Oh-Bama! China’s Fountain of Youth

A River in Bama County
This week I’d like to uncover a hidden gem for all Asian Living readers. It is a natural occurrence which is not 100% understood by scientists, but honestly, is science the only way to understand our world? Reality slaps us in the face at times when science has no explanation. And that is why I hope we can all keep our minds open for my latest post about Bama.

Southern Guangxi province has a secret…. For hundreds of years the sleepy county of Bama never thought much of living past 100 years old. At present there are over 70 people living into the triple-digits, post-golden years. (Platinum years, perhaps?) With a population of 250,000, you’ll stumble across one for every 3,500 or so people. But this small agricultural region of centenarians is using this natural phenomenon as a way to boost tourism and market all kinds of products; from botteled water to snake-fermented liquor.

The region, which borders Vietnam to the south, is now steadily filling with tourists looking to get a piece of the magic from the Bama Longevity Cluster. It is understood in Chinese culture that leading a healthy life includes experience with Chi Ku [吃苦], literally “eating bitterness.” These way-past-retired locals are not just sitting around all day; they keep moving and live pretty active lifestyles. In order to do some Chi Ku activities, the local farms of centenarians will let you do back-breaking harvesting work for them! Tourists can be found digging up gourds and cutting down leafy greens for lunch and dinner. (Quite a sight when you know they have come for a holiday!) Some of the mystical properties of the region are said to come from “life-prolonging soil”and “longevity” spas, although genetics is said the be the main factor in distinguishing whether or not a person will live to 100.

A Picturesque Sunset in Guangxi

A 2008 write-up on Bama can be found in the Wall Street Journal here. If you are planning a China-Vietnam trip, it’s worth a quick visit to Bama after a few days in beautiful Yangshuo (Guilin).

Here are some products from Bama, which can be purchased on Taobao.