Amazing day for Beijing styleRead More
The weather is sunny with blue skies from the day I arrive. Gradually misty cooler overcast overtakes but not smog. It’s the national holiday, a week off for the toiling masses who leave Beijing to visit family or vacation, leaving the massive city deserted, abandoned to the locals and stray visitors who wander leisurely.Read More
My trip began at Redding Airport on October 1 and ended at Beijing Capital Airport on October 2, crossing the International Date Line. The non-stop flight from SFO was only eleven hours.Read More
3/19 Sunny and warm today, 70-degrees. Drove to Gumboot Lake after Chinese buffet at LaiLai in Mt Shasta. No snow on the road all the way to the lake, patches in the shadows. We slaked our thirst on pure springs bursting from cracks in ancient rocks.Read More
Departure Beijing to Pyongyang
After the Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 2 personnel have loaded numerous, huge, boxed parcels, they now start with the luggage. We're already late taking off. I can see my tao hongsede bag sitting on the tarmac.
A distinguished Norwegian man and I visit for several minutes. He shows me the DPRK page in his diplomatic passport. I end up sitting between him and a young Austrian man. We chat between us for the hour trip.
The Norwegian man, who remains nameless, is met by two ladies from the Swedish Embassy. 19:09 Beijing time, 8:10 Pyongyang time. Max, the Austrian, is staying at the same hotel as I am, the Yanggakdo International. I'm on the fortieth floor. We eat dinner together in the mainly deserted dining room. It's off season for tourism.
Maxamillian is 24 years old and is going to business school in Thailand. He's also going on an independent tour, but with another travel agency.
The menu tonight is beer, kimchee soup, salad of shredded carrot, spinach and potato followed by noodle soup with chicken slivers and green onion, mifan rice, fish filet, pork cutlet with pickles, baby potato fries and shui water. Vinegar and hot pepper flake seasoning is on the table. The beer is 6Y, $.98, EUR .5.Read More
I look up to see a tall and handsome conductor sternly saying something to me and implacably shooing me and all the passengers in the car out onto the platform and up the stairs to the exits. I emerge into the dark somewhere I don't know where I am. I beat past the illegal cab drivers looking for a legitimate one.Read More
At the moment my plane is landing at Beijing Capitol Airport PEK in the late afternoon, the smoggy haze begins lifting. Feng and her husband SUN Libin find me in the Korean restaurant in the recreation building opposite my wing, the only place open at this late hour of 8pm for me to eat. We exchange gifts. They have brought me a ceramic bottle of Korean miijiu, 51% alcohol. Whoa baby! Back in my room we open it and have a little welcome home party. It feels great to be back in the big city and seeing my friends again.Read More
March 26, last night our trash barrel got hit by the bear. The bear is up from a short winter hibernation and is hungry! It pushed through a big pile of rose trimmings piled where the bear usually comes on a trail out of the forest behind the houses on our street. I guess we will have to be more careful about tying down the lid with heavy duty bungee cord...as if it was summer already.
March 28, they told me at the hardware store the bear had torn the door off my friend's chicken coop and got all her chickens. There were raccoon tracks in the snow next to the car this morning. By afternoon the clouds parted and glorious sun shone down. Bruce and I walked up the street, a little farther this time.
March 29, while searching online, I got hacked by a fake redirect "ATT" web pop up. Suddenly everything slowed down, Norton was jammed. I had to turn it off by removing the battery and took it to Acme Computer in Mt Shasta for cleaning.
April 1, a pile of broken promises, like a pile of rusting bicycles in Beijing. On today's news Larry Gagosian is the bedouin of the Miami Art Fair.
April 2, the phone rings, a voice from India asks a series of personal questions about my computer. I hang up when he directs me to sit in front of the computer and follow his login instructions. When I pick up my little netbook at Acme they tell me this was a complex malware hack using the phone, several people had already reported.
April 3, the soil temperature is 60-degrees F (15-celsius) so I planted peas. Transplanted two big pinus parvifolia bonsai/penjing.
April 10, rain again, fat fuzzy white clouds float in the canyon all day with chi rain, pink and white cherry blossoms. The apricot has been blooming for weeks, surely we will have a big crop of golden sweetness like fat old gold doubloons.
Got some lettuce and kale starts in Redding while we were there for Bruce's check up, doing very well. Now he accompanies me in the big loop from our house up to the bottling company at Hedge Creek Falls Park and then down the other side of the freeway on Dunsmuir avenue past the city park and historic Babe Riuth Ball Park and old train engine, municipal swimming pool before looping around at the old caboose, crossing I-5 and ending up back at our house. Total 1.8 miles (3km).
This week's picture album ends with beautiful spring greetings from Eunice in Beijing: "It's Yu Yuan Tan Park（玉渊潭公园）.It's very near the Beijing West Train Station,I attach the map below,the green one is East Gate of Tsing Hua,the red one is the park.It's famous for the cherry blossoms.This year they have the 24th Cherry Blossoms Festival.The tower is the old CCTV tower,the new one is in Chaoyang district（朝阳区）,I also attach the new one below."
See you later
Dear Friends Qīn'ài de péngyǒumen In the last blog I invited anyone to give us some information about the railway museum site. Thanks to Eunice xiexie who did some independent research for us. This is what she says:
"I just saw your Novermber 18 Beijing Breakfast Letter, about the unused railway complex question, I baidu the answer,they said it's a test base for the new trains at first, now it's more like a satelite town of 798, a lot of artists rent the warehouses, then walk a few minutes to 798 to sale their paintings. If you like, check this website, I got the information from herehttp://zhidao.baidu.com/question/125452046.html.
"You know,my hometown Ganzhou have the best naval oranges in China,Ganzhou is called the hometown of naval oranges, we held Naval Orange Festival every year which includes many activities,this year they invited one of the most famous hosts in CCTV and many celebrities for the opening of the festival. And festival starts means this year's oranges are really ripe, so the naval oranges in the market before are not so fresh. I find some websites about naval oranges and the Naval Orange Festival in my hometown. http://my.putclub.com/?uid-1205661-action-viewspace-itemid-17207http://www.ganzhou.gov.cn/english/AboutGanzhou/industries/200903/t20090303_74746.htmhttp://www.made-in-china.com/showroom/chinesenavelorange/companyinfo/Municipal-Government-Of-Ganzhou.htmlhttp://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-navel-orange.htmhttp://www.fotoav.com/read-article-521.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganzhou
Eunice is finishing classes and going back home for the spring festival holiday, cutting out of town ahead of the crushing millions of people who travel by train to visit their hometowns for what we call Chinese new years but what they call spring festival.
Li Zhang showed some of us about Chinese tea. Three young researchers, two from Italy, one from Spain and myself. She brewed several kinds starting with The Guan Yin, some had grassy, sour, flowery fragrances and special tastes.
Li also explained how the different teas were grown or prepared. Mostly and originally prepared only for the empoeror and then monks drank tea to stay awake during long meditation sessions.
On Friday Dec 2 it snowed at Tsinghua. I woke to find the hutong under a blanket of white. I got to wear my foul weather cycling gear and to ride my bicycle in an inch of snow which quickly melted in the roads, but remained for days on the roofs and out of the way places. By the next day the sky was clear blue and the sun shone brightly.
According to friends in Beijing, I was lucky to fly out on Sunday ahead of a terrible bout of smog which closed the airport Sunday night to Tuesday morning. The US Embassy air quality reading was 'scary bad' 'basically off the chart.' They tell me: enjoy your internet freedom.
Last night the outdoor light woke us and I got to see a small brown bear walking around the yard, looking for fruit that have fallen out of the pear and apple trees. Possibly could be one of the two cute baby bear cubs I saw this summer.
Outstanding weather, sunny and cold but warm in the afternoon in the sun. Raking leaves and sweeping the porch. Wound up a hose, covered the spigot with a mitten against freezing.
We're drinking green tea everyday.
Hui tou jian
November 12 Saturday we travel by subway to China Railroad Museum way on the other side of town inChaoyang district. From the Sanyuanqian Zhan we take a taxi out to a far industrial area. The museum is in an unused railway complex. Maybe a Chinese person reading this can tell us why the big complex is closed and abandoned. Did they build it too far from people? Did heavy industry move to another city? We don't know why this big area is no longer in use. It is great for housing and displaying at least 40 locomotives, passenger and other cars under one huge roof with translucent skylights. Japanese, French, UK, American and Soviet locomotives before 1950, after all Chinese made. In front is a little switcher looking like a little black Thomas engine, heisede Thomas the children call it. Thomas car toys are for sale in the gift shop with Chinese railway collectibles.
Art District 798 is on the way back and is a surprise favorite place for Bruce since it is all one huge 1950's factory area given over to artists. Impressive with a lot of western 20's and 30's technology preserved and incorporated into ultra modern glass and masonry structures built in 1990's for trendy architecture and design offices, art studios and galleries. Built by East Germans in 1950s for an electronics factory, it is one of a few Bauhaus examples still existant found around the world. Delicious ham and cheese sandwich with fries and spicy pasta with coffee al fresco in late afternoon sun. 140K $22.
Bruce found the mother lode coal loading gantry surrounded by a network of conveyor belts, gas works tank, little pipes with steam condensate clouds, exposed asbestos pipe lagging everywhere. Inside one gallery lit by candles, Tibetan monks were making a big sand painting mandala, scraping metal funnels to jiggle colored pigments out the narrow mouth grain by grain into intricate pattern.
Grabbed a taxi and got back to subway station and the long ride home.
Sunday we traveled by bullet train to Tianjin the 6th largest city in PRC (People's Republic China) in a beautiful setting on the Hai River near the Bohai Gulf with a beachy climate and clean air the day we visited. Located at the Northern most end of the Grand Canal built in the Sui Dynasty 589-618AD, it has always been an important city. It was also the location of an incident in 1856 when Chinese tried to defeat British and French opium smuggling. At the end of the Second Opium War in 1858 China was forced to open Tianjin to foreign trade (opium trade). And it presently is one of five cities home to the most active Chinese criminal gangs.
Western nations have had concessions and garrisons in Tianjin over the previous century and it was occupied by Japanese in 30's until 1945. One of the world's fastest supercomputers is located at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin. In 1906 it had the first city-wide tramway system in China. The main railway station was built in 1892 and rebuilt from scratch in 1988. A bonsai friend of mine, Frank Bardella, lived here with his family before immigrating to San Francisco when he was eight years old in 1950.
I was excited to find large, in ground Lu Tian Pen Jing Fraxinus hupehensis Chu Shang et Su, Chinese Ash recently transplanted in the plaza in front of the Tianjin Railway Station.
Bruce is impressed by the size of the bullet train station in Beijing, called the South Railway Station and is about 16 stops down subway line #4 from Peking University. There is no parking problem, people get there by subway. The impressive stations are huge, cavernous, but beautiful and lit with natural light, many shops and cafes and seating for everyone waiting. Bullet trains are coming and going every 10-15 minutes. Our track was elevated on a raised concrete roadbed from Beijing to Tianjin so things can pass underneath.
There are perhaps three classes of seats, coach, business and first class with western style washrooms. There is a snack bar in the center of the train. Coach class has 5 seats across with an aisle in the center. Business class has 4 seats with a center aisle. The seats are built on locking devices which only take a few minutes to turn around, wash all the windows and go the other direction. It costs 55K $8.67 one way for coach to travel 69 miles or 112 kilometers. The train travels 178mph or 287km/h top speed, quietly and smoothly, only taking about 30 minutes. We pass farmland with smokestacks and groups of apartments to protect farms from being eaten up with housing like in the US.
Looking at California doing high speed, it will never be able to compete with what the Chinese have done. Our farmers are tying it up with lawsuits and the airplane mafia is unhappy, says Bruce.
The Beijing subways have a light board above each door showing the progress of the train. The tracks are sealed off from the people with big glass walls. Two sets of doors at the station platform line up perfectly so people can't fall off the platform onto the tracks. We've been working on high speed rail, spent billions of dollars paying 'experts' to study and going nowhere with it, adds Bruce.
November 14 Bruce's last day we started with French Toast at home. Bruce shopped and found German strawberry jam, organic eggs, fab bread. We had lunch at Pizza Hut International, a classy restaurant with full menu of international dishes with Chinese characteristics.
We had individual pizzas one shrimp and smoked salmon with mustard sauce and green pepper, the other popcorn shrimp with peppers and onions. French mushroom soup, cappuccino. We were stuffed! Afterwards we biked around Wudaokoulooking for smokestacks and found a gas station, visited my tailor and paid my bill. We ended the day with a full body therapeutic massage in a room for two 360K $57 1 hour.
Out the window the bright fall sky lights up leaves falling in big piles on the side of the hutong alley. Magpies swoop through bare poplar branches. Clouds of steam and smoke roil out of a tall smokestack in the near distance. I am planning a 3 week visit to California in December to visit my family. I just learned that Bruce has bladder cancer and will be going in for surgery on December 7.
Hui tou jian
Walking around the Sanlitun neighborhood with my language teacher WuDan, she showed me an imported food market called April's Gourmet. They have four stores in Chaoyang district. It's just like a little old fashioned Trader Joes! gorgeous cheeses, big (for China) wine selection, lot's of familiar brands in every category, some Halloween costumes for theMeiguoren (American) children, olives!!!, pasta, spaghetti sauce, kettle potato ships, flowers, deli case, fresh fruit and veggies, pumpernickel bread, etc, etc.http://www.thebeijinger.com/directory/April-Gourmethttp://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/china/beijing/33498/april-gourmet/shopping-detail.html Before getting on the subway Dr Monica and I ducked into the Ginza mall basement for a delectable Chinese pastry with cappuccino only 16K $2.52.
We're waiting for the heat to be turned on. There are steam heat radiators in every room, including the shower, in every building in Beijing. I've been running my Kaopian air conditioner/heater in the spare bedroom day and night to keep the temperature around 64-68-degrees.
I've noticed a definite change in the internet this past week, and I've corroborated this with others at work and my friends. "They" DAGE Big Brother Firewall, whatever you want to call it/them, have been tightening the filters especially on news sites. You can get to the home page but every story is blocked. Yesterday I couldn't get to a cooking site for dumplings! The dictionary and the Thesaurus sites are now displaying homepage, if at all, without CSS, just text no graphics, and the word search links are dead. The SacBee which usually works when Google News won't is totally blocked. Also NY Times, LA Times. Yahoo News is still working.
On the morning of October 30 I went shopping early toHualian Shangchang to get some American breakfast cereal for Bruce, my husband, who arrives tomorrow afternoon for a visit! At the warmest part of the day I packed up my oil paint gear and pedaled to an avenue of trees I've painted huahua near the SW gate. For about an hour and half I played with my oils, something I haven't done since summer. I finally realized I was freezing. I added the last touches, a little smear for a suggestion of a person walking and more Renoiresque brushy dabs in the foreground suggesting grass and leaves, then packed up and biked home to get warm.
November 6 the afternoon sun hits the top windows in the apartments near mine, reflecting warmly on the wall over the big Chinese table. Gradually the poplar leaves turn yellow to golden brown, dropping into the hutong lanes where the residents sweep them into piles. Bruce and I visited a coal fired heating plant on campus.
On the way to the apartment we saw children painting a mural at their school.
Suddenly vans are showing up on every corner stuffed with Chinese cabbages for sale.
Miniature mandarin oranges are for sale everywhere, sweet and seedless. We stopped for coffee and a brownie at Scholar's Coffee shop.
Next we stop to pay on my bill at Yingzi the tailor's. I found a skirt and jacket I had to have.
We picked up some pastries and egg tart dan tat for breakfast at Tous les Jours bakery, had Mexican dinner at the Avocado Tree and home!
Saturday Eunice came to the apartment in the morning to help shop for Bruce's welcome party. She brought a giant magnum of Changyu champagne, yum! We got tea eggs, shrimp, water chestnuts, peas, lots of miscellaneous stuff like paper plates and chopsticks. Menu: 2 kinds of ramen fang bien miensalad, pan fried wonton with two flavors dipping vinegar, sliced tea eggs http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/chinese-tea-eggs/ on pea sprouts. Li arrived in the afternoon to help, bringing several bottles of Belgium beer and Mexican smokey cheese we served sliced with crumbly Chinese biscuits. The guests started arriving at 6pm and soon the rooms were filled with chattering conversations in Chinese and English.
Bruce says its easy to get around by subway and bicycle and everyone looks fit and trim from all the walking and biking they do. Bruce's body adjusted to the rental mountain bike. He says the city is clean and everybody is busy doing something. It's crowded at times, no homeless people he could see camped on the street.
He got a tour of a power/heating plant near the university. He says its not that old, running on Chinese built machinery modeled on American technology from 1920's. They will be transitioning to natural gas from coal in a year or two. Neat plant, was great being able to get in. They found a young woman who spoke English who translated for him as they walked him around the place. It supplies hot water for passive heat system to several high tech business enterprises (institutes and a key laboratory) from three giant water boiler units approx 25-feet wide by 40-feet long and 40-feet high.
He says the food is good, found a bakery close to the apartment where he can get pastries for breakfast. Found McDonald's and got a double burger on his own in Wudaokou while taking pictures at the train crossing. Wudaokou means 'five rail crossings.' Bruce is not interested in the usual tourist hot spots like the Great Wall but is obsessed with photographing every smoke stack he sees and there are plenty in Beijing!
Hui tou jian
It's getting colder, down to the 40's at night, sunny and nice during the day, if its not windy, high 65-degrees. I'm getting used to it.
Several times last week they were filming a movie at Tsinghua with the actor Wang Li Hong. (Leehom Wang) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leehom_Wang He is an American born Chinese singer-song writer, record producer actor and film director. He received classical training at Eastman School of Music, Williams College and Berkelee College of Music. He fuses Chinese opera and fold styles with R&B and is a four time winner of the Golden Melody Awards, the Taiwan 'Grammys.'
They had all the gear there, booms, giant reflectors, vans and truck and lots of security. Its a beautiful campus with buildings of all eras, I'm surprised they don't film here more often.
Feng and her 9 year old son Alex came over Sunday nite to hua hua with me. We painted lotus and rocks and water falls, practiced lines, cross hatches circles and little guppy fish.
I've been rising at 5am, sitting in my favorite chair in the living room looking east I watch the sunrise while drinking hong cha and writing. Zaoshang wo yibian hecha yibian xieshu.
Early morning rising before dawn only a faint hint of light in the sky to the east between the business park buildings. Facing the morning, I watch the color stealing through the black tree foliage in the hutong, pink to salmon to dark orange when the reveals in brilliant red gold.
One morning a big magpie in his black and white tuxedo plumage flew onto the window ledge and looked into my apartment while calling out 'caw caw.'
Tired golden brown leaves drop one by one off smooth white barked branches of magnolia denudata, leaving fuzzy buds of next year's flowers on the tips. Some leaves are still green, showing burnt brown edges where the sap is slowly draining away. Birds ate all the coral red berry fruit that hung in bunches along the branches all summer.
Not much blooming now. I was surprised to see these roses near my office. Although the tag said Rosa chinensis jacq. when I looked it up online it doesn't resemble the pink rose I found there.
Friday Dr's Monica and Sharon and I met for lunch. The first time in a long time it seemed. We had a lot to catch up on. Monica works in a key national laboratory. On the door of the building it says: Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology. She is a research scientist studying DNA.
For fun I took a picture on the door to my office: Office of Overseas Promotion.
It's getting colder, foggy/smoggy, heavy mist almost like rain. The melodious sound of a Chinese flute floated over the brown spent lotus foliage of the lotus pond shui mu qing hua. Workers are chipping bricks from a demolition project adjacent to the road and sewer work in our neighborhood.
Saturday Li and Eunice came to my apartment for another painting party. They are pictured next to their first huahua.
One thing I like to draw and paint are the grotesque rocks used to decorate the landscape here at Tsinghua, and other places. Many of the finest come from Tai Lake in Jiangsu Province. There are many accounts of emperors ordering fantastic rocks be delivered to the capitol. Men lost life and risked much to bring them in the old days. If you were the captain in of a rock delivery that fell into a schism you would run for the hills and become a bandit before returning in disgrace to the capitol.
This particular rock is in a small park between my office and the little coffee cafe I like. It has a marker rock that says: "TAIHU SHI"(太湖石).
Hui tou jian
I brought my camera with me downtown to language class.
I want to get pix of the colorful street life in the upscale neighborhood. The breakfast cafes and stands are doing brisk business in the early hours. Pancake or Beijing pizza atTu Jia Jiang Xiang Bing. Steamed buns -baozi - come with a variety of fillings -zheshi shenme xianr de baozi? My teacher WuDan Laoshi happens to walk into my picture frame. Her favorite filling isnai huang bao - steamed creamy custard bun.
On the subway I see some young men with these ENORMOUS packs get on in front of me. They pose for this picture. The subway car shakes, sorry about the focus.
Deng Wei writes: 'Thanks for your photo. We enjoyed our trip during the two days (weekend). We went to BAIHE (White River) Gorge to camp and cook barbeque. Fortunately, the day before yesterday was a sunny day. My face was shined and became very black.' Here's a link to a blog posted by a couple of Americans who camped with motorcycles here. Great pix. http://www.mychinamoto.com/forums/showthread.php?390-Beijing-Hebei-Two-days-along-Baihe-%28White-River%29
If you look carefully at the Penjing balcony image you will see a penjing on the right side. Wandering in and out of side streets back to the subway station I see some very exclusive dress shops and interesting people.
http://www.thatsmandarin.com/our-chinese-schools-in-china/beijing-chinese-school-dongzhimen/ The district where my language school is located is around the Dongzhimen subway station and near a lot of embassies. The rents vary from RMB900 ($142) a month for a micro miniature studio to RMB10,000 ($1,577) for a mistress apartment. RMB5,000 ($788) will get you 2 bedrooms and about 200sq m. Check out apartment rentals here http://www.beijingrealestates.com/VirtualEastGatePlaza.htm
The National Holiday - Shi Yi (10/1) - has come and gone since I last wrote, from October 1 to 9. Everyone is going out of town on holiday except Cher, it seems. I'm looking forward to some quiet time I can paint uninterrupted.
One day it's warm and sunny, the next cool and hazy. Casual summer dress and lifestyle is over, fall is blowing bits of yellow leaves onto the green mondo grass by my office. The ginkgos are the first to color. In the warm afternoons I pack up my little folding chair, zipper portfolio, bag of art stuff and pedal around, looking for a nice scene. Lots of trees in rows with road or sidewalk feature. Kind of impressionistic VanGogh-esque, French looking to my eye. I try to improve my Chinese brush technique, adding some color. When the poplars turn gold I'll try some plein air in oils since I shipped my easel, tubes and brushes this summer.
The holiday starts off with a trip to art district 798. This time I go with some young students from Beijing foreign Language University. Two boys and two girls. They all speak good English. The subway ride is long and we have to transfer once. We then take two taxis (Beijing regulations, only 3 people in back seat, they have cameras on the overpasses our taxi driver explains) to the district. Only cost 14K ($2.21). The subway is 1K or less if you have a subway card which I do.
We finally made it and stay all day, have lunch and dinner there, before the long trek home. It is fun, talking art and looking at some 'good,' some not so 'good,' some really 'good' art and then of course the people watching. I like one exhibit so much I bought the book and have been wondering if it's possible to meet the artist. Some little oil sketches from LA area beaches, palm trees, make me a little nostalgic for the old LA art scene.
The next day I am up early. James the cab driver picks me up at 7am. We drive about a half a block to a tiny canteen where he has a quick breakfast. We next drive across campus to pick up Li Zhang - young research assistant - who is my interpreter and photographer at the Beijing Botanical Garden - Da Guan Yin.
Liu Dongyan picks us up at the entrance in a garden minivan. The director Mr Zhao welcomes us at the Penjing nursery. He wears dark blue pen-stripe trousers, blue chambray dress shirt and navy windbreaker. He serves us Kwan Yin tea in tiny glass cups and pours tea over the tea pet, a frog with a coin in its mouth. The interview and tour lasts all morning. The winters are so long in Beijing that they must put ALL the Penjing in green houses for seven months. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Botanical_Gardenhttp://www.beijingbg.com/English/v.asp
Li and I had lunch at the garden over-looking the ancient palace lake. Li is an expert at Chinese cuisine. She orders for us mushroom shrimp soup which comes in a hammered brass tureen over a flame, little yeast raised buns with chopped green onion,qieza (eggplant), maopo dofu, and rice.
Tieguanyin tea is an oolong premium tea, produced in Anxi in Fujian province since the 19th century. But it's history is longer than that. Discovered in the 18th century and given to the The Qianlong Emperor as a gift, it is a very delicious tea with a distict and flowery flavor and aroma. Needless to add, it sells for a premium as well. There are numerous steps to its production:
- plucking tea leaves.(cai qing)
- sun withering. (shai qing)
- cooling. (liang qing)
- tossing. (yao qing)
- withering, this includes some oxidation. (wei diao)
- fixation. (sha qing)
- rolling. (rou nian)
- drying. (hong gan)
- After drying some teas go through the added processes of roasting and scenting.
Tieguanyin is one of the names of the adored Chinese Boddhisattva who has been influencing Buddhism in south Asia nations for centuries. The name of the Chinese tea is translated in English as "Iron Guanyin", and sometimes as "Iron Goddess of Mercy."
My deadline for the Golden State Bonsai Federation magazine Golden Statements is on Wednesday, so I only have two days to finish my article. This is my second Penjing article. The first is of the Shanghai Botanical Garden Penjing collection in March. At last I send off the article with several of Li's hi dpi images and am able to think about painting.
They continue to tear up streets around my neighborhood. One day you will leave the house one way only to return to find barricades up and a giant ditch where you used to go! I discover little paths and alleys through the hutong I never would have. When will we get back to normal???
Hou tou jian
Remembering 9/11 Li and Sara came to my apartment for a cooking party which started with a lesson in shopping for Chinese fruit and veggies. We met at the Farmers Market at the neighborhood Zhao Lan Yuan mall. Women huijianle nong mao shichang, zai fujiu de zhaolanyuan shangchang. We came home and arranged the fresh things for still life pictures. Here's a key for their identification:
All green and white: (left to right) Souyou de luse he baise (zuo dao you)
- Jui cai Garlic chives
- Xiao Small onion, similar to chives
- Jiao bai Looks like big bamboo shoot, Water bamboo
- Cong Sweet onion, similar to leek but much stronger oniony fragrance and flavor
- Xiang cai Fragrant vegetable, cilantro
- Lu hao Wild
- Qing jiao Tiger claw pepper, Anaheim chile
- Bai luo bo Daikon radish
- Dasuan Garlic
10. Tong hao Looks like loose-leaf lettuce, similar to Lu hao
Red/Purple: (top row) Hongse/zise (ding xing)
- Zishu Purple potato
- Dasuan Garlic
- Huo long guo Dragon fruit
Second row: Di er hang
- Hong xian cai Beautiful red green veggie
- caogu mushrooms
- Hua Jiao Sichuan pepper also called pepper bush
- Qiezi Long skinny eggplant
- Da zao Chinese date, jujube
- Great Wall Cabernet sauvignon
Dishes Cai Top row: ding xing:
- Qiezi Eggplant with peppers
- Jiao bai Water bamboo
- Bai luo bo Daikon salad with cilantro
Bottom row: zui xiamian yihang:
- Hong xian cai Beautiful red green veggie with pink garlic
- Lu hao wild vegetable
- Tong hao wild vegetable
Dishes were served with small bowls of rice cooked with diced purple potato, which made it a lavender color, and Yu tou or taro root, Chinese potato and small bowls of mushroom soup mogu tang.
Just as we were sitting down to sample Li's creations (Sara and Cher were sou chefs, prepping, cleaning, chopping) and toasting with the liwu de yiping butao de honse de jiu, Evelyn, a new neighbor on the 2nd floor, rapped at my door bearing a plate of rhambutan fruit. Evelyn is visiting professor form Brown University in Rhode Islandhttp://www.brown.edu/, lecturing in the anthropology department. She speaks very good Mandarin. Founded in 1764, Brown University is the 7th oldest college in the United States with a current student enrollment of 8,000.
My internet was out, the entire southwest neighborhood, for some 'unknown' reason. I changed the duvet on my bed to the winter weight, fluffy one and washed the cover in my tiny washing machine and hung it to dry on the little sun porch.
This week Evelyn and I went to a fancy hotel downtown in the Chaoyang district to attend a lecture by a Tsinghua factulty director form the School of Economics and Management. After a lengthy presentation about the Tsinghua INSEAD dual degree program (in only 18 months you too can pay $90K and receive an MA from TU and one from INSEAD). The second half of the night's program was on "Challenges of the Chinese Economy and the 12th 5-year Plan." Before everything started we were treated to espresso and darling miniature current muffins as big as a quarter and the cutest little custards in porcelain dishes about the size of a large spoon, each with a couple tiny blueberries and little crumb of praline. Delicious! Everyone was networking like crazy, and it was big fun.
Some points from the lecture:
- The current rate of growth being experienced by China today is unsustainable. This is something known by the architects of the 12th 5-year Plan (2011-2015) who point out several problems but don't offer any solutions.
- The Chinese constitution contains some specific points such as:
- o party officials' salaries increase at the CPI rate annually, resulting in highly compensated bureaucratic officials.
- o The private to the public ratio shall never exceed 50%, currently at 50%, what happens if private sector growth exceeds to 51%?
- State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are used to balance many conditions since they are 100% under the control of the government such as employment and investment.
- Currently SOEs are starting merger operations with private entities which preserves the SOEs hegemony.
- o This is possible because private enterprise is having trouble obtaining loans/capitalization, contributing to this trend
- The current growth trend started in 1978 when Deng Xiaopeng was recruited out of exile. He instituted agricultural and industrial reforms to counter the disastrous results of Mao's Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Mao's official tenure 1943-1976, died 1976.
- o In 1967 Liu and his wife were under house arrest in Beijing and disappeared. In 1969 Deng was sent to Xinjian County Tractor Factory. Both men attempted to remove Mao from power and rectify many problems with the country. The Cultural Revolution was a method to combat Mao's growing numbers of critics and regain control of the country.
There are many technical aspects to the net trade income, the tole of the central band, money supply and Value Added Tax which I can't delve into here, but are fascinating. The lecture provided me with greater understanding of the current situation and some interesting details, all delivered succinctly and with humor.
This past weekend I spent a blissful afternoon at the little square park near the office with the big grotesque rock and antique planter. I sat in the hazy autumn sunshine and drew the big rock. Part of my WuWei (non-action) series I am developing. Little bits of bamboo in the background and wispy clouds indicated by a few lines. Next I brush painted the little umbrella trees and their bigger maple companions. This will be beautiful when the leaves turn color.
The Sophora japonica 'pendula' is also known as Pendulous Pagoda Tree or Weeping Scholar Tree. A weeping head is grafted onto and upright trunk. Creamy yellow pea-like flowers bloom in summer in large panicles. The Chinese maple, Acer discolor, is very similar to the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum.
My internet and Gmail have been going in and out since Thursday when I accidentally triggered something while researching articles for my bi-weekly media report. I don't even want to tell you what keyword started it this time.
The mornings are crisp now. The guard shack ladies were admiring the little pots of ornamental peppers, poking up purple and red in the sun. They are tearing up the main road in my neighborhood, the one that goes by the shopping street Zhao Lan Yuan, down to the Senior Center and Primary School, where it flooded during the one-day typhoon event.
On any morning on my way to work I pass the old 'playground' of Tsinghua, now used mostly for soccer. Many folks are out in the morning of all ages from toddlers to seniors, enjoying the fine fall weather. I saw a boy on his bicycle riding furiously around and around the track trailing behind him a string of kites. Darling!
Chinese yo-yo dou kong zhu, che ling, xiang huang practitioners can be seen frequently on the field, morning or afternoons, with their big spool shaped discs joined by a shaft. Grooves are carved into the discs which make a whirring or buzzing sound which they use to gauge the speed. Numerous tricks can be done by a skilled player such as: accelerate, lift-up, swing, elevator, toss-and-catch, stick grind, jumping, waterfall, jump and escape. More advanced tricks: cicada/fake throw, around the world, genocide/propeller.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_yo-yo
Because of the road construction, residents in my neighborhood have had to find new ways to come and go. I am sharing some pictures from the hutong.
Hui tou jian
[audio mp3="http://cherylpetty.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/月亮代表我的心.mp3"][/audio] Shortly after returning to Beijing, I went out to dinner with Yun and Yun and son to my favorite neighborhood restaurant. Wo hui Beijing yihou, wo qu yu Yun, Yun he erzi zuixiai de linli canting. We had chao fan -- fried rice Beijing style which is verylightly fried with peas and bits of scrambled egg, shala -- lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes, peanuts and bits of other greens, stir fried mushrooms and cabbage with lotus seed and water chestnut, and fried corn cakes cut into wedges and sprinkled with sugar. Wode chi chaofan, shala, mogu lianzi he ling jiao fan chao he bai cai.
Around 9pm, after relaxing at the table, we walked across the big highway Chendulu on the overhead pedestrian walkway to the massage clinic where Yun and I first met. We all got a massage while their son, James, watched cartoons. What a nice way to end the evening around 10pm.
When the Foreign Expert Office had ballet tickets this time, Dr Monica and I went together to get them. Jintian wan shang wo, Sumo he tade laogong qu kan balei. First we took the subway where we met Greg. Then the three of us took a cab to Tian Qiao Theatre. Wo xian zuo ditie. Women zai ditie shan jian Greg. Ranhou, women dache qu Tian Qiao. We saw Carmen and The Girl from Arles, by Frenchman Roland Petit, featuring the young dancers of the Chinese National Ballet. Preceding the performances, we saw a video of M Pettit, recently deceased, an aged but active ballet master instructing the youthful and agile dancers in his style. It was impossible to find a cab home, so we had to go back by bus to find a subway station and then home. We were tired when we finally arrived home at 11pm. http://www.ballet.org.uk/what-s-on/roland-petit.html
The next morning I managed to get up and out the door by 9am. My plan was to Chinese brush paint at the lotus pond on campus. Wo dasuan shi zai xiao yuan lide zai he hua chi, hua hua. Besides having many curious on-lookers, I completed four sketches of the lotus leaves, he ye, water, shui,reflections, dao ying, pavilion, tingzi he,willow trees, liu shu, and water skimmers,gerris gibbifer (latin).
Later Li Zhang came by my apartment to visit. This bright and accomplished young woman is research assistant to one of my ex-pat girlfriends, Sara, who is conducting research on anthropological economics, specifically the migrant girls working in the downtown market area. Later we had dinner at my favorite restaurant, and now I can tell you the name. Man Pen Xiang Shui Zhu Yu,Full Bowl Fragrant Boiled Fish, specializes in Sichuan style dishes cooked in an oil/water mixture with Chinese spices and chile pepper.
The longan is very similar to the lychee, also called Dragon's eye, with a hard, smooth, light brown outer shell, inside is a soft, juicy fruit like a grape with one large black seed. Great quantities of longan are imported to Beijing from Thailand. I see from looking online that the University of California is working on cultivation of these fruit, but they find it difficult for several reasons. Although not a picky as lychee as far as temperature, longans must be propagated by marcottage-- air layering-- and they have trouble inducing fruiting since California is an arid climate unlike monsoonal Thailand.
Over the weekend, my Puji apartment was the location for a cooking party. Shange zhomo wo de Puji gongyu de pengren dang. Bruce and Jerry are buddies from Shanxi province, and ZhiWei is a new friend of theirs in Beijing. A mountainous area and a major coal, iron and electric power production region.http://www.drben.net/ChinaReport/Shanxi_Province/Shanxi_Province-Index.html Shanxi is also filled with significant cultural heritage sites, including the Yungang Cloud Ridge Caves.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datong .
I met Bruce at the lotus pond at Tsinghua while I was brush painting. He is here in Beijing doing an internship year at Beijing University in the Total Immersion Program (TIP) http://www.tip.org.cn/ in co-operation with the State Foreign Expert Bureau, Federal Education Department and Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. He is an instructor in the program and is called LaoLi or Teacher Li. He will be taking his final exam in January at Shanxi Agricultural University founded 1907http://www1.sxau.edu.cn/foreign/ejianjie.htmwhere he will graduate with a BS degree in molecular biology. Click onhttp://blog.sina.com.cn/actionslee to see Bruce's blog.
Jerry is in graduate school at Beijing Language and Culture University, studying to be an English teacher. Here is his school link and class schedule. http://www.blcu.edu.cn/blcuweb/english/index-en.asp ; Intercultural communication, Classical literature, Modern Chinese, English, Chinese composition, Teaching investigation and case analysis, Second language teaching, Chinese art and history, Linguistics and Chinese political system. Jerry sent me the attached mp3 called "Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin" "The Moon is like my Heart" and I thought I would share it with you. I thought the melody sounded a little like Debbie Reynolds singing "Tammy."
ZhiWei is working at ChinaLife. ZhiWei's company http://www.chinalife.com.cn/publish/English/356/index.html/ . ZhiWei's parents have a restaurant back in Shanxi.
We feasted on dishes meticulously prepared by the young men. There was Hong shao quieziShanxi sweet eggplant fried with onion, sugar and fish sauce followed by Xi Hong shi chao zi dan stir fried tomato and eggs seasoned with salt, pepper berry and garlic.. Lastly,Da zha hui veggie medley with fu zhu dried bean curd sheet, la jiao red pepper, lu dou jiao green beans.mogu mushroom.
I have included a jpg of Wu Dan, my language teacher at That's Mandarin. http://www.thatsmandarin.com/ When I started 4 months ago, Mr Monica and I were going to nearby Wudaokou but suddenly they announced the classes were being consolidated with another campus near Dongmenzhan in the old downtown of Beijing. Now we get up on Saturday at 6am and take the subway, grab some interesting breakfast on the sidewalk on the way to TM, arriving by 8am. Meige xingqiliu wo dou zai That's Mandarin. Meige xingqiliu wo dou shang hanyu ke. Ni lai TM fangbian ma? Xiayu de shihou wo buzhidao fan bu fangbian. Is it convenient to come to TM? When it is raining, I don't know how convenient it will be.
This weekend was the Mid Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, Zhongiu, a 3,000 year old asian moon worship rite originating in the Shang Dynasty 16-11th century BCE. It coincides with the autumnal equinox when the moon is at its fullest. Traditional food, the mooncake, comes in many varieties. Being a legal holiday, we get a 3-day holiday and will return to work on Tuesday. Similar to our American Thanksgiving, farmers celebrate the end of the fall harvest and is a traditional time for families to come together and share a meal.
The young men from Shanxi wanted to invite me to celebrate with them, all of us being far away from family. We went to Grandma's Kitchen on the 5th floor of Hualian mall. Wode qu Grandma's Kitchen, hualian shangchang di 5 ceng. ZhiWei was stuck in rain for 1/2 hour and couldn't get a cab. A friend of Jerry's, Helen, joined us. She is also studying to be an English teacher.
The menu at Grandma's is mostly American. I ordered French Fries and a Corona, Helen tried a Quesadilla with salsa, Jerry and Bruce had strawberry and pineapple ice cream sundaes with mooncakes and chocolates. We talked about movies and music, Chinese and American customs.
Afterwards we went to the 1st floor -- shoes -- where they helped me find a sensible pair of shoes for the fall season, flat heeled short boots good for bicycling and subway travel in the rain. Later we all walked the short distance to Jerry's school. It stopped raining. Jintian xiayule danshi xianzai buxia le. The Beijing Language and Culture University, founded in 1962, has 20,000 students at its small campus next to Tsinghua University. You can compare this to Yale Universit It has a darling, intimate lotus pond and wall with the names in Chinese of all the countries from which students have come to study here, 175. I got home before dark.
Many people have asked why I don't use web hosting for my blog. One reason is that this way I am avoiding increased scrutiny from dage, Big Brother. Another reason is that I want to keep control over the content. I am happy to have you forward these emails to your friends, and add anyone who sends me an email asking to be on the distribution list. There is a possibility that I will want to use them for future projects after my return to the US, and I want to retain my copyright ownership. If I published them on the world wide web that would be nearly impossible. Thank you for your understanding.
Hui tou jian
I seem to dream more, or maybe I remember them better. But not really remembering, more like flashes of them dart through my thoughts more frequently. Or words float into mind like vieux, French for 'old,' or j'ai oubliais french for 'I forgot,' and trieste, French for 'sad.' And I sometimes dream in Chinese now! For no reason at all I felt tears rising when I was leaving the farmers market last week with my hands full of shopping bags of melons, lemons, lettuce, cucumbers and longan. I can't shake this dream-like quality-- maybe its a feature of jet lag-- but... things I am looking at are familiar, but at the same time memories of California overlay in a water color collage, fuzzy and blending the edges so that here and there are in the same 'now.'
The past couple of weeks have seen freshmen appearing on campus, opening bank accounts and buying phone service in large numbers-- a shock to us locals trying to go about and do our business. Lines of brand new bicycles appear outside buildings that have been empty during summer break. Squads of them dressed in camouflage fatigues are marched around campus. Our office participated in creating the word T-S-I-N-G-H-U-A spelled out by freshmen wearing shirts in the school colors. Soon classes will begin.
Taiji Ball, sounds just like Tai Chi Ball, is a traditional sport which one person can play using a variety of balls. The version pictured here uses a tennis ball sized ball, with or without feather tail, and a racquet. The idea is to control the ball while moving arms and legs around, over and under, without letting it drop to the ground. Here's a cool link to videos of several of these sports thanks to Hong Feng.
I took my picture at the senior center between my apartment and campus. The big yard is usually full of people dancing or playing with fans, balls, etc. http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/SIC6Oq8q0Fk/
Hua Jiao, Sichuan pepper also called pepper bush, Chinese Prickley-ash and Zanthoxylum simulans is grown as a landscape shrub near the apartments in my neighborhood. It belongs to the 'warm the interior' class of Chinese medicinal herbs used to treat internal cold syndromes such as a deficiency of yang. Only the outer husk of the 3-4mm berry that splits open to release black shiny seeds is used. Although called 'pepper' it is not related. It is used in Sichuan cuisine and also important in Tibetan, Bhutanese and Nepalese cuisine since few spices grow in those mountainous countries.
I was lucky to get this image of a grandmother holding her granddaughter over a tree well in the sidewalk as the baby pees. This is the norm in China, and it works very well to train the children. Pants are split at the crotch and the caregiver gently holds the child in a squat where they can pee, in the toilet or on the side of the road, and softly whistles a pee song. Chinese children are toilet trained in this way at 6-7 months old, but must have assistance.
Contrast this to western style toilet training where the child wears a diaper until 1-2 years of age and independently learns to use the toilet without assistance. The Chinese method saves a lot on the cost of diapers, water and soap.Every year, approximately 18 billion disposable diapers enter the landfills in the United States. These diapers consist of 100,000 tons of plastic and 800,000 tons of tree pulp and cost parents an average of $2,000 from birth to potty training. Source: Clean Air Council: Waste Facts and Figures Read more: How many disposable diapers are in landfills each year? | Answerbaghttp://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2097519#ixzz1X9ODaE40http://oz.plymouth.edu/~megp/webct/culturalconflict.htm
Hui tou jian
This week's blog is in two parts. Part I features the Forbidden City with many pix of Palace Museum treasures and a few palace ladies.For my Chinese friends, Mandarin will be in bold.
At noon on Friday, I met Li and Emily at the west gate. Shang zhou wu zhongwu, wo yu jianle Li he Emily zai ximen. Where we parked our bicycles is close to the subway station. Women tingfang zixingche. Ta li ditiezhan hen jin.
We take #4 line to Fuxingmen Station. Women zuo #4 haoxian qu Fuxingmen zhan. And then transfer to #1 line. Ranhou women huan #1 haoxian. After two stops, we arrive at Tian'anmen East. Liangge zhan yihou, women daole Tian'anmen Dong zhan.
The Forbidden City, Zijin Cheng,(built 1406-1420) is rectangualr in shape and oriented on a north/south axis, surrounded by high walls and a most, the FC is the world's largest palace complex. Factoids: 960m (3150-feet) NtoS, 750m (2460-feet) EtoW, 720,000-square meters (2,362,204-square feet or 447-square miles); the moat is 6m (20-feet) deep, 52m (170-feet) wide; the outer wall is 10m (33-feet) high and 3400m (11,150-feet or 7-miles) long. Inside there are 5 halls, 17 palaces, 9,999 rooms, nine being a lucky number for the emperor.
I'm telling you all this to help you appreciate that we walked approximately 5610m or 3.5 miles within the FC complex, add on to that another .5 to .75 to and from the subway on both ends. So totally we walked at least 4 miles that day!Women wanquan zouliao 4 yingli di na yitian!
The southern section contains the 'outer court' QianChao with five ceremonial halls. The northern section contains the 'inner court' HouQin where the emperor lived and worked with his concubines, eunuchs and servants. The buildings have beautiful glazed tile roofs. The roof ridges are now protected by lightning rods. At the roof corners, small figures protect the building: immortal riding a phoenix followed by a dragon, phoenix, lion, horse, sea horse, a number of mythical creatures and a LiWen at the top end.
First, we visited the Porcelain collection in the Imperial Garden, YuHuaYuan, and then we wanted to see the big jade. Women xian canguanle huangjia yuanlin. Ta shi porcelaine shouji. Ranhou women yao kan dao de dayu.
The Song Dynasty was a period of unrivaled development of arts. Many rare and precious specimens of all dynasties are displayed and protected at the national Palace Museum as China's cultural heritage and proof of legitimacy for rulers of all ages, proof of ownership of the symbols of China are equivalent to proof of embodiment of China.
An example of the rareness of some of the great Chinese antiquities to be found here is the 'Ruware' from Henan province. The location of the site of the kilns is near modern Baofeng Qingliangsi and was recently identified in 1986. Luxury crafts patronized by the nearby court at Kaifeng stimulated the emergence of several technologically innovative kiln manufacturers. Ruware is most highly prized in later times because of the relatively short period of production. Only operational over a 40-year period, the kiln ceased production with the 'disaster of 1126.' Fewer than 100 complete pieces are know to exist today.
'Yu the Great Taming the Waters' 1787ce Qing Dynasty, is the largest carved jade in existence. The original boulder was 2.24m (7-feet) high and 5330kg (11,726-pounds or 5.6 tons) and was discovered in the western area near Khotan.
Khotan was an ancient Buddhist city on the Silk Road near the Taklamakan Desert. Built on an oasis, its mulberry trees produced silk for export as well as nephrite jade. Legend is that a Chinese princess brought silkworm eggs in her elaborate hairdo when she was sent to marry a Khotanese king. Khotan was the first place outside China to cultivate silk.
It took 3 years to transport the big jade to Beijing on a wagon drawn by 100 horses and requiring 1,000 laborors for road and bridge construction. The jade boulder and two full-size wax and wooden models, approved by the Emperor in 1781, were sent by boat south to Yangzhou where specialized jade craftsmen took almost 8 years to complete, 150,000 working days, and returned to the palace in Beijing in 1787.
Hui tou jian
Shopping day at Hualian shangchangnear the Wudaokou shan,train station. Now school is over I've noticed fewer crowds. Actually enjoyable getting out after big rain storm last night, thunder, lightening and buckets of water. [I'm writing this at lunch, and the darling fuwuyuan, waitress, brought me some zhi, paper, to write on, I had been writing on the kuaizi,chopstick paper inside-out.]
Everywhere I went the price was less than the tag. First time I've experienced Chinese refusing my money!
Well maybe not everywhere. Cute black slippers with flower on toe: Y300-51=Y249 at Hotwind ($46-7.85=$38); Peach colored taohongse straw cloche hat maozi, actually small enough to fit my head, Y55 ($8.46); Polo bag, huge enough to carry my camera tripods at 20-inches, priced at Y1200 ($184) sold to me for Y224 ($34)!! Last purchase at little shop with loud teenage music on the big avenue ChenFuLu Kama Classics, pink chinos Y180-90=Y90 ($27-13.85).
By now I feel ludicrous with all the shopping bags hanging off the handlebars, still I manage to ride back to the apartment, stopping for lunch, wufan,at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, the one with the live fish. Now that I can speak a little Chinese, things go smoother right from the start. I can tell them, 1 person, using the right measure word,yiwei. I learned how to order what I like, mifan, qiezi he mapo doufu--weila--rice, eggplant and mapo tofu--not too spicy. The fuwuyuan brought me tea in a glass like chrysanthemum flowers with big orange seeds and a little bowl of rock sugar. When I get low I add hot water from the tea pot. Delicious.
I had breakfast at a tiny canteen inside an apartment complex near my bicycle repairman with Dr Monica who is a regular there. I had something that looked like a soft taco with fresh lettuce. Dr M had a little flat bread with sesame seeds sliced open with a fried egg inside. We both had fresh, slightly warm soy milk in sealed plastic cups you pierce with a little straw to drink. Y9 ($1.38).
People are friendly in this little staff canteen. We got into a conversation with one fellow who called himself an 'intern student' which we didn't understand. He had questions about the US educational system. We agreed both the US and Chinese systems used a nationwide standardized entrance exam (GaoKao/SAT). Beyond that, there are many differences. I think the biggest difference is that in the US the student gets to choose where they go and what they study. If I had been told that I tested well for chemistry, and that was going to be my major, I would have acted out. How does that affect your love of learning?
Many Chinese I meet express a desire to immigrate. In fact of all the Chinese students who go overseas to study only one-third return. That's got to be a severe brain drain for the country. They are even discussing issuing US green cards to all Chinese students just to simplify the process.
To give you an idea of the process to get a US visa as an adult--not a student--you have to prove you have real estate and family ties in China for you to return to. Getting out, with your family and assets, well, its pretty difficult. So, why do so many Chinese want this?
The answer I get is 'freedom.' I've given this a lot of thought. Life seems pretty good here. Especially if you have real estate and a good job. There are many opportunities that I can see. The government doesn't interfere in a lot of ways that it does in the US.
Gradually I've concluded that the 'freedom' to choose your own path and the 'freedom' to access information is what lures people. We have a variety of career paths in the US to get to various career endpoints. But here there is one path through the GaoKao, the best test takers get to go to the best colleges which have a direct path to a career endpoint.
The Gates path equivalent, those who drop out of college and go on to shape their world on their own terms doesn't exist here. Once you drop out you are stuck in a societal hierarchy with few options. The freedom of many options, that's what it is, and the freedom to make an informed choice.
There are 31 named species of hydrangea native to China. This one blooming on campus near my office has the bloom of a paniculata but on a short bush only 1 meter tall.
The lotus garden at Tsinghua is an ethereal delight. Nelumbo nucifera is NOT to be confused with waterlily, Nymphaea, an entirely different plant lacking the distinctive central spool shape that forms the seed pod. Waterlilies come in a variety of colors while lotus are white to hot pink, taohongse (literally: peach-red).
"One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water." Bhagavad Gita.
Hui tou jian
It's final, I will be visiting Dunsmuir this summer, July 27 to August 16! The end of the term is fast approaching. Suddenly I am very busy proofing articles for the next campus newsletter. It comes out 3x and is a 4-color glossy journal produced in English by our department. Other projects suddenly are phasing into the final stages, and all are needing proofing by the foreign expert in English. Every two weeks I search various international news outlets like Businessweek and Reuters for mention of Tsinghua. I found a nice bit about all the US patents granted this year. I think IBM had the most, over 500, and among universities Berkeley was #1 with just under 200. Tsinghua was right up there in the top 10 universities. So we made an article out of that for the newsletter/journal.
At the anmo clinic, I met a delightful and beautiful young woman busying herself with the tea set and who poured me these tiny little fluted porcelain thimbles of tea. Jasmine is the most popular kind in Beijing, hua cha. She had an art book in her lap and that led to exchanging cards and attempts to talk, her in Mandarin, me with a few pitiful phrases alternating with English. But the main ideas were clearly communicated. I wanted to see her studio, and we both wanted to check each others websites to see what kind of art the other did. http://www.qiuyunart.com/ She is pretty accomplished in Chinese brush painting, hua zhongguo hua.
She, QIU Yun, and her husband PEI Yunzhang, picked me up in her Honda. They took me to her studio in a nice apartment building which they bought and finished the interior themselves. It's huge with several rooms and a couple little East facing balconies. She also paints in oils with a spiritual Buddhist theme. They, Yun and Yun, are Tibetan Buddhists which also means they are vegetarian and don't drink.
We later went out to eat at a tony 'Natural Vegetarian' restaurant. For you foodies: we had cone-shaped nori wraps with lettuce, slivered pear and some other things, a vegetable stew with yellow squash and something purple cubed, little tofurkey sausages with Chinese katsup and powdered cumin dipping sauce, big communal plate of lightly seasoned escarole piled up high with cubed pickled something red and orange on the side, veggie pot stickers presented under a puffy paper thin rice batter crepe, and braised tofu slices.
The next day, on Sunday, xingqi tian, we went shopping for Cheryl's art supplies. We went downtown near the big Art Academy which is surrounded by little art shops where I got brushes and tubes of water base tube colors. wo maile huabi he yanliao.
BTW Yunzhang works at Google, yes there is a Google office still in Beijing at the Tsinghua (TUS Park) Science Park. He is 38-years-old, slightly older than my son. They have a 9-year-old son and live two buildings away from me with his mother and grandmother who is 90.
I went downstairs to do a little photography and happened to catch some big equipment squeeze through the gate, a big front loader and two big dump trucks. So I guess they don't use manpower for everything. The migrant men were off for the day, xiaban, eating their ramen noodles and drinking beer next to the little minimart. They are friendly, not shy about the camera. Clean clothes. Decent, hard working guys with families back home, far away.
Listening to some sets of Steely Dan made me think about the 80s in LA and my old friends and life at Cooke's Crating, living in a warehouse in downtown LA with other young artists. Steely Dan captured the whole LA scene, cocaine, yearning for fame, living life with art and music and disillusionment. Where is Rick Cox now? The talented studio musician and the coke whores Genisse and Sarah? I saw Chas on a demo video online doing the same ambient music awhile back. He still lives in the same house we lived in Sherman Oaks. Lisa with the green hair and Heather, Jame's favorite babysitter? I got my first computer job back then, working for Walter Bilofsky in the Union Bank building on Ventura Boulevard.
Today Yun and Yunzhang came over with their son James to give me a little Chinese painting hua zhongguo hua lesson and have dinner. Afterward we all got into Yun's car and drove to the TusPark complex where Yunzhang works. At the lower level are some little shops where Yun introduced me to a young woman who is a tailor. She is making up some things for me.
My internet connection was down for 24 hours again this weekend. Zhoumo wode diannao bukeyi shangwang le.
Monday was my last anmo treatment. My shoulder is pretty nearly straight, and my foot is back to normal. I got acupuncture needle treatment in my hand and foot. More excruciating massage of abdomen and legs, but the painful pressure points in my arms and shoulders have diminished, so I guess the treatment is working.
I went downtown for the last time to pick up the residence permit in my passport. This will be good until the end of my work contract at Tsinghua, in March 2012.
Hui tou jian
A temporary glitch with my internet connection meant I was dark all of last weekend. I learned some new Chinese as a result: Zhoumo wode diannao bukeyi shangwang. ‘I could not go online all weekend.’ Youshihou wo zai qinqua shangban hen yumen. ‘Sometimes it’s frustrating working at Tsinghua.’Read More