Pingyao Organics

hot day for night soil collection in Pingyao Aug 2014

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Pingyao Organics

Pingyao is an ancient city in China, famous for its big city walls and its history as a financial center. The first system of cash deposits in one place in China and withdrawals in another started in a small building there.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Pingyao attracts tourists all year. It has lots of shops and sidewalk vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs. There are restaurants with typical food from that part of northern China, Shanxi province. There are also houses and other signs that people still live there, in and around the ancient city.

Some of the old traditions continue in Pingyao, like the collection of night soil. The man and the donkey in the photo go around the city collecting human waste. They probably take it to a field outside the city where it can sit in the sun until it gets hot enough to kill any harmful microbes. Then farmers can use it as fertilizer to feed their crops, the same crops that will feed the people who contribute the night soil.

It was a very hot day in August when this picture was taken. The look on the donkey’s face is probably a good clue to the effort it was making. The job can’t be easy, but it’s essential. Without a good sewer system, what would the residents of Pingyao do with all their waste? How could they take care of it without the night soil man? He and his animal should get some respect in their community. Hopefully, they do.