Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bamboo Park (Wangjiang Lou) and Poetess Xue Tao

Bamboo Park (Wangjiang Lou), Chengdu, Sichuan 090316 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

The Bamboo Park (in Chinese known as River Viewing Pavilion) is one of my favourite spots in Chengdu when the weather is lovely. It is located in eastern Chengdu very close to Sichuan University and just across the street from the entrance to Sichuan University Museum (which in itself is well worth a visit). Their are two sections to this park which skirts the Jinjiang River: the northern section is dedicated to the memory of Tang poetess Xue Tao 薛涛 (770-832) and costs 20 yuan to enter. The entrance fee guarantees better upkeep and also less people than the southern section of the park which is free to all and sundry and thus more noisy but at the same time full of life, tea houses, carnival rides, snacks and fun nooks and crannies. You will find a romantic statue of Xue Tao in the park, as well as the well where it is said that she drew water to dye the special handmade paper that she wrote her poems on. For a time Xue Tao even took up residence in Du Fu cottage after that other most famous of Chinese poets had both left the city and passed away (Xue Tao was born around the time that Du Fu died). The Bamboo Park gets its English name from the over 150 species of bamboo that are growing on its grounds. Xue Tao is said to have especially loved bamboo which she felt represented humility, modesty and graciousness as bamboo is hollow inside and very pliable but also persistent and hardy and almost impossible to destroy. She is said to be buried near the park.

Xue Tao is one of China's most respected female poets. Her father (a minor government official) passed away when she was young and it was understandably difficult for her and her mother to support themselves alone in Chengdu. Xue Tao was subsequently registered in Chengdu's guild of courtesans and entertainers and eventually became the favourite concubine of Wei Gao, the military governor of Sichuan who made her his official hostess. She was known for her biting wit and seems to even have been banished for a time to Songpan as punishment for some insult, inconvenience or slight to the wrong person or high official in Chengdu. Perhaps the poem below alludes to this incident.  [It is number three of "Ten Partings," a sequence of poems.]:

"Dog parted from her master":

Yes, she's a good dog,
lived four or five years
within his crimson gates,

fur sweet-smelling,
feet quite clean,
master, affectionate.

Then by chance she
took a nip
and bit a well-loved guest.

Now she no longer sleeps
upon his red silk rugs.

[Taken from Brocade River poems: selected works of the Tang dynasty courtesan Xue Tao / translated and introduced by Jeanne Larsen (The Lockert Library of poetry in translation). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, c1987. (xxvii, 110 p.)
LC#: PL2677.H76 A24 1987; ISBN: 0691066868, 0691014345]

# 54 Today's picture 090324

Wuhou Temple (Wuhou Ci), Chengdu, Sichuan 090317 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

The Bookworm Literary Festival and literary groupies

Natalie Handal and Tina Chang, editors (together with Ravi Shankar) of "Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond". ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

The Chengdu Bookworm Literary Festival has concluded and I'm in mourning because the fun is over but glad in a way too as my bank account can't afford any more event tickets and book purchases. C.P. and I had such a good time that we are already looking forward to the next one. This year we both got to moderate one of the events and also show some of the authors around Chengdu. We enjoy doing this immensely as it gives us an opportunity to spend time with interesting, creative people who are passionate about books, writing and life. The authors seem to find it pleasant too. You could say that we are "literary groupies". We've discussed this and have decided that next year we are going to open up our own "escort service" and offer our "services" showing the authors a "good time" while they are here in Chengdu.  Strictly in the "literary" sense of course ;-) 

Ian Buruma, author of The China Lover; Inventing Japan; The Missionary and the Libertine: Love and War in East and West; Bad Elements: Chinese rebels from LA to Beijing and many more. ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Who is saying what Part 2

This is a typical conversation between me and a rickshaw driver here in Chengdu. I'm standing on the side of the road trying to flag down a taxi and a rickshaw driver comes cruising by looking for a customer. I put my hand down before he drives past me, so he knows that I don't want a rickshaw:

Screech of rickshaw brakes, rickshaw swings into the curb in front of me:

"Where you going?"

"It's too far for you."

"Where you going!?"

"It's way too far for you!"

"Come on, tell me, where do you want to go!"

[I tell him, he answers:]

"Are you nuts?! That's way too far for a rickshaw!!"

Who is saying what Part 1

A couple of days ago two lady friends (B and H) and I were standing on the street here in Chengdu. We were talking animatedly and laughing and suddenly a middle-aged Chinese woman pulled up close beside us on her motorscooter and began barraging us with questions. Here's how the conversation went (I'm sure you can figure out who is saying what):

[After closely scrutinizing us out for about 30 seconds]

"Where are you from?"

"Sweden, England and Spain."

"All three of you look so old! How old are you?!"

"45, 48, over 50..."

"You're that young??! I'm over 50 too. Your hair is all grey, why don't you color it?

"We like it natural!"

"Look at mine.  It's cheap and easy, no problem!"
[Pointing chin towards beauty parlour down the street. Her hair has no trace of grey but is also clearly not her natural color. Coppery brown is the "in thing" amongst middle-aged Chengdu ladies.]

Then B thought she said that B was fat and B said "I know I'm fat!" and I said that she didn't say that you were fat, she said something else and we all cracked up laughing. But not the Chinese lady who didn't catch this extra interchange. She put up a good smile anyway and drove off on her motorscooter shaking her head at the crazy foreign ladies who have the money to color their hair but still choose to look old and frumpy. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Height and weight: What?!

The other day I came across a man on our street with a machine that can gage your height and weight. Cost: 1 yuan (about 15 cents). He walks around town with this thingamajig and gets people to stand on a little platform (the scale) and then measures them with a mechanical arm that descends over your head like a giant caliper. I like spreading the wealth around (thinly in my case) amongst the itinerant workers so I always give these things a try however ridiculous the idea seems. The machine spat out the little slip of paper above and the man promised that the machine didn't lie. But how can I be 157.5 cm tall? If my blog is called "Five Feet Off The Ground" then I am only 152 cm tall, a height I've been since I was twelve years old. The Swedish passport police are convinced that I am 154 cm tall (they measured me in my socks, but don't believe them) and I did have shoes on when being measured here in Chengdu but come on! they weren't platform shoes! I simply refuse to believe I am taller than five feet, I like the neat rounded off number. If anything I should be skrinking like my friend Amy in California who was born on the exact same day as I was in the same city and who has all our lives shared the same height as me. She reported the other day that she has shrunk to 4'11'. We can't afford this kind of backward development. As far as the weight above, unfortunately the machine seemed to have gotten that one just about right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

# 53 Today's picture 090323

090322 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Straight down from the mountains to the city. We see the most incredible people on our street. Tibetans from all areas of the country come down to the city to meet with friends and family, "see something", visit doctors, go to school, buy a new Buddha or two, sell or buy jewelry, purchase a blender for their butter tea or a prayer flag or two, sew up fifty colorful cushions for a new dharma centre, consult their guru or spiritual master, go on a pilgrimage to Emei Mountain or just windowshop and rubberneck. You name it, we see it on our street. This woman had one of the many fantastic hats we see every day in the endless hat parade that is Tibetan traditional couture. She also had an MP3 player in her mobile phone which you can see that she is listening to. 

Zhilam Guesthouse Kangding

©Kris and Stephanie Rubesh

This picture shows Kris and Stephanie's Zhilam Guesthouse (the little blue house to the left) mentioned in the China Daily article below. It has a stunning location high above Kangding and is now open for business. Now that the weather isn't freezing cold in Kangding anymore it's high time to pay a visit to the beautiful mountains! Zhilam means "the path of peace" in Tibetan.

Tel: +86 0836 2831100
Kris mobile: 158.8405.9365

Kris, Stephanie and Adalia made it into the China Daily

©Xinhua News Agency

Friends of ours here in Chengdu made it into the China Daily today! Kris and Stephanie (and little Adalia) were the first people we met here in Chengdu and they helped us get our apartment. At that time they lived in the same building as we do but since then they have moved up to Kangding and opened a guesthouse for travellers and backpackers - Zhilam Hostel. They can help with all kinds of tourist information, trekking and travelling in the Kangding area. Please visit them, they have just had their official opening. Website: Email: Below is the article from the China Daily:

American family runs hostel in Kangding, SW China
(Xinhua) Updated: 2009-03-24 14:30

Kristopher Rubesh, 32, cleans up a room in his newly finished Tibetan-style Zhilam Hostel in Kangding, a small town in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, southwest China, March 24, 2009. Infatuated by the unique Tibetan culture and beautiful natural landscapes in Kangding, the family from Oregon of the United States chose to open a hostel in late 2007. Their dream came true in early 2009 when they became the first foreigners running a hostel in the beautiful valley town Kangding. [Xinhua]

School offers lessons in the chemistry of love

A special love school is gaining popularity among students in Beihai, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

In addition to outlining the skills needed to communicate, the school teaches students how to appear more attractive to the opposite sex.

And the teachers, most of whom are psychologists, usually focus on helping singles find a good husband or a wife.

Mock love scenes include student participation. Most students are office workers with well paying jobs and education.

( (China Daily) Updated: 2009-03-24 09:34

Police put a stop to naked man running on highway

A drunken bet turned into a police incident after a man was seen chasing a completely naked man on a highway in Fuqing, Fujian province, last Monday evening.

A man who was laughing was seen running after the naked man and was holding some clothes. The police soon forced them to stop and reveal the naked truth.

Later, the naked man, surnamed Xiong, said his friend, surnamed Hu, offered him 500 yuan to run 300 meters on the highway.

The two men both work at a local factory and were drinking heavily before the bet.

(Strait Metropolis Daily) (China Daily) Updated: 2009-03-25 08:58

Sunday, March 22, 2009

# 52 Today's picture 090322

Lily pond, Bamboo Park (Wangjiang Lou), Chengdu, Sichuan. Watercolour ©IBM

# 51 Today's picture 090321

Pingle, Sichuan 090317 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

# 50 Today's Post 090320

Migrant workers playing cards while waiting to travel downstream, hopefully to work and a better future. Chaotianmen Docks, Chongqing 2000 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Funky Bean is BORN

Here's a new blogger that I highly recommend: Funky Bean.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fastlagsbullar at last!

©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

A few days ago I posted receiving marzipan from Susanna in Bangkok. Yesterday we used the marzipan and made Swedish "fastlagsbullar", 16 in all. Hmm-m, they were yummy! We invited a good friend and her children over to share the fun and we polished off the lot of them. First I baked the sweet buns, then Emy and I carved off a little "hat" and placed a square of marzipan inside with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top (generously supplied by Catherine P). The lid was then put back on and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Baking with Chinese flour is a bit tricky, it's not exactly like Swedish (or American flour), slightly fluffier and airier so the buns were not as dense, chewy and golden brown as Swedish ones. It was also difficult to get the cream to stay "stiff" in the warm air but the taste was perfect.

Attempting to explain the science and cultural history of this baked treat to my British friend I realized I needed to know more, so here is what I found out:

My mother's side of the family is from the province of Skåne in the very south and the buns are called fastlagsbullar there, but in much of the rest of Sweden they are known as semlor (one bun = en semla). They can also be called fettisdagsbullar or hetvägg. Semla comes from the Latin semila, flour of a fine quality. 

In the beginning the bun (known as a lenten bun in English) was eaten only on fettisdagen (Shrove Tuesday) during fastlagen (Lent or Shrovetide). As Swedes gradually became more secular and few people fasted before Easter, it became the tradition to eat the bun every Tuesday during the seven weeks of fasting. These Tuesdays (tisdagar) became known as fettisdagar. Nowadays lenten buns appear around Christmas time and - to the detriment of every Swede's waistline - can be consumed every day of the week. Bakeries and cafés vie to bake the most popular fastlagsbulle, with the different tastes discussed in local newspapers and magazines. 

As mentioned above, Emy and I made 16 buns, all of which got consumed in one way or another by three adults and four children. One of our Swedish kings, Adolf Fredrik (the father of Gustav III) died on Fettisdagen February 12, 1771 by eating too many buns. It must be said however that he had also just digested a large amount of sauerkraut, boiled meat and turnips, lobster, Russian caviar, bloater, warm milk and a bottle of Champagne. He'd just returned from a health spa cure and the shock to his system caused stomach cramps, dizziness and later in the day  a stroke that killed him. Hardly surprising. 

After we ate our buns we went off to our local jumbly restaurant and ate a blow out Sichuan meal consisting of "twice-in-the-pan pork" (huiguo rou), The Palace Guard's Chicken (gongbao jiding), sugared corn, dry-fried potato slices (ganbian tudou si), dry-fried string beans (ganbian siji dou), doufu soup, beer and rice. I slept like a baby last night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

# 49 Today's picture 090319

Refrigerator magnets ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Dreaming of Jialebihai

2004 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Recently I have begun studying Chinese (long overdue) and today in the stream of consciousness kind of way that I absorb most knowledge I learnt that the Caribbean Sea is called Jialebi Hai 加勒比海. This beautiful, melodious transliteration of the way the word is pronounced (not a translation of its original meaning) immediately transported me to a dreamy, floating world of turquoise waters, blinding white sands, warm breezes gently sashaying around palm trees, platanos fritos, rum punches, pelvises pressed together and a man's hand firmly placed on my lower back, guiding me in a rythmic salsa. I suppose the past few balmy days here in Chengdu have stirred my Cuban roots out of their subconscious hibernation causing my mind to wander a bit too freely. 

It's wonderful how not only the meaning of a word can bring you greater enlightenment but its sound may carry you to places you wouldn't have imagined. Just as exotic sounding destinations like Kashgar, Turfan, Lhasa, Gobi, Shanghai and Peking conjured up images of dusty camel caravanserai, tinkling pagodas, magnificent palaces and dark alleyways teeming with exotic-eyed, black-haired peoples to pop into my child's mind over 40 years ago, hearing Jialebi Hai teleported me into a tropical world where sitting in my classroom chair I suddenly saw hibiscus flowers sprout from the teacher's head and little paper cocktail parasols grow out of the end of my pen. 

The magnetic pull of romantic sounding foreign placenames was a great impetus to start traveling when I grew up but surely traveling in your head is much cheaper? Back to the classroom: along the way a few other geographical words were thrown into today's lesson: Portugal is Putaoya 葡萄牙 (which literally means Grape Teeth); Cuba becomes the masculine, meaty sounding Guba 古巴 and something I've known for a long time: Sweden, Ruidian 瑞典.  Why Sweden is pronounced Ruidian is because it has its beginnings in the Cantonese Suidin, a phonetic translation. Converted into putonghua it became Ruidian whose first character means "auspiscious" or "lucky". Lucky me!

The Snail's Lament

Spinal chord? [sic] 090212 ©Burton Booz

I thought that I bought
a bucket of snot
but that, it was not.

T'was a snail
in a pail
hammered with a nail.

He was covered in rot
and now he is not...

He is dead, covered in red

But perky snail that he is
Quite a genius, what a whiz!
He said:
I feel an exhilarating fizz...
up my spinal cord
if I had one...
Now I'm bored!

...and off to snail heaven he went.

(Joint colloboration between Emy, Burton and I., created while eating bruscetta for dinner )

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

# 48 Today's picture 090318

Panda Alarm Clock (Xiong Mao) from the Chengdu Zhong Biao Chang, Pingle junk shop, Sichuan 090317 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Pingle: Green

Pingle, Sichuan 090317 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Pingle: Red

Apothecary's shop, Pingle, Sichuan 090317 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

The most incredible thing

San Sheng Hua Xiang, Chengdu, Sichuan 090318 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I witnessed the most incredible thing today: a Chinese queue - an actual real life neat and tidy line of people waiting to get on the bus. In over twenty years of China-watching I have not seen this orderly a queue more than a couple of times, usually in front of the Memorial Hall for Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square in Beijing where people wait patiently to file past the Chairman's body. Just like in Beijing these people were kept in check by a man with a stick and a loud voice (the men in Beijing use bull horns). My companions and I were so flabbergasted that all three of us stood and photographed the event.

I must admit that various forms of unpleasant social behavior in China have greatly improved in the past ten years. But a queue in China is usually a non-thing, the very concept not existing in the general Chinese consciousness where every opportunity to get what you want before everyone else is taken advantage of by blithely barging ahead of all and sundry. Only the other day I had listened to British author Blake Morrison telling about how his father was a notorious queue-jumper and how it made his family cringe with embarrassment. I jumped the queue myself to get him to sign his book for me. 

# 47 Today's picture 090317

San Sheng Hua Xiang, Chengdu, Sichuan 090318 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

You see the most unexpected things in China...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring flowers, kites and heavenly trees

090313 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn (Click on image to see in larger window!)

Friday afternoon the light was lovely and we spent a little time in the park that runs along Shenxianshu Nanlu, opposite Qinghua Fang. The magnolias inside Qinghua Fang were perfection this day and in the park peach blossoms of many different colors and hues were a welcome sight beside the row of weeping willows that line the canal skirting the park.

The name of this important thoroughfare that runs through a section of Chengdu has special significance. Shenxianshu means something like "Tree of the Heavenly Beings" (nanlu just means "South Road") and such a tree was thought to exist in the world of superstition and old tradition. The tree was a kind of "money tree" (qianshu) that have been found in Chinese graves for a few thousand years, but it had less to do with riches than acting as a pathfinder or bearer of the spirit or soul back to the Land of the Dead. I don't know why this particular road has this quite profound name, perhaps there was once a temple or graveyard located here?

The park itself is a favorite with kite flyers so we bought a simple one for 8 yuan and gave it a go. Most of the time we spent cursing each other and yelling instructions. We only succeeded in getting the kite in the air as long as we were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The pros were of course the older gentlemen with fancy reels of robust string and decades of know-how. We did however succeed with one thing - not getting our kite stuck in a big, old tree that dominates the main square. This tree is a veritable graveyard for dead kites and perhaps in its own way a shenxianshu, carrying our happy memories of good times spent here back to the heavens above where our kites should be but never succeeded in reaching.

©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Ett paket på änglavingar...

...anlände igår i form av mandelmassa. Underbara Susanna, en riktig ängel från Änglarnas stad Bangkok, förbarmade sig över oss stackars Chengdubor och  skickade ett nödpaket bakproviant, inklusive florsocker. Med en handskriven förmaning till kinesiska tullen att absolut inte röra eller ännu värre äta innehållet kom försändelsen oskadd fram. (Tydligen vet dem varken hur kokain eller anthraxpulver ser ut för hade jag bott i USA hade den aldrig sluppit igenom.) Så nu ska här bakas! Lite sent på året i och för sig men jag hade sett på Susannas mycket trevliga blog (om livet i Thailand, foto, fotografvärlden mm mm, besök den här) hur hon hade fixat med "marzipan" inköpt i Bangkok. Jag blev både sugen och avis direkt. En kommentar på hennes blogsida räckte för att ett paket skickades med detsamma. Det kallar jag en kompis! TACK! 

Och idag skiner solen med. Så kan det gå, upp och ner med livets små och stora händelser. Emy, ta fram bakskålen!

Tired and cold

Soaking up the heat from  a pan of burning coals, Prague Café, Lijiang, Yunnan ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

The other day I was so tired and so cold that I sat on a stool under a hot shower and ate my breakfast of cornflakes, taking care not to dilute the cereal with water, only milk. I munched away with the bowl held slightly away from me, slowly crunching, crunching, staving off the sogginess by chewing purposefully and methodically. Steaming hot water pounded my head and eased the tension in my muscles and I floated dreamily away. I could have stayed there forever but when there was nothing left to eat I had to reconcile myself with returning to the cold world outside...Today started with a promise of warmth and sunshine. Here on the 13th floor the morning rays reached far into the apartment, only to be slowly pulled back into the shadows, little by little, inexorably greying my world and yet again laying that heavy blanket of depression with its many clever tricks and sneaky moves on my sanity. Please winter, go away.

Friday, March 13, 2009

# 43 Today's picture 090313

Lijiang, Yunnan 2005 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Completely exhausted for the moment, a little behind with blogging, but will start posting about Lijiang and Yunnan tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

# 42 Today's picture 090312

And now for something completely different: Summit of Nemrut Dagi, Eastern Turkey 1990 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

# 41 Today's pictures 090311

Hand of Emperor Constantine, Capitoline Museum, Rome, Italy ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

# 40 Today's picture 090310

Newlyweds, May 2008, Wuhou Temple, Chengdu ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn 

Chickens, cows, grass and Chinese gardens

2008 Orchard Villas (Jinxiu Huayuan), Chengdu, Sichuan ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This sign is posted just inside the surrounding wall that protects the western section of Orchard Villas, quite a nice housing complex in one of the more affluent parts of Chengdu. The "green belt" that is mentioned here is that scrabby patch of grass-like spinky stuff in the background. This botanical matter is a kind of ground covering most commonly found in Chinese classical gardens when an appropriate and attractive edging is needed or a space around more important things like trees or rockeries requires filling in. It can also be found potted on its own and I'm sure many a foreign visitor has questioned the purpose of these potted green spikes, wondering when those darn things are going to start shooting up flowers. Why else would you plant grass in a pot?

It is actually a lily (lilyturf) called Liriope and was named after Liriope, the mother of Narcissus (another plant name) by the river-god Cephissus. Its Chinese name is maidong, "winter wheat", as the leaves are evergreen. Western style "grass" was rarely a feature of a classical garden, although it can be seen today in the renovated scholar gardens of eastern China's Jiangnan area and the Imperial gardens of Beijing. Classical garden architects of former days thought that this kind of flat ground covering was boring and uninteresting - as one Chinese visitor snippily commented  upon seeing a big, green, unending British lawn: "Grass is cow fodder , it contains nothing to feed the intellect of an educated man".  

Back to the sign: I can understand the warning against walking dogs (and letting them defecate) in a public area but the poultry mentioned above is another matter all together. Why would there be a need for such a warning in an area as rich as Orchard Villas? And why would the rich people living there necessarily let their chickens peck around (or horrors breed!) in the common "green belt"? If they indeed kept farm animals in the middle of a city and in one of the richest parts of town wouldn't you think that they would let said poultry run around looking for food and fun in their own garden? That would still classify as "free range" wouldn't it? 

The crazy thing is that even people that live at posh addresses in China do keep chickens and roosters. Especially before Chinese New Year when many a foreigner remarks how they would like to ring the neck of the rooster that started crowing at four in the morning near their bedroom window. I hadn't given this phenomenon a thought until the earthquake last year when we camped out at China Gardens (beside Orchard Villas) and witnessed the moneyed crowd sleeping in their garages (or in their Ferraris or BMWs) with the rooster tied up next to them. Over here where I live in the not so rich part of town my neighbors keep their finger-lickin-good friends on the balcony. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

# 39 Today's picture 090309

My hairdressers, Chengdu 2008 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Chengdu music sensation: Ze Puppies

Z'Puppies at Panda Bar, Chengdu Sat. March 7, 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Saturday night saw the arrival of a new music sensation here in Chengdu: Z'Puppies. Charles Dupont (guitar), Romain Rabany (drums) and Burton Booz (vocals) rocked the socks off the crowd as the warm-up band at Panda Bar (Xiongmao Jiuba) on Kehua Beilu. Singing covers of "TNT" and "Seven Nation Army" they completely blew the crowd away and were called back for an encore. So TNT was served up again and the crowd couldn't get enough. These guys have got to learn more songs if they're going to continue their success in Chengdu. But, hey! they're only 11 and 12 years old so school has to come first, right?! Stay posted for more news of Z'Puppies...

More Nixon and China and Mao and Ping Pong Diplomacy

Promotional flier for the Nixon in China opera

From Wikipedia:

Nixon in China (1987) is an opera with music by the American composer John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman, about the visit of United States President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972, where he met with China's Chairman Mao Zedong and other Chinese officials.
The work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Houston Grand Opera and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It premiered at the Houston Grand Opera, October 22, 1987 in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris.
The opera focuses on the personalities and personal histories of the six key players, Nixon and his wife Pat, Jiang Qing (spelled "Chiang Ch'ing" in the libretto) and Chairman Mao ("Mao Zedong"), and the two close advisors to the two parties, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai ("Chou En-lai"). It is composed of three acts. The first details the anticipation and arrival of the Nixon cortege and the first meeting and evening in China. The second act shifts focus to Pat Nixon, as she makes tours of rural China, including an encounter at a pig farm. The second scene includes a performance of a Communist propaganda play, in which first Pat Nixon, then her husband and then Jiang Qing, intercede in the performance. The last act chronicles the last night in China, in which the characters dance a foxtrot, their thoughts wandering to their own pasts.

Cover of Nixon and Mao by Margaret MacMillan, Random House

From Wikipedia:

Ping Pong Diplomacy (Chinese: 乒乓外交) refers to the exchange of ping pong players of the United States and People's Republic of China (PRC) in the 1970s. The event marked a thaw in U.S.–China relations that paved the way to a visit to Beijing by President Richard Nixon.

Read the entire fascinating article here.

# 38 Today's picture 090308

Garbage collector and recycler, China ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tricky Dick and Pat on the Li River

Richard Nixon pointing out a crag for Pat, Li River ©Photographer?

Every time I visit Yangshuo in Guangxi Province I seek out this photograph in the lobby of the Paradise Resort Hotel. Former President Nixon is pointing out some interesting detail of the Li River topography to his wife Pat. There are several photographs of famous VIPs visiting Yangshuo displayed. Ho Chi Minh grinning ear to ear as he is wading through some water in a cave, his pants rolled up to his knees. Zhou En Lai sitting in a pavilion that is still located down by the Li River today. Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn sporting conical straw peasant hats and looking appropriately dorky and sweaty on their bicycles. Clinton and Hillary (she looking bored, "what AM I doing here?"). 

Nixon - the man who supposedly said this about the Great Wall: "This is a GREAT wall, and only a great people with a great past could have such a great wall " - had this to say about the local scenery in northern Guangxi: 

"I have visited more than 80 countries and over 100 cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin. Guilin is really a bright pearl in China."

Another tourist, writer Han Yu, acting here perhaps as a kind of Tang-dynasty travel journalist, visited the area over a thousand years before Nixon and put it more eloquently:

"The river forms a green gauze belt, the mountains are like blue jade hairpins."

Nixon's visit to the now world famous Crescent Moon Hill outside of Yangshuo precipitated construction of the steps that lead up to the natural arch that gives the hill its name. I can't really see Nixon (or Pat for that matter) trudging up to the top but maybe he was more physically active than his reputation suggests. Nixon first visited China in February 1972 but this picture couldn't have been taken then as he only toured Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou during that historic visit. I'm guessing that the image was taken on his second visit, this time as ex-President, in February of 1976, by invitation of Mao Zedong, the same year that the Chairman would die. Nixon would later visit China several more times as a private citizen and former president. No matter what I personally think of Nixon and what he did as leader of the USA and as a politician, I will be forever grateful that he (and Mao) opened up China.

But come on Pat, did you really have to wear the fur coat in the 1970s?

#37 Today's picture 090307

Guard, Forbidden City Feb 2005 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Train to Lhasa Part 3 more photos...

The best social life is always found in hard seat. A game of elephant chess (xiangqi) passes the time for muslims planning to get off in Qinghai and three Tibetan kids get probably their first view of a camera-curious Westener.
Train conductresses and inspector ladies make sure you don't cause any problems and also get back on the train before it leaves without you. For those not fortunate enough to get a seat in hard seat a newspaper and mobile phone will help to pass time.
For those who didn't want to eat in the restaurant car there were numerous trollies that came several times a day with food boxes, cut fruit, beer, drinks and snacks. When we reached higher altitudes all our sealed packages expanded and threatened to explode! But otherwise no leaky pens or any other damage or problems with computers or harddrives. ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
Nice new bathrooms but Day 2 the garbage started to pile up. ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn