existed before the earliest dynasties.
#204-155 Minority women coming to town to shop in their quick-stepping Yunnanese pony cart. The adobe brick constructed building behind the cart is the town clinic.