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. It is in the becoming present that counts.
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 the Peking Yard Hostel, I decide I will focus on two sites here before leaving for Qufu Sunday evening (May 14). Beihai Park, and the Dongyue Taoist Temple, 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. Part of the challenge in staying at new hotels or hostels, is booking in advance for the first time. Booking sight unseen can be challenging. I would not re-book hostels I stayed in Beijing, Linyi, or Chongqing. But would again in Qufu, Nanjing, Chengdu, and Shanghai.
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 “a one pool with three hills’ layout” near his palace. Beihai Park was 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 Wall, 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 Wall 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 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 hostel, (May 14) I made my way to Lama Temple. If you only have time for one Buddhist 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 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.
I have often talked about the influence of Confucius, Taoism and Buddhism, 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 a university here years ago, this was always the foremost attribute of my curriculum. The primary reason I am here now is for reunions with 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.
Linyi – Wang Xizhi
I am here for four days staying at the Youge Youth Capsule Hostel (Thursday May 18 to Sunday May 21) mainly to meet my students here at Phoenix Square at FengHuang Park on Saturday afternoon. Hostel was next to bus station, but not a very good choice. The first of about seven reunions in four provinces. 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 and was mainly responsible for my teaching at Jining University after they called him to teach and he couldn’t and recommended me instead back in 2011.
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 number two, 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 from the Weiliaozi and 16 chapters from the Yanzi chungiu; the rest of the groups included anonymous writings. I was disappointed the building housing the artifacts was under renovation. I will need to plan another visit to Linyi to see them.
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.
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. 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 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 Gulou 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.
If I have learned one thing over the past twenty five years of my travels and study of China and what could be called “Eastern philosophy”, it is that it is not enough to simply return to your source – it is that once you have done so – you become rejuvenated and become the source over and over again.
One of my most favorite books I have ever read is called “The Snow Leopard”, by Peter Matthiess. I believe it is now out of print. Hopefully not. I would like to have copies to give as the ultimate gift to friends who recognize that they are on their own journey of discovery and can utilize various means to connect to and with their own universal vibrations. I am moved initially by a quote in the forward of the book by the Lama Govinda that says..
“Just as a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely floats in the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that leads beyond the farthest horizon to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight”.
What is it that moves us? Are we here in some desperate way to follow instincts that lead us as we watch our lives as they pass unfulfilled? Are we here to try to portray reality as others see it? When do we step out of the painting we have created that seemingly defines us as the world sees us? When the true essence of “who we are”, is a mere reflection of the canvass we continually change, as we notice the silence and recognize that we are nothing more than a small, yet integral part, of creation.
That it is as Kierkegaard said, “That we wander from one path to another with no real recognition that I am am embarked upon a search with scarcely a clue as to what I might be after. I only knew that at the end of each breath there was a bottom that needed to be filled”.
The journey is meant to be hard. The journey may begin with a restless feeling, as if you are being watched. You begin to believe that there is a source for this deep restlessness, and the path that leads there is not a strange place, but the path, or way home. It is here you realize that you have always been home, that all you are required to do is wake up. This place though is overgrown with weeds and is unkempt and in disarray due to ideas of fears and prejudices tied to who we think we are. It is as Zen Buddhists call finding our own true nature. That each man is his own savior.
It is here that I am directed to the ancient shaman and sages and universal law, i.e., truth. The Chinese call this the interior way, or the Tao. It is as if it is an irrepressible force, or flow that steams toward its goal. For the individual to rest in the Tao means you have found fulfillment and wholeness, as is one’s destination has been reached. Your mission is done. You have found the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence of all things, as expressed by Carl Jung.
Joseph Campbell saw as the greatest human transgression “the sin of inadvertence, of not being alert, not quite awake” when you are in search of what can only be defined as “finding your bliss.” as he would say. This question is universal and eternal. Why do some people awaken and others not do so as they seem to find themselves tied to attachments beyond themselves? And why can some people awaken easier than others and some never do so? In other words once awakened, you have a responsibility to follow through and what role does one’s karma play.. Perhaps it is the task of those who have awakened to assist those who have not. Another question is why this sense of separation from others that leads to a singular path of enlightenment?
What is it that gives us or makes us have a feeling of separation from those around us that keeps us from fulfilling our sense of service to others, to nature and the universe? What can be the last conscious thought of the individual soul on its journey through life and death as we try to justify how we lived? What is it that obliterates, or takes away, our sense of self as we stream back into the One? As we helplessly hang on to our sense of delusion of who we thought we were and attachments we have clung to along the way. When putting things in divine order is the key to our longevity.
What can be our ultimate goal and realization of what we are here to do or accomplish? How can we be separate from others and have a duality of purpose? To by chance become a beacon of light for others to follow. How are we to act and show others the way? What comes of it all is a sense of service to our own inherent universal nature. How good, how worthy – or how not – will be the question we have to answer when it comes in that moment. What will we have done for this world as we go back into the eternity that define us? Finally, how does the universal sense of the need to be “in service to others”, fit into our own path, or journey.
When I taught at the university in Qufu, my primary focus besides teaching English, was to convey to my students the importance of service to their community and others. That we are here to discover our innate talents and utilize them to find our niche, or place, in the world. Since almost all of the more than 400 students would become teachers themselves, it was a message that resonated.
Thursday, June 1st
Joy’s wedding and Jining Sports School and return to Qufu
Today I was honored as a guest at the traditional Chinese wedding of one of my students, Joy (Han Tingting). The day began at the home of the bride about 7AM with fireworks and a small band playing outside her parent’s home. With many family and friends present Wang Guangliang made his way through the front gate with seeming great difficulty provided by her friends. Only after providing several small red envelops (with money), was he allowed to enter. As he made his way in he again was only allowed into the house after more red envelops. He then made it to her room where the door was closed and only after much cajoling was he able to see his bride. After many pictures and preparation, Joy was carried out of her house in a chair back to the street where cars waited to carry them and the wedding party to the groom’s home in the countryside where the festivities were to continue.
The actual wedding was conducted by an emcee outside in the courtyard of Wang’s parents’ home after he carried her from the car into their house. The bride first had to gain approval from the groom’s parents. Then the wedding continued with an exchange of rings and a shared glass of wine and they were pronounced husband and wife by the emcee. The final part was the giving of red envelops in the ceremony by family members and friends to the new couple. Afterwards a lunch was served to those in attendance and the festivities were concluded. Pictured here at lunch are two of my other students from Jining University (Ann and Sabrina) who were bride maids at the wedding.
Jining Sports School
After lunch, I went by car to Jining with Sabrina and Tom and visited the Jining Sports School that was the former Jining University. It’s now as if I have come full circle. During one of my first visits to Jining in 1999 or 2001, I was shown a model of the new Jining University that was to be constructed in Qufu at the Planning Bureau in Jining. Construction was completed in 2006. This school is where I taught from 2011 to 2013. Now I’m back in Jining touring the Jining Sports School that trains students from the age of 11 to 18 in various sports to compete in events here in Shandong, nationally, and if good enough the Olympics. Students work in classrooms in the morning and athletics in the afternoon. They train to compete in judo, weight lifting, wrestling, track and field, fencing, volleyball, ping pong, and other sports. Sabrina was kind enough to give me a tour of the facility where she teaches and students as the practiced.
I was to stay in Jining until after the reunion with my students on Sunday. But my contact, Oreo, was asked by his school to do something tomorrow and Saturday, so I could not go as planned to his school in Jaxaing on Friday. I returned to Qufu tonight. I will return to Jining on Sunday for the reunion.
Thursday night, June 1 to Tuesday, June 6 in Qufu (with trip to Jining Sunday for reunion). Thursday through Sunday night stay with Mr. Ji. Monday, June 5th stay at Shangri La. Monday afternoon, June 5th Young Artist Program with Jenny. Give Peter my proposal before leaving for Nanjing on Tuesday. Meet with Maria and Kong Tao.
Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 were quiet and relaxing with many old friends, but busy planning day. I was limited due to having no internet connection until early afternoon on Friday afternoon I confirmed my reservations to go by plane from Nanjing to Chengdu for Friday, June 9 and for Monday, June 12 to fly from Chengdu to Lhasa with return on Thursday, June 15th to Chengdu. I spent the morning doing website entry (in Word to be moved to web page) for wedding and sports school yesterday and on Friday did the website entry. I then learned that my paperwork to go to Tibet had to be completed ten days in advance. The tour group was only for four days and two of these were getting there and returning. The total was going to cost about a thousand dollars. Not worth it. So I decided to stay two more days in Nanjing and more time in Chengdu. Plus add another city before returning to Shanghai and home. A couple days downtime is good. My friends here try to remind me that I am almost sixty-five. No Tibet… but maybe next time.
Sunday, June 4 I went to Jining for the reunion with my students at the Canal Mall and to highlight many of my activities in Jining, especially the emphasis on the Jining Museum and its founding. Today was the final reunion of my students in Linyi, Qingdao, and now Jining. Hera’s baby and teaching elementary school. Iris teaching seventh grade, Hathaway and Gloria how much they liked teaching. Oreo, who joined the group later explained he had over one hundred fifty students in two classes. He was the class monitor in several of my classes. His primary job was to keep a close eye on his foreign teacher (me). We became very good friends. He likes the NBA in USA very much. We discussed school now four or five years later and how much they learned from my classes. Many students talked to the group during our conversation on WeChat in order to join the group. It was great connecting with my students and letting them know I am here for them.
As I mentioned earlier I have been coming to Jining since October, 1999. It was during that visit during a luncheon banquet I mentioned a flying horse from the Han dynasty (about 200AD) that I could not get out of my mind. That it seemed to be close by. After lunch, we went a few miles out of the city and pulled up to what looked like an old shed. We got out and went to see what was in them and there were stone stele from the early Han that measured two by four feet. One was about six feet long depicting Confucius meeting Lao Tzu carved in stone. Afterwards we went over to another small shed and they handed me a replica of the flying iron horse. It was then that I knew there was something to all this. While in Jining a few years later I visited the Jining Museum that is highlighted by the “Iron Pagoda”.
While I was teaching in 2012 in Qufu I returned to the Jining Museum with my good friend, Mr. Li Yizhong who had re-designed the museum. An addition had been made. The stone carved stele that I had first seen in 1999, had been re-located here to the museum. For myself, one of the great things about studying the history of Jining, was that it was the halfway point of the Grand Canal that was more than a thousand miles long with most of the canal being dug by hand. The Grand Canal was fully completed under the second Sui emperor, from the years 604 to 609, first by linking Luoyang to the Yangzhou (and the Yangzi valley), then expanding it to Hangzhou on the south and to Beijing on the north. The canal meant people from everywhere would focus here and create a unique cuisine, i.e., very good food. I often was able to visit historic sites not on the radar of tourists because of my interest in Chinese history and their desire to have others tell the story. Naturally the, Canal Mall, visited earlier today was paying tribute to the original Grand Canal.
After leaving my students at the bus station I returned to Qufu and was met by Tom , the friend of Sabrina at the B1 bus stop at Jining University here in Qufu,who brought me by car back to Mr. Li’s apartment.
Monday, June 5 – Move to Shangri La Hotel this morning. Talk to Katie and Marie. Talk to Chris about Shangri La and Sister Cities and to Maria, she reserved a ticket on fast train for me to go to Nanjing tomorrow. I met with the General Manager of the Qufu Shangri La, Mr. Peter Qi and KongTao for coffee Monday afternoon about development in Qufu.
I took a taxi at 5:30 for 6 PM Sister Cities Young Artist presentation at the Shishang Training School. The Boynton Beach Sister Cities Committee and schools in Qufu have been doing the Young Artist Program every year since 2001. On behalf of the sister cities program, the Kongdan Foundation provided more than 800 RMB for prizes for first, second, third, and honorable mention. All students who participated received a small prize as well. The teacher for the school is Shi Zhiming. A guest artist was present, Mr. Kong Youqiang. The program was moderated by Jenny Jiang, a teacher at Qufu Number One Middle School (high school) who has helped to coordinate the Young Artist Program here in Qufu since 2006, while Kongdan (me) handed out the certificates and awards. Next year we will have many more schools participating in the sister cities Young Artist Programs. Over the years, students in Qufu and Boynton Beach have provided excellent artwork for judging. Some of those entries are as follows:
Tuesday, June 6 to Sunday, June 11 in Nanjing with Odelette and other students. On Tuesday morning, I checked out of the Shangri La in Qufu and Tom took me to the fast train station that left at 11 AM. After a two-hour train ride I arrived in Nanjing and went to Nanjing Sunflower International Youth Hostel. (reservations confirmed). After taking taxi that could not find the address, with more help I found the hostel. It is in a great location in a walking district with many shops and the Confucius Temple of Nanjing. Amazing that I would find Confucius first after leaving Qufu. He always seems to be looking over my shoulder. People don’t appreciate dragons like they should you know.
I spoke to Odelette after she got home from teaching school. I will have lunch tomorrow with her and her mother, who is a good friend, and two other students of mine who are now here in Nanjing. Odelette’s mother is a Christian minister and had a church in Zoucheng a few years ago. Now they are here with in Nanjing with her grandmother. She had heard about me (KongDan) and knew about the Daily Word while we were publishing it (2006-07) and my activities from ten or twelve years ago before we met in 2012. We are meeting tomorrow morning in front of the Confucius Temple that is a few blocks from my hostel. It’s about 8 PM time for an evening stroll.
Wednesday, June 7th
I met Odelette at the Confucius Temple and we went to the School of Arts and Chinese Culture where she is a teacher. The director Ms. Ren said they have kids from 3 to 16 attending their school that is on the 5th floor of a shopping Mall. I had a long discussion with the piano teacher Tang Qiong, who also teaches urban planning at a local university. Afterwards we went to lunch to Odelette’s where I am treated like an old family friend who I have known for many years. We were joined at lunch by two of Odelette’s friends, Matthew and Michael. I think Odelette’s mother will join us tomorrow. We talked about a day-trip to Suzhou, but maybe it will be here at the Nanjing Museum.
After lunch Michael, Odelette and I went to the Meiling Palace, the home of Soong Mei Ling. She was a remarkable woman who played an instrumental role in world politics over a period of many decades. she was also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek or Madame Chiang, was a Chinese political figure who was First Lady of the Republic of China and the wife of President Chiang Kai-shek President Chiang Kai-shek. Soong played a prominent role in the politics of the Republic of China and was the sister-in-law of Sun Yatsen, the founder and the leader of the Republic of China. She was active in the civic life of her country and held many honorary and active positions, including chairman of Fu Jen Catholic University. During the Second Sino-Japanese War she rallied her people against the Japanese invasion and in 1942 conducted a speaking tour of the United States to gain support. She is pictured here with Gandhi in India. She was also the youngest and the last surviving of the three Soong sisters, and the only first lady during World War II who lived into the 21st century. Her life extended into three centuries. In the early days of the US/China People’s Friendship Association (USCPFA), an organization I was a member of for almost twenty years, she played an important role in cementing people-to-people contacts between USA and China.
Afterwards, Odelette, Michael and I went to the nearby Sun Yatsen Mausoleum located at the Longshan Mountain National Park here in Nanjing. Dr. Sun was born in Guangdong province of China on 12 November 1866, and died in 1925 in Beijing, China He is considered to be the “Father of Modern China” both in mainland China and in Taiwan, fought against the Qing government and after the 1911 revolution ended the monarchy and founded the Republic of China. I especially liked the inscription over the entrance that reads, “The world belongs to all of us”.
We finished the day by going to dinner at the Lao Men Dong walking district that sits adjacent to the ancient wall that surrounded the city. When the first Ming emperor was proclaimed in 1368, the name of the city was changed again to Yingtianfu (responding to heaven). A “new city” was built to the east of the old one to be used as a new palace or “forbidden” city. The city was laid out in much the same pattern as Beijing and Qufu’s Confucius Mansion and Temple. Both served as patterns for Beijing’s Forbidden City.
The Donghua Gate
Thursday, June 8
The morning at 9:30 I met Odelette and her mother at the Confucius Temple and we spent the morning at the JiNing Buddhist Temple. When we arrived, we were greeted by the artist, Li Tang. He is with the Research Institute of Chinese Traditional Art at Peking University in Beijing. Upon meeting, he gave me two books of his artwork. On one he signed the following:
To Mr. KongDan – To live a life with dhyana and deep meditation.
Yours Sincerely, Li Tang 2017.6.8
The temple, which literally means “rooster crowing” was first constructed in 557 AD during the Liang dynasty and has been destroyed and reconstructed many times. The existing temple was initially constructed during the Ming dynasty during the reign of the Hongwu Emperor in 1387. It was destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion but was rebuilt later. By 1931 most temple buildings had been appropriated as barracks by police and army of the National government of China.
The main hall had been emptied completely apart from the large Buddha statue. Only one hall, near the city wall was still being used for worship. The temple remained popular primarily because of its tea house which was also situated in that hall. The seven-story YaoShi Pagoda overlooks Xuanwu Lake. We had lunch at the Temple then left for the Nanjing Museum.
This is my third major museum I have visited in China. In May/June 2014, I went to the Sichuan Museum in Chengdu and the Shanxi Museum in Xian. I have gone to smaller more local museums here over the years in Shandong, but it is the National, or provincial museums, that give more context and depth to historical figures, adding what was occurring from dynasty to dynasty and add what things were like at the time. My visits to Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist Temples are as much like going to a museum, as observing personal religious beliefs. Although, I feel infused by the sentiments of all three, my own core beliefs are centered around all three. Visiting all three serves to continually confirm what I have written over the past more than twenty years, and fine-tunes the journey I, we are here to take as living history. It’s not just walking through a museum seeing ancient artifacts. It’s reliving what was occurring at the time and visiting with old friends.
The Nanjing Museum was one of the first museums established in China. The predecessor of the Nanjing Museum was the preparatory department of the National Central Museum was established in 1933. The museum took over 12.9 hectares (32 acres) in the Half Hill Garden of Zhongshan Gate. Cai Yuanpei, the first preparatory president of the council of the museum, proposed building three major halls, named “Humanity,” “Craft” and “Nature”. Because of China’s political instability in the 1930’s, only the Humanity Hall was built. During the Japanese invasion, part of its collections were transferred to Southwest China, and in the end moved to the National Palace Museum in Taipei when the Kuomintang lost the Chinese Civil War.
I think the dynasty I most relate to is the Han dynasty. My earlier explanation of finding the flying horse in Jining was indicative of this. During the Han dynasty, this area around present day Nanjing and Yangtze River was called Tiangsu and was the center of many feudal kingdoms. It was here that kings of the period constructed very ornate mausoleums for themselves. The mausoleums of the Western Han were mainly cliff tombs and vertical earth cliff tombs and those of the Eastern Han dynasty were mainly brick tombs. The artifacts and burial objects represented the concept of “treating the dead as the living.” The Nanjing Museum contains many of these artifacts that were located in nearby Xuzhou, Yangzhou, and other locations close by. There is a certain respect that is warranted when seeing these remnants of history that reflects man’s nature at the time. Understanding the history of China is for me in large part in being present to the end. Afterwards we had dinner on Hunan Road, famous for dining in Nanjing.
Friday, June 9
I am alone here in Nanjing now until my departure on Sunday morning for Chengdu. Katie back in Missouri, and I are still having difficulty in opening the edit page on my website. My many difficulties at several stops, i.e., cities, in using my website is due to very poor internet connections. If I cannot update and make entries, then she cannot move to face book… and no one can follow me. Today is more history and two sites of interest. Confirm with Megan in Chengdu my arrival on Sunday and that we will have dinner Sunday night.
Ultimately, my role is as both a storyteller and teacher. I don’t always pick the subject; the subject sometimes picks me. While my greatest interest in China seems to be before the visit of Marco Polo in 1271 when he met Kublai Khan, there exists the need to comply with the rest of the story. Saturday morning was no different. I went to Zhan Yuan Park that is dedicated to the Taiping Heavenly Movement, more commonly referred to as the Taiping Rebellion. Understanding Chinese history is not just about the I Ching, the shaman, dynasties, museums, Confucius, and Buddhist and Taoist Temples, but also the five thousand years of evolution that makes China what it continues to evolve to become. The essence of that can be traced back to Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in 1000 BC, who was from Qufu, who formalized the Book of Rites which defined the rights of the individual. This was institutionalized over the centuries later with the benevolence of Confucius. What occurred here in the 19th and 20th century in Nanjing did more to change and reshape China than anywhere, in my opinion. An example of what signaled the end of “old China” happened here. The 19thcentury up through the occupation by Japan in the 1930’s was epochal and a period from which there was not return. What began in the 1930’s that led to 1949 and the beginning of the People’s Republic of China began here in Nanjing. The foreign powers, opium, the Boxer rebellion, and finally the founding of the Republic in 1912 and the end of the dynastic cycle had many seeds. But one was here in Nanjing, and through it you can see what was to be the future of China. It was here that I visited this morning in a place called Zhan Yuan Park – the Taiping Heavenly Movement, or more commonly called the Taiping Rebellion.
The combination of aggression by the foreign powers who wanted to create their own “spheres of influence” and weakness caused by a feudal examination system fueled only by China’s elite, meant the common man was left to fend for himself. The garden that surrounds the museum was once called the “Enthusiasm Garden” or “Zhan Garden” of the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty. Hongwu (1328-1398). In 1853, it became the residence of Yang Xiuqing, a military leader in the Taiping Rebellion. During the rebellion, Nanjing was captured by the rebels and used as its headquarters. They acquired large portions of land throughout China. At Beijing, the Qing Dynasty narrowly defeated the rebels in 1864, but it ended the war. One of the core values instilled by the Taiping Rebellion was the need for land reform and the end to the landlord system and need for distribution of land equally. The Taiping Rebellion provided valuable lessons and greatly influenced Sun Yetsin and the forming of the Republic in 1912. Something that would resonate with Mao a few years later. It is the complimentary opposites (found in the origins of the I Ching and Yellow Emperor from 2700 BC) that defines the role of those in control, and the people themselves, and pragmatism that defines China today.
Friday afternoon was back to the museum… in the form of the Oriental Metropolitan Museum that focused on Six Dynasties (222–589), and is a collective term for six Chinese dynasties in China during the periods of the Three Kingdoms (220–280AD), Jin dynasty (265–420), and Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589). It also coincides with the era of the Six Kingdoms (304-439). This era immediately followed the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD, and was an era of disunity, instability and warfare.
The six dynasties were the Easter Wu (222–280),Eastern Jin dynasty (317–420), Liu Song dynasty (420–479), Southern Qi (479–502), Liang dynasty (502–557), and Chen dynasty (557–589). They were an important era in the history of Chinese poetry, especially remarkable for its frank (for Classical Chinese poetry) descriptions of love and beauty. Especially important, and frequently translated into English, is the anthology New Songs from the Jade Terrace, compiled by Xu Ling (507-83), under the patronage of Crown Prince Xiao Gang (Later Emperor Jian Wen) of the Liang dynasty.
Murals from a tomb of Northern Qi dynasty (550-577 AD) in Jiuyuangang, Xinzhou, showing a rural hunting scene on horseback.
This was the first time in history that the political center of China was located in the south, with a surge in population and continual development of economy and culture, this transformed southern China from being remote territories to an economic center that could rival the north from the Tang dynasty onward. Buddhism, which first reached China during the Eastern Han dynasty, flourished in the Six Dynasties(and simultaneously in the Northern Dynasties) and has been a major religion in China ever since. This is not meant to be definitive, simply an overview for context and continuing the story. Friday afternoon I returned to the hostel to update and write new entries for my website from today. I did a load of laundry and researched my plans for tomorrow, my last full day in Nanjing. Sunday morning, I leave early for the airport and Chengdu.
Saturday, June 10
8 AM Today it appears as though it will rain heavily all day. It gives me pause to reflect on all this and my own role, and the seeming paradox I live. As if captured in time reflecting things past here in the Middle Kingdom, while absorbing them like a sponge as I acknowledge that I myself am one with it all. Not just as the storyteller, but providing the gist for my own story that will follow. The prevailing thought being… you don’t know where your life is going to turn, but you must look for guideposts as you are constantly reminded along the way. Where inclinations you follow lead to decisions you ultimately must make, as if a constant nudging propels you onward to the source of it all. It is as if the dragons, my peers, are close by waiting and asking what is taking me so long? The answer has always been present, only delayed. While they keep pushing me forward saying… it’s time, it’s time. As if all these historic sites I visit are only for the purpose of reminding me what I have always been, seen and known, but forgotten. Once reminded, the past becomes the present and my future become ingrained in the path I must take. To stop telling the story and create what ultimately must become my own.
Letting go of attachments and who you think you are is always the hardest part. As you come closer to see the reflection of who you have always been and will return to be again. Moving beyond being simply the storyteller, to writing and telling my own story to its ultimate conclusion. Whatever answer that may exist, here in the present, it lies here in China as if I am re-tracing my own steps along the way.
It’s noon on Saturday and it is still pouring rain outside. They say this won’t end until about 8 PM tonight… The one piece of story (there are really many), that I intended to capture here is the Treaty of Nanjing
The Treaty of Nanking or Nanjing was a peace treaty which ended the First Opium War (1839–42) between the United Kingdom and the Qing dynasty of China on 29 August 1842. It was the first of what the Chinese later called the unequal treaties on the ground that Britain had no obligations in return. In the wake of China’s military defeat, with British warships poised to attack Nanking, representatives from the British and Qing Empires negotiated on board HMS Cornwallis anchored at the city. On 29 August 1842, British and Qing representatives signed the treaty. It consisted of thirteen articles and was ratified by Queen Victoria and the Emperor nine months later. A copy of the treaty is kept by the British government while another copy is kept by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
The fundamental purpose of the treaty was to change the framework of foreign trade imposed by the Canton System, which had been in force since 1760. Four additional “treaty ports” opened for foreign trade alongside Canton (now Guangzhou), where foreign merchants were to be allowed to trade with anyone they wished. Britain also gained the right to send consuls to the treaty ports, which were given the right to communicate directly with local Chinese officials. A total sum of 21 million dollars was to be paid in installments over three years by the Chinese government.
The Qing government agreed to make Hong Kong Island a crown colony, ceding it to the British Queen “in perpetuity”, to provide British traders with a harbor where they could “careen and refit their ships and keep stores for that purpose”. This was later amended so that Hong Kong would be transferred to back to China on July 1. 1997. This treaty and its aftermath was to foretell what would spell the end of dynastic rule in China seventy years later and the forming of the Republic of China.
I will have a vegetable pizza for lunch here in the hostel. This afternoon I need to finish my laundry and pack to leave early tomorrow morning for the airport and Chengdu. My flight from Nanjing to Chengdu is on Sichuan Airlines flight number 8924. Departure is at 11:50 AM and arrival in Chengdu is at 2:30 PM. I need to check out no later than 8 AM tomorrow morning. I am literally living history – re-tracing my steps along the Way
Sunday, June 11
I checked out of the hostel and made my way first to a taxi, then an airport shuttle for my 11:50 flight to Chengdu where I tentatively plan to stay until Wednesday or Thursday at Flipflop Hostel. (reservations confirmed).
I arrived as hostel and contacted my student Megan I had arrived. We are to have dinner tonight. I later met her at 5:30 and we went to a Peking duck restaurant and had dinner. Megan was my student for many classes at Jining University. She graduated and I returned to USA after Spring semester 2013. She is now a kindergarten teacher here in Chengdu. I am to see two or three other students, Fay and Chrystal while I am in Chengdu. After dinner, we walked back to the hostel and I wondered what it was that made me so attracted to her. She is forty years younger than me and about the same age as my daughter Emily. Since we first met and learned she was from here in Chengdu, I felt something different about her. Later that night or early the next morning as I researched the places I would go on Monday; the answer came to me.
Monday, June 12
Marco Polo had been here in Chengdu more than 740 years ago. He or perhaps his father Niccolò or uncle, Maffeo, who traveled through Asia and met Kublai Khan had met a woman from Chengdu and she was one of the woman who returned to Italy with them. Perhaps I am an offspring, or descendant of the relationship. I have often wondered and spoke about why this connection to China runs so deeply inside me. That as I have studied and traveled in China for twenty years, my interest seems to wane after the time of Kublai Khan. It is always as if I am traveling in my own footsteps of where I have been before. Maybe the attraction I felt for my student Megan, was not so much directed to her, but she was meant to pull me back to Chengdu where all this would eventually become clear.
This is actually my third trip to Chengdu. I was here in 2007 with friends from Atlanta. While here we visited the Wenhu Monastery. I remember giving one of by books to a monk then, and he in turn gave me a book on Buddhism. I returned here in June 2014 for two weeks to see Megan and visit many historical sites. The one’s that stood out the most then were the Sichuan Museum, the Wuhou Temple (Memorial Temple of Marquis Wu) that is dedicated to Zhuge Liang, the Marquis Wu (Wuhou) of Kingdom of Shu in the The Kingdoms Period (220 – 280). Qingcheng Mountain and the Qingcheng Taoist Temple. What strikes me now three years later with this revelation, is that all, even the ancestors of the nearby pandas would been seen by Marco Polo and his traveling companions. As if all the more the thousand pictures I took were taken simply following my own footsteps from before and had been stored previously in my memories. Now here I am again and I realize that this infatuation with Megan was not with her, but it is as if her role is simply to wake me up to why I am here. The same as many people and signposts I have encountered before on this trip and others. That in reality almost everywhere I have been and things I have seen were here back in 1270 in the time of Marco Polo, except in Nanjing and a few others that add context to today’s story.
So here I am. It’s Monday morning, June 12 and as I fill my itinerary, my first stop is the Wenshu Buddhist Monastery I visited ten years ago. There is something about the quiet, peacefulness and tranquility here that I find very natural and appealing. Initially built in the Southern Dynasty (420–589), Wenshu Monastery, is one of the most eminent Buddhist temple in Sichuan Province. Cultural relics are the highlights of Wenshu Monastery. Since the Tang (618–907) and Song dynasties (960–1279), over 500 pieces of painting and calligraphy by celebrities have been stored here. In the Sutra-Preservation Pavilion, many famous handwriting exhibits, paintings, and artwork have been restored. These precious works of art were created by renowned Chinese painters and calligraphers, including Zhang Daqian, Zheng Banqiao, and Feng Zikai. Besides these, among the millions of Buddhists sutra preserved in Cangjing Tower, the Apothecary and Diamond Sutra bestowed by Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty are of extreme research value.
As I am walking through the Temple taking more pictures I come to the monastery itself and decide to meditate inside for a while. I often do meditation and frequently visit the Buddhist Temple back home in Springfield. So, I went inside, removed my backpack and shoes and became quiet and still and tried to soak up the environment. Almost immediately a single thought came to mind… What am I going to do with what I know now? As if the universe was making its final call and the dragons are getting impatient. I got up, thought more about it and knew the day was meant for fasting, contemplation, and decisions.
I next went by taxi to Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage Museum and gardens. Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage is a 24-acre park and museum in honor of the Tang dynasty poet Du Fu at the western outskirts of Chengdu, adjacent to the Huanhua Xi (Flower Rinsing Creek). In 1961 the Chinese government established Du Fu Cao Tang as a National Heritage site. In 759 Du Fu moved to Chengdu, built a thatched hut near the Flower Rinsing Creek and lived there for four years. The “thatched hut” period was the peak of Du Fu’s creativity, during which he wrote two hundred and forty poems, among them “My Thatched Hut was torn apart by Autumn Wind” and “The Prime Minister of Shu”. As a writer myself, although humbled by those here I enccounter, I often visit the places where writers lived and try to see their impact on their times. Writing for myself, is as much reading and contemplation, as expressing our own thoughts. After over a month of traveling in China to five provinces and almost a dozen cities by bus, train, and by air; quiet contemplation as I continue this journey to discover the “what am I going to do now”, seems to predicate my every thought.
My next stop this morning is located on the south bank of the Jinjiang River here in Chengdu, the Wangjiang Pavilion (Wang Jiang Lou) that literally means ‘River Watching Tower’ in English. While Wuhou Temple mentioned above honors the legendary minister of Shu, Zhuge Liang, and Du Fu Cottage honors the Sage of Poetry, River Watching Tower (Wangjiang Tower) is dedicated to a woman, Xue Tao, a poet in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Another writer who attained great notoriety and respect. History records that she wrote five hundred poems. Once inside the park what gets your attention is the bamboo trees. Xue Tao loved bamboo; over 150 kinds of bamboo from China and abroad grow here in her honor.
I then went to the shopping area called the Kuan, Zhai, and Jing Alleys for lunch at Starbucks. Coffee and a couple crescent rolls. I then went by taxi to the South Train Station to buy my train ticket in advance for Wednesday’s travel to Chongqing. Afterwards I returned to the hostel to rest the rest of the day. Except that Monday night I got a text from Yongchun, my publisher in Beijing who wants to contact me because they may want me to do some translations for them. I also made my reservations in Shanghai for Friday through next Wednesday at the Shanghai MOUSSE International Hostel. I stayed one night here and moved to Wood and Rock International Hostel. It was much larger and more centrally located to People’s Square and places I wanted to see in Shanghai.
Tuesday, June 13
I woke up at 3 AM Tuesday morning to confirm something on my computer and maybe change my flight from Shanghai to Beijing on Friday and while opening my word document of my travels, I accidentally erased everything I has just written for Sunday and Monday here in Chengdu. I had to spend until 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM adding pictures the next day redoing it… ouch. Then while trying to edit and add new content on my website, I somehow added the content to the title and blew everything up… We later attributed it to a wifi glitch, however what this meant was I could not make any entries on the website until after I returned home and contacted WordPress. This all basically consumed my whole day. Except I had to set off to find ATM and People’s Park to commiserate.
Wednesday, June 14 leave for Chongqing until Friday then fly to Shanghai. I walked over to an area I was familiar with from my previous visit to find a Bank of China ATM. Then back to Flipflop Hostel and checked out. Today is another travel day and I took a taxi to the South Train Station. The taxi stand was on the opposite side of the building of departure area and the walk seemed like the equivalent of four football fields in length for no apparent reason. This was a fast train, so it only took a couple hours to get to Chongqing. Once there, the taxi stand had well over a hundred people in line, and few taxis… Once I got a taxi, he took me more than a mile from where I wanted to go in the pouring rain and dropped me off. I got another taxi once I had gotten directions and he took me to about four to five blocks and I had the pull my luggage, computer, etc, in the rain to my hostel on sixteenth floor of an office building. After finally checking in I just wanted to rest. I reviewed several locations for tomorrow and then walked with a student names Aaron from Nanjing to an area nearby called the Hongya Cave, a shopping area next to the Yangtze River. We got to the riverfront by taking an elevator from eleventh floor of an adjacent building.
Thursday, June 15 I seem to be following the Yangtze River for over a week now since leaving Qufu and arriving in Nanjing last Tuesday. From there it was a hop by plane to Chengdu, now a skip by train to Chongqing, and finally a jump by plane again to Shanghai, before heading home to USA next Wednesday. All at varying points along the river. There are five famous cities, these four plus Wuhan (where I visited in 2003 is what tells the real story of south-central China). Chongqing seems to go on forever, has a population of over thirty million and is considered the largest city in China. I only have a day to get a taste of it before heading to Shanghai tomorrow.
This morning Aaron, a student from Nanjing, and I left the Shangxing Yizu International Youth Hostel and headed a famous noodle restaurant called Flower Market and had bean with meat sauce and noodles soup for breakfast in a steady drizzle of rain that lasted throughout the day. Afterwards we went to the Arhat Buddhist Temple that was undergoing serious renovation. Chongqing Arhat Temple was built in the Zhi-Ping years of North Song Dynasty (1064-1067). Its primitive name was Zhiping Temple. In Qian-Long the 17th year of Qing Dynasty (1752), the front hall inside the temple collapsed and it was renovated into a Longshen (Dragon Deity) Shrine. During the Qing Dynasty (1885), a monk named Longfa rebuilt the temple. He built an Arhat Hall and made 500 clay sculptures of Arhat, and its name was officially changed into Arhat Temple. In 1942 during World War Two, the Arhat Temple was nearly destroyed. Fortunately, it was later repaired. During the Cultural Revolution, these clay sculptures were destroyed totally, but later restored. Many art treasures are collected in the Main Hall of Chongqing Arhat Temple, including the statues of 16 Mahakasyapa-the 16 best students of Sakyamuni. There are also the bronze statues of the “Three Saints of the West” in Ming Dynasty, the jade statue of Sakyamuni of Burma as well as the copy of the Indian mural about the story of Sakyamuni becoming a monk. I have now been to four Buddhist Temples on this trip, in Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, and now here in Chongqing. All are very unique and have contributed greatly to my own understanding of Buddhist influence on the history, religion, and culture of China.
Next it was to the Three Gorges Dam Museum, also known as Chongqing Museum situated opposite to the Chongqing People’s Assembly Hall, where Aaron and I were to visit next. It is the largest museum for the preservation, education, scientific research in respect of cultural relics and the natural environment of Chongqing and the Three Gorges area. What I found most interesting was information about the ancient Ba- Yu civilization of Chongqing and origin of the more than 3,000 years of history by showcasing cultural heritages in the Stone Age and Bronze Age, and sculptures from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).
In what reminded me of Epcot at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, was the 360 cinema for the Three Gorges that mainly shows the natural and social impacts of the Three Gorges prior to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. It gave me an idea of places I want to come again to Chongqing to see.
We briefly stopped at the Chongqing People’s Assembly Hall, located on Renmin Road in downtown Chongqing. It is a city landmark and one of the ten cultural symbols of Chongqing. The hall complex is a cluster of attached structures including the hall and three attached buildings respectively to the east, south and north. Collectively, they cover 16.3 acres, the hall is 213 feet high, and has a capacity of more than 4,000 seats. The hall has received more than a hundred of China’s national leaders and official dignitaries from other countries. It is mainly in the style of the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1616 – 1911), combined with western architectural style. On display was the work of local artists that I also enjoyed.
In the continuing rain, we headed by the metro to the Porcelain Village, also known as Ci Qi Kuo for lunch. What appears to be just a very long alley with hundreds of shops with what seemed like hundreds of umbrellas protecting people from the rain was a great deal more. The history of Ci Qi Kou can be traced back for more than 1,700 years. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), it was famous for its production of porcelain. To date, over twenty old kiln sites have been discovered. It is because of the importance of the porcelain industry that the name has been changed from Long Yin to Ci Qi Kou which is translated as Porcelain Village. Moreover, the village was an important supply post for shipping on the river, a fact that explains why there are so many shops lining the twelve lanes paved with their large flag stones that form the main routes. There are also many tea shops and restaurants to show something of a way of life that has existed here for so many centuries. The three notable attractions of the village are the tea bars, the artists’ studios and the Shu Embroidery workshops.
Finally, it was back to the Central Business District (CBD) and the hostel. One more historic site close by meant we had to go just a few blocks away for a picture. In 1940, the Republic of China government in Chongqing built a wooden memorial at the site to commemorate Sun Yet-Sen who was the first president of the Republic of China and was considered the “Father of China”, who I covered in Nanjing. In 1945, the Republic of China government built a monument in its place to celebrate the victory in WWII. And in 1950, the People’s Republic of China government named the monument. In 1997, the Jiefangbei Plaza was built around the monument. At the time of construction, it was the tallest structure in the area. Now its dwarfed by skyscrapers. I am very tired this evening… Aaron leaves tonight for Nanjing where he is graduating next week with his PhD in meteorology. Good luck and thanks for your kind assistance in Chongqing.
Friday, June 16 Friday morning, I confirmed with Gloria in Shanghai the metro line I need to take to get to my hostel. (Red line #2 to People’s Square – then Green line to Huangpi Road). I re-confirmed my flight to Shanghai does not leave until 3:15 PM. I won’t leave for airport until noon. I had planned to go to the Stillwell Memorial this morning, but it is raining outside and it’s not convenient to go alone. Taxi to airport was 50 RMB. I called Gloria once I arrive at airport in Shanghai and decided to brave the dreaded Shanghai subway. What should have taken about an hour took over twice as long. It being Friday night and me not knowing Chinese was not a good mix. Once I arrived at People’s Square I got a taxi to an intersection close to the hostel, and Gloria showed me the way to the alley where it was located. Alone I would not have found it in the dark. I stayed one night and moved Saturday morning to another hostel, the Shanghai Rock and Wood Hostel Saturday morning.
Saturday, June 17 I got up and walked to Fu Xing Park to rest and plan what I would do here in Shanghai before leaving on Wednesday. The neighborhood around the park reminds me how much I like the laid back feeling you get here, versus the structure of Beijing. I am constantly amazed at how much China, and especially Shanghai, has changed since my first trip to Shanghai in October 1999, eighteen years ago. I have been here many times and seen the Bund, shopped on East Nanjing Road, and to the Yu Garden built during the Ming dynasty in Old Town, that is supposed to emulate old China. I remember a sister city trip shortly after 9/11 in 2001 and a visit to the top of the Space Needle. They had a bouquet of flowers next to the elevator commemorating the victims. In 2005, I was there again on East Nanjing Road with my friend Mr. Zhang and his daughter Amy from Qufu. Mr. Zhang and I were partners in a joint venture shopping center in Qufu for a few years. While the Vice-Director of the Religious Affairs Department for the City of Qufu, his office coordinated my printing of the Daily Word through the KongDan Foundation for two years. (2006-07) I was here again in October 2010 with Chris Francois and others for the Shanghai World Expo.
I am here coming to the end of a long, almost forty-day sojourn through my times here, and find as I always do my friends not asking if I am coming back, but only when. The question seems an eternal one. If only she would appear so that the decision could be made much easier. After all these years it seems if she was going to, she would have by now. Perhaps she never will, or has been here all the while… looking for me as well.
I do have to admit I am tired of lugging that heavy over-packed suitcase around. Not today, but before I leave there are three or four places I want to see before leaving Shanghai. Also, Gloria will be unavailable tomorrow and I have dinner Monday night with another of my students here in Shanghai named Sherlock. I spent the day at the hostel proof-reading the draft of a book to be published in Beijing and just recuperating from my long trip. Tomorrow I will see some sites in Shanghai. Due to problems with website, it’s been on hold now for a couple weeks. They say others can see it, just not me. So, there has been no updates on face book since then. I am debating rather to end face book altogether and focus only on The KongDan Foundation website when I have returned home…
Sunday, June 18
Sunday morning, I headed off to Yu Garden and Old Town where I planned to visit, plus the Bund and Space Needle again (all nearby), but had difficulties with camera (I think it’s tired as well). After fixing the camera, I returned to People’s Park where the Shanghai Museum is located and spent most of the afternoon at the museum. I liked this museum a lot. It had a great deal of pottery and bronze from the Xia dynasty forward through the Han, to the Song and Tang dynasties that were very helpful. Their collection of Buddhist artifacts from various eras was very good. The museum has a collection of over 120,000 pieces, including and art. The Shanghai Museum houses several items of national importance, including one of three extant specimens of a “transparent” bronze mirror from the Han dynasty.
After I left the Shanghai Museum I walked through People’s Park and came across a Starbucks. I thought the juxtaposition between traveling down the centuries through pottery, jade, bronze, calligraphy, and Tang furniture, to somehow end up at Starbucks was a little strange. But, this being Shanghai where the old and new seem to flourish side by side, seems appropriate. While at Starbucks my caricature was done by a local artist. Somehow it seemed appropriate. Although, I thought he exaggerated my beard just a little.
I went back to the hostel and confirmed that I was having dinner with Patrick tomorrow night. He will let me know the place and I will meet him there. I also spoke to Gloria and we will meet after 4:30 Tuesday evening.
Monday, June 19
It is raining today… I went out this morning to the Jade Buddhist Temple with plans to go to several other locations today and tomorrow, but returned to the hostel afterwards as the rain seems to be here all day. In 1882, an old temple was built to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Fortunately, the statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928. It was named the Jade Buddha Temple.
As with many modern Chinese Buddhist temples, the current temple draws from both the Pure Land and Chan traditions of Mahayana Buddhism. It was founded in 1882 with two jade Buddha statues imported to Shanghai from Burma by sea. These were a sitting Buddha (1.95 meters tall weighing three tons), and a smaller reclining Buddha representing the Buddha’s death. The temple now also contains a much larger reclining Buddha made of marble, donated from Singapore, and visitors may mistake this larger sculpture for the original, smaller piece. It seems my focus, although unintentional, has been mostly on Buddhism this trip based on the number of Buddhist Temples and pictures I have taken in museums, plus my original intention of going to Tibet that was cancelled.
It is almost 1 PM, and the rain does not seem to be letting up. The forecast is for this to continue all week. If it does let up I hope to see the following place before leaving for the airport and home about 11 AM Wednesday morning. The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center next to People’s Square, the Shanghai Confucius Temple, Xin Tian Di, and the Dajing Ge Pavilion. With it raining like this it is as much getting there by taxi and back that is the problem. I spoke to Gloria, if it is not raining too much, she will join me at Old Town tomorrow after class.
Well, after all that I decided to head for Yu Garden and Old Town. I went shopping and found something for Katie and Marie so I won’t have to worry about it tomorrow in the rain again in case Gloria can’t join me. Afterwards I met Sherlock (now Patrick) at Shanghai Times Square at the Deli and Leisure Restaurant. Patrick was a student of mine at Jining University. He is now a post-graduate student here in Shanghai.
Tuesday, June 20
I began the day in meditation and wondering why I have focused so heavily of Buddhist Temples and Buddhist images at the museums I have gone to on this trip. Even my planned, yet aborted, trip to Tibet that was later canceled. This thought kept going through my mind, as after I did my last load of laundry and hanging them to dry before heading back to USA tomorrow, I prepared to leave for People’s Square for the day. My first stop was Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. I have wanted to come here for a long time. I was a city planner for all of what would be my professional life, before coming to China in 2005, when I left the City of Boynton Beach. My planning career began in 1979 when I was on the Urban Affairs Committee in the Missouri House of Represe ntatives. I then became a community organizer which led to a master plan for a westside neighborhood in Springfield and later my becoming the Planning Director for the City of Fall River, Massachusetts. Then finally an urban planner and neighborhood specialist for Boynton Beach, Florida. Over that twenty-five year period, developing master plans and focusing on neighborhood revitalization was always my forte. Over the years of coming to China, seeing China with both a prospective of change in the 21st century as an urban and regional planner, and Chinese history, has always been at the forefront as to how I see things. How to not lose who you have been, while preparing for the change that must occur. It is personal and as if the I Ching is truly in play. Shanghai is truly an incredible city. It is no accident that the Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Hall sit side-by-side here in People’s Square. Both deserve great credit for telling the story of the past, present, and perceived future of what many call the largest city in the world.
Chongqing, my last stop before coming to Shanghai may be larger, but is a combination of many municipalities combined as one urban city. Shanghai is different. In many ways Shanghai has always been China’s portal to the world.
On an earlier stop of this trip I went into great detail about the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing. No other act had greater consequences of what Shanghai was to later become. The concessions to the foreign powers that was to create the Bund here in Shanghai and bring in foreign influence changed China forever. This is depicted extremely well in the Urban Planning Hall. Pictures do tell the story and here they have portrayed Shanghai as a well-design city of the world. You can see, feel, and taste this truism everywhere at every turn. I am not in Shandong anymore… Ending in Shanghai reflects a new beginning in understanding China and my love for this country, it’s history, and its people.
Ultimately, this forty day journey around China has been about transcending time and place. Seeing things through the prism of how changes change from their beginning, while maintaining the truism of who both they, and you have always been, are now, and will be again. It is history that tell us. Not only of what lies outside us, but more importantly, what has influenced us over time, and what represents our eternal essence. Of who we have always been and our source. Looking for it outside ourselves is as if we are looking for that traveling companion that will show us the way. But they never appear., except in meditation and our mind and thoughts clear.
There are always those who appear as guideposts as we get closer, but need a gentle push. When we are on the right path, they always appear, although fleetingly. As if, once their role is done, they too move on as well. While the shaman, the Tao, Lao and Chuang Tzu, Confucius all have a role, it seems the overreaching connecting point to the universe, standing with them all, is Buddhism. All have been to the mountaintop and gazed at the stars in wonderment. All seemed to connect the dots (stars), and bring a sense of universal love and connectedness that would rise above the others. The world is a far better place because of them and others, we should feel indebted to them all.
Of the five Buddhist Temples I visited, initial thoughts from three stand out. First, in Nanjing, at the JiNing Buddhist Temple and meeting the painter and his Buddhist message to me: To Mr. KongDan – To live a life with Dhyana (Zen Shu or “dhyana sect” teaches the short method of making truth apparent by one’s own thought, apart from your writings) and deep meditation. This from Mr. Li Tang on June 8th. Secondly, in Chengdu at the Wenhu Temple on June 12, I went inside the monastery, became quiet and still and almost immediately a single thought came to mind… What am I going to do with what I know now? As if the universe was making its final call and the dragons are getting impatient. I got up, thought more about it and knew the day was meant for fasting, contemplation, and decisions. And then third, yesterday here in Shanghai after a visit to the Jade Buddhist Temple on June 19th it became clear. (the other two being the Lama Temple in Beijing and the Chongqing Arhat Temple).
Tuesday afternoon I was writing in my journal at McDonald’s on W Nanjing Road when I kept thinking about traveling alone in China and not having a traveling companion, something that seems always the case. As I wrote the words just came… Your traveling companion is not intended to be another person. You travel as if unattended through time, but rest assured that you are being upheld. Live the life you are meant to become -be natural and unafraid. Be gentle with never a harsh word and let patience be your virtue. You are in no rush because you have already arrived. Again, let patience be your virtue. Let acts of patience be illustrated by your kindness towards others through virtue. There can be no rush to the virtue found inside yourself that you already possess. Do not allow weakness within yourself to cloud your virtue. Stay totally within yourself. Find the confines of what makes you happy wholly within you. Become the companion you want to be and this person will always be present. Let your own happiness be the sunshine that brightens every day.
Stand clear of antagonism – be the first to leave when contention appears and the first to stay when love arrives. Make your own perceived weaknesses your greatest strengths. Become the person others are looking to that soothes away fear and anger. Perhaps this Buddhist inclination on the trip is a signal to let go of self and that you stay within your own higher consciousness or enlightenment. Become a Buddha. Change yourself and change the world. Change yourself first – then change the world. Become or emulate the world the universe is counting on or looking to. Surround yourself with love and be happy with what you already have. Exemplify the person that you want the world to become.
Bring others to their highest endeavors, or selves – without judgment becoming the mentor they need. Be the companion they should have knowing selflessness, not one’s ego is that survives. Live solely within the virtue that defines you. Enlightenment is the process of self-change leaving behind traits not in keeping with who you are ultimately to become. If you come back to experience them – then use them to lose them.
Let virtue define you. It is not an either/or…You know the path you are to follow. Just do it leaving no one behind. Leave no one behind – not your family – not your students – not your friends – and not those waiting to be your friends. Become the road map for others to find the way for and within themselves. There is no choice to make. Live the choice you have become regardless of where you are. There is no paradox, only the paradigm you have chosen to follow.
If we want others to see beyond what they see as weaknesses in us – then we must first be able to see beyond what we perceive as the weakness we see in others. As we grow and mature, gaining wisdom and insight along the way – we must bring them along with us. Remember your own virtue is tied to having patience for others while the world is catching up with you…
Wednesday, June 21 My last day in China and trip home.
I got up early, got my laundry off the clothes line and finished packing to check out this morning. I had yogurt and fruit for breakfast and finished typing my thoughts from yesterday. Gloria came at 10:450 AM to escort me to the metro and point me in the direction of the airport.
Lessons learned from my recent trip to China to build on:
My last full day in Shanghai, and China on Tuesday afternoon I was writing in my journal at Starbucks on W. Nanjing Road, when I kept thinking about traveling alone in China and not having a traveling companion, something that seems always the case. As I wrote the words just came… Your traveling companion is not intended to be another person. You travel as if unattended through time, but rest assured that you are being upheld. Live the life you are meant to become – be natural and unafraid. Be gentle with never a harsh word and let patience be your virtue. You are in no rush because you have already arrived. Again, let patience be your virtue. Let acts of patience be illustrated by your kindness towards others through virtue. There can be no rush to the virtue found inside yourself that you already possess. Do not allow weakness within yourself to cloud your virtue. Stay totally within yourself. Find the confines of what makes you happy wholly within you. Become the companion you want to be and this person will always be present. Let your own happiness be the sunshine that brightens every day.
Stand clear of antagonism – be the first to leave when contention appears and the first to stay when love arrives. Make your own perceived weaknesses your greatest strengths. Become the person others are looking to that soothes away fear and anger. Perhaps this Buddhist inclination on the trip is a signal to let go of self and that you stay within your own higher consciousness or enlightenment. Become a Buddha. Change yourself and change the world. Change yourself first – then change the world. Become or emulate the world the universe is counting on or looking to. Surround yourself with love and be happy with what you already have. Exemplify the person that you want the world to know and become.Bring others to their highest endeavors, or selves – without judgment becoming the mentor they need. Be the companion they should have knowing selflessness, not one’s ego is all that survives.
Live solely within the virtue that defines you. Enlightenment is the process of self-change leaving behind traits not in keeping with who you are ultimately to become. If you come back to experience them – then use them to lose them.Let virtue define you. It is not an either/or…You know the path you are to follow. Just do it leaving no one behind. Leave no one behind – not your family – not your students – not your friends – and not those waiting to be your friends. Become the road map for others to find the way for and within themselves. There is no choice to make. Live the choice you have become regardless of where you are. There is no paradox, only the paradigm you have chosen to follow.
If we want others to see beyond what they see as weaknesses in us – then we must first be able to see beyond what we perceive as the weakness we see in others. As we grow and mature, gaining wisdom and insight along the way – we must bring them along with us. Remember your own virtue is tied to having patience for others while the world is catching up with you…
I have returned home from my trip to China (May 12-June 21), and after some difficulty, the details of the trip are here and complete. I could not do facebook in China, but we have attempted to move things from here to The Kongdan Foundation facebook page…