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Happy Woman's Day!

When I asked Bing Qing if there was a Man's day, she looked at me and said "No, no, we don't have one of those. Do you?" I told her that we did not, and then said "I guess every other day is Man's day then right?" And through her laughing and nodding I assumed she agreed.

Bing Qing took us on a tour of her university (Shandong Normal University... yeah, I don't know why its called that), on the way to the 1,000 Buddha Temple Mountain! Her university was pretty cool with a huge statue of Chairman Mao in the front greens. This got us talking about Chinese history (b/c I don't remember any!) It was only within the last hundred years that China moved from an Emperor system to a Chairman system, and Bing Qing believes, as most Chinese do, that Chairman Mao was a hero who made life much better under the Communistic system. Unfortunately as with every great movement for the people, things never pan out as they should. The rich and powerful make sure of that. But she said that if she could choose between the system where the old chairman chooses the new chairman, or a system where people get to vote between 2 choices of candidates who had the most money to make it onto a ballot, she would go with the chairman system. At least then the people aren't duped into believing that they actually have a choice. She actually didn't say it like this, but if she were American, this is how I think it would have come out. Being that she is Chinese, the truth in what she was saying was skirted around and made to sound much nicer than she probably felt. However, after we brought up that we don't like either of those options, we explained (as best we could), how the parliamentary system works in counties like the ones we are going to move to; and all 3 of us agreed that a voting system based on proportional representation is the best choice because makes it so no single party has a majority of seats which better represents how no single party represents the will of an entire cuntry.

When we made it to the 1,000 Buddha Temple Joe needed to take a cold break, so we went to a restaurant and he ordered some tea. I was upset that he was waisting our time, so I didn't drink any (plus, the dinner ware comes prepackaged in plastic wrap, and if you break open you cups and plates you get charged for their cleaning and rewrapping, so it wasn't worth it to me to pay for a few sips of tea).


Then, we finally made it to the continuation of the Taishan Mt. range! Wait, did Bing Qing just tell us that the Taishan Mt. range goes around the outside of Jinan? "Yes, and the temples on Taishan Mt. are only maybe 60 km away." Thats maybe a half hour drive! We left Taishan on a train that took 3 hours to get to Beijing, then the subway for another hour to get to the airport, then we spent maybe 5 hours sleeping at a 5* hotel to then take another train 3 hours back to Jinan! We could have hiked to the top of Taishan rather than rushing from the Halfway Gate to Heaven, spent one more night in Taian, and then took a bus, not train, to meet Master Yang in Jinan! That would have saved probably about 500 yuen and 8 hours of needless travel! Hair! Pulling out! Steam! Spewing out of ears! Damn Chinese Whispers! (That is what the British call the game Telephone.)

1,000 Buddha Temple:




Yeah, that was the biggest Buddha they had at the temple, and probably one of the biggest ones in the world. He was big.




Now the staircase became narrow, steeper, and windy.

This girl kept following us up the staircase, except from in front of us! Her and her boyfriend were ahead of us on the stairs, but anytime we would slow down to take a picture of something, they would slow down, and any time we would take a break because we were tired, they would rest too. Then her boyfriend finally had enough and turned around and asked if his girlfriend could get a picture with us.


Thats one of the hotels on top of 1,000 Buddha Temple. That seems to be the trend with Chinese sacred places. A mixture of sculptures, engraved calligraphy into stone, temples and hotels.


Then Joe found a rather unstable looking toboggan ride.


And if I even sightly hinted that I might say something to talk him out of it, his eyes would fill with an anger that told me that anything I said against this idea would kill his spirit like a child who discovers that Santa isn't real because the baby in line for the photo in front of them pulls the fake beard off exposing not just the truth that this man doesn't exist, but that your entire love and trust system you had going with your family has just been proven to be all a sham as well! So, I held my tongue, and Bing Qing and I agreed to meet him at the bottom. It only cost 15 yuen, which is like $2, so it wasn't like it was a waste of money. I just got a little worried when I asked Bing Qing to translate for me what the ride opperator was screaming as Joe used both hands to push against the sides to make the ride go faster. She translated: "Slow down! Hold onto the hand break! Don't go so fast!" Yeah, theres no way Joe caught a word of that, and I'm not too sure he would have listened even if he understood the guy.


When I first read of angry kids and fake Santa beards I didn't think it fit. But, as I think more about that day, I admit that this simile is an exquisite lie that reveals much truth.

I remember Climbing down those curving stone steps like a child on christmas seeing a huge toy racetrack under the Christmas tree. My eyes lit up and lifted a big grin from my cheeks when I saw my racetrack under many christmas pines, some decked with snow. I knew this was the one place where I could have this kind of fun for so little money, and I remember flashing Vanessa some angry eyes above pursed lips when she suggested I shouldn't go.

The track had a conveyor belt that pulled the heavy plastic sleds straight up the hill (with you on it for an extra ten yuan). The sleds looked like a heavy duty black colored version of those colorful plastic racing sleds we had as kids. The ones that were rectangular with upward curving foot pads on the front corners, sleek racy curving side walls, raised center console that turned the lower sides where your legs go into two skis, and a little bucket seat in back. I remember we had two of these and they were solid, made of one piece of hard plastic, except for the two little hand brake levers on the side walls. You could grab one of those levers and pull it back as snow sprayed at your side and your sled would turn left or right. I'm pretty sure my brother and I actually first saw those two sleds under the tree on Christmas. I remember one was royal blue; the other, fire engine red. We always wanted the blue one until it got beat up and one hand brake stopped working. We would race or curve back and forth crossing and running into each other; jumping ramps and running into trees. It's no wonder these great childhood vehicles carried us until they fell apart, destroyed.

This vehicle had one hand break lever in the center and it might have had plastic or metal runners on the bottom, or even little wheels. I was so excited, I didn't care to look. I just hoped it wouldn't be slow and boring, so to make sure I hopped on the little hard plastic seat and, with the video camera in my lap, started pulling myself quickly down the slope. Luckily I got Vanessa to give me the extra sweater and had my hood and hat pulled tight because the cold wind was freezing a dried and cracked smile on my face and making my wide eyes water.

The ride was more than I bargained for. I started going quite fast already racing around a turn. On the next straight away I grabbed the video camera (instead of the brake: aren't I smart!) and started the video. I held the camera near my chest and watched the real world. I didn't want to use the break because I'm conditioned to the American lawsuit system that prohibits any mechanical ride that could be dangerous. But, you can strap on a snowboard and break your neck because it's harder to blame a hill or a snowboard.

This is not America. In China, it's survival of the fittest. If you're too stupid or crazy to know when you're about to crash and burn, then we don't need you. I start going really fast. The trees are zipping by now. As I round the bend, the sled slides up to the top of the sidewall. I'm having a blast. But, when the turn is done the side wall gets very short, and I'm going so fast that I come a little too close for comfort to the top of the low side wall. Sometimes the camera points up because I wanted to show the trees and sometimes I just lose control. I go ahead and pull the break just a little on the next turn as a flock of startled pigeons takes off in front of me. I probably saved myself from an ejection and an ugly tuck and roll through dead branches and rocks.

The ride was definitely the greatest entertainment I had on the entire China trip. It brought me back to Racing through the cool mountain air north of Sedona with no helmet; smiling eyes squinting and watering at the dream world of rock formations popping out of brilliant green forest; hugging the bike around insane curves with my face below the windshield.

I used to be a daredevil, but these are the only stunts that still impress. Roller-coasters are boring because they give the rider no control and the scenery is rarely great. They send you in circles and drop you where you began, instead of transporting you somewhere; taking you on a journey. In-line skating doesn't even take me there anymore. Even though I wrote a philosophical college paper on why that sport so exhilarated me as it freed me from fears and let me fly through the air. Now I enjoy most, the fast paced vehicles that transport me to the next level, through a wonderland of scenery. I enjoy being transient, but grounded. And most of all I like moving in curves.


When we met Joe at the large laying down Buddha,


we got a call from Wei Ping telling us that he was ready to pick us up to go to lunch.


He took us to the Zhang family's apartment. Lili wasn't there, but her father, mother, and brother were there, busy making us lunch. It was a little strange b/c we ate in their kitchen first, just Mr. Zhang, Me, Joe, Bing Qing and Master Yang.


You cold tell that Joe wasn't very happy with the paparazzi.


Wei Ping was also nice enough to video tape us eating as well with our video camera. When we found out he worked for the post office, we should have known he would be able to figure out how to use our video camera even though he doesn't know how to read english (engineers!)

Then whatever was left over the rest ate while we sat in their living room. Afterwards we took some more traditional Chinese pictures. They are really into posed photos to let you know that at one time, you were there, and you were there with them, but thats it. You see these kind of photos a lot with Kung Fu student's and their masters.


Except w/o the arm around the shoulder, "Control yourself Joe!"


There, much better. Now we just have to figure out that the Chinese put their arms at their sides or hold them behind the back.


Okay, now Joe is picking up on things while I am still slow to start.

Then we headed across a park square to Mr. Zhang's office building. He used to work for this company doing engineering I believe (I can't remember), but now he is retired and they brought him back to the company simply to do calligraphy for them (like I said before, calligraphy is a really big deal in China). Here are photos of us being taken to meet his boss:


And then we get to his workshop/ office, and we are asked to pick one word that means the most to us that we would like for Mr. Zhang to paint for us as a gift that is priceless, but if pressed for an exact amount (which we didn't do at the moment, but found out later on when filling out the postage information to mail to America), worth thousands! One word? Right now? Off the top of my head? Couldn't you give us a few days to really think this one over? Joe and I are both baffled.


Can't someone else go first? (BTW all the paintings hung up are made by Mr. Zhang and or his teacher.)


Ahhh! He's got the paper ready! The special read paper with the golden dragons and phoenix's circling each other on special rice paper that will last over 500 years!

I finally look at Joe and ask him "What about Dao?" This was it, this was the perfect word for Joe. Taoism/ Daoism is his philosophy, his passion, his inspiration. It was the perfect word to paint for him and he would have picked it if he had a few days to think on it as well. Then Master Yang gave me a heads up, "While he paints this, you think of what word you want on yours." What? We are each getting one? I... [my mind goes blank, like the calm before the race gun shoot, then "bam!" it starts racing through my life to find a single word that meant something to me and was fitting for the art form]



I was intensely interested; watching every detail of the way he stood, moved, and even the way he breathed. This lion was in his den showing grace in thought and movement. He was quite and respectable the entire time. This art has a very long history and it is deeply tied to Chinese martial arts, as well as philosophy and Daoism. The greatest caligraphers of the past knew the depth and meaning behind every stroke. Each word was a poem in itself; a story of its creation and its purpose. Painting the story brings out emotions as the master feels the connection of hard wood vibration, soft brush, and liquid flow. A mere glimmer of this feeling is transfered to the paper. However, you can recreate the feeling when you see it because everyone has had a time in their life when they felt the perfect flow; the connection. As master Yang said, "This has as much Gung Fu as any martial art."



Now the heat was on me, but I was ready for it.

"Breath, Spirit, Chi." An all in one word that encompasses this unexplainable (in my opinion) energy of the universe that is linked to the Yoga Prana and Pranayama (something I feel a closer attachment than the Tai Chi and Chi Gong of Chinese breath energy practices). Prana is the natural and intelligent innate energy, and Pranayama is the practice of breathing associated with it.

I like to think that Chi does not belong to any one philosophy. I disagree with how some people who feel Chi and try to explain it to me as if it was some amazing thing that if I only knew what they knew... I just feel like this kind of talk is a way to empower yourself rather than the source that you feel empowered by. Chi is something that is universal across multiple paths of discovery. It is also individualistic, and it doesn't belong to anyone in particular, not to the masters of Chi Gong or the practitioners of White Magic. So for anyone who has ever who has ever done something like closed their eyes as a child let the wind and energy of the world guide where you walked not because someone told you that this was Chi, but because you thought it was something that could possibly work all on your own, let that feeling wash over you again, and know that here it is in the present (or recent past as this video was taken a few months ago at this point), for you to see, and possibly even feel, but only on a metaphysical plane, no fingerprints on this painting!


Master Yang and I agreed that Nisha's caligraphy of "Chi" had the most Gung Fu (mastery). You can see the way every movement flows into the next. He put his breath, and his energy into the word. The brush smoothly rises and falls, creating waves of different thicknesses; from heavy pools of blackness, to that thin circular touch; a brush with nothingness. If you didn't catch that, try watching the previous video again in fullscreen and close your eyes and take a deep breath before you press play.



Now he was onto Bing Qing's scroll where she asked him to write a quote from Confucius about the search for knowledge being separate from the desire for the corruptors of money and power.


Then onto Master Yang's. He said he already has a few of these paintings hanging in his house from previous visits, but this time he, a man born in the year of the tiger, wanted to honor the new year (the year of the tiger) by getting the word "Tiger"


Master Yang's father got the symbol for Happiness (I think, the same as at the banquet the other night) and a quote from his quote book written (I'm not sure which one he picked). He basically writes down quotes he hears that he likes from almost any source, as long as the philosophy is good.


I liked his idea about the quote book, and I started having Bing Qing translate quotes for me because Mr. Zhang wanted to make Joe and I another painting, but this time a long quote scroll, and I was out of ideas. Joe was running around with Wei Ping trying to find the Tao Te Ching written by Lao-tzu while Master Yang got a quote scroll about how Kung Fu is all about training on the basics.


When Joe had given up on finding the book that was supposedly somewhere, and Bing Qing read us the first quote on the new page, we both thought it was perfect... for me. It basically said that if you want be happy you must first learn to be independent. Joe kept messing around, saying that he wasn't sure, and maybe he wanted to try and get Bing Qing to translate into Chinese one of his own philosophies, but we were running out of time. Bing Qing quietly came up to Joe and finally said "This man, he is very famous, and it is not right to keep him waiting, so..." I had heard enough, and I told Joe he could either have the introduction of the Tao Te Ching or the quote from Master Yang's father's quote book. Joe was completely against using the introduction because it wasn't real philosophy, it was just saying "This book is about philosophy" essentially. So we went with the the quote book. This spanned 2 lines of Chinese, and so he made 2 vertical wall hangings that he said we must separate with something in between them, like the Chi or Tao scroll (but I think I want to buy a Chinese painting to use there instead, too many words otherwise).


The, the token documentary photograph where you have no idea what we were doing together, but you know that we were, in fact, together.


Then we headed back to Mr. Zhang's place and had some really great dinner.


Posted by - Rain 00:24

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I think I like the virtual toboggan ride better than I would have liked the real one. As Vanessa used the quote the famous philosophers, Huey, Duey, and Louey: "That was fun, now that we know we can live through it!"

by georgi r

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