May 12 – May 14 In Beijing / Sunday evening train to Qufu.
Sometimes I think the hardest thing in life is having the patience to wait for the right moment and sensing that it might have passed us by… If you are actively pursuing your dreams while still focusing on right action, this can be extremely difficult knowing that we affect everything we touch and everything we touch affects us as well. When I am traveling in China, a country where I don’t speak the language, but have a sense of history and purpose as to my being here, then seeing beyond the moment and my own sense of self becomes real. Or is it as Chuang Tzu would say – it you can imagine it hasn’t it become real – rather we go through the motions or not.
There are things I love about Beijing… also things not so good, traffic for example. But it is the history that enamors me as if China keeps calling me back and Beijing is the starting point. For over twenty years, I have been coming and I have seen the main tourist sites very early on… in fact many times. In fact, I have been in and out of Beijing over a hundred times over the years. The Forbidden City, Tienanmen, the Great Wall, Ming Tombs, etc., etc., etc., and always my thoughts seem to return to the dragons… and the Nine Dragon wall at Beihai Park adjacent to the Forbidden City. After arriving Friday afternoon (May 12) from the airport, going through customs, getting a taxi to hotel, I decide I will focus on two sites here before leaving for Qufu Sunday evening (May 14). Beihai Park, and the Dongyue Taoist Temples, not so much from religious as historical importance. As most of you know who have followed me here, it is about the history and philosophy of China that is intriguing and most worth telling.
One of my earliest visits to Beijing captured one of my most favorite pictures seen here. It is of my daughters Katie and Emily taken in 2001 at the Great Wall north of Beijing. Katie is four and Emily seven. We had adopted Katie in 1997 in Maoming and Emily in Urumqi two years later in 1999.
Saturday morning I was invited to join friends at Beijing Jiaotong University for lunch. I had not seen Wenbing, a good friend for more than five years. She, her husband Zhang and other professors from the university have been kind to invite me on several occasions to visit Jiaotong over the years. I was even a guest lecturer in Wenbing’s post graduate class many years ago. Jiaotong University has a direct connection to the Business Department at Missouri State University in Springfield. Wenbing said she has assisted several students in their enrollment at SMU. It is a small world after all.
With the Forbidden City to the east, Beihai Park, is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. Beihai Park is said to be built according to a traditional Chinese legend. The story is that once upon a time there were three magic mountains called ‘Penglai’, ‘Yingzhou’ and ‘Fangzhang’ located to the east of China. Gods in those mountains had a kind of herbal medicine which would help humans gain immortality. Many emperors succumbed to this desire to remain in power as long as possible. Some spent many sleepless nights cavorting around the lake in Beihai Park hoping the elixir would soon be discovered.
Lessons in Feng Shui. . It was believed that different mountain-water combinations in ancient Chinese architecture led to totally different effects. So from then on almost every emperor during succeeding dynasties would build a royal garden with one-pool-with-three-hills’ layout near his palace. It was surely built after this traditional style: the water of Beihai (Northern Sea) with Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) is the Taiye Pool; the Jade Flowery (Qionghua) Islet, the island of the Circular City and the Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains. Beihai Park was initially built in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125) and was repaired and rebuilt in the following dynasties including Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing (1115 – 1911). The large-scale rebuilding in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) generally established the present scale and pattern.
To the northwest in the park is the Nine-Dragon Screen, which is the only screen having nine huge dragons on both sides and is among the most famous three Nine-Dragon Screens in China (the other two are located in the Forbidden City and Datong, Shanxi Province). Built in 1756, the Nine-Dragon Screen is about 90 feet (27 meters) long, 21.8 feet (6.65 meters) high and 4.7 feet (1.42 meters) thick. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends and the eaves, making a surprising total of 635 dragons. I have this thing about Chinese dragons. Every time I see this depiction of dragons I think of legends in Chinese history about the sage who embodies heavenly qualities. Adjacent to both the Forbidden City and Tienanmen, the park is extremely popular… When I am in Beijing and have an afternoon free I like coming to Beihai. In Spring you can almost feel the immortality they were seeking in the air. It’s catching…
Early Sunday morning after checking out of my hotel, (May 14) I made my way to Lama Temple. If you only have time for one temple in Beijing make it this one, where roofs, fabulous frescoes, arches, tapestries, Tibetan prayer wheels, tantric statues mingle with dense clouds of incense. This weekend morning as no exception. When you arrive you are handed incense and are encouraged to use it. This is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet, the Lama Temple was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng. I will be travelling to Tibet next month, so I will see much more on Buddhism then.
I have to leave early Sunday afternoon to get to the train station to go to Qufu this evening. Traffic in Beijing in tied up due to a governmental conference and many roads to closed. As if traffic isn’t bad enough. My next post will be a follow-up to the Lama Temple visit this morning then it’s on to Qufu.
Sunday morning at the Lama Temple, continued.
I have often talked about the influence of Confucius, Taoism and Buddhism here on FB, but now still in Beijing having gone to the Lama Temple I think I should talk a little more about Buddhism, especially since over the next few weeks Confucius will take center stage. It was inspiring to see so many people worshiping at the Lama Temple here in Beijing. In what is not meant to be definitive by any means, it is following what is known as the “Eight Fold Path” that focuses on three things that begins to move a person in the right direction and gain appreciation for Buddhist thought. Many people feel we can follow another religion and still live a life adhering to these principles. Those three are right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
We all live in one world. When on the path, it becomes a thoughtful world acting as if vibrations of energy. Our words we speak serve as a blanket for those people around us. As if saying words of loving kindness through the power of our tongue. It is important that as we give right speech, we remember the good and harm we can cause by thinking first. Think – Is it true, helpful, important, kind, and necessary. That we travel on a journey not concerned with the destination. With this we walk in a centered way. It is important that we treat ourselves with loving kindness and know the value of right speech. With this we can begin to understand the ultimate nature of reality by speaking with integrity and truth. We become an observer of those around us and our environment and speak with words of appreciation. Our role becomes one not to add to negative or bad energy. That we are here to uplift the world.
How do we do this, through right action. By doing no harm and understanding the laws of karma, i.e., the measure we give is what we get. It is not enough to know the truth, you have to begin by having control over your dominion. Staying aware as if called to a higher path and practicing consciousness. We make the right choices as if witnessing our own actions. We do this through service to others. We find ourselves in the right livelihood that helps to train us to be in conscious awareness and live through loving kindness.
The above description is very tentative and brief as a prelude to what will come later on this journey. The next two weeks will be spent in Qufu with the focus on Confucius and my students as I travel around Shandong province before going to Nanjing, an earlier capital of China… stay tuned.
May 15 – May 17 In Qufu / Thursday May 18 travel to Linyi.
For me good writing is when you can’t wait to read what you haven’t written yet – life should be lived this way too. Kongdan
Walking with the Ancients
What is it that keeps pulling me back to Qufu. As if there is something as yet unfinished for me to find and even follow. I have so many good friends here that I have gained over eighteen years of coming to Qufu. My experiences here can be seen in the tab – Qufu and Confucius – on thekongdafoundation.com website. It’s much more than walking in the footsteps of Confucius. So much more. To walk the same ground as the Yellow Emperor, who was here in 2700 BC. The man considered to the founder of the I Ching. Or Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou who lived here in Qufu more than five hundred years before Confucius in 1000 BC. As I return to Qufu again with a sense that I may at times live in other places, but this will always be my home. A comfort found when you are among true friends.
There is a sense of a culmination of energy from shaman and sage from the past that manifested as the spirit of Confucius who would guide what would eventually become who China was to become that lives today through the people who live here more than 2500 years later. After almost twenty-five years of study and more trips here the I can count, I can say that the power of Confucius and his predecessors is grounded in benevolence and our relationships that culminate in a deep abiding affection for others. It is the ability to see past personal slights and weaknesses into a person’s heart and bring out the best in them. To help other as you help yourself to rise to their highest endeavor so that they can see their highest destiny and a way to achieve it. This for me, is the power of relationships when seen through the benevolence taught by Confucius. For myself, when I was teaching at university here years ago, this was always the foremost attribute of my curriculum. The primary reason I am here now is for reunions with more than two hundred of my students over the coming weeks. Almost all of them now teachers themselves.
In Taoism (and most say Confucius was a Taoist), Lao and Chuang Tzu taught that we are guided by cause and effect – and what we create we live through virtue. In Qufu there is a sense of collective oneness you find in the countryside and villages where I often visited my students. It was here on this ground where you walked that you gained a sense of reverence. The sense that you walked among and with the ancients. For hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, their family has tilled the same soil. You often saw mounds of dirt in the fields sometimes with flowers where their ancestors were buried. That as you picked up a clod of dirt and crumbled it in your hand, that with this your destiny was assured regardless of your endeavors once you have found the way of virtue and respect for nature. You walked among the ancients who had been here as well. This was the essence of the meaning of Confucius. Just as they had done on the streets of Qufu for thousands of years before you.
One of my favorite words in Chinese is dui bu qi that means – it is nothing, i.e., the ability to see past perceived, or minor indiscretions or inequities of another person that in reality have no real meaning. It is what helps to define our way as we proceed on our own journey to come as we too learn to walk among the ancients, and knowing that there is much more to come.
It is Wednesday morning here in Qufu. I have finished the facebook entry and am headed for the number 8 bus to go to Linyi.
May 18 – May 21 In Linyi (reunion with students at Fenghuang Square 5/20) / Sunday May 21 travel to Yantai.
Friday, May 19th in Linyi
(written in Linyi at Wang Xizhi desk while waiting for battery of camera to charge)
When I was teaching at Jining University the Spring of 2011, I taught several classes that were to be travel agents who would eventually cover most of China. Pretty convenient for me now. The number one thing I told them was not to recite by rote what they were telling about the historic sites what they were telling to their foreign guests. That they should become storytellers. To in effect make yourself a part of the story. To act as if you had been there and simply remembering what you already knew. The analogy I would use was the meat cutter in Chuang Tzu. People would marvel at how adept he was at cutting meat with such precision with such a sharp knife. His movements were as one with the meat and bone as he would cut effortlessly and his knife never needed sharpening. He explained that he was one with both the knife and the meat so that he knew instinctively where bone and meat should be separated as if it too knew of his talent. This made his work not seem as work but came naturally. Chuang Tzu helped to define for others who would come later the true meaning of wu wei, the art of doing nothing. The challenge for my students who were to become travel agents was to know the subject so well, that the telling would become natural or as nothing.
Now several years later and as travel agents throughout China, I often hear from my students. Many who cannot attend the reunions we are having the next few week. Most all tell me that they have followed my advice to great success.
A dear friend in Qufu whose English name is Eva has been a manager of CITS Travel Agency for many years. She has told me that she can tell when someone she hires is very good. If they say they went to school at Jining University she asks them if Kongdan was their teacher – they say of course. They then ask Eva if she knows Kongdan… and she laughs and says of course.
What I tried to teach was not to become only a part of someone else’s story. But to create your own story in your own words. That as we live and learn how to tell our story, we can then become adept at living it. Almost all of the more than four hundred students I taught were girls. Most were from villages around Shandong and the first member of their family to attend college. For myself, I seem to be tied to the past in such a way that my remembering who I have always been is my ultimate task. That through my writing I too have become the storyteller. Which leads us to Linyi and the man who through his calligraphy was to change China forever through his artistry and the written word.
I am here for four days (Thursday May 18 to Sunday May 21) mainly to meet my students here at Phoenix Square at FengHuang Park on Saturday afternoon. The first of about eight reunions in four provinces and Tibet. I am here also to tell the story of Wang Xizhi. I have been here to Linyi before with another teacher a few years ago. He was teaching at a private school here. He was mainly responsible for my teaching at Jining University after they called him to teach and he couldn’t and recommended me instead.
Linyi – Wang Xizhi
Linyi has a history of 2400 years. It is home to many historical figures, notably Zhuge Liang and Wang Xizhi. In 1972, the Sun Bin Art of War was first discovered here, along with other classics on hand written bamboo strips.
Wang Xizhi (303–361 AD) was a Chinese writer and official who lived during the Jin Dynasty (265-420) Jin Dynasty (265-420), best known for his mastery of Chinese Calligraphy. Wang is generally regarded as the greatest Chinese calligrapher in history, and was a master of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, especially the running script. Emperor Taizong of Tang admired his works so much that the original Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion was said to be buried with the emperor.
Born in Linyi, he learned the art of calligraphy from Lady Wei Shuo. He excelled in every script but particularly in semi-cursive script. Unfortunately, none of his original works remains today.
Painting of Wang Xizhi by Qian Xuan (1235-1305 AD).
His most famous work is the Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, the introduction to a collection of poems written by a number of poets during a gathering at Lanting near the town of Shaoxing for the Spring Purification Festival. The original is lost, but the work survives in a number of finely traced copies, with the earliest and most well regarded copy being the one made between c. 627-650 by Feng Chengsu, and it is located in the Palace Museum in Beijing.
Wang Xizhi is particularly remembered for one of his hobbies, that of rearing geese. Legend has it that he learned that the key to how to turn his wrist while he was writing was to observe how geese moved their necks.
Whenever I visit a city I discover another place to visit and return. Currently under renovation in Peace Park here in Linyi (I went but to no avail..) is the Yinqueshan Han Slips.
Fragments of The Art of War that are part of the Yinqueshan Han Slips.
The Yinqueshan Han are ancient Chinese writing tablets from the Western Han Dynasty, made of bamboo strips and discovered in 1972. The tablets contain many writings that were not previously known or shed new light on the ancient versions of classic texts.
The Yinqueshan Han Tombs were accidentally unearthed by construction workers on April 10, 1972. The bamboo slips were discovered in Tombs no. 1 and 2 at the foot of Yinqueshan literally: “Silver Sparrow Mountain”), located southeast of the city of Linyi. Discovered in Tomb no. 1 were 4942 bamboo strips covered in closely written words and included portions of known texts, as well as a number of previously unknown military and divination texts, some of which were shown to resemble chapters in Guanzi and Mozi. The occupant had been identified as a military officer bearing the surname Sima.
Tomb no. 2, unearthed the same year, contained 32 strips of bamboo writings which clearly represent sections of a calendar for the year 134 BC. The time of burial for both tombs had been dated to about 140 BC/134 BC and 118 BC, the texts having been written on the bamboo slips before then. After restoration and arrangement, the slips were organized into a sequential order of nine groups and 154 sections. The first group included 13 fragment chapters from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and 5 undetermined chapters; the second group were the 16 chapters of Sun Bin’s Art of War, which had been missing for at least 1,400 years; the third included the 7 original and lost chapters from the Six Strategies (before this significant find only the titles of the lost chapters were known); the fourth and fifth included 5 chapters fro m the Weiliaozi and 16 chapters from the Yanzi chungiu; the rest of the groups included anonymous writings. (The above was written with assistance from
Friday night I had dinner with one of my students Victoria (her English name) and her co-worker Leo. They suggested I check out the Linyi Museum before heading for the reunion at the park tomorrow afternoon. I did so and took 25-30 pictures of stone carvings from the Han Dynasty to add to my picture inventory for later use.
Saturday afternoon I went to Phoenix Square at FengHuang Park. It was very hot and this was not a good choice for reunion. We need to adjust other locations… maybe inside. Several came, we are meeting later for dinner. Saturday night I had dinner with more students, mainly Joy (Han Tingting) and future husband, Wang Guangliang, who will get married on June 1 in their hometown Shanting, a four-hour bus ride from Qufu that I plan to attend. Sunday morning I left at 10 AM for the six hour bus ride to Yanti.
May 21 – May 24 In Yantai / Wednesday May 24 travel to Qingdao.
Sunday afternoon I arrived at the bus station and took a taxi to the Yantai Seaside Youth Hostel. When I travel by myself here in China I often stay in Youth Hostels. Granted I am usually the oldest person there by more than thirty years, but I like the atmosphere and rates. Especially, on a trip that will include Tibet next month. Over the years in Qufu, I often heard about Yantai and had many students from here. Yantai has a population of seven million people and is now experiencing a heightened tension from Korea that lies directly across the Yellow Sea. China is now experiencing a large build-up of its air force in Yantai and navy in Qingdao. The threat of military action between N. Korea and USA is considered very real here.
Sunday night I went to dinner with two of my students from Qufu Normal School. The first Victoria (Wang Siqi), who is now a teacher here in Yantai, and second, I gave English name Volleyball 2 (Peng Xiaoha), now an airline attendant.
Monday morning was spent correcting my website so it can be used and so Katie can move information to face book. With Katie’s help we found a way. I then spent the rest of the morning working to change the dates of our student reunions from Saturday, May 27 to Sunday, May 28 in Qingdao and the following week reunion in Jining from Saturday, June 3 to Sunday, June 4. With Oreo’s help (yes that’s his English name), we took care of Jining. Tonight, hopefully I can take care of Qingdao. A lot of work. Too many students work and teach on Saturdays…
Lunch was with my student Katherine (Zhang JiaJia) and her friend Chad (Zhong Chi). She is a graduate student in Beijing studying Political Science and Law focusing on translation and linguistics. Afterwards we toured the Zhangyu Wine Cultural Museum. Changyu wine made here is considered the finest and most famous wine in China. We had a wine tasting and even had our own wine label made and were given a bottle. I am hoping to make I back to USA with it. The bottle yes, the contents… well maybe. I couldn’t stop think of being original, natural, and oneself. What defines with age both a fine wine and people.
Finally, before returning to the hostel I went to Yantai Hill Park. Beginning in 1861 over fifteen countries established consulates in Yantai. There is a western feel on the waterfront and many churches that date more than a hundred years. The lighthouse here is a major historic landmark in the city.
On Tuesday morning, I began contacting students about the change in our reunion schedule. With Lydia’s help we were able to finalize the move from Saturday at the park, to Sunday at the Jusco Mall in Qingdao. We’re meeting at Starbucks and going from there. Now I have both re-scheduled reunions done (Qingdao and Jining) …. Now it’s just contacting every one. It’s raining today… Chad is to pick me up for lunch then go to train station to buy ticket to Qingdao. He accompanied me to both the Yantai Folk Museum and Yantai Museum before I returned to the hostel.
The Yantai Folk Museum was originally built as a guild hall for sailors. The museum was built by ship owners and foreign merchants of the Fujian Province during the Qing Dynasty. It was officially converted into Yantai Museum in 1858. The Yantai Museum’s entrance hall is decorated with over a thousand wood and stone carvings. The beams here are shaped as a woman nursing a baby, lying on one side. Under the eaves are various Arab figures with musical instruments. The panels located towards the north showcase scenes from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the story of General Su Wu from the 2nd century who had been condemned to take care of sheep for 19 years, as well as, the story of the Eight Immortals that crossed the Sea. An interesting historical note is that Chinese techniques such as silk, iron casting, and paper making were transmitted to Korea and Japan by ships bound for these areas, which partly justifies Yantai’s claim to the title of “the starting point of the “Maritime Silk Road”. This is the same Eight Immortals that have a Temple (park) dedicated to them in Xian that I visited in May 2014.
The most important building in Yantai Folk Museum is the Temple of the Goddess of Sea. A legend goes that for generations sailors who were facing troubles at the sea were guided to a safe location by visions of a mysterious woman (sounds familiar). She was named as an official deity during the Qing and Ming Dynasties. Various temples have been built in her honor along the coastline. The temple has been built in the style of Song Dynasty’s imperial buildings. It was brought by ship in 1864 from Fujian. It is a unique example of southern Chinese architecture with sweeping horns and double roof, its mythical figures in glazed ceramics, stone and wood as well as fanciful ornamentation. Under the temple are various stone columns with motifs of carved dragons. The museum includes arrowheads, axes and cooking pots from the Stone Age which are considered to be more than 6000 years old.
The Yantai Folk Museum was completed in 1906. The building was designed and built in Fujian for assembly in Yantai. The museum is decorated with various carvings and sculptures following the theme of characters found in local legends that were subjects used in Chinese sculptures and paintings. A few blocks down the street was the new Yantai Museum outlining pre-history to the present. The picture of the ancient boat is a great example of those that traveled the Yellow Sea for hundreds of years.
Afterwards it was back to the hostel to continue contacts students for our reunions in Qingdao and Jining. Wednesday morning was continuing to contact my students about the scheduling change, update website, check out of hostel and head for train station for Qingdao.
May 24 – May 29 in Qingdao (reunion with students 5/28 at Jusco Mall). Take fast train to Qufu Monday evening.
Note to all students sent on QQ: We have changed the date and place of our reunions in Qingdao and Jining to Sunday, not Saturday. Our Qingdao reunion will be on Sunday, May 28 at the Jusco Mall, Jusco No.72, Hong Kong Middle Road, Shinan District of Qingdao City. We will meet at the Starbucks outside the Mall. When we see how many are here we may move someplace else. Please come. Saturdays were not good because many people had to work. We know it is holiday in Qingdao, but hopefully you will come to see your classmates and teacher.
Sunday, June 4 we will meet at the Canal Mall 6th Floor square in Jining at 2PM. The park ideas were not good because of location and too hot.
Wednesday, May 24 was another transition and travel day. Today I took the fast train to Qingdao and arrived at 3:30 PM, checked into hostel then walked around the neighborhood. When I was a city planner, and did neighborhood planning for all those years, the first thing I would do was walk and observe the conditions, i.e., traffic patterns, housing, the natural flow of people. I always do the same in China. It helps me to understand where I am at, and apply my sense of history to my writing and where I am. I was happy to find an outdoor produce market a few blocks away. I was first in Qingdao in 2001 leading a sister city delegation on its way to Qufu. I made several more trips up to 2005 and then again, my daughter Katie and I came to Qingdao in August 2012 while I was teaching in Qufu. I wanted to attend the International Qingdao Beer Festival that is held in august of each year. The city’s growth over the years has been remarkable. Qingdao hosted the sailing component of 2008 Beijing Olympics and was caught up in the preparations along with Beijing.
Thursday, May 25 – I am here for five, maybe six days depending on train schedule back to Qufu. I had planned to have our student reunion here on Saturday, but due to Dragon Festival we moved it to Sunday as earlier noted. I am at leisure until Sunday to explore the city again. Three places I am attracted to explore is the Tsingtao Beer Factory (again), the Tianhou Palace Temple, and Mount Laoshan, a very famous Taoist mountain.
After spending the morning deciding when I was leaving Qingdao based on the train schedule, I decided to wait another day and return to Qufu Monday evening. I contacted Andy and he will pick me up at the train station. I also booked a day trip tour for tomorrow to go to Mt. Laoshan. Afterwards I went to TianHou Palace Temple. TianHou Palace temple was built during the Ming Dynasty (1467 AD). The original name was TianFei Temple, which was later changed to TianHou Palace. In 1996, Tianhou Palace was renovated to also include the Qingdao Folk Customs Museum with more than 100 original cultural relics of local customs and folklore.
Thursday afternoon I decided to tour the Tsingtao Beer Factory again where I caught up with a couple of students, Fan Yu Chun (Vivian) and Li Xiao Yu (Dora). They are not my students, but would like to be.
Friday, May 26 Bus tour to Laoshan Mountain
What started out as a difficult “tour” of eight people plus a Chinese only speaking guide and driver, was typical of why I don’t like tagging along with a tour group. But got much better after lunch. I usually have a specific goal (in this case Laoshan Mountain), while the tour agency wants to fill the whole day. So we began at 8 AM and ended at 6 PM. Very typical. In May 2014 while I was in Xian, I went to see the terra cotta warriors… another 8 to 5. The actual tour was about an hour, but the rest of the time was spent going to stops where no one really wanted to go. Today was no exception. First stop was the pier to see the boats that were docked, second was a 45 minute stop at the beach. Everyone was clothed prepared to go to the mountain – and we’re at the beach. Third stop was the obligatory pearl factory where we spent an hour with sales people trying to sell us strands of pearls and pearl cream. When we finally made it to the mountain after lunch, we made two stops. First was a very long tram ride for an extra 80RMB where we simply rode the tram up then five minutes later came back down… When we finally made it to Laoshan Mountain, I was accompanied by others who wanted to help me.I walk with a cane due to an arthritic hip and it helps with my balance. Nothing serious and I have been
walking three to four miles every day getting ready for Lhasa and Tibet next month. Fortunately, I was with a group that included a girl, who English name was Jenny, who took my arm and assisted my to the top of the mountain and back down. A true angel. I could’t help but think of the novel, The Taoist Priest at Laoshan Mountain and Pu Song Li, as we walked up the mountain and saw Taoist inscriptions on the rocks as we went. His novel helped to make both him and the mountain famous. More on Pu Song Li coming up.
We left the mountain at 5 PM and were back in Qingdao by 6 PM. The good news about all my sightseeing in China is it is free for people over 60 years old. Qingdao Beer was the exception. The regular price was 80RMB, I had to pay 30. This tour had no one that spoke any English but myself. The great thing about cell phones now is they translate from Chinese to English and visa versa… so it is easy to speak to someone. Friday night I did laundry and hung my clothes to dry before leaving Qingdao.
Saturday, May 27 in Qingdao
Mount Laoshan, Xiao Yu Shan, Pu Song Li and an epiphany.
Saturday morning started off in a very casual non-descript way, I had seen what I thought I had come for and decided to walk the waterfront. Once underway I saw the green tiled pagoda of Xiao Yu Shan in the distance and decided to walk to it. I had been there before more than ten years ago. As I often walk, I have come to see that it is always as if I am one hundred feet in the air with an innate knowing as if I know what is coming next. What I need at the moment seems to always appear around the corner. Arriving after what had to be a three to four-mile hike, I began taking pictures and there he was. Stories he had written were displayed on the outside walls of the pavilion and the thought struck me that “we never know the imprint that we are here to leave behind”. I had been debating in my head just why is it I am here just now. This forty day saga… why do I do this? Why this innate passion for China? How can all this I am doing be so important? Seeing Pu Song Li here with the illustrations of his famous works, The Lotus Princess, The Priest from Laoshan Mountain, and The Disgusted Women, and others that made him the most famous writer, i.e., novelist during the Qing Dynasty tell the story. It was seeing these images from his writing that begins to explain the reason for all my travels to China over the past twenty years. Why do I do this? Why this innate passion for China? How can all this be so important? Seeing Pu Song Li, whose home Katie and I visited in Zibo in 2012, and his writing being celebrated at the Xiao Yu Shan Pagoda here in Qingdao gave me the epiphany I have been searching for. That it has always been the mountaintop experience that has captured the “who am I of who I am” and to where I return.
Almost fifty years ago, at the age of sixteen in 1968 or 69, I subscribed to China Pictorial after listening to Radio Peking on shortwave. The second issue had an illustration that was to change my life and who I was to later become. A mountain carved in jade captured both my heart and imagination. I could see myself sitting on the top of the mountain gazing at the stars looking into the heavens. It was as if this was my home, living above the clouds. I think my fascination with Taoist mountains in China has always been to return to what I know is my source.
Which brings us back to The Taoist Priest at Laoshan Mountain and Pu Song Li. It has always been the essence of Taoism that I express through my writing. At heart, this is who I am. Why the connection to Pu Song Li? It is as I wrote all those years ago – your strengths are your weaknesses and your weaknesses are ultimately your strengths. It took many years of self-reflection and writing to understand, but it was the events surrounding his life that showed me the way. Pu Song Li wanted nothing more than a good government job assured to those who could rise through the examination system. Unfortunately, as hard as he tried, he
could not rise above the lowest rank and failed many attempts to score higher on the exams. I found myself in similar circumstances when elected as a state representative in Missouri at the age of 26, failing to be re-elected, and then doing city and master plans. Always simply providing the way or vision for others to follows. Pu Song Li began expressing his displeasure of the system through his writing and soon discovered his true talents. He was to become one of the most famous writers in Chinese history. He was not who he thought he was to become – he was to become someone far greater through his writing. Even now I can only wonder if all this is the case, then why learning to speak Chinese is so difficult for me.
The epiphany is that it does not matter if my writing is considered good enough, or rather my work is recognized or that I get published or not. Ultimately, I am here to tell the story of China in my own words and of those who my memories only need reminding as if seen through the eyes of the ancients. As if they were here among us today. What came to me after visiting Laoshan Mountain and the Xiao Yu Shan Pagoda and being reminded of the works of Pu Song Li, is that we never really know the imprint of who we truly are or what we are here to leave behind. It’s for others to decide our place in history. We can only leave our imprint on all we do and those we meet – I know this through my friends and students here in Shandong and elsewhere.
That ultimately my task is to tell the story as if in passing. Only after I have left will some sense of importance perhaps be made from what I have had to say through my writing. Not equating myself with them, but Confucius was not appreciated until well after his death. Lao Tzu tried unsuccessfully to gain employment as an advisor to numerous local governments only to be given the choice to leave with his head intact – or not. He would leave disgusted that man could not see beyond his own ego. History say Lao Tzu left the Tao Te Ching with the gatekeeper at the mountain pass never to be seen or heard from again. He found his mountaintop and decided to stay above the clouds beyond the reach of man. As I relayed earlier Mencius was honored with a temple in his hometown Zoucheng, twelve hundred years after his death.
I am reminded of Walt Disney who eighty years ago imagined a mouse named mickey turning an idea into what is today a multi-billion-dollar company. It is as Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowing something and using your imagination to create it is truly the essence of wisdom.
So where does this leave me with my own writing. I have found my task is only to illustrate and tell the story. Just as a picture says a thousand words, my writing must tell what it means to history. If others are moved by my writing and descriptions of China, so much the better. But ultimately, I write the story only for eternity’s sake. What happens when I come across the jade carved mountain that served to awaken me to my own story almost fifty years ago? Perhaps I will be happy just to join Lao Tzu and my friends at the top of mountains above the clouds once again. The only question remaining is rather the imprint and lasting impressions I make now have earned my stay or not. Any remaining accolades only resting above the clouds with dragons.
Sunday, May 28 – I had to change rooms at the Qingdao 25C Four Seasons Hostel this morning. My staying another day until Monday was interrupted by the Dragon Holiday festivities. Staying at hostels is very common in Europe and China, though not in USA. I always enjoy the travelers I meet. Also, a six week stay in China and Tibet requires a corresponding budget. Hostels are much, much cheaper than staying in more expensive hotels. Pictured here is me with the owner Mr. Liu Zi jia.
I talked with several of my students today at the Jusco Mall at 2 PM. It is amazing that with QQ and WeChat that we can converse on almost a daily basis. Most all are teachers, are married, and many have babies now. I am still in contact on a regular basis with most of the more than four hundred students I taught between 2011 and 2013 in Qufu.
Afterwards I returned to the hostel and made arrangements for the coming week in Qufu, the wedding on Thursday in Shanting, and going to Oreo’s school Friday morning. I will arrive in Qufu tomorrow night and stay with a friend Mr. Ji Monday night. Tuesday morning, I check in at Shangri La and meet with Jenny to discuss the Young Artist Program we will do the following week on Monday June 4. I will also meet with my friend the General Manager, Peter Zhu about assisting his staff at Shangri La to be better prepared for foreign guests (I have been coming to Qufu for eighteen years). I also have to think about reservations for every city I am going to be in a week in advance. I made reservations for staying in Nanjing and Chengdu, as well as, checking airfare between the two cities. Most planning in China for me is impromptu… just do is I go.
Monday May 29 Travel day from Qingdao to Qufu – Tuesday May 30 and Wednesday 31 in Qufu… preparing for wedding of my student in Shanting on June 1.
Monday, May 29 is another check out and travel day.
I spoke to Jenny in Qufu. We moved our meeting at the Shangri La from tomorrow (Tuesday) to Wednesday at 9 AM. My train to Qufu does not leave until 4:30 this afternoon, so I need to leave for the station about 2. I had two unexpected mishaps. First, I left my cane at an outdoor vegetable market. Not too serious, but I went off and left the cord to my laptop in the lobby!! of the hostel. I did not notice until an hour after leaving on the fast train to Qufu. I left Qingdao at 4:30 and arrived in Qufu at 8:15 where friend Andy picked me up and took me to Mr. Ji’s where I spent the night.
Tuesday, May 29 in Qufu.
After checking in at Shangri La for one night I had breakfast and went with Andy to visit the Qufu Confucius College. I knew of and had visited an earlier location of the school outside the wall on Gulu Street in 2012 and 2013 many times. I have known the Headmaster Buan yan ping for many years. The school has over one hundred students from throughout China who attend primary through high school here in Qufu. The school focuses on train students in the six Confucian Arts. Those include mathematics, archery, horseback riding, calligraphy, music, and teaching manners and the power of important relationships. Included here are pictures of music students playing the Gu Zeng (a stringed instrument that resembles a five-foot violin and hu lu si (a type of Chinese flute). This school serves an essential need in promoted traditional Chinese and Confucian culture. Upon graduation, most students become teachers at similar colleges throughout China. It serves as a continuation of the teaching the Confucian idea that was first began at the school founded in the early 1800’s by the four families adjacent to the Confucius Temple and Mansion where I lived and taught in 2011 through June 2013. After the tour Mr. Buan invited Andy and I for lunch. Afterwards, I went to print shop and had new cards made for The Kongdan Foundation that included the image for WeChat and one side and the foundation on the other.
The Shangri La Hotel has been a great addition to Qufu. I would go by the location every day in the van to the university watching its construction. Now it towers over the city and contributes to Qufu’s transition to the 21st century. Qufu is the home of three world heritage sites (the Confucius Temple, Confucius Mansion, and cemetery. With the Shangri La Hotel, Qufu has truly become a world-class city. Later Tuesday evening I met with my good friend Mr. Peter Li, the General Manager, about how the Qufu Shangri La could broaden its footprint in Qufu in a truly collaborative way.
Wednesday, May 31 Travel day from Qufu to Shanting
Wednesday morning my computer cord arrived from Qingdao. I called yesterday and they put it in overnight delivery. I was afraid it would not arrive in time before I left Qufu after lunch. Thankfully it arrived on time. From 9 until 10:30 I met with Jenny who is our primary contact between Boynton Beach and Qufu sister cities. We have been doing the Young Artist Competition for the sister cities program for together ten years. Jenny was also the Chinese translation for the Daily Word that was published in 2006 and 2007 by the Kongdan Foundation. We published 5,000 copies a month that was distributed in cities throughout western Shandong Province. I have been told the one hundred twenty thousand copies (60,000 a year for two years) have seen by more than two and a half million people.
We have been doing the Sister Cities Young Artist program every year here 2001. We will conduct the program this year on Monday, June 5 after school. There will be much more to follow next week. Also, Jenny spoke directly with my student Joy this morning, who is getting married tomorrow. She will meet me at the bus station after the three-hour trip to Tengzhou this afternoon and accompany me to Shanting and Yiyun Hotel where I will be staying tonight. I then went to get my new cards for The Kongdan Foundation after converting $250 US to 1700 RMB.
Wednesday lunch I had with KongTao, Andy, Mr. Li, and many others. It was a farewell banquet hosted by Mr. Li. Over the years and my many trips to Qufu this has been a Qufu tradition of having a “farewell banquet”, even though I am returning to Qufu next week. There was eight people present and about twenty dishes. Andy and KongTao are two of my best friends in Qufu. It was KongTao’s response to an email I sent him and invitation for me to come to Qufu in April 1999, that led to my first visit to Qufu later that year in October. I had made an inquiry to the Ancient Chinese Construction Company in Qufu in which KongTao was employed when I wanted to build a friendship park in Boynton Beach. The park was never built, but lasting friendships were made. Afterwards Andy and KongTao took me to bus station to go to Shanting. I was picked up at the bus station in by Joy and her cousin in Tengzhou and we went to her home in Shanting. I was happy to hear that two of my other students are to be bridesmaids. Sabrina and boyfriend Tom arrived tonight. I was happy to hear they also came from Qufu. Tomorrow after the wedding they will take me to Jining so that I don’t need to take the bus.
Later Joy, Sabrina, Tom and I went to dinner at the Shanting Neighborhood Pancake Restaurant. Tonight, I will stay at the Yiyun Hotel in Shanting for wedding that begins at 8 AM tomorrow morning on June 1st.
The balance of my trip to China from June 1 to June 21 will appear later…