cave dwellers

June 2nd, 2008

Here’s an interesting piece from Southern Daily: Some people in Guizhou actually prefer to live in a cave, and the recent rainstorms down there show why:

  17户人家乐做“山顶洞人”

17 families are happy “mountain-top cave people”

 从不漏雨,从无泥石流,近日暴雨淹了半山腰的房子,洞里一点没漏水 

Rain never leaks in, never any mud-rock flows, recently rains flooded half the houses on the waist of the mountain, absolutely no water leaked into the cave.

 “给我们建的房子,这次都淹了,洞里一点没漏水,还是住这里好。”昨日下午,在有着“亚洲最后一个穴居部落”之称的贵州紫云县中洞里,53岁的王凤忠感慨地说,虽然断电4天、洞内桌椅全发霉,但比起山腰处的房子,还是住洞里安全。

 “The houses built for us were all flooded this time, absolutely no water leaked into the cave, it’s still better to live here”. Yesterday afternoon, in a cave still bearing the name “Asia’s last cave-dwelling tribe” in Middle Cave in Guizhou’s Ziyun County, 53 year old Wang Fengzhong said emotionally, although the electricity was cut for 4 days and the tables and chairs in the cave were all mouldy, compared to the houses built on the middle slopes of the mountain, living in the cave is still safer.

截至5月27日20时,贵州省已有25个县(市、区)不同程度受灾,因灾死亡30人,失踪13人。

Up till 8pm on May 27, 25 counties (or cities and districts) in Guizhou Province had been hit by disaster to varying degrees, with 30 people killed and 13 missing.

安家在海拔1800米的洞穴里

Settling in a cave 1800 metres above sea level

67岁的王凤强坐在洞口高处,头上就是电视信号卫星接收器,在海拔约1800米的家门口,他出神地俯视山下,身体几乎一动不动,“我平时没啥事,就坐在这 里往下看,高兴,不会冷清,我住了一辈子都挺好的。”他说从来没见过这么大的雨,自己家在中洞最外面,风把雨吹进来,家里有点积水,但这两天已基本吹干。 其余16户人家则安然无恙,其中包括他的弟弟王凤忠家。

67 year old Wang Fengqiang sits on a high point at the mouth of the cave, on his head a TV satellite receiver. At the gate of his home 1800 metres above sea level, he looks over the valley below, entranced, his body almost completely motionless, “Usually I have nothing to do, I just sit here looking down, happy, I won’t get lonely, I’ve lived a pretty good life here.” He said he’d never seen such heavy rain, his own home is the closest to the outside in Middle Cave, the wind blew the rain in, a little water built up in his home, but the wind has basically dried it out these two days. The other 16 homes, on the other hand, escaped unscathed, including his younger brother Wang Fengzhong’s home.

王凤忠毫不掩饰对中洞生活环境的自信。他出生后就住在洞内,多少大风大雨都看过了,洞穴从不漏雨,也没有泥石流。不过这次还是有些不一样:5月26日,中洞彻底断电,电力公司上山抢修了4天才恢复;洞内小学紧急停课,因为桌椅全霉了。

Wang Fengzhong can hardly conceal his confidence in Middle Cave’s living environment. Right after he was born he moved into the cave, and through all the big winds and heavy rains he’s seen, the cave has never leaked and never had a mud-rock flow. Even so, this time wasn’t quite the same: On May 26, the electricity in Middle Cave was completely cut, the power company came up the mountain to repair the power supply, and it was four days before it was restored. The cave’s primary school urgently stopped classes because the desks and chairs were all mouldy.

穴居部落洞内躲过暴雨侵袭

Cave-dwelling tribe evaded the storm’s attack in the cave

中洞位于离安顺市76公里的格凸河畔,距紫云县城约35公里,洞里有17户苗族人家,分王、吴、梁、罗四大姓。上世纪50年代,他们和祖辈从居住了百年的 “下洞”往上迁徙,搬至中洞,居住至今。在这个长215米、宽115米、高55米的山洞里,他们使用木柱子、竹篱笆建房,天然的溶洞顶是共同的屋顶。“当 年是因为穷,住不起房子,就住山洞。”王凤忠说,现在不一样,政府帮忙造了房子,但自己不愿意住。

Middle Cave is situated on the banks of the Getu River 76 kilometres from Anshun City, 35 kilometres from Ziyun County Town. 17 Miao families live in the cave, bearing the surnames Wang, Wu, Liang and Luo. in the 1950s, they and their ancestors moved up from the “Lower Cave” they’d lived in for hundreds of years, moving to Middle Cave, where they’ve lived until today. In this 215-metre long, 115-metre wide, 55-metre high mountain cave they use wooden pillars and bamboo fences to build homes. The roof of the natural limestone cave is their common roof. “That year it was because we were poor we couldn’t live in a house, so we lived in the cave.” Wang Fengzhong said, it’s not the same now, the government helps them build houses, but they themselves don’t want to live in them.

据了解,由于中洞与世隔绝,洞内光线差、湿气重,出于健康考虑,当地政府想让人们迁出,所以早在上世纪80年代,为中洞居民在不远的山下修建了新房。记者看到,十几栋平顶水泥房散落在山腰平坦处,周围已长满野草,木质的门窗上,长出青苔和蘑菇。

It is understood that because Middle Cave is isolated from the world, the light in the cave is poor and the humidity high, and from health considerations, the local government wants to move the people out, and so as early as the 1980s, built new houses not far away below the mountain for the Middle Cave residents. This reporter saw them, a dozen flat-rooved concrete houses scattered around a flat area halfway down the mountain, the surroundings overgrown with weeds, lichen and mushrooms growing on the wooden doors and windows.

王凤青是王凤忠的堂弟,对于不愿离开,他们有共同的解释:住了一辈子,习惯了;换个地方,就怕还没洞里安全,这次大雨再次证明了这一点——山腰处那十几栋屋子都被淹了。他们还说,只有一种离开的可能:跟着孩子去外地。

Wang Fengqing is Wang Fengzhong’s cousin, and as for not wanting to leave, they share an explanation: Having lived here all their lives, they’ve gotten used to it. If they change to a new place, they’re scared it won’t be as safe as in the cave. This rainstorm proved this point once more- those dozen houses halfway down the mountain were all flooded. The also say there’s only one way they’ll leave: Going with their children to another city.

近几年村落渐渐有了商业味

The last few years the village has gradually taken on a commercial flavour 

据王凤忠回忆,2003年9月,洞里通电,之前用煤油灯;洞里人最盼望冬天,因为上午会有阳光洒到洞口空地上,能有一个小时,大家聚在一起晒太阳;不过,他也强调了几次,虽然洞里潮湿,但大家都没有风湿病。

According to Wang Fengzhong’s memory, in September 2003, the cave got electricity. Before there were kerosene lamps. The cave dwellers look forward to winter most, because in the morning the sun will shine on the empty ground at the mouth of the cave, and for one hour everybody will gather together and sun themselves. And besides, he emphasises several times, although it’s damp inside the cave, nobody has rheumatism.

布依族女司机班旋和记者一起登山进洞,她有些怀疑王凤忠的话,“我听说,洞里养的猪,养着养着就站不起来,关节出问题。对人应该也有影响吧。”她5年前来 过中洞,这次重返却感到失落,“没以前那么纯粹了,以前房屋整齐、干净,真像一个小村庄”,现在每家房子都有了区别,例如王凤忠,他门前挂起“农家饭”的 牌子,标明价钱,还铺了水泥地。

The female driver of the Buyi ethnicity Ban Xuan, who climbed the mountain and came into the cave with the reporter, had some doubts about what Wang Fengzhong said, “I’ve heard that pigs are raised in the cave, and as they are raised, the can’t stand up because their joints have problems. This should affect people, too.” She had come to Middle Cave five years before, but felt a sense of loss on this return. “It’s not as pure as before. Before all the houses were neat and clean, it really looked like a little village.” Now every house has changed, for example, Wang Fengzhong has hung a “Country-style food” sign outside his gate, indicating the price, and has laid down a concrete floor.

Wow, that’s a really weak ending to the article. Could the reporter not have followed up on the pigs? How’s about a little exploration of how the cave-dwellers are apparently cashing in on tourism (that’s what I presume they’re doing, considering the “Country-style food” sign- that’s clearly aimed at city folk looking for a little rural getaway).

4 Responses to “cave dwellers”

  1. Jianjun Says:

    What I enjoy most is to observe how native English speakers select words and structure sentences when translating from Chinese.

    As a native speaker of Chinese, I always feel it a pain to translate into idiomatic English. I may need to read more English, but studying how you guys cope with translation indeed helps a lot. ;)

  2. wangbo Says:

    Any examples? I’m curious to see what grabs your interest. “外地” I think I took some pretty big liberties with, but I wanted to avoid as much confusion as possible, considering the number of other places in the article and the lack of any direct English equivalent.

    And yes, English to Chinese is much harder for me.

  3. Jianjun Says:

    For example: 布依族女司机班旋和记者一起登山进洞,她有些怀疑王凤忠的话…

    When I saw the sentence, I translated it as something like the following…

    Banxuan, a female driver who is of Buyi ethnicity, climbed the mountain and went into the cave with the reporter. She cast some doubts on what Wang Fengzhong had said…

    It actually more stuck to the original Chinese sentence structure. But the second sentence “She cast some doubts on…” is a little detached from the first part. I like your translation that links the two parts into one sentence.

  4. wangbo Says:

    Actually, I like how you structured her name, ethnicity and job better. Mine was a bit clunky, but I hit a mental block and couldn’t figure out how to clean it up.