As the seasons shift from rainy to dry here in Xizhou, there are a few marked changes that take some adapting to. I’m not talking about the cooler weather (60 degrees is plenty comfortable by my standards), nor am I talking about the reduction in tourists (at least until Spring Festival in mid-February.) No, the major life change that I have been struggling to adapt to has to do with the closing of Qingliang Ice Cream Shop.
Qingliang XiaoWu is a rarity in China because it is a locally owned ice cream shop that has been operating since the early 1980s. In China time, since so much changes so quickly, that’s a long time. What makes Qingliang Ice Cream Shop even more special is that it is a small dairy business operating in China, a country in which indigenous dairy products are nearly unheard of. I actually once had a Chinese professor of mine in Hangzhou ask me how people in the West could possibly enjoy cheese. “It’s disgusting, in my opinion,” he had said. Yet here in Xizhou there is a thriving tradition of making cheese (rushan 乳扇), yogurt (suannai 酸奶), and last, but certainly not least, ice cream (bingqilin 冰淇淋).
People in this area of China attribute the culture of dairy to the conquest of Kublai Khan in the 13th century. After conquering the Dali Kingdom, Kublai Khan left several magistrates from his court to rule the region. According to locals, the magistrates selected came from a culture that valued dairy products, and so they spread the knowledge and and appreciation of dairy production to the local population.
Whether or not this history of dairy in this part of Yunnan is factual, what cannot be denied is that this part of China is unique in its multitude of dairy products. Local cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are beloved by locals and tourists alike, and tasting the dairy products of Xizhou is an essential experience for anyone who comes here.
Qingliang Ice Cream Shop has a soft serve classic ice cream and several ice cream bar flavors to choose from. On a hot afternoon these make a perfect treat, and aside from being totally delicious they are incredibly affordable. The most expensive item is the classic soft serve which goes for a reasonable 5 RMB (about $0.75).
Sadly, from the months of November until March, Qingliang XiaoWu is closed. But come March the shop will reopen and it will be ice cream season once more!