Below is my schedule for my trip this coming week. Several people asked me to make blog entries as to my daily activities. I thought this would be the best way. You can come to the website as often as you wish to keep track of where I am… I will add my comments especially in Anhui and Beijing on October 8th. My friend Chris Francois will be joining me on October 9 in Beijing to go to Qufu…
Itinerary for September 27 to October 18 trip to China
Sept 27 –Sept 29 Travel on United and Nippon Airlines Springfield/ Chicago/Tokyo /Beijing
Good Morning… my first entry. I am the airport in Japan in a very long layover before flying in Beijing later this morning. After some difficulty with computer chord I made it safely away from Springfield Tuesday afternoon… Unexpected expense – I had to change airports here in Tokyo the bus cost $28. I will have same on return. It’s a little after 4AM my flight leaves at 8:55AM so I have time… I am very tired though.
Sept 29 Two Stops in Beijing 1) Downtown Holiday Inn to confirm Saturday October 8 for me and cancel Sunday October 16 for Chris and I we’re staying at Hilton at airport. 2) go to publisher to see if Mr. Zhang is there. Without ticket to Qufu stay at Holiday Inn Thursday night..
I always tell people that when the come to China do not expect things to go a certain way and always be prepared for the unexpected. Well, I made it to Beijing and Holiday Inn… ok but lost cane. More on that later. When I went to train station station for ticket to Qufu there was no ticket. We had used my old passport number so there was no ticket I could only go the next night and stay in Beijing. So I returned to Holiday Inn checked in and spent the night in Beijing.
I will need to renew my Chinese phone in Beijing in the morning. I was very tired and felt I hadn’t slept for three days so a good night sleep was a good thing. My wooden cane broke in Tokyo airport was fixed temporarily then lost upon setting foot in Beijing. I bought a nice expandable aluminum cane for under $10 in Beijing so no harm done. Although I liked the old wooden cane. Marie said it had some ancient qualities like it’s owner… Ah the ancient Chinese way… to reside in virtue and contentment as spontaneous action rules the day. Remaining assured within whatever just happens will be okay. This thought is a prelude to spending next week in Anhui the home of Chuang Tzu and wu wei.
Sept 30 Friday in Beijing Many personal things. (Friday night on the train)
Friday was unplanned day in Beijing I will be taking overnight train to Qufu. First I went to China Mobile to activate my China phone. Couldn’t wait until getting to Qufu then checked out of Holiday Inn. I walked down to where Mr Zhang office used to be. It’s not there anymore. Then went to train station to try to get sooner train not possible. Today is day before beginning of national holiday. Wrong day to need a train ticket. Then taxi to St Regis where Mexican restaurant was.. it’s gone now. Then across the street to Starbucks to wait to go to old bus station for 11 PM train. While there I first text then talked to publisher he wants to see me next Saturday when I return to Beijing. Everyone in Beijing was leaving town Thursday night… I think by train. The train station was total pandemonium. Thousands of people trying to get last minute ticket.. not. I had what is called a standing ticket and was told the day before that I had the last ticket out of Beijing… Probably told to all that week. Which means I would stand in the isle with twenty plus other people who had no ticket for a seat. Train left at 11 PM and arrived a after 8 AM… Not much fun. The train car was to have 96 person capacity, there were at lease 125 in the car I was on once I counted…
Oct 1 Saturday in Qufu Confirm Shangri La for Chris and I for Sunday October 9 to Sunday October 15. Confirm with Jenny Young Artist Program for when Chris and I return and dinner with Mr. Zhang… Stay with Maria Saturday night.
Saturday morning Maria picked me up at the train station. Afterwards tried to check in to hotel but no vacancy. We decided I would stay at Maria’a apartment tonight with her, husband and Joy. We then left for countryside for lunch, then got apples along roadside on way back. Went to Andy’s brothers phone store, he was not there. Over to Bank of China next to Jenny’s withdrew 600 RMB to pay Maria for train tickets and Jenny’s apt she didn’t answer doorbell. (Later found out she was home)… walked to Shangri La confirmed Chris and my reservation for 10/9 -10/15) ok…went by Drs. he wasn’t there. Then taxi to restaurant for dinner with Mr Zhang then back to Maria’s for the night. While there I spoke by phone with Jenny.. she needs Young Artist list and help with school in Jining, spoke by phone to KongTao we will see him next week when Chris arrives, and spoke to Ben… Sally now married with 3 year old and lives in Beijing very nice conversation. (For those reading this who may not know, I have made over forty trip to China and Qufu since 1999 and taught at Jining University in Qufu from 2011-13 (I am blessed with many good friends in Qufu.)
Oct 2-7 Take train to Huangshan in Anhui Province I will be staying here at the Cather Hostel until Friday, October 7 when I will take the overnight train back to Beijing. Phone # 86 559 2359788
Sunday Oct 2 – Friend of Maria’s took me to fast train station to take train to Anhui. Once there (arrived about 3:30) took taxi to hostel… checked in and then walked to dinner checking out local neighborhood. Problem with they seem to turn off electricity at night making charging cell phone and computer problematic.
Monday Oct 3 – Day of rest and catching up with writing. I went to Old Town here in Huangshan, Mostly just shops I took about 20-25 pictures until battery gave out on camera, I need to re-charge and see how many pictures I can take before losing battery. It is as if my week here is but a sabbatical. A time of reflection and inner knowing before taking the next step.
Tuesday Oct 4 – Up at 4 AM. I realize that my stay here is two-fold. First to write about my relationship with Chuang Tzu and wu wei, and secondly to make an adjustment and begin making a concerted effort to live the life I have written. All that I have ever written is autobiographical in nature and simply a road map for me to follow. That I abhor contention and strive only for a life of contentment. That I live in the state of becoming and that is tied solely to my writing while knowing that the more I lose in attachments the more I gain. This is where Chuang Tzu comes into play. It has been my own lack of discipline that has kept me from achieving my ultimate goal. This lack of disciple is why I am here, generally speaking, to begin with. For an eternity I’ve been reminded that I have always known the words. Its putting them into practice internally that has eluded me. I begin anew reciting the line that my weaknesses are my strengths… Chuang wants to know after all this time am I ready to make the pivot? This is why I came here to be near his hometown to visit with my old friend once again.
Wednesday October 5 – Up at 5 AM to join tour bus for the day to spend the day on Huangshan Mountain. Huangshan Mountain is one of the five most famous mountains in Taoism. I have now been to three of them. (Qingyang Mountain near Chengdu, Mount Taishan near Qufu, and now Huangshan Mountain in Anhui). Being above the clouds is about as close as one can get to Chuang Tzu. When I first began writing in 1993 my moniker or name given to me was Cloud Dancing. It’s amazing how the hundreds of thousands of words I have written over the years take on new meaning as I approach the edge or become nearer to my ultimate destination. I came to Anhui unsure I would meet with Chuang Tzu. But living in spontaneity creates the essence of what true living is all about. It becomes wei wu when you revert to your cosmic essence in total humility realizing your own nothingness and life itself becomes totally forgetful. You become rooted in the nature of things, full of life and awareness… often referred to by others as having mindfulness, or as Joseph Campbell would say, you are in a place where you can begin to find you bliss. You my say that one does not need to be above the clouds on a mountain to understand this, but you must be in a place where you are truly at peace and home with yourself.There are many great sages and Taoists, who over the centuries have left all earthly attachments behind to live on these mountain in a reclusive lifestyle to be nearer to nature and the Tao.They have come, seen the other side, and decided to stay.
I say all this as a preface to what comes next. I think I am extremely thankful to two college students, Sherlock and Lilly, (their English names) who came to find me on the mountain when I got separated from the tour group. If they didn’t find me I would probably still be on the mountain… with my friends above the clouds. Oh, and the bus got us back to the hostel about 8 PM that evening.
Note: Due to the arrival this weekend in South Florida of Hurricane Matthew, Chris departure from Miami is “up in the air”.
Thursday, October 6 – At noon I texted publisher Mr Zhang in Beijing I will meet him in his office at 11 AM in Wuhan Building a few blocks from Holiday Inn… I have been there many times.
Having literally been to the mountaintop and seen the other side, today is a day spent in quiet meditation and fasting thinking only about Chuang Tau and the eternal meaning of the pivot. The central element of true writing is you don’t simply write about something, you become someone that epitomizes what you have internalized and written about. It is as I have said… your writing becomes you. The central core of this began with the shaman eons ago needing to impart eternal wisdom beyond the spoken word. The shaman knew that to sway people he/she had to become the word himself. What Chuang Tzu understood was each of us had to endure what was to be called the “pivot”. Understanding and becoming this are two separate things. What you need to know is not something new, it is what you have always known but forgotten. Meditation and self-awareness is simply coming to know who you really are and becoming it. Chuang Tzu laughed and made humor about Confucians because they were too full of themselves and what they sensed was the way to live. He and the Taoists understood that what was good for one had to be good for all, or it was not good at all. Life for the sage became so much less complicated and simpler on top of mountains. They understood that the riches of a lifetime were at mere flash of lightening in eternity, so why bother. The Taoist differs from others in his heart. He is centered on the Tao not himself. Ultimately he concluded that the true sage must engage himself in the world, not follow his innate reclusive nature to retreat to mountaintops and in doing so become the Perfected Man. He must be the change he wants to see in the world.
The central understanding to the pivot is how opposites compliment each other. You cannot just stop with a sense of opposites This is the basis of the true meaning of the I Ching. It is when you can pass through both yes and no, the I and not I, to understand that all things are in a state of flux. That like all things in nature, nothing is all set, or permanent. What is yes today could easily be no tomorrow and vise versa. It is in refusing to grasp either yes or no as absolute that the complimentary opposite automatically comes forth to find the way to proceed, or find common ground. It is the ability to watch yes and no pursue their alternating course of action as if in a circle, that you can begin to understand the central meaning of the pivot. It is that opposites produce each other, depend on each other, and complement each other.It is the inability to wait and not be impatient that most men lose their best opportunity for good results. Bad results often occur when we act to soon before our time to act appears. Wisdom and luck are often in knowing the right time to act in the proper way. Who can know. In early China this became the central role of the shaman.
How did Chuang Tzu put this central tenet of the I Ching, this idea of complimentary opposites, into play? By using his concept of the Perfected Man in living a life in wu wei. Wu wei has taken on several meanings over the centuries depending on the needs of the commentator. Often it has taken on the simplistic meaning as the”Art of Doing Nothing”. But it is so much more than that. It is that when what you do becomes so much a part of who you are that it appears as if you are doing nothing outside yourself, or who you naturally have become. What you do is nothing more than an extension of who you have become. Chuang Tzu takes this a bit further. It is action that is performed effortlessly, so spontaneous in perfect harmony with our nature and the Tao. In this way all relationships find their proper order and expression. Nothing can then exist or occur that is beyond self conscious expression. You can see why becoming the sage is no easy task.
It was by returning to human form one lifetime after the next that one can begin to get a glimpse of his ultimate endeavor and destiny. Many have come to know and see the the Way, few have followed the path and where it might lead. What can all this mean and why should one be concerned with all this? Especially as a “foreigner” when almost no one I meet cares about any of this… especially the people I meet here in China. They live in the midst of 5,000 years of history. It surrounds them in all they see, do, and are. It is as much a part of them as the air they breathe, the ground they walk, and the water they drink everyday. It is what I found in the countryside when visiting the families of my students in Shandong who have lived and farmed the same piece of land for hundreds of years. Most of their ancestors are buried out in the field they toiled in for a lifetime. They don’t just farm on the land they become and are the land itself. It was easy to see in the eyes of the grandparents who have seen so much change in China over the past eighty years or so. My students were usually the first in their family to try to break the cycle. If they did not do well in school it would be back to the village and the land of their parents ad grandparents, etc., etc… This was fairly common at Qufu Normal School in Qufu where I taught. For most of the students the brass ring was too high and the frog at the bottom of the well was them. They knew that they had to say they tried. As if there was an innate attempt to find their place in the universe outside of who they were and as such what occurs becomes you and you become it as well. But it is not that simple. Again the law of complimentary opposites come into play. Their exposure to life away from the village would in and of itself change who they would become. In their own way, my students were the pivot of today.
Well my stay here this week seems to correspond with the renovation of the building next door… so the piercing sound of the jack hammer seems ever-present.
It’s Thursday night and everything may change regarding rest of China trip. Chris may not be able to leave Miami Saturday morning due to hurricane. If her flight is delayed then Sunday connection in Beijing changes and our train to Qufu Sunday night is not possible. I may be stuck in Beijing waiting for Chris to arrive on a later flight. I won’t know until Delta confirms flight and Chris lets me know. (Note: Later Chris made the plane… hurricane moved north)
Also Marie will be happy. I got a trim this afternoon. Still long but it looks better…
Friday October 7th – It looks like the path of Hurricane Matthew will veer north of Miami and Chris Delta flight Saturday morning should be okay. I went back to Old Town this morning to buy the two pocket watches I saw that Katie would like for her collection. I saw another hostel entitled Ancient Town Hostel I would stay at if I return to Huangshan and bought a small tourist guide of the Huangshan area that will help with my writing. I leave this afternoon at 1:30 to go to train station. We’re still on the first week of October holiday and it’s Friday. I have my ticket but it could be crowded.
My thoughts return to Huangshan Mountain with time spent above the clouds and Chuang Tzu and where I left off yesterday. It’s knowing what I know how can I not follow the path that has been laid out before me. To truly follow the Tao is to live the Way as if you are on a glide path following a current of no return that you cannot resist. You have become a part of the path itself so that everything depends on how quickly you want to get to your ultimate destination. Or stop and stay with attachments you have found. You have paved the way for yourself with your journey leading only to the virtue within. The only remaining question as to the time of departure is do I finally find the discipline to follow my highest endeavor and ultimate destiny. Lack of discipline and patience – my achilles heal in eternity. Old nemesis’s who seem to always keep calling or holding me back. The ultimate attachments I find so difficult to shed. It’s time to finally tell them goodbye. I can hear Chuang Tzu giving his knowing laugh just now. He knows and hopes my visit will finally serve it’s purpose. Do I stay or do I go? Do I answer eternity’s call to become the Perfected Man living only as wu wei dictates? The siren call has always been present in the background just waiting to come forward. It’s time, it’s time to go.
This is what this week has ultimately been about. To follow as if instructions what I have already written and know is but a decision for eternity’s sake. The path begins and ends as Lao Tzu has always said in the Tao Te Ching, the Way of Virtue… We are only to live moment to moment as the embodiment of virtue and the Tao.
Pay the balance of room at hostel (218 RMB, pd 100 at check-in Total for room was 318) at 12:45 PM. Take taxi to train station at 1:30 PM.
Saturday October 8 MY BIRTHDAY #64 I left Huangshan at 4:30 in the afternoon and did not arrive in Beijing until Saturday at 1 PM more than twenty hours later. Unbelievable, To make matters worse I could not find the taxi stand… Finally found it they need better signs. I had sent text to Mr Zhang changing our appointment to 3 PM so I could get there… Took taxi to check in at Downtown Holiday Inn in Beijing. They had messed up my reservation.
I was not able to see the sites I had planned. 1) Beihai Park next to Forbidden City 2) White Cloud Taoist Temple and 3) Yonghe Lama Temple, in the northeast corner of downtown Beijing. I have been to all three in the past, but wanted more pictures. Instead I met with Mr Zhang and his assistant, Mr. Liu Yongchun. We reviewed my website and how I could work closer with publishing house to get published. Afterwards I went to dinner with Mr. Liu then back to Holiday Inn.
Chris confirmed via email that she was on her way to Beijing. I will meet her at the airport tomorrow at 2:45 PM. We’ll have to be fast with taxi getting to train station for 6:30 train to Qufu.
Sunday October 9 Coffee and biscuit at McDonald’s. Check out of Holiday Inn. Go to meet Chris at airport ( Delta flight DL 189. Arrival time 2:45 PM). After getting Chris take taxi straight to South Station for fast train to Qufu. Get our tickets and take train. Either Maria, Jenny or Shangri La will meet us. Check in to Shangri La. Email and text Maria about arrival on train tonight in Qufu.
I have a couple hours before checking out of hotel. I want to return to Chuang Tzu and thoughts of wu wei. His idea that “perfect joy is to be without joy, perfect praise is to be without praise”, rings true and is a good beginning point in meditation. For myself this means not to be driven by the need to be happy outside oneself. Pure joy comes from within with your inner spirit attuned to heights you have always known. Being connected to nature and the universe the ultimate place to come to reside. In the stillness you discover that this place is without either joy or sadness. Once there you find comfort and decide to stay with what can be considered as finding your bliss, is but a foregone conclusion. The second idea is knowing that perfect praise is to be without praise. For the Taoist and Chuang Tzu this is an essential element to coming to terms with what we find the paradox between our inner and outer selves. Release of the ego becomes the foremost and paramount elixir to freedom. Free from outer concern for how others may view you is the first step on your journey. As you open yourself to the universe and just listen.
Who is it that we spend our time with? Do our friends meet a similar sense of looking to enlightenment. This was what I enjoyed the most about Unity of Delray Beach in Florida where I was a member for almost twenty years. (1997-2015). The Unity Coffee on Thursdays included over seventy five people who were attuned to looking for their highest selves. While our journey is ultimately a solitary one, finding others who are on a similar path is comforting. I miss them… But the ultimate question remain – who do we spend our time with and how does that enhance or deter us in how we define ourselves?
I picked up Chris at about 4 PM at the airport she was late because they lost her luggage. We took taxi to fast train station. Left Beijing at 6:30 PM arriving at Qufu at 9 PM. Picked up by Maria’s husband car and driver and went to Shangri La.
Monday October 10 After breakfast at Shangri La I went to printer to have new cards made for The Kongdan Foundation then Chris and I went to see Andy at Bank of China. I debited money and Chris took care of business updating her account. We made arrangements to have dinner with Mr Zhang tonight. Later confirmed Jenny will come to tomorrow after school at 2:30 to discuss Young Artist Ceremony. At 5:30 we went to dinner with Andy, his wife and Mr. Zhang. We discussed business between Chris and Mr Zhang and possible project in Boynton Beach. Later at Shangri La we were joined by KongTao and Maria to discuss our activities for the rest of stay in Qufu. Maria will join us for lunch tomorrow.
Tuesday October 11 Chris and I had lunch with Maria and paid for our train tickets back to Beijing on Sunday about noon. Maria sent Mr Zhang/Chris paperwork to husband’s company attorney to review. We met with Jenny and Kevin at 2:30 to discuss Young Artist ceremony. Program will be Thursday afternoon at Jenny’s school. We downloaded old certificate form from my computer and Jenny will make new certificates for students. I picked up my new cards at printer. Chris and I had dinner at Shangri La afterwards I went with Andy to the park then to see his new apartment. Andy and I were to meet with retired professor Mr. Li but could not join us. We’ll meet him another time.
Wednesday October 12 We did errands buying things for Chris because her luggage has still not arrived from Beijing. It was left behind by Delta in Detroit. We had dinner tonight with Maria, Kevin, Jenny and Vivian, and Andy and his wife. We finalized young artist details with Jenny the teacher at Qufu Number One Middle School. She has been helping with program since 2006. Andy wants us to go with him to mountains Saturday we’re not sure yet.
Thursday October 13 Chris got her luggage about noon. We left for Young Artist presentation at 2:30 PM and met Jenny at her school (Qufu Number One Middle School). We met students at 6th floor conference room and handed out certificates and took pictures. Afterwards we returned to Shangri La with Jenny and met with another teacher Ms Kong Weihong who wants to assist with teacher/student exchange between sister cities, Qufu and Boynton Beach and gave her the letter from Boynton Beach mayor Steven Grant to forward to Qufu Mayor. We are trying to facilitate a delegation from Qufu to visit Florida later this year. Later Thursday night Dan me with Andy and Mt Zhang to draft agreement between Chris and Mr Zhang updating their contract. There will be a dinner Saturday night with Dan and Chris with old friends… KongTao, Mr Li, Ben, Mr Zhang and others.
Friday October 14 At 9:30 Chris and Dan went to tour John’s fathers new housing development and two of the units. Afterwards we went to lunch with Maria then back to Shangri La. I walked over to where office supply place was… it is gone. Friday night we went to Kevin and Jenny’s for dinner. Took pictures and gave Jenny pictures from Young Artist program from yesterday. Afterwards I went with Jenny to buy shoes. Tomorrow I will get my stuff (clothes, etc) from them and go through to decide what goes back to USA and what I will leave here. We will go to Kevin’s parents hutong tomorrow afternoon. I text the publisher about seeing them Sunday night or Monday morning in Beijing. They are busy getting ready to go to Frankfort Germany book fair this week. We’ll stay in touch.
Saturday October 15 Up at 4 AM It rained all day. We went to Kevin’s parents hutong Saturday afternoon very nice at 3:30 then met old friends for dinner Saturday night…
I am here in Qufu once again visiting with old friends. It is as if I have never left. I am reminded of times past with Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, thousands of years ago when it was friendships and trust in final outcomes that ruled the day here in the city of Lu (Qufu). Walking the streets again following the path of all the others I am reminded of those who have passed this way before along the river —. Spending the past week here in Qufu visiting with friends, students and past acquaintances I am reminded that this will always be home. But mostly it is times to be spent with old friends again.
Over the past seventeen years since October 1999, I have made almost fifty trips… too many to count to Qufu. Now with countless friends I am humbled by our remembering of times we have spent together. Traditions here are easily made and much harder to break. Last night, my last night again here in Qufu, Chris and I were honored with a “farewell banquet”. Something we have done many times before. Something we will always do until there are no more farewells, and I return to Qufu to stay as I have always done in the past.
How is one to express gratitude and expressions of eternal kinship with those you are closest to and share such deep affection? Sharing toasts and a meal of friendship but an easy way to express what is in reality beyond words. My oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Li, Kong Tao, Ben (Pei and Sally), Andy and Mr. Zhang and (Amy). Along with Kong Tao’s wife and daughter, and Andy’s wife Cao and (Cindy). Discussions ranging far and wide to visits by Mr. Li, Kong Tao and Ben to Florida, to Taoism, Chuang Tzu, and the I Ching. To sister city visits and wheelchairs Chris and I brought to Qufu many years ago. To ancient Chinese construction and Kong Tao’s designs for the new City of Qufu. To old friends in Jining, Mr. Guo, Mr. Han and Minister Guo Min. Eva in the travel agency. Other too numerous to mention who have joined us over the years. Coming to Qufu with Chris, one of my closest and dearest friends, but a reminder of how we are to truly share what is in our hearts in friendship.
Yesterday visiting the hutong of Jenny and Kevin’s family with their lovely daughter Vivian and conducting the Young Artist program at Jenny’s school on Thursday. Touring the new developments in Qufu yesterday with Maria one can only wonder how someone could be so fortunate to have made such dear and wonderful friends here in the home of Confucius. All the outcome of an email asking me to visit Qufu from Kong Tao all those years ago.
As I celebrate my 64th birthday on this trip over this past week in Qufu, I am reminded that wherever I happen to be… Qufu will forever be my home and my friendships will always begin and end here. Later Sunday morning I went to the conference here in Qufu of the National Confucius/I Ching Society. I have been a member of the prestigious group of scholars for many years. I was honored to have been elected as Vice Chairman for the coming year.
Sunday October 16 10 AM Ben and Mr Zhang came by to get me to go to the Confucius/I Ching Conference. Once we got there I was swarmed by 40-50 people who wanted to get selfies with me (I don’t think they knew who I was) just a foreigner. I stay only for an hour then returned to Shangri La. Chris had checked out of Shangri La and we took fast train back to Beijing and checked in to Airport Hilton.
Mon Oct 17 Check out of Airport Hilton with shuttle to airport for 4:35PM flight on DL 188 for Chris and 3:35 flight on ANA All Nippon flight 962 for Dan
Mon Oct 17 Chris arrives at 11:18PM on Delta flight 1633 in Miami, FL
Tues Oct 18 Dan arrives at 9:04 PM on United flight 5774 in Springfield.