Thursday, August 20, 2009

Listening to the sound of rain

Most Chinese would say that the social atmosphere they most enjoy is rènao 热闹, "bustling with noise and excitement, lively". The first character, rè, can also mean "hot", "feverish" and "restless".

Rènao is the kind of atmosphere you find in a Chinese restaurant when the establishment is fully packed: Every table is seated with ten chattering people, each one happily eating and socializing; waitresses and waiters scurry about, the hostess shouting into a walkie-talkie that "table 9 is ready!" and the loud speakers pumping out shrill pop music. Only then can a Chinese feel relaxed, surrounded by food, people and noise, a comforting mayhem that seemingly creates a sensation of much-needed security and inclusiveness.

But if you look closely you might see that actually not every guest is talking; some people are sitting quietly, letting others do the talking. Amidst the tumultuous hubbub of everyday Chinese life there are actually people who seek quiet and solace, seemingly not needing to constantly fill their existence with noise.

Chán fáng tīng yǔ  雨, "meditation/zen", "chamber", "listen", "rain" is an expression that epitomizes the ideal of quiet and solitude. The quiet that is found when listening to the sound of rain drops falling on the roof of a temple when meditating in a separate space. A Zen monk, of course, should be able to find his or her own "inner chamber", even amidst the nosiest, maddening crowd. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

På kinesiskt vis har blivit talbok

Min bok På kinesiskt vis har blivit talbok. Det är min andra bok som har spelats in (Resa till Kina blev också talbok) så nu kan ni låna ut "boken" på biblioteket och lyssna på den i din MP3 eller CD-spelare. Himla roligt tycker jag!

Kinafestivalen på Sigtunahöjden

Kanske dags för en sammanfattning av årets Kinafestival på Sigtunahöjden. Jag har haft så mycket på gång sedan festivalen slutade att jag inte hunnit riktigt landa än. Och bäst jag skyndar mig innan jag åker in i den kinesiska cyberdimman igen när jag flyger hem till Kina på fredag. 

Festivalen som pågick 29 juli till 2 augusti blev hellyckad må jag tycka själv. 2500 besökare, återseende av gamla vänner och tidigare resenärer, intressanta föreläsare, sagolika omgivningar, god mat, underbar personal på Sigtunahöjden Hotell och Konferens och för min egen del 80 sålda böcker! Jag var inbjuden som gästföreläsare och kände själv att mitt föredrag gick bra. Jag erkänner nu att det var första gången jag pratade om mina nyaste böcker!

Övriga tiden stod jag i "Lotusrummet" hos Lotus Travel i egenskap av reseledare och berättade om resor och specialerbjudande. Det fanns knapp någon tid då det inte fanns besökare, från det att dörrarna öppnades strömmade folk in under hela dagen i dagarna fem. Jag ser redan fram emot nästa år Kinafestival, jag kanske blir inbjudan igen!

Pablo, Françoise, Ingrid and Bengt...and Robert C

Above: ©Robert Capa, Magnum Photos/France. Golfe-Juan. 1951. Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. In the background is Picasso's nephew, Javier Vilato.
Below: Ingrid, Bengt and Göran, Österlen, Sweden 2009. Photographer ©Julia Nilsson

The picture above is a famous image of Picasso and his wife Françoise Gilot joking on the beach. Ingrid W, a picture researcher colleague of mine had some fun this summer and recreated the scene with friends (with all due respect to the legendary R Capa).  Great success I think!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tagong and Western Sichuan July 2009 Part 3: Prayer flags

All photos July, 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

It has been my dream for many years now to find and lie underneath large prayer flag formations. Until our recent trip in July I hadn't found any that were big enough and in the good condition that I wanted but this trip was an incredible bonanza!

I'll post more in a few minutes!

Tagong and Western Sichuan July 2009 Part 2

Tagong and Western Sichuan July 2009 Part 1

All photos July, 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I'm taking advantage of being able to upload new photographs from recent trip we made up to Tagong area of Western Sichuan to view the total solar eclipse. The weather was incredible and the sights and experiences as precious as ever. Every time we go up this area there is something and different to explore. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Soluxe Courtyard: Fantastic hotel in Beijing

All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Here are some images of the courtyard of a hotel I stayed at recently in Beijing. An oasis of peace, quiet and beauty. It's built on the grounds of an old temple (two actually Guangji and Jiaci), thus the inscribed Ming and Qing Dynasty inscribed shibei and 500 year old trees. Birdcages are hung out in the corridor each day to the guest's delight (and the birds entertainment) and each room has a door out onto a lovely courtyard. Heaven in the middle of Beijing!

Soluxe Courtyard, Beijing, conveniently located by the subway station Gulou. Address: No 2 Xitao Hutong, JiuGulou Street, Xicheng District, Beijing

Yunfeng Temple, Western Sichuan

All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Yunfeng Si (Cloud Peak Monastery) is a Zen monastery tucked into the mountains of SW Sichuan. The monastery is rebuilt but the temple gardens have trees that are 1,200 years old, monks that are almost as ancient, bamboo groves, medicinal kitchen gardens and supreme tranquility. We visited at the end of June when the weather was lovely and the light absolutely magical. 

Lika som bär/Two peas in a pod

Bodhidharma meditating for nine years, staring into a blank cave wall. (Artist? Can anyone enlighten me?)

Winston Churchill with his dog, Rufus, in the gardens of his Chartwell Estate, 1951. ©Philippe Halsman/Magnum Photos

Two of the most interesting people who have ever lived.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Niǎo yǔ huā xiāng: The intoxication of a beautiful spring day

Vikingsberg Park, Helsingborg, Sweden ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I have not abandoned you!

Sailing across the reservoir at Simatai after hiking 12 km on the Great Wall from Jinshanling. You can have this much fun in China! Photo © Michael Hansson

I'm sure that it seems like I have abandoned this blog but it's not true! It is only China that has abandoned us innocent bloggers. Blogspot (and Facebook) has been blocked now for some time and I can only post this because for a short time I am outside of the Bamboo Iron Curtain and able to access my site without any obstructions. 

When we/I will be able to able to post again is anyone's guess (posting through a backdoor is like eating candy with the wrapper on, just NOT the same sensation). Not being able to blog is actually painful, I miss it and feel like an important part of my life is missing. 

So come on China - grow up and realize that this is not where the battle should be fought!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cloud Peak Temple, Yingjing County part 1

Yunfengsi, originally uploaded by Ingrid Booz Morejohn.

Yunfeng Si (Cloud Peak Temple) is a Zen monastery tucked into the mountains of SW Sichuan, in Yingjing County. The monastery is rebuilt but the temple gardens have trees that are 1,200 years old, monks that are almost as ancient, bamboo groves, medicinal kitchen gardens and supreme tranquility. Yunfeng is locally known as Taihu Si because of a large stone garden sculpture that looks like a taihu stone (more like Mt Meru actually). We tried to stay over night in the spartan temple accomodations but this proved a bit too much for the monks who came up with every excuse possible to not find the key to the rooms. Maybe next time...

Tea Horse Trail along the Daxiang Ling

This last weekend we hiked a small part of the ancient Tea Horse Trail
(Chama Gudao) that connected Sichuan to Tibet. The section we walked on was
a stretch between Yingjing and Kangding up the Daxiang Ling. Absolutely
beautiful with lush forests, butterflies of every shape and color, flowers,
waterfalls, chattering birds and icy cold rushing water in the rivers that
we so gratefully swan in.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poverty and life of a humble wanderer

I am so longing to post wonderful pictures from my latest trip but CAN'T for the moment. Instead a quote:

Reginald Johnston (of Puyi, Last Emperor, English (Scottish) tutor fame) wrote in 1908 in "From Peking to Mandalay":

There was a Chinese scholar who, like scholars of most lands, was blest with few of this world's goods, and, unlike a great many of them, was noted for his zealous devotion to the service of his country's gods.

One night he heard the voice of an invisible being that spoke to him thus: "Your piety has found favour in the sight of heaven, ask now for what you most long to possess, for I am the messenger of the gods, and they have sworn to grant your heart's desire". "I ask", said the poor scholar, "for the coarsest clothes and food, just enough for my daily wants, and I beg that I may have freedom to wander at my will over the mountains and fell and woodland stream, free from all worldly cares, till my life's end. That is all I ask." Hardly had he spoken when the sky seemed to fill with the laughter of myriads of unearthly voices.

"All you ask?! cried the messenger of the gods. "Know you not that what you demand is the highest happiness of the beings that dwell in heaven? Ask for wealth or rank, or what earthly happiness you will, but not for you are the holiest joys of the gods".

Blog discombobulation

I am missing my blog. Because Blogpost is blocked and I am unable to have "direct" contact with whatever I post AND my followers I have become all discombobulated and lost my blogging mojo! Humph. Not happy at all. Going through a "sneaky" backdoor is not the same as being able to post pictures, comment on comments, see my followers, check my blog traffic, COMMUNICATE! I feel like I'm at a party but all the fun is going on in another room from which I am barred entry because "SOMEONE" can't take a joke. Come on China, GROW UP. Double humph-humph!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Red guards in Chengdu and Red Detachment of Women

Emy and I chanced upon a dance school performance in Zijing Park yesterday. Groups of little girls (and a few serious kungfu boys) dressed in all manner of costumes and colours scurried about, got shouted at by their dance instructors, scolded by their mothers (who primped and bettered make-up, tweeked costumes and acted general maternal fuss-buckets), jumped up on stage, twirled around (pink butterflies), flapped their long sleeves (Tibetans) and brandished large red stars (red guards), all with enormous dedication, enthusiasm, flashing of blinding white teeth, boldly made-up eyes and tightly pinned and coifed hair. Seldom have I seen so many ponytails in one go.

It was the last group of red star carrying girls that caught my attention though. Their faces were heavily painted, they wore braids and grey Mao caps each with a red star in front, had militant little shorts-pants on and bold red leggings. Their faces were frozen in dedication, perfect miniature Red Guards (紅衛兵 Hóng Wèi Bīng) about to perform a dance from the model opera Red Detachment of Women (红色娘子军 Hóngsè Niángzǐjūn). Emy who is 10 years old didn't give it a thought and most likely not the little girls themselves who all seemed to be the same age and probably had no understanding of late 1960s China and its politics. But I wondered what the people in the audience felt when seeing these girls dress as they were and dance as they did.

But how wrong I was. According to Wikipedia this Chinese ballet premiered as early as 1964, two years before the start of the Cultural Revolution. It was adapted from an earlier film that was in turn adapted from a novel which was based on a true story that happened on the island of Hainan in the 1930s. During the Cultural Revolution however it was selected as one of the "eight model operas" (八个样板戏 bā gè yàng bǎn xì) permitted. It was this opera that Richard Nixon saw when he visited China in 1972, seven years before the normalization of the Sino-US relationship. It remains a very popular ballet today and is still performed, both in China and around the world.

Despite its political overtone and historical background when it was created, it remains a favorite of music and ballet lovers nearly 30 years after the Cultural Revolution in China. Many numbers were based on the folk songs of Hainan Island, a place that, with its coconut trees rustling in tropical wind, evokes much romantic ethos. Though there are unmistakable elements of Chinese music, the music of this ballet was performed with basically a Western symphony orchestra.

A photograph will be posted sometime in the future...

Blogspot and comments

Since Blogspot is still blocked in China I am not able to comment on comments that are made beneath my postings. Please do keep posting comments, I receive them via email where I read them and plan to answer in the future when Blogspot hopefully is accessible again. Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Penises and breasts

Yesterday was a day of Chinese studies at Chinese Corner, art class at QSI finishing up the mosaic project we've been working on with the 11-12-13 year olds and also...penises and breasts. I'm not trying to capture your attention in the most spectacular way because I can't post any pictures for the moment - believe me when it's possible again I'll post the evidence to prove to you that yesterday was just another typical day in China, i.e. a series of both mundane and bizarre experiences.

I had to go up to Jinli Street yesterday to buy a birthday present and was wandering around the back alleys when I heard the magnetic pulse of salsa music. I could hardly contain myself and had to immediately figure out where this music was coming from. Salsa is not the usual Jinli fare which usually specializes in classical and vernacular Chinese culture and rarely anything Western. But lo and behold salsa it was and I finally found where: The back of Jinli is now connected with the Wuhou Gongyuan and they were participating in the ongoing "Intangible Culture Festival". A group of scantily clad Australian dancers were doing a ripping salsa with all body parts jiggling and wiggling to the beat. How certain parts of the ladies anatomies stayed inside their dresses I think it was not only me wondering but all the mesmerized old Chinese men and women who made up the greater part of the audience at this time of day. The rhythm and enthusiasm of the dance troup was great though and I couldn't help jiggling along with them.

After the Australians bounced off the stage there followed a group of Chinese men balancing a large bamboo pole on their foreheads, juggling with it etc. On the sidelines I noticed other Chinese acts, most unusual being a group of very serious looking men dressed entirely in straw: straw hats, straw skirts, straw leggings and strangely each one had a substantial-looking straw "attachment" dangling between their legs. I didn't pay it much notice until they started dancing. Whoops! That dangling straw thing sure caught the audience's attention now as it turned out to be the focal point of the dance, help up high in the sky with a eye-riveting red-painted tip, jerked about and held with firm determination by the wildly dancing men.

The old ladies in the audience were giggling now and I asked the young man beside me where these dancers came from: "Hunan" he answered, as he distanced himself from me and my questions. When I later showed Burton the pictures he said "Must of been some kind of fertility dance". What a way to be distracted on this certain day.

Kinafestival Sigtunahöjden

Forgot to say...I have been invited to be a guest author at the China Festival (Kinafestivalen) at Sigtunahöjden north of Stockholm this summer so I will be back in Sweden for a few weeks, yippee! I will be holding a presentation centered around one of my two books that came out in 2008: Kinesiska symboler. Do please visit anyone that happens to be in the area at the end of July or beginning of August (July 29 - Aug 2), 2009.

Look here for more event info:



I will also be working with Lotus Travel at the festival. Other authors, photographers, instructors, lecturers will be there as well to make it an exciting event: Marcus Haraldson (En linje över Kina), photographer Li Yanan, Cecilia Lindqvist, Champagne expert Richard Juhlin (Paddy and I happen to have translated a few of his books into English) etc.

Taijiquan instructor Marianne Telford - who just led the taijiquan lessons on the "Hälsoresa" I led - will be giving lessons as well. A good opportunity to come and see what a fantastic instructor she is and think about signing up for next year's 2010 taijiquan tour that we are already planning now!

There will also be numerous shopping opportunities, tea and food presentations, music events, exhibitions etc etc.

And by the way....Sigtunahöjden is a lovely hotel and conference centre situated in beautiful surroundings and now completely remodeled with a uniquely Chinese flavor so pay a visit and come away inspired!

Update about Blogspot

Hello again and thanks for support about Blogspot being blocked. I still can't post pictures (so you can't see the great image of me flying across a reservoir by the Simatai Great Wall attached only by a hook on a cable) but I'll try and start posting text and later when Blogspot hopefully surfaces again I will be able to post pictures to the postings. It will be a new challenge to hold your interest in this blog without any images! See you soon...

Blogspot blocked in China

Hello Everyone!

I'm back from my trip and am dying to post pictures and text but Blogspot has been blocked in China for a couple of weeks now so it is going to be hit and miss to get anything out to all of you around the world. Followers in China: don't give up hope! You can still read this blog through a proxy server but hopefully things will get back to normal shortly (a country this size should be mature enough to take criticism and negative commments, COME ON!). I am posting this through a backdoor and hope that I will be able to continue posting text, although pictures seem to be another matter all together.

Please be patient and thanks again all you faithful followers...I miss you!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Off to Beijing and beyond

Indian Museum, Calcutta ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I'm off on a job for the next two weeks so blogging will be sporadic. But I'm sure that I will have lot's of adventures to report about so do please look in from time to time. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Emperor Qianlong as a blogger

Qianlong in his study, possibly by Giuseppe Castiglione

I'm off to Beijing on Friday so I've got emperors on the brain. It is said that the Qianlong Emperor (Qing Dynasty 1711 - 1799) composed over 40,000 poems and 1,300 prose texts during his lifetime. Quite a remarkable feat. He would have made a pretty serious blogger as 40,000 poems means making at least 1-2 postings a day, every day for his entire lifetime, if he started writing at say the age of ten. He was a busy beaver in more ways than this, he also had 17 wives, 17 sons and 10 daughters (his grandfather Kangxi had 56 children) and travelled extensively.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Remembering the earthquake

Here is a brief description about what happened to us in Chengdu one year ago, something I wrote to tell friends and family. Our experience of course was nothing compared to what the people (who lost so many loved ones) up in the quake epicenter area experienced, something a hundred thousand times worse: 

As you all know the earthquake happened on Monday May 12th, 2008 at 2.28 pm in the afternoon. This was our daughter Emy's birthday and luckily, because of this we were all in Chengdu city and not up in the mountains where I had planned to take visiting friends. 

The day before the earthquake Paddy had just come home from Yunnan in time to celebrate Emy's big day. On the morning of the 12th we got Emy out of bed and celebrated her birthday in the Swedish way with presents and treats. She and Burton went off to school and I and Paddy spent a leisurely day catching up on talk and work. Just the week before I had been away in other parts of China working for 34 days straight. The day after I arrived back our guests from Sweden arrived and Paddy left for Yunnan. The 12th was a fantastically lovely day, sunny and warm and wonderful. I had sent our guests off to visit a temple in another part of town. I was feeling exhausted and loving the peace and quiet at home. For the evening we had planned to take Emy swimming, then all join up for a dinner at her favorite restaurant. 

At 2.28 pm I was sending off some pictures on the computer when the house started to rumble. It was like the whole building was in spin-cycle in the washing machine and something had gone terrible wrong. I knew immediately that it was an earthquake and shouted to Paddy in the next room. We both ran to our front door which is made of metal and thought we would be safe there. But the rumbling had turned into a roaring boil and it was like being inside of a popcorn maker. The noise was deafening. We live on the 13th floor and the house was being shook back and forth and everything was bouncing up and down and crashing on to the floor. All the other earthquakes I have been in (in California) lasted only 10-20-30 seconds. This one didn't want to stop. Paddy shouted that we should try and get out of the house. We were convinced the house was going to come down - working in China for so many years has made us all too sceptical and cynical about how houses are constructed and if the proper methods and materials were used. We both flew down the 13 flights of stairs in our bare feet (there was no time to take anything with us). I was still in my pyjamas. Bits and pieces of cement were falling around us and on every floor we met more people trying to get out. The earthquake finished just after we got out the front door where we met hundreds of other people streaming out of all the buildings around us. It had lasted for a full three minutes. All we could think of after this was to find our kids, our friends and get away from any building as soon as possible. Paddy braved running up 13 flights of stairs again to quickly get our passports, money, shoes, computers and to lock our door which we had left wide open. We had no idea if any large aftershocks would bring the whole house done. All the time he was up there I could see the windows quietly vibrating. It felt like the earth was a living, breathy animal, panting after an enormous exertion. He was gone for about five minutes, when he came down again a large aftershock hit and we all ran out into the streets. 

We quickly bought water and then two bicycles, shops were closing up and people were trying to contact friends and relatives by cellphone. Mobile connections weren't working and the streets were clogged with vehicles and people trying to find each other. Luckily no one was showing panic, even though we have heard that a small number of people in Chengdu leap out ofbuildings in fear and died that way. We made our way to where we could find our friends and children. Luckily everyone was safe and sound. Only then did we learn where the epicenter was -- just outside of the city in the mountains to the NW and that it had been enormous (7.9 magnitude). We also learnt name of towns and cities that I had never heard of: Beichuan, Hanwang, Yingxiu. Quickly we heard that two large schools had collapsed on top of 900 students. 

As time went on the numbers of casualities increased and unspeakable horrors were revealed about what had actually happened.  It is incomprehensible how entire cities can be crushed to rubble within a few seconds.

After the earthquake we have experienced fantastic warmth and generosity from all people around us (thank-you Kim, Johnny, Barry and Carin!) and we have all, Chinese and foreigners alike, gotten to know each a little better and been pulled closer together. I love Sichuan even more today than before and don't want to leave the area. Fun-loving Chengdu isn't the happy-go-lucky city it once was and everyone seems to be suffering from a collective depression, but day by day things get a little better. The Chinese people are incredibly resilient and tough and outside the city everyone is concentrating on getting through each day, minute by minute. It is too painful otherwise. 

 The kids have also been fantastic and seem to be doing all right after a few ups and downs. At the moment they are concentrating on getting through their last two weeks of school. During the actual earthquake they were thankfully outside of their school building doing sports. They felt the earth rumble and shake (it sounded strange they've said) and watched the school clocktower sway back and forth in an odd way, the lightning rod a top whipping frenetically back and forth. They didn't feel scared at that time and their teachers were very calm and responsible. Only afterwards when they joined up with their parents and witnessed all the adults acting scared and weird did they feel fear. Something for me to think about in the next disaster. Up on the 13th floor when the earthquake hit and I could hear the buildings crashing together and our terrace ripping apart, I experienced true, primitive anxiety. I wasn't at all brave, I was terribly scared and realized that I very much like being alive. I was no hero during this time and it taught me a lot about myself and my weaknesses.  

When Emy realized there would be no birthday celebration this day she said "This is the worst birthday of my entire life". In the evening, when we and a hundred plus other people had all gathered together in a garden to spend the night outdoors out of range of potentially falling buildings, Barry Jones got everyone to sing Happy Birthday to her in English and Chinese. It was very moving when we all knew that not so far from the city there were thousands of children lying dead, their parents distraught, searching for them. When Emy and Burton were allowed to drink a lot more soda pop than usual during the first earthquake week Emy said: "This is the best earthquake I've ever had".
Written June 2008

Anniversary of May 12th, 2008 Earthquake

Empty house, near Yingxiu May 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Yesterday (blogspot runs on American time I think) was the first anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake. It was an emotional day for me: For one, my daughter turned double-digit and I felt that time was slipping away and that she was getting too big too soon. (I've hopefully got another 9 years with her before she moves away from home so some comfort there). Secondly, the memories from the earthquake last year are still all too fresh and recently accentuated by our visit through the epicenter at Yingxiu.

Paddy and I (tearfully) watched the documentaries and commemoration on Chinese TV and saw how the government eulogized both the victims and their families but also glorified the party and the government's efforts to save lives and make everything right again. Better to concentrate on the positive and not all there still has to be done. Or all of the people that have fallen between the cracks and aren't reached by the enormous state reconstruction apparatus. Every other picture was one of the flag of the Communist Party and or the seal of the PRC. I suppose no different than the number of American flags that were shown after Katrina or 9-11 (Wenchuan and Katrina however were natural disasters with no political agenda). In Sweden we are more discreet in showing our flag and equating disasters and tragedies too closely or patriotically with our government (even after the 1994 MS Estonia tragedy or the 2004 tsunami). 

Driving through the quake area the other day I sometimes felt like one of those "morbid tourists" that I wrote about on Feb 2. The TV showed them yesterday too, how Chinese busloads and caravans of cars and motorcycles visit Yingxiu and are guided around amongst the still highly visible ruins by the teenagers and young people that survived the earthquake. In the beginning their guides are cheery and strong and tell how boulders the size of small houses rained down upon their heads and how entire mountains slid into and over the city, crushing and smothering everything in its wake. After a while, when things get more personal and they relate what happened to them and their families and the people around them they break down crying and can hardly continue. It is all still too horrible to think about and I wonder how long these young people - just at the beginning of their lives - will have the energy and emotional balance to keep on talking about something so close to the bone. I hope that they will be able to move on eventually to a life that doesn't revolve around the earthquake everyday. But like victims of any huge disaster or tragedy loosing a large portion of your family is something that will alter your life forever. 

As 14.28 crept up on the clock yesterday (the time of the earthquake) I began to feel a little anxious and wanted to have everything in order. I made sure that this year I had already showered and dressed and that I had my shoes on (last year I was still in my pyjamas, lazing about, and that's how I ran out of the house). When 14.28 arrived the commentary on the TV stopped completely and the cameras panned slowing around the epicenter in total silence for one minute. Complete quiet in China is always something particularly peculiar and the effect was very unsettling and moving. It even seemed that the city around me here in Chengdu was quieter than usual, but a look out the window showed me that no, most people were actually going about things as usual, loading cars with goods, bicycling, chatting, talking on their cell phones. 

We spent the evening at the Bookworm participating in the earthquake anniversary benefit. As ever my extreme admiration for Peter Goff, the Bookworm staff and ALL people, too numerous to mention, Chinese and foreign, that have helped out at Sichuan Quake Relief over the past 12 months, finding earthquake victims who have "fallen between the cracks" and helping them in ways both big and small. Within just a day of the earthquake their relief efforts began and they are still going on, with numerous short and long term projects that really make a difference in people's lives. All profits from last night went directly to quake relief projects. (Burton and his band Ze Puppies played too and everyone sang Happy Birthday to Emy, thanks for the yummy cake Kim Dallas!). Last night was also the release of Abigail Washburn's (of Sparrow Quartet fame) and David Liang's CD Afterquake. The CD mixes the actual sounds of the rebuilding with the voices of relocated school children, talking and singing. Truly moving. More here

The Sichuan government, sister provinces and cities all over China, and the enormous efforts of all people in the quake areas have also accomplished a truly heroic amount of reconstruction this past year. There is so much to do it just seems so are all TRULY AMAZING.

Lest we forget: The Wenchuan Earthquake killed up to 90,000 people, injured 400,000 and made 5 million people homeless (5 million is the entire population of Denmark). A tragedy of this proportion can't be put to right over night, work will go on for many, many years so please remember how people still need our help and support. 

Emy turns 10!

Happy Birthday Emy!  Grattis på födelsedagen! 

Emy turned 10 today and is over the moon with fun on her birthday: apple pie, lot's of new clothing, a new bicycle, a cool Swiss Army knife and a new Cd of this year's Swedish Melodifestival. She also just beat me and Paddy in a game of Round-the-World Basketball. We're off to the Bookworm now for a barbecue dinner and cake but also to listen to Burton sing again with Ze Puppies for the Earthquake Anniversary Benefit. That bad old earthquake really ruined Emy's special day last year but she was very good about it when she learned how it had affected other people''s lives and families in much, much worse ways. 

Emy you are the best daughter I could ever imagine having, everyday you make our lives so much more fun and interesting and your character, cool sense, quirky humor, generosity and general all round goodness makes me puff up with pride and love everyday. We also think you're darned cute. We love you! Congratulations! Kram Mamma, Pappa, Burton och Mormor

Monday, May 11, 2009

High altitude free form ballet

©Heidi Wasch

This is a new art form created by Bob Leversee and Paddy Booz, two distinguished members of our recent pony trek to high altitudes. Mr Booz has incorporated elements of Tibetan ritualistic/tantric tongue-protrusion into the elegant ballet and Mr Leversee seems to be looking towards the sky for divine inspiration. Such grace, such style, such dedication to their inner selves...Or maybe they're just about to collide in a seismic game of jianzi.

Huanglong 黄龙 and Xuebaoding

Charles, Isaac and Burton having a snowball fight at the pass overlooking Xuebaoding in the far distance. 
Lungta, "wind horses": small paper offerings that Tibetans through into the winds whenever crossing a pass. 
5588 m high Xuebaoding seen from the 4007 m high pass overlooking Huanglong Valley. 
Xuebaoding in the background and the roof of the highest temple (Huanglong Si), a Daoist temple, silhouetted in the foreground. The original temple was built in the Ming Dynasty. It is heavily reconstructed today and was not open to visitors. It is also here that the annual festival Huanglong festival is held in spring.
Incredibly hardworking "beifus" carrying up to 100 kilos of wooden planks to the upper reaches of Huanglong Park to construct new walkways for park visitors. They make on an average 40 yuan a day. If they start very early in the morning and carry two loads a day they can make double. It is extremely hard work at this altitude (many of the tourists were sucking on oxygen bottles and all they had to carry was one small bottle of water). Many of them come from the earthquake areas and are desperate to find work anywhere they can. Every one of them met us with a smile as they were walking up and some of them asked for water to drink. Everytime I visit a scenic area or famous mountain in China I think of the enormous amount of work put into constructing the thousands and thousands of stone and wood steps and walkways. Truly coolie labor at its worst in my opinion, I think these workers deserve much better. 
The stone pagodas in the foreground are said to be the tomb of a Tang Dynasty general and his wife.  At this time of year the pools were the most beautiful powdery blue.
The classic postcard view of the upper pools of Huanglong.

All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

After we left Songpan we headed back to Chengdu via Huánglóng and Píngwǔ. Huanglong is only 90 minutes by car from Songpan and one of the world's most stunning nature areas. Over 3,000 pools of incredible shades of powdery turquoise blue cascade down the mountain side beneath Xuebaoding Mountain (5588 m). Xuebaoding is the highest mountain in the Minshan Mountain Range, located only 300 km north-northwest of Chengdu as the crows flies. The pools are made from calcite deposits and have taken thousands and thousands of years to create. We visited Huanglong on May 5th, an absolutely brilliant day but still quite early in the season. The surrounding vegetation was brown and the rhododendrons were still only fat buds, almost ready to unfurl their beauty. At this time of year there is only water in the uppermost pools behind the highest temple. End of summer (lush green vegetation) and autumn (yellow, red and green leaves) are the very best times to visit Huanglong with all the pools and waterfalls bursting with water. If you are lucky to visit just after a heavy snowfall in winter everything will be blanketed in white snow, only the turquoise water of the upper pools showing. In winter the park can however sometimes be closed. 

There is a cable car at Huanglong that I highly recommend all to take. The entrance is located down the road from the main entrance. The Swiss made cable car takes you up to a high altitude viewing platform with views over the entire valley. From here it is a one hour walk on a basically level walkway straight to where the path connects with the main gate path just beneath the upper temple. From this point it is a short walk up to the upper pools. Down again to the main gate is an almost 5 km walk over planked paths and steps. Believe me, it is much easier going down than up and if you want to fully enjoy all the areas of Huanglong with ample time to truly enjoy the scenery - spend the money on the cable car. 

Huanglong means "Yellow Dragon" and takes its name from how the pools ripple down the mountain side, just like the scales of an enormous dragon. No other place in the world has such a large collection of pools as here, it is truly unique. 

Entrance fee: 
200 y full adult price/150 y for children over 1.30 m (under 1.30 free) and anyone over 65 yrs old. Cable car up is 80 y and down 40 y. 

Swine flu and Jiuzhaigou

I have just noted two things: we now have our first case of swine flu in Chengdu and the National Geographic published a photographic article on Jiuzhaigou (photographer Mike Yamashita) in the March issue of the magazine. No one that I know in Chengdu has commented on the swine flu or the Jiuzhaigou article that is now two months old. Are we that blaisé? 

By the way, nice pictures Mike!

Songpan Horse Trek part 14 Last post...

©Catherine Platt

Catherine Platt was kind to send me these pictures of me and my family (Paddy, Burton and Emy). They are really nice, thanks so much! We had such a good time :-)

It's funny, I seldom see myself because I am always behind the camera (even the picture here is of me taking a picture). Maybe I should take a closer look at myself every now and then, I look hilarious! Like a housewife from the burbs heading off from a dude ranch dresses as a red tomato....LOL. But I do ride a mean saddle however frumpy I look....

By the way, fellow Songpan Horse Trekker Cheng"dude"lians: Thanks for the great cowboy hat and envelope of Peter Pan treats, I was really touched by your generosity. 

What will our next adventure be???

Songpan Horse Trek part 13 Songpan Town 松潘

Central covered Bridge on Main Street, looking south.
South Gate, looking south from central covered bridge.
Tibetan shopkeeper with amber hair decorations and turquoise and coral silver jewelry.
Red coral and amber hair decorations and a traditional friendly greeting - sticking your tongue out.
Even monks like a little walkabout to check out the action and shop a little. 
Sonpgan is about 20-30% muslim.
Teahouses along the Min River are as much for drinking tea as for playing mahjong. 
Bread! A delicacy in China.
On the way to school - a baozi a day keeps the doctor away.
Yinyue Bridge, renovated with kind donations from local Songpaners in 1986.

The Chinese princess Wencheng (Wénchéng Gōngzhǔ 文成公主, Tib. Mung-chang Kungco) passed through Songpan during the Tang Dynasty (ca year 640 or 641) when she was travelling to Lhasa to wed the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in a peace agreement between the two nations. She was a niece of Emperor Taizong and died in 680. I must admit I am not sure who is the man beside her, surely not Songtsen Gampo as Wencheng was transported to Lhasa by a high official and was rumored to actually be pregnant with his child by the time she arrived in Lhasa almost a year later.