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...
Sunday, June 28, 2009
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
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".
Sunday, June 7, 2009
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...
Thursday, June 4, 2009
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.
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!
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!