On one corner of the library is an ancient garden built up with beautiful rock, winding paths, small hill covered with gaunt pines and junipers, winter withered bamboo groves, just now pushing out small green spears. On the grassy area a flock of hutong ladies worked their way across like geese, heads down and tushies in the air, digging dandelions out by the root and stuffing them into shopping bags, later to be transformed into a tasty meal.
Nearby is another park with a fantastic rock called Ling Xi Shi. Ling: quick, departed soul Xi: sharp, rhinoceros Shi: Rock. Lady Xi Ling Shi was the 14 year old bride of Emperor Huang Ti, "Yellow Emperor," a legendary founder of Chinese civilization from 2697-2597 BCE. Lady Xi invented silk weaving while sipping tea. A silk cocoon fell into her cup. While she watched the delicate fibers unravel in the hot liquid she was inspired to try using it to create yarn for weaving.
What do things cost category: Package needles, large spool thread, several yards ribbon 2Y or $.30, tube superglue 4Y or $.60, 1/2 small hot house watermelon 13Y $2.00.
Met an interesting young woman at the on campus coffee cafe. After studying in Belgium, she has returned to China to do more studying. Although her major is Chinese literature and language, she is transitioning to anthropology. And another thing, she is the research assistant for Sara you will be hearing about later in this letter. Her name is Li, and she is very knowledgeable about the hutong neighborhood where I live in my Puji apartment building. She tells me the little tony internet cafe down my way used to be the residence of two famous people, husband and wife. She, Lin Hui Yin, an architect and writer, and he, Liang Si Chen, an architect.
Lin Hui Yin (1904-1955) first female architect in China, at age 16 met Xu Zhimo, poet, in London and they started an affair. He asked for a divorce from his wife, but Hui Yin ended up marrying another man Lian Sicheng. Zhimo never stopped loving HuiYin, and this is a famous 20th century Chinese love story.
Liang Sichen (1901-1972) studied architecture in the US and returned to China to found 2 schools of architecture at NE University 1928 and at Tsinghua U 1946. He helped design the UN building in New York and is considered "the Father of Modern Chinese Architecture." He received honorary doctoral degree from Princeton U in 1947 and is "a creative architect who has also been a teacher of architecture history, a pioneer in historical research and exploration in Chinese architecture and planning, and a leader in the restoration and preservation of the priceless monuments of his country." Here are some cool links: http://history.cultural-china.com/en/48History7616.html (love story) http://history.cultural-china.com/en/50History7635.html (Liang Sichen) http://history.cultural-china.com/en/50H7635H12632.html (historic building Xin Lin Yard)
In Jan 2010 the former residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin HuiYin, located in Beizonghu HuTong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, was been declared an "immovable cultural heritage" and is now protected. Now you can have very expensive coffee 28Y $4.31 in a casual artsy setting, supporting a good cause, where waitresses suddenly pick up a guitar and start practicing and a tiny homage to the two famous residents is decorated with flowers and photographs.
Friday was FE (Foreign Expert) girls lunch, we do this every other Friday, organized by Sharon PhD at Econ Dept. She has brought together Monica Canadian PhD Automation DNA sequencing, Sara PhD Econ Cultural anthropology and entrepreneur-ism, and Cherie! BA Art and is, as we all confirmed, the first FE staff in all TU-- still breaking barriers at 62, female and from California
Some of you have requested food pix, so here we go about food again For lunch we meet at the Main East Gate and walk to a bustling commercial district just off campus, the waitress knows us and we get a good table by the window. The waitress takes our order right away, guiding us through the beautifully photographed menu, recording everything on a little hand held device. You pay right then. For four of us, four dishes, rice, a big bottle of beer (pi jiu) + four little glasses came to just under 80Y $12.31, easy to split 4 ways.
We got an egg dish with flower buds, eggplant with sweet red and green peppers, spicy mapo tofu and a new one: eagle claw peppers which we all agreed were very like Chinese chile rellenos, delicious.
Lately they've been checking ID's of people coming onto campus. I've been here three months and have never had to show my ID to anyone, and a good thing cause I don't have one. I've been hearing stories of people being refused entry, and I see them really scrutinize the cars coming in. James the cab driver has a placard he displays on his dash that lets him in cause he lives in the hutong. It's gold apparently.
Approaching the gate, we discuss our strategy. Sharon and I blithely breezed past the young guards, not looking at them and talking to each other. Monica and Sara flash their ID's behind us. I conveniently can't hear or understand the guards talking to the back of my head. Somehow I've gotten in again no problemo. I'll be happy to have a decent ID soon.
I worked on my website in the office on Saturday. No matter how you try to anticipate the work, you always need something at the other place....
On the way, I stopped to grab lunch to go at a stand in the hutong shopping area serving a traditional Beijing 'snack' a pancake called jian bing like a cross between a crepe and a breakfast burrito. First black sesame seeds are sprinkled on the grill. Then a bit of batter is poured onto the center of a hot round grill and deftly swirled with a bamboo squeegee to make a very thin, large round pancake. They add bean paste, hot chile sauce, cilantro, a wad of lettuce, an egg, there might be some purple taro root in there, all for 4Y $.60 plus a 550ml cold jasmine tea made with real honey 3Y $.46. Here are some food links: http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/chinese-tea-eggs
In the accompanying pix you will find a picture of a chinese magpie, a symbol of happiness, xi que. Chinese agave (aloe) long she lan shu zhi wu is used for perfume.
Hui tou jian