Home » China (Page 2)
Category Archives: China
(after Mù Dàn)
get off my back
I’m off on a rambling road
going wherever; God only knows
my thick feet stumbling on
step, after step, after step
my eyes are a flower
blooming on a million stars
a bright-hot nebula
step, after step, after step
Mù Dàn 穆旦 (1918-1977)
Trans. K. Maynard
my good friend,
it keeps pestering me
on this wandering road
the wanderer’s two heavy legs,
step,after step, after step……
what place at earth’s end?
no destination. only
two legs moving
step, after step…… wanderer
as if eyes bloomed a flower
flew past a million stars, crow-like.
muddled head, bitter heart;
fiery-hot body, melted——
like cotton, heaped into a ball
but still carrying soft legs
step, after step, after step……
(1933) 4.15 evening
Lijiang to Chongqing: Travels in Yunnan and Guizhou (with photo captions in English)
July 12, 2011 (Tuesday)
Forty-seventh day in China, second day in Dunhuang: 汉长城 Han Great Wall, 玉门关 Yumenguan, 雅丹 Yadan
We ate lunch at the hostel and hopped on the 2pm bus for Yadan, a “Geopark” out in the desert on the Xinjiang-Gansu border. The bus left Dunhuang via a lonely road shooting straight into the rocky desert. Dark mountains rose in the distance. The mountain range straight ahead looked like a 臥佛 sleeping Buddha. A huge mirage, like a giant lake, arose on our left, and a small sand-twister hit the bus. We stopped at a site of Buddhist cave art, but no guides were present to unlock the caves, so we drove on to the 汉长城 Han Great Wall. In Gansu lie the furthest reaches of the Great Wall, lost in the desert. The 2000 year old wall was reduced to a few meters of earth and straw facing a stretch of green on one side. On the other, “the lone and level sands stretched far away”. We rode on to 玉门关 Yumenguan, or the “Jade Gate Pass”, through which Joy’s father told us they used to bring in jade from Xinjiang on the Silk Road. The fortress was a lone crumbling tower.
At the peak of the day’s heat we reached Yadan, billed as a “natural sculpture garden”. The vast Geopark held many many large stones abraded into fantastic shapes. One looked like the Sphinx, another like a peacock on a pedestal. A bus drove us to several of the closer sights, then we chartered a jeep with a couple from Sichuan to take us further south. A thousand rock shapes arrayed on the sand like battleships at sea. Another group recalled city streets. Our shadows strethched many times longer than our height. The jeep shot out over a lumpy path through the sand to take us up a steep hill. We climbed a huge striated rock with other travelers and watched the sun go down. Two nights in a row we watched the sun go down in a strange place on Earth. Yadan looks like the surface of the moon.
Due to the time difference between Beijing and Dunhuang, the sun sets out west around 9:30pm.
We rode the jeep back in the dark and caught our bus back to the hostel. Made it home by 2am.
July 5, 2011 (Tuedsay)
Fortieth day in China, eighth day in Beijng: 恭王府 Gongwangfu, 妙应寺白塔 the white tower at Miaoying Temple
I got sick, and slept badly. In the morning I changed to a direct Beijing-Lanzhou flight. I chatted with the travel agent at the front desk again, and he suggested I see Gongwangfu, the former residence of the last emperor’s father. I walked Gulou Street from the hostel, and back to the Houhai bar area I visited with Haofan last week. I wandered through hutongs, and saw a couple in cream-colored wedding dress taking photos. From a street side window I bought a cake filled with delicious garlic greens. The “Gong Mansion” was full of tourists, and certainly renovated. The buildings seemed to me little different from the Kong Mansion in Qufu. On display in some of the halls were 唐卡 thangka paintings from Qinghai. Thangka are intricate and colorful illustrations of Buddhist philosophy, a part of Tibetan culture. A few old paintings from the Ming and Qing dynasties hung, but most were very new. Many had been painted in the last few years, and were clear and bright. Behind the main halls sat nice gardens, so thick with tourists I could not pass through. I left and took the bus to Miaoying Temple, perhaps better known as 白塔寺 “White Tower Temple”, as a Yuan dynasty (very old) white dagoba sits at the center of the compound. This, unfortunately, was sheathed in scaffolding, but the doorman was friendly. A red-robed monk argued with the ticket-taker. It seemed they had not charged the monk any entry fee, and in the interest of fairness he demanded they sell him a 30 yuan ticket like everyone else. The chamber before the white tower contained golden statues of three Buddhas, and 具六神通 written in gold by Qianlong, a display dating back to the Qing dynasty. Two lay people and two monks poured libations by the tower, chanting.
I got my ticket delivered, took dinner in the hostel, and slept early.
The Fourth of July, 2011
Thirty-ninth day in China, seventh day in Beijing: 慕田峪长城 Mutianyu Great Wall, 贵州酸汤鱼 Guizhou “sour soup fish”
I bought an egg pancake with lettuce outside Andingmen Station and ate as I rode two stops to Dongzhimen, where I met Haofan and Hanta. I got a sandwich and coffee for a dollar at McDonalds. The three of us took a bus from Dongzhimen in Beijing up the expressway to 怀柔 Huairou. We paid a minivan to drop us off at the foot of the Great Wall at Mutianyu, a Ming-era (~1400) section of the Wall renovated in 1984. We bought lots of water and bland jianbing (egg pancakes) on the tourist alley, then climbed staircases for half an hour, until we emerged from the trees at the Wall.
I touched the wall, stood in a doorway, and checked my bearings. The Wall ran north-south. Beijing was a faint haze over the southern range. The mountains dipped in the west to form to form Mutian valley. I climbed the stone steps, onto the Great Wall.
As a kid I imagined China as the other side of the world, and the Great Wall a stone road leading to Tibet, the furthest land on Earth. I had no idea what, or where, was China, but believed that if you traveled as far as possible across the earth, you’d wind up there.
The wall had been cleared of bushes, repaired, paved, and outfitted with new guard towers in the 80’s & 90’s. Huairou was visible in the west, and another town could be seen in a valley to the east. The wall snaked peak to peak along the mountains, and made for a serious climb. We started at the tenth tower, and walked all the way to tower twenty-three, at the end of the renovation. One straight and steep staircase proved particularly tiring, but we were rewarded by ever better views. The path flattened along a ridge, and the renovation ended. We continued. The wall beyond was crumbling and crowded with bushes, but after some twenty minutes we reached a ruined watchtower, from which we could see steep crags, the ruined wall running south, the new wall, Huairou, other towns before yellow peaks, and beyond. In the distance I heard voices. A cool wind blew. I stood on the tower, then climbed down, and we three started back down the wall. We had climbed for some three hours. In about half this time we descended, in blazing sun, singing a song from “Journey to the West”, and got a ride back to Huairou, where we caught the bus.
Hanta said goodbye at Dongzhimen. Sunburned and weary Haofan and I caught a second wind as we walked 簋街 Ghost Street, full of restaurants, and turned south to 北新桥 Beixinqiao, where we passed many shops under many red lanterns. I ate bread stuffed with green peppers and donkey meat. According to the shop, one of the 八仙 Eight Immortals supposedly said, 天上龍肉, 地下驢肉 “Dragon meat in Heaven, donkey meat on Earth.” It was pretty good. In a restaurant we ate Guizhou-style 酸鱼汤 “sour soup fish”, ours a catfish they showed us live, then presented chopped fresh for the boil in sour soup. While the soup boiled we drank sweet rice wine and ate flat sticky cakes that tasted like zongzi. We ate the fish, added vegetables, and had a round of Chinese beer. Energized, we hit the street and wandered through hutongs, passed a statue of a drinking ghost, and shared all the Chinese and Japanese ghost stories we could remember. We bought rabbit legs and heads and ate by Beixinqiao Station. On the sidewalk, kids with big brushes wrote hanzi with water. Haofan gave me a book of maps of all China, and we parted at the station.
In North Carolina, my family prepared to march in the Montreat parade.