Monday, April 6, 2009

# 57 Today's picture 090407

Post SARS Beijing, Tiananmen August 2003 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

# 56 Today's Picture 090406

Chewing the fat at the teahouse in the People's Park, Chengdu, Sichuan 2006 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Newlyweds and nearly deads

Having trouble learning Chinese? Cat got your tongue?? NO! The èmó's got it! Dongyue Temple, Beijing Jan. 2005 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

When I was a teenager my family happened to spend some time in St Petersburg, Florida. We quickly understood the epithet the city had: "The home of the newlyweds and nearly deads". It was a place where people went on their honeymoons and where they - at the end of their lives -  moved as retirees and eventually kicked the bucket (wuhule 呜呼子).

As you all know my mind is like a galactic pinball, careening around the universe in search of knowledge to crash up against and alight on. Thus in the recent few days of Chinese class I have acquired some strangely useful vocabulary. I get to steer my language study quite freely so I often choose the subject we talk about. I try and intertwine my new vocabulary with what is going on in my everyday life and what is at the moment happening in China. In an attempt to keep up with: what my son has been reading lately (the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers); a Swedish movie about vampires that AnBr sent me from Sweden (Låt den rätte komma in, Eng: Let the right one in. Recommend it highly, but disturbing); the recent Chinese observance of Qingming (the Grave Sweeping Festival) and a tourleading job that I have in Beijing in a few days (a wedding party) I have learnt the following:

vampire: xixuegui (sucking blood ghost) 吸血鬼
corpse: shiti 尸体
zombie: 僵尸
demon: èmó 恶魔
ghost: gui 鬼
spirit: jing shen 精神
fox: huli 狐狸
fox woman/fox demon: huyao (a woman who was once a fox but comes back in human form, most huyao are bad)
fox spirit: hulijing (a real woman with the behavior or enticing demeanor of a huyao) 狐狸精
grave: fenmu 坟墓
wedding: hunli 婚礼
wedding couple: fuqi
go on a honeymoon: du miyue 度蜜月 (honeymoon: mi yue 蜜月 = honey month)
parents: fumu 父母
freelance: ziyou zhiye zhe
neighborhood committee: juweihui
like to gossip/busy bodies: ai guan xian shi
very gossipy (slang): hen bagua (bagua from the daoist eight trigrams)
some gossip (slang): yige bagua
spy: jiandie 间谍
the walls have ears: ge qiang you er
rubberneckers: kande ren

(Sorry that the pinyin doesn't have tones - how do I do that? - and that not every expression has Chinese characters, maybe Encyclopedia Li can help with that in a comment??).....

The hard part is getting this mental bank of new words, odd facts and unfamiliar customs and habits to somehow attach itself to my rapidly aging brain cells. It's hardly surprising that the weirder the vocabulary the easier it sticks in my consciousness.  You the reader might find this glossary of gore, gossip and goo an unusual mix but in some weird way it is perfectly natural in my mind for a honeymoon to lead to freelancing vampires and blood sucking ghosts that spy on their neighbors and work in neighborhood committees.

You can easily see that during each lesson my teacher (wode 我的 laoshi 老师) and I laugh (xiao乐le) a lot (hen 很 duo 多).


Lily 2007 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Green Ram Temple - Qingyang Gong

A daoist nun tidies up the remains of incense sticks left behind by worshippers at the Green Ram Temple, Chengdu. The large characters in the background read right to left: fu (happiness), shou (longevity) and lu (prosperity) - the three most welcome blessings in Chinese traditional culture. Qingming 090405 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

One of China's most important Daoist temples is located in Chengdu: Green Ram Temple (Qingyang Gong 青羊宫). The green mentioned in the name is the same green as the roof tiles, a kind of deep turqoisey jadegreen, but it actually refers to the green ram that Laozi supposedly rode to Chengdu when he passed through on his way to the great beyond. A more literal translation of the name is "The Palace of the Green Ram", which you will see written in beautiful gold calligraphy on a black background above the main entrance (characters read right to left). Qingyang Gong is also known as the Temple of Two Immortals, because the daoist immortals Lu Dongbin and Han Xiangzi apparently once came down to earth here (they can be seen on a roof in the eastern section of the temple complex). 

Temple window with ornamental carvings in the shape of lucky bats (fu) and the character for longevity (shou). ©IBM

The temple is quite active and there are around 200 monks and sundry employees in residence. Qingyang Gong has special affiliation with the Daoist Qingcheng Mountain, NW of Chengdu. Like one of the monks said "We're all in the same family".

It's said that it was here that Laozi (the founder of daoism) attained his immortality and also where he revealed the Daodejing to Yinxi - the frontier guardian at Hangu Pass. Yinxi was the last man to see Laozi before he left this earthly abode and continued on to Mount Kunlun and the Western Paradise.

May the daoist force be with you! ©IBM

The buildings and gardens are constructed with daoist symbolism in mind: there are buxbom baguas and yin and yang symbols. The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are carved in stone and the lovely Pavilion of Eight Trigrams (Bagua Ting), decorated with numerologically significant 81 dragons is eight-sided. Numerous murals depict daoist legends and deities (many with delightful names like "The Emperor of the Purple Subtlety"). Especially famous are the two bronze goats with various auspicious (or easy to touch) parts of their bodies burnished bright by the hands of hundreds of thousands of visitors (it is said to bring luck and good health). One of the goats (the least popular of the two it seems) is actually a combination of all of the 12 animals of the zodiac, try and identify which parts of the goat belongs to which animal.

Don't miss the lively teahouse and vegetarian restaurant located on the temple grounds (western section). In the eastern section there are several new buildings and also a taichiquan school where several foreigners and Chinese specialists practice and teach. Why not pay a visit to the Cultural Park (Wenhua Gongyuan) that is located right beside Qingyang Gong. Here there are numerous cosy teahouses with intense mahjong sessions, amusement rides for the kids, lush greenery and a most welcome entrance fee of 0 yuan.


Address: No.9 Xi Er Duan, Yihuan Lu (一环路西二段9号). Entrance fee: 10 yuan, children under 12 half. Really small children: free.

A strangler's invitation

Bedside warning, conference resort outside of Kunming, Yunnan ©IBM

"Please don't accept strangler's invitation, so as not to be cheated". 

Cheated out of what, your strangulation?