Friday, February 27, 2009

# 29 Today's picture 090227

Old Lady: 995 yuan, Ikea, Chengdu, Sichuan 2007 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Thursday, February 26, 2009

# 28 Today's picture 090226

Men in Grey: tourists visiting the ruins of the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan), Beijing, 1987 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Woman on the Motorcycle

©Shen Qilai/Sinopix

This photograph has haunted me ever since I first saw it. It caught my eye at the hairdressers one day as I was waiting for my turn, lazily looking through crumpled newspapers for something to pass the time.  As I couldn't read the text I thought at first that it was a happily married couple, obviously fond of each other because of the way the wife is holding onto her husband so tightly. Then suddenly I realized that she was dead and that the man had tied his wife to his back to keep her from falling off the motorcycle. I went icy cold and couldn't stop staring at the picture, at the same time embarrassed because everyone around me had obviously seen the picture too and had been discussing it. I asked the "little boys" (the guys who wash your hair) what was going on and all they said was "He's taking her home". 

When I saw the photograph two weeks had passed since the Sichuan earthquake and I was still stunned by the enormous tragedy that  had occurred and by the fear I had felt during the earthquake. I'd seen countless photographs of horrible mangled buildings, piles of small children crushed underneath houses, a lone foot in a high-heeled shoe sticking out from underneath a boulder that was so ludicrously big it seemed like a crude joke in a cartoon. All of them had moved me to tears but when I looked at them I knew what I was looking at, I knew what had happened to them. I was unprepared for the woman on the motorcycle. 

A few weeks ago a friend asked "Have you heard about the guy carrying his dead wife?" I sat bolt upright. I had been thinking about this picture for almost ten months and wished that I had torn out the article from the newspaper. I had no idea that the picture was so famous. I thought perhaps I was the only one who had reacted so strongly and that the photograph was only one of many hundreds of earthquake images that each and everyone could win a prize in a photojournalistic competition. How wrong I was, the photograph had gone out all over China and the world and was famous. It was actually a color photograph: the woman is wearing a bright pink jacket that immediately grabs your attention. You can see clearly how her arms hug her husband, but you also see that she is slumped against his back, strapped tightly to him  and that her socks are full of blood, her feet hanging just above the ground. The husband is looking back at her with a frown on his face. Sorrow, worry,  shock, disdain? 

This is the problem, the dilemma, the sheer power and the magic of a photograph. It can sway the viewer in so many ways, in so many directions. The viewer is then left to interpret it in her own personal way, from her own personal experiences. The first reaction one has to a photograph is often difficult to dislodge. At first I didn't want to hear what I now found out about the couple on the motorcycle. That the man actually was considered an unpleasant character, that he was forced by his in-laws to collect his wife on his motorcycle, that they wanted him to take his responsibility for her; that he was so unpopular no one wanted to help him, that he neglected his father, had considered divorcing his wife (she gambled too much and had been playing mahjong when she died), that they were actually incompatible, fought frequently, and that he had already remarried, only six months after her death. Or maybe (as he was first portrayed by the national media), they loved each other very much, they were devoted to each other, he had gone to collect her body to take her back home and had dressed her in her favorite pink jacket; that yes he had found love again but that he thought about his first wife everyday and honored her memory. The newspapers had called the image "a husband's final ride home with his wife".

The earthquake killed indiscriminately. The media however chose to "spin" the picture in a certain way, first in one direction, then in another. I saw only the image and never knew the "story" until later. In the end does it matter who the people in the photograph are or what kind of character they have? What do you think? All we actually know for certain is that the body on the motorcycle is dead.

# 27 Today's picture 090225

Eastern end of Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiaoxia), Yunnan. The gorge has ended here, at the point where it curves north and skirts the Daju Plain. In the far distance there is a ferry crossing which will take you over a relatively safe section of the Yangtse River, where you can then climb up to the escarpment and continue on to Daju and Lijiang or other destinations. 

# 26 Today's picture 090224

The Haba Mountain Range and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Range, Yunnan, China, seen from pass leading into Zhongdian - Shangri-La. In between these two mountains runs the mighty Yangtse River, creating Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the most incredible trekking areas of China.  ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Monday, February 23, 2009

Western Sichuan 8: Danba to Tagong - Hongshi

The Red Rocks of Hongshi ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Heading from Danba up to Tagong through Bamei you pass through a tight passage  where the road runs close to the river. All the rocks are red, not from a geological coloring but from a kind of fungus or lichen that grows on the rocks. 

Western Sichuan 7: Danba area, map and make-up

Danba area and confluence of five rivers ©Google Earth/IBM          Click to enlarge!

The Region of Danba forms a county within Ganzi Prefecture. It has a total area of 5649 sq km and a population of about 60,000 people. Danba Town itself is located in a very interesting position where five great rivers flow together, forming the mightly Dadu River which is a tributary of the Yantgse.

Danba is a transitional zone, both geographically and culturally, between two very different areas: Tibet and China. The human makeup of Danba is very complicated with at least five different, mutually unintelligible languages and several dialects spoken in a relatively small area. Situated at the southern end of a region called Gyarong, the people of Danba have historically been known to be fiercely independent, mentally belonging neither to Tibet nor China. Buddhism and pre-Buddhist Bön are the predominant religions in the area. In this area you will find about 49% Danba Tibetans and 50% Han Chinese with a remaining 1% made up of the Qiang minority of Nothern Sichuan. Although located quite close (as the crow flies) to the area of the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, Danba and its ancient towers were purportedly relatively unaffected.

# 25 Today's picture 090223

Bodybuilder at the local gym, Xian, Shaanxi ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Knife Sharpener

Chengdu 090219 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

The street we live on is full of wonders. It's not particularly beautiful, it's actually quite ugly. But local life here is rich. Hardly a day passes without something interesting happening, and if you are content with experiencing the little things in life you will not be disappointed. On Thursday the itinerant Knife Sharpener set up office outside the front gate. He charges 2 yuan (c:a 2 kr) per knife and has all his tools with him in little baskets and bags carried in his three-wheeled bicycle cart. He has several whetstones of varying surface texture and coarseness at his disposal and little sponges and water to clean off the blade surface. He spent 30 minutes sharpening six of my knifes of different sizes, now they cut as swift and deep as a cruel word from a loved one.

# 24 Today's picture 090222

Råån, Skåne ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What to do on a rainy day

Lotus pods 090221 ©IBM

All was not lost when we visited the Art Museum on Saturday. On the ground floor is a cheap and quite large (albeit very musty-dusty) selection of artist materials in a lobby shop, so we bought some watercolor paper etc and spent the rest of the day painting to loud music. Lot's of fun and a great way to spend a rainy day. 

To the right of the entrance to the Art Museum is another much better, not at all decrepit, art material shop that was buzzing with activity and bohemian looking artist types with long beards and berets. This is a great place to shop for equipment and supplies, very affordable. Let those creative juices flow! 

Sichuan Art Museum and Funny Hat Day

Photographer Tianfu Square, Chengdu 090221 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Yesterday was a grey,  rainy day (yes the rains have begun) so we decided to go to Sichuan Art Museum just west of Tianfu Square here in Chengdu. Lo and behold, upon arriving at the Art Museum there was no more museum left. The building looked completely abandoned inside, all the exhibition halls were chained shut and everything was dusty and depressing. Are they between exhibitions or is this it? Nada mas, meiyou, inget mer?? Couldn't get an answer out of anyone. 

If someone can tell me what has happened to the Art Museum and if it will ever open up again please post a comment. If you at the same time can also tell me when the Sichuan Provincial Museum will open up I'd be most interested. It's been years now since they tore down the old one and the new building next to Dufu Cottage looks promising from the outside but it looks like nothing is happening on the inside. I think that a city like Chengdu, with a population of over ten million people and a provincial capital to boot, doesn't have a proper art museum and and an open and functioning provincial museum is quite pathetic. Look at the vibrant art scene and all the museums and galleries in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and even Guangzhou. Come on Chengdu, we can do better!

Around the corner from the Art Museum however was a gallery with Russian art. Very nice, well lit and interesting. After visiting this we walked over to Tianfu Square to watch the musical fountains (Emy said the pattern the water made "looks like onions"). We came across this smart photographer in his "anti-drizzle hat". I like the "camo-pattern" on the underside. Very chic!

Friday, February 20, 2009

# 23 Today's picture 090220

Chinese Blue Qing Dynasty and modern © Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Western Sichuan 6 Danba: Zhonglu and Suopo

Zhonglu and Suopu July 26, 2007, Sichuan All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
This is a continuation of several postings about Western Sichuan and the Danba area. 

Twenty odd years ago when I first started travelling in Sichuan I became fascinated with the towers of northwestern Sichuan. I first saw them on trips through Maowen and Wenchuan County on the way up to Songpan or Maerkang. I never got close to one, however, as they were usually located on the other side of a river or other obstacle. Later in the mid-90s I encountered them again, with my husband, in the Kongpo area of Eastern Tibet TAR and could walk and climb inside a few. On this trip to Danba in 2007 we saw them in many places, some villages had only one or two, others like Suopo (last image above) several. In this area most are four-sided but there are a few rare ones that are eight-sided. All in all they total around 100 in the Danba area. According to historical research most were probably built before the 16th century, with many of the original towers being destroyed in the wars of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. There is much speculation as to what the original purpose of the towers actually was. A general conclusion is that they were used as both forts and defense towers, storehouses, beacons and landmarks (just like some Chinese pagodas) and also as status symbols (local tradition say they were sometimes built to commemorate the birth of a son).  

Some of the towers we visited had the first entrance window placed so high off the ground (several meters) that they could impossibly have been used as a storage area, it was just too impractical. This kind was maybe used as a place to escape to in times of trouble with a ladder up to the entrance that could be withdrawn into the interior of the tower when beseiged. Most of the towers in the area look locked up, surely both for protection of the tower and also for safety from accidents. 

Anyone wishing to know more about the towers can read Frederique Darragon’s Secret Towers of the Himalayas, which can be bought at the Foreign Language Bookstore in Chengdu. ISBN: 7-80709-043-X/K.2 Price 160 yuan. Darragon heads a drive to protect the towers under the Unesco World Heritage program.

Note: All of the pictures above are of the village of Zhonglu, located in a parallel valley to Jiaju. Zhonglu is famous for its Sichuan pepper (huajiao) which was being harvested when we visited. What a wonderful smell there was in the air around us! You can read more about my infatuation with huajiao on my posting from Feb 05, 2008: Red chilis and Sichuan Pepper: A match made in Heaven or Hell? The last image is from the village of Suopo. Both Zhonglu and Suopo have several towers but Suopo has a very old (700-800 yr old) star-shaped tower.

# 22 Today's picture 090219

The Sunday Bazaar, Kashgar, Xinjiang ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Weather update: Chengdu Feb 19, 2009

View out my window, Chengdu 8.30 am 090219 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

It might have been yushui yesterday but this morning something extraordinary happened here in Chengdu: There was a blood red sunrise, the sun came out and we could see shadows! Feichang budeliao! Doesn't mean we have blue skies though....

Yushui : rain water and economy

Summer downpour, Beijing August 1998 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

According to the Chinese agricultural calendar (the nongli 农历) today is yushui 雨水, (literally “rain water”) and tradition says that if it doesn't rain today there won't be any rain for 100 days to come. Low and behold, this evening it rained a few drops! Not enough to please a desperate farmer (and northern China is still in the grips of a horrible drought) but enough to confirm that in our part of the world the calendar is still working. 

The image above is from a summer deluge in Beijing many years ago. It was wonderful to witness from under the protection of an overhanging roof (and it also proves my point that you've got to have your camera with you at all times and ready to shoot). It got me thinking about transportation: after Spring festival ended last week here in Chengdu the number of pedicabs (both motorized and traditional like the one above) has increased noticeably - seemingly an effect of the global economic situation where people are trying to find any way to earn extra money. At the beginning of 2008 the number of electric pedicabs and bicycle rickshaws had decreased drastically. We witnessed several confiscations by the local police, loading rickshaws onto trucks, the vehicle owners not having proper licenses or driving in areas they weren't allowed in. A year later I don't know if the rules have changed in light of the current situation. Maybe the authorities are just showing a little humanity and looking through their fingers in order to lighten the burden of those who live so perilously at the bottom end of the economy.

The Postal Notice Blackboard

Feb 17, 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Whenever we received a package the first year after having moved to Chengdu in 2006 we would receive a notice in our mailbox that the package was to be picked up at so-and-so post office. Each time a notice came the package would be waiting for us at a different post office. Some of the post offices were somewhat in our area of the city; others far, far away in some remote location. About 20 months ago we stopped receiving notices - the packages started to be delivered directly to our apartment complex. Sometimes there would be a knock on the door, with a guard standing outside with our package. Other times a small piece of paper with a request to come to the guard office to pick up our package was found glued to our front door. Since just before Chinese New Year this year there is a completely new innovation - The Postal Notice Blackboard. This notice board is now situated by the gate to our compound, the only entrance to an entire area inhabited by hundreds of people. On it you can see if you have a letter or package, listed according to your apartment number (we're C2 1302 so no mail for us this day, Kris and Stephanie on the 17th floor have got something though). This is very convenient and quite exciting to come home everyday and check if something has arrived. But as far as letters go I can't really figure out their system. We all have mailboxes on the ground floor of each block. Sometimes mail is put there, sometimes its put on the blackboard to be picked up. Sometimes it never comes at all (like my photographic magazines and Fotografisk Tidskrift). And why did they suddenly decide to send us our packages directly to our address? Had we passed some sort of test? After 24 years dealing with China I've learnt not to question the workings of the Chinese postal service...

# 21 Today's picture 090218

Sit-surfing the Singing Sanddunes, Dunhuang, Gansu Sept 2005 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Western Sichuan 5 Danba: Jiaju Tower and hilltop shrine

Jiaju, July 2007. All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This is a continuation of several postings about Western Sichuan and the Danba area.

On our two days of walks around Jiaju we found many things: small shrines and watermills, running rivers and stunning views, even a vein of garnet stones and large crystals. One day we hiked up to the temple shrine and large fortification tower situated on the ridge to the north of Jiaju. We had packed a picnic lunch of nuts, corn cakes, chocolate and fruit and walked through apple orchards and brambles to get up to the shrine high up on the mountain. It consisted of several stupas (or chörtens as the Tibetans call them) bedecked with prayer flags, tsa-tsas, incense and butter offerings. A local family had the same idea in mind and visited with us, the older women making numerous circumambulations of the shrine, counterclockwise in local Bön fashion. 

After this we parted ways and continued on through the brush to the tower and abandoned building further up. Along the way we encountered a man who was the "appointed caretaker" of the tower. He asked for 5 yuan "entrance fee" which we gave him, he looked as if he had very little money to his name. His coming along turned out to be a great benefit. We met other locals on the way and we all had a long chat near the tower, facilitated by the old man's presence. A lady passed by and paused for a visit. She was very hard of hearing, but the old man knew her and could tell us a little of her story: It turned out she was well over 80 and our guide himself was not much younger. 

Asking these people about the tower in front of us was quite futile. Like most people that live near the towers, they haven't a clue to how old they are or what they were used for, only guesses and hearsay. The tower here was connected to a fort-like structure. We asked to be let in but our "guardian" said he didn’t have the key. He could go get it if we wanted but it would take several hours so we unfortunately declined and made our return to Jiaju below. Later we would visit more towers in Zhonglu and Suopo. (See posting nr 6, Feb 19).

Western Sichuan 4 Danba: Tibetan vernacular architecture of the Gyarong Area

All photos Jiaju, July 2007 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This is a continuation of several postings about Western Sichuan and the Danba area.

The houses of the Jiaju area are particularly interesting and beautiful with coloured stripes that remind me of Sakya in Southern Tibet. But whereas Sakya has slate grey, painted walls the houses of Danba are striped and the towers have horns capped with prayer flags. The colouring has special meaning: symbolizing the sky, moon, sun, earth and stars and it is believed to bring luck and protection to the house and its dwellers. Doors can also be elaborate affairs, brightly painted with religious iconography and sometimes topped with a yak skull and garuda bird like the picture above. Most houses are quite massive, built of wood and stone with several stories and flat roofs used to dry corn, chilis and grain, and for the family to soak up sun in the daytime. Individual logs serve as ladders with small steps cut out in a single row up the tree trunk. Windows are multi-paned and made of latticed wood, painted in distinct Tibetan fashion with a black trapezoid border around. The interior of the dininghall/meetinghall where we ate our meals was extremely elaborate with numerous built-in painted cabinets and niches, small low-standing tables and belt-in benches and beds around the edges. Every surface was painted in a kaleidescope of brilliant colours, making every meal a bit of a psychedelic affair!

Western Sichuan 3 Danba: Travel routes and general info

All photos July 2007 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
Click on images to enlarge!

This is a continuation of several postings about Western Sichuan and the Danba area. 

Travel routes to get to Danba:
We took the Chengdu - Dujiangyan - Wolong - Siguniangshan - Xiaojin - Danba route, about 390 km, one day of hard travel. Public transportation from Chengdu Chadianzi Bus Station or hired vehicle.

Danba can also be reached the "other way around" via Kangding, ca 520 km, takes two days with recommended overnight in Kangding to adjust to altitude. Public buses leave from Xinnanmen Bus Station or from in front of Kangding Hotel on Wuhou Hengjie everyday. You will have to change buses in Kangding: Chengdu - Ya'an - Kangding - Xinduqiao - Tagong - Bamei - Danba

My suggestion is to make a loop from Chengdu via Wolong to Danba through Hongshi/Bamei and Balangshan to Tagong and then down through Kangding, visiting villages and staying at homestays or hostels along the way and never needing to backtrack.

Very easy to get in numerous homestays or with Tibetan or Qiang families in the more remote villages. Towns like Danba, Kangding, Tagong have numerous hotels, small guesthouses and hostels, varying in quality and price. The entire Danba - Kangding - Tagong area is very affordable. If you'd like to stay at Baosheng's Homestay in Jiaju contact him at this number (Chinese/Gyarong Tibetan speakers only): +86-13684498350.

Climate and time of year to travel:
When the sun shines the whole world smiles! Don't expect the sun to shine every day but the Danba area exists in a kind of subtropical microclimate, blessed with huge amounts of sunlight all year round, thus making it a place you can visit any time of the year. What must be taken into account though is the weather and road conditions getting to and from Danba. It is important that you check this out before leaving and understand that you will be climbing over passes 4500 meters in height, with very changeable weather conditions. Otherwise one of the most wonderful things about Danba is that you are in a totally Tibetan world but without the problems of high altitude. Danba itself is only around 1700 meters and is an excellent place to acclaimatize for higher destinations. 

Western Sichuan 2 Danba: Homestay in "Jiaju, the most beautiful village in China"

All photos July 2007 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This is a continuation of several postings about Western Sichuan and the Danba area. 

From the town of Danba to the village of Jiaju is a short distance by car (about 7 km). We had called ahead to the brother of our homestay owner Baosheng and arranged for him to come and pick us up in Danba Town. Already in Danba the scenery is spectacular but Danba itself is no more than a standard Chinese town of concrete buildings and bustle, albeit surrounded by stupendously high mountains capped with blue skies. 

Coming over the ridge above the village of Jiaju the view was breathtaking. In 2005 Chinese National Geographic Magazine voted this the "Most beautiful village in China", a statement that is now well-used in local tourism advertising. Of all the Danba villages, each with their own special charm, Jiaju stands out as probably the most picturesque, but also most clued up to what tourism likes and wants. For the moment this is not a negative thing.

Stone houses with earth-toned stripes dotted the green mountainside. Far below the Da Jinshan River raged and across its white waters more villages crept up the mountainside. However did people get to them? There seemed to be no way to approach them but we later learned that some were reached by coming over the mountain top and not from below. Surely it would be a long time before people living in those villages achieved the prosperity we were to witness in Jiaju which has opened itself to tourism. The Da Jinshan River is actually the Dadu River but it doesn't bear this name until it flows past Danba. The Dadu is a tributary of the mighty Yangtse and is one of the four great rivers of Sichuan. Here and there we could see tall, stone fortification towers which we were to explore the next day. High stalks of corn and well-tended vegetable plots were growing beside every house, each seemingly guarded by perking little dogs. Unattended mills powered by waterwheels from streams rushing down the mountainsides ground flour in small wooden huts. Prayer wheels were also constructed in this fashion, working away at better karma whilst the owner was busy somewhere else. Small paths paved with marble flagstones connected the houses and fields and we spent many an hour avoiding the watch dogs and poking about the area.

Our host Baosheng met us down a winding road where he introduced us to his very pleasant little homestay, double rooms with adjoining simple shower and toilet, colourful Tibetan beds, and 24-hr hot water powered by solar panels stored on the roof. Baosheng and his family took care of us for the two nights and two and one half days we spent there, feeding us mountains of food (all meals included in homestay price) and butter tea.  Our section of the house was fronted by a little courtyard shaded by apple trees. Other rooms were to be had in the big main house where the extended family lived.

Note: all visitors to Jiaju must pay an entrance fee to the village to get in, even if you're staying overnight. The money goes to pay for the paved road that runs from Danba to Jiaju. In the near future when the road is paid off the ticket proceeds will be shared collectively by the village.

# 20 Today's picture 090217

Rauks on the island of Fårö, Sweden 1996 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

You know you are from Sweden when...

Helsingborg, Sweden 2006 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

My children are preparing for next week's International Week at their school. The Swedish blue and yellow soccer t-shirts are already laid out, I'm preparing to bake kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and the Dala Horse is parked by the door, ready to make his journey to school again like every year when my family "represents Sweden". All this nationalistic hubris made me feel like posting something Swedish today. I belong to a Facebook group called "You know you are from Sweden when...". There are currently almost 40,000 members (should be 9 million, that's how many Swedes they/we are) and I laugh myself silly whenever I look at the list of postings that members have written, it's so completely true!!! And even though I'm only half Swedish and moved there when I was 18 I seem to have morphed into the perfect Swede because I recognize myself in much of this "typically Swedish behavior". Drives my husband crazy...

Here's a sample of what's on the list of over 500 entries. You don't have to join Facebook to read the list, visit the "Sweden of course" website

1. You don’t rely on weather forecasts unless presented by John Pohlman.
2. You know it’s a sin lifting the top layer in the Aladdin chocolate box before it’s empty.
3. You find people from other cultures generally being rather loud. With the exception of the Finish.
4. You wouldn’t even consider buying electrical items unless they are “S”-marked.
5. You get guilty conscience from throwing things in the dustbin that could have been recycled.
6. You don’t consider a congregation of trees being a “real” forest unless it takes at least 20 minutes to drive through it.
7. You use the metric system and really don’t get why there are people out there who don’t.
8. You consider Denmark and the Danish “pretty continental”.
9. You are obsessed with health issues.
10. You find the idea of carpets in bathrooms and toilets simply appalling.
11. You thought carpets was a concept of the past or the ferrys to Finland/Estonia/Germany/Denmark. Then you went abroad and realized that you were wrong.
12. You consider yourself as Scandinavian, not European.
13. A good nights sleep only counts if it consists of 8 consecutive hours. 10 hours would be considered too much.
14. You don’t really consider silence a problem in social situations.
15. The question “how are you?” is a question that needs to be answered with a honest and thorough explanation of your mental health. Therefore, you don’t understand why Non-Swedes give you one word answers.
16. You think people that don’t send their kids to nursery school (”dagis”) are strange.
17. You feel bad if you’re not outside on a sunny day.
18. You know that individuality vs. conformity is the eternal Swedish conflict.
19. You unfortunately find it embarrassing and a bit uncool to be “too” Swedish.
20. You find it normal that the most serious debates between the political leaders of the country broadcasted on TV are held in charming and homey milieus, including flowered curtains, blond wood, colorful pillows, pastries and coffee.
21. You consider Volvo and Saab the ultimate family cars.
22. You ONLY eat sweets on Saturdays.
23. You think it’s a BIG THING to have a drivers license before you’re approaching your thirties.
24. You can actually see the logic of “klämdagar”.
25. You think thats its ridiculous to build houses from bricks. Wood is the real deal!
26. You refuse to believe that snuff or “snus” is harmful.
Since snuff “isn’t harmful”, you can’t understand why no one except the Scandinavians use it.
27. You don’t think a farmhouse is actually a farmhouse unless it is red or yellow with white trim.
28. You don’t find “bananer i pyjamas” to be a bit sexual.
29. You realize that five ants are more than four elephants
30. You hate keyboards without “å, ä, ö” with a passion.
31. You think it’s perfectly normal and not offending at all when Frank Zappa’s song “Bobby Brown goes down” is played at a disco for 9-year olds
32. You know they are the same, but you just don’t trust ibuprofen and paracetamol the way you trust Ipren and Alvedon
33. You, in pure disgust try to tell your fellow peers that it’s basic human behavior to shower after PE and they look at you like you come from a different planet.
34. You can’t believe that you have to pay for your disgusting school lunch.
35. You don’t consider Starbucks a proper café, since a real cafe is a atmospheric, groovy, cosy place not at all as brightly lit and multi national as Starbucks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chinese numerological superstition: Nine Kinesiska lyckotal: Nio

Orchard Villas, Chengdu Feb 14, 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Siffran nio är oerhört viktig i kinesiskt tänkande. Det är det högsta ensiffriga talet (i 10-systemet och det kraftigaste yangtalet. Traditionellt var nio kejsarens tal. Det var bara kejsaren som kunde bära kläder med nio drakar på och ta från tallrikar målade med nio drakar. I Förbjudna staden i Beijing, Himmelens tempel, Sommarpalatset osv. finns ett genomgående siffertänkande. I Förbjudna staden finns nio stora knoppar vågrätt och lodrätt på de enorma röda portarna. I en av gårdarna finns en andeskärm med nio svävande drakar (jiulongbi). Det är ingen slump att det sägs finnas 9 999 rum i hela palatset eftersom det är bara himlen som kan ha 10 000 rum (egentligen finns drygt 8 800 i hela palatsanläggningen). 

Nio, jiu (九), är likljudande med "långvarig", jiu (久), och förknippas därmed med långt liv. Både den 09.09.1999 och den 19.09.1999 var speciellt lyckobringande dagar i Kina där många valde att förlova eller gifta sig då chansen ökades att deras kärlek skulle  stå sig i all evighet. Jiu kan också betyda "bara, enbart", jiu. Således kan sifferkombinationen 5917 (wu jiu yao qi) på tex en bil nummerskylt tolkas = "jag vill bara ha pengar", wo jiu yao qian. Den nionde dagen i den traditionella kalenderns nionde månad är "Dubbelnian", Chongyangjie, allmänt firad som Pensionärernas dag. I ett av Kinas gamla bokverk, Herr Lüs kommentarer till Vår- och Höstannalerna (Lüshi Chunqiu), som sammanställdes för ca 2 200 år sedan, beskrevs världen så här: Himlen har nio fält, jorden har nio regioner, landet har nio berg, bergen har nio pass, i havet finns nio öar. Nummer nio självt är något mysko: alla multiplar med nio resulterar i att siffrorna när de läggs ihop blir nio: t.ex. 9 x 3 = 27 = 2 + 7 = 9. (Undantaget är 0 x 9 = 0). En nummerskylt med fem nior är mycket eftertraktat i Kina och kostar således mycket pengar under bordet eller en speciell kontakt på Myndigheten för fordonsregistrering!

English: The number nine is one of the most important numbers in Chinese numerological superstition. It's the highest single digit number, rich in yang, and was traditionally reserved for use by the emperor. Only he could wear clothing embroidered with nine dragons and eat from plates decorated with these nine heavenly creatures. The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace are full of "nine combinations", nine massive door studs both vertical and horizontal on the huge palace doors, spirits wall decorated with nine dragons (jiulongbi) and supposedly 9,999 rooms, as only heaven could have 10,000. (There are actually only about 8,800 rooms in the palace). 

Another reason why nine, jiu (九), is so important is because it's a homophone with jiu (久), a word meaning "a long time" in Chinese and thus is associated with long life. Dates that consist of many nines are auspicious for anyone getting married or engaged, the thought being that the relationship will get extra help to last forever or at least as long as possible. 090999 and 190999 were popular days when people flocked to the wedding license offices or proposed marriage. 

Car license plates with lucky numbers are especially sought after in China and either cost a lot of money, good luck at a license auction in the cities that have them, a fat bribe or a special connection in the Department of Motor Vehicles. The above combination of five nines should be interpreted as anything that the owner wants or desires will be theirs "forever".