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!