Reflections in the Water: Sweet River, I Kiss You

Precious Water

The land is hurting
The waters cry out
Weeping, she askes…
Can you feel my pain?

I’m in awe of you!
I’m in awe of you too!
I’m in you and you’re in me!!!
We inter-are

But, nothing last forever
Today we hold the smoking gun

Spread your arms big
Precious water, I kiss you
Let’s get together
There’s just one Love

Relishing Natural Beauty

I croon inside when I see nature that is happy and healthy here in China.

Walking through a very urban and busy part of Guangzhou in the Guangdong province several weeks ago with Xiao, we approached a little park… the park’s straggly vegetation was overhanging the sidewalk so much that we had duck our heads to avoid becoming entangled in it.

There was nothing special about the shrubby trees but I noticed a very strong response inside- the visual contact with the vegetation gave me a sense of being home- not “home” in the US, but home in my body and my spirit- it was analogous to getting a breath of fresh air or feeling warm sunlight on a cold day. This is not something I willed or wanted… it just arose in my awareness and in my heart. I assume that the stark, devoid-of-vegetation, highly urbanized, noisy surroundings helped create conditions for this experience to arise.

I grew up in Fairfax and San Anselmo, California (I still live in Fairfax). I’ve always loved my home in Marin. How could I not? I was blessed to be born into a place of staggering natural beauty surrounded by lakes, forests, trails galore and weather permitting, clear blue skies.

Fairfax and other places in nature do not lend themselves to the experience I had in Guangzhou. Of course, it’s when we are deprived of such natural beauty that we lovers of nature long for it most.

The day before I left for China, my bro and I visited Cataract Falls on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California. Ahhhh I love that place!

My bro Michael and I at Cataract Falls in Marin the day before I left for China.

 

Concrete Jungles

I am torn here in China. China has 1.3 billion people. Shanghai’s and so many other Chinese city’s high-rise buildings that number presumably in the tens of thousands are housing millions of Chinese people. Never before has the world seen these kinds of population densities; without such, there would be no other way to house the 24 million people living in Shanghai (San Francisco has 0.8 million by comparison). China is doing a great job at housing it’s huge population but the costs of her population and the associated urbanization are very, very high with respect to the ecological environment.
Whether looking out the plane, car or train window (this is true wherever I have traveled, not just China), I can’t help but see what has been lost.

When I was doing stream assessment work in Mill Valley during my graduate work in the late 90’s, I met a women who, using contemporary urban photos as a canvass, painted the historic landscape of those locations over the photo, while allowing the original photographic image to still be slightly visible. Her awesome and unique art form is so powerful- at one moment you see a beautiful wetland and then a moment later, squinting your eyes, you see, for example, Market Street in San Francisco filled with cars and people (in the same image).

Whenever I travel, near or far, I more and more see the landscape as does this artist. I perhaps too often see what was lost. Yes, I see what is still there too but I think about the trees, the butterflies, the birds and other life that are no longer are there.

In the highly urbanized concrete jungles, many of which are understandably a source of great pride here in China (clean, modern, efficient), I can scarcely see what was there ecologically because, in many cases there is not a square inch of the original landscape- of course, this can be said about any highly urbanized place in the world, the US included.

 

Magic of Xingping

When we arrived in Xingping, near Guilin, in the Guangxi Autonomous Region, I saw my first stunning natural landscape here in China.

Because of the steepness of these amazing limestone mountains much of the forest cover remains in tact, but the demands of food and desire to make money growing cash crops (like citrus fruit) is taking it’s toll on the less steep forests even here- it’s ironic that the 20 yuan bill has an image of this very landscape that is being impacted by those seeking monetary wealth.

Deforestation in Xingping

 

China’s Water Crisis

Before coming to China, I read, “China’s Water Crisis” by Ma Jun. It is an amazingly well researched look at China’s water situation, past and present and foretells China’s grim water future should dramtic positive changes  not occur. The beauty of a book on a nation’s water is that such a book must and does touch nearly all other aspects of human existence- it’s a powerful lens through which to view China.

I didn’t expect that reading what was essentially a book on water geography of China, I would find myself weeping throughout several parts of the book. The parts that bring the greatest sadness are the parts where animals, habitats, plants, lakes, etc. have been erased forever- a heart-breaker.

Unlike the US which has conducted much of it’s environmental destruction over a few hundred years, China has been modifying her landscape significantly for a thousand years and in some places twice that. And, like the US, the vast majority of destruction has happened in modern times and is accelerating dramatically now with China’s rapid industrialization.

Regarding water, China has damed it’s rivers, deforested it’s headwaters, drained, diked and built cities in its flood plains. And, with the advent of “progress” replaced the use of animal and human manure with chemical fertilizer along with adding chemical pesticides to the land. The result: China’s historic sustainable means of agriculture (for sure requiring hard manual labor) was replaced such that the animal and human manure, instead of fertilizing the fields, runs into China’s great rivers along with the excess chemical fertilizers. This along with industrial discharge and untreated sewage from substandard (or non-existant) sewage treatment plants (combined with reduced flows from water being dammed and/or diverted for city’s use), means that clear flowing water that originates in the upper reaches of China’s majestic, beautiful watershed runs, in some cases, at water quality “Class 5” (severe degradation)- essentially flowing sewers in many areas.


We visitied the gargantuan 3 Gorges Dam a technological wonder and, one of the world largest and most ecologically destructive dams and one which drowned some of China’s most ancient history.

Modern China’s Dark Side- Pollution

Attitudes and views toward China in the US range from negative to neutral on average, in my experience. Since China was “opened” to the US by Richard Nixon (a hero here in China, by the way) and since the Cold War ended and China has opened up economically to the West, American views of China continue to improve. I certainly had an opportunity to examine my own views and pre-judgments and cultural assumptions being in here in China and especially traveling and being with Xiao.

One of the favorite criticisms of China by Americans (at least in my circles) is it’s fossil fuel use (especially coal) and its associated environmental consequences. It is certainly a great concern, especially with respect to the highly polluting nature of coal, (mercury and other heavy metals) and more importantly its global warming impacts.

(Image from the film Manufactured Landscapes.

Xiao and I have a running joke in which we get lots of humorous mileage. We parody those who express intolerance of one group toward another by using the expression, “you people”- we recognize the parody of this (and feel it passes the Right Speech test ;o). When I jokingly say to Xiao, “you people (the Chinese) are burning too much coal, etc”, she reminds me that “you people” (the Americans) are a major factor driving the expansion of unsustainable factories and energy use through American’s rampant consumerism/consumption of cheap consumer goods from China, etc. Of course this is not the whole story but is certainly an important part of it.

Plastic waste in another serious pollutant in China’s landscape and waterways. In the early 2000’s, Stuart Moody and I did years of work together with Green Sangha raising awareness and helping to create policies around single use plastics in San Francisco Bay Area towns, cities and counties and at the state level. When giving presentations, we used to brag about the fact that China had banned the single-use plastic bag. If China, with it’s (relatively) new global economy and myriad of ecological problems could ban the bag,  the US certainly could do so as well! Well, China did ban the single use plastic bag as far as we know, but that is now just historic footnote. Single use plastic bags are back (assuming they were every gone here) with a vengeance. Like in the US in most places, virtally everything purchased leaves shops and stores in a plastic bag. Because of health scares around dirty utensils and the apparent spread of hepatitis because of inadequately washed dishes, etc. many restaurants have sterilized plates/utencils that are wrapped in plastic too.  Yes, single use plastic is very much alive and well here in China and the costs are high… oy vey!!!

 

Where does it go?

Where does it go? In the US we have an imperfect system for dealing with our obsession with plastic (which the American Chemistry Council is a key player in maintaining). We do one of three things: we burn it (never a great “solution when we turn a solid waste problem into a air pollution problem), we bury it in landfills or we “recycle” it (meaning it goes to China or some other third-world country to be processed back into plastic beads for reuse). Such “recycling” has a huge ecological footprint with cities doing the recycling often having the most polluted air, water, land and undoubtedly serious health consequences. The simple solution is reduce, reduce, reduce- or as Nancy Reagan was so fond of saying “just say no!”

In many of the places I visited in China, especially rural ones, there is simply no solid waste infrastructure at all. Like in the past in the US, communities have created make-shift “dumps” that on occasion are burned. It’s not uncommon to see partially burned heaps of trash in some of the most stunning, beautiful places in China. Often times this is done on the edge of rivers and streams.
And when it rains and the water rises the partially burned waste is washed away. But… as you know, on this Earth, there is no away. My heart breaks yet again.

There is no water body/waterway (stream, creek, river, lake or the ocean) that I have seen here that is not impacted by plastic. It’s truly a sad site. It’s not only ugly but is having a serious negative impact on aquatic/marine life (most of this plastic humans are using is ultimately ending up in the world’s oceans).

As Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us, “… we inter-are”. This is as true with individual people as it is with people and nature. We are not stewards or “managers” of the Earth, we are the Earth. As has been quoted so often, what we do to the water and the land, we do to ourselves.

The ideological battles in Washington DC regarding people being anti-science or the talk of abolishing the EPA is a reflection of a deep and profound lack of understanding of the interbeing of humanity and this precious Earth.

There’s no problems, only solutions…- John Lennon

I taught a course entitled, Environmental Problems and Solutions, at San Francisco State University a decade-plus ago and have attended many Bioneers conferences. One thing that has given me great hope from these experiences is the fact that there are simply no shortages of solutions for every imaginable problem we have on Earth. The solutions are not a lack of technology (in fact many solutions are super low tech), but have more to do with the severe level of greed that grows out of control in the human heart.  This greed expressed itself in the most concentrated form with large corporations that have institutionalized greed in the form of corporate charters with the sole purpose of making money often at the expense of the environment, social justice and human rights.

Just an hour ago, I walked through an amazing park in the city of Hangzhou in the Zhejiang Province. This park is actually part of an amazing pollution control effort to protect the beautiful Xi Hu’s (West Lake’s) water quality. Using a series of ponds, wetlands, aeration (small waterfalls), sediment traps, etc., water that used to run into this lake as raw sewage, now runs clear like the water in the upper reaches of Marin’s creeks.


Water treatment “facility” in Hangzhou

Before leaving the Shanghai area in early February, Xiao’s brother arranged a tour for me with a very high level official, Mr. Du, from the water treatment plant for the city of Yancheng- I got some crazy VIP treatment, usually reserved for high level polititians. Using a series of vast ponds and wetlands for sediment removal and biological treatment along with other traditional means of water treatment, this amazing facility is treating water for over 2.5 million residents of Yancheng!


Xiao’s brother Chun, mysef and Mr. Du, the CEO of the Yancheng Water Treatment agency

These are only two examples of countless amazing  efforts going on here in China that give me great hope. The challenge, however, is China’s future. China’s population is likely to continue to grow (the one child policy has been relaxed) and movement toward concentrating a high percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people near the coasts is sure to exasperate China’s water and other environmental problems.

The quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more true with respect to China and the Earth, generally. The “costs” of protecting the air, the land, the water and the soil are minuscule compared with the extremely high costs in terms of money, technology and human/ecological heath  of polluting this planet and its life support systems. How do we develop the wisdom to protect what we have first and then begin cleanup and restoration.


Oren Lyons

The big question not only for China but for the world is, do we have time?  As Native American Faithkeeper Oren Lyons of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy says, “What if we choose to eradicate ourselves from this Earth by whatever means? The Earth goes nowhere. And in time, it will regenerate, and then all the lakes will be pristine. The rivers, the waters, the mountains, everything will be green again. It’ll be peaceful. There may not be people but the Earth will regenerate. And you know why? Because the Earth has all the time in the world…”.

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Pandas and a Big Boat

I have never been super fond of the idea of being a “tourist”. I like think of myself a traveler… it makes me seem more down-to-Earth, deep and just flat-out cool!

However…

I surrendered this self-identity view completely in early March, engaging in the epitome of touristic activities here in China.

When I first landed in China, the first question my son Forest (somewhat jokingly) asked me is, “have you seen any pandas”. He loves the precious animals of the wild so very much that he is making ecology the heart of his studies at UC Santa Cruz. Of course, when I arrived in Shanghai there were no Pandas- (thank god- they would not like living in a place with 24 million people and no bamboo). The first Panda I saw was actually a Kung Fu panda in southern China but a life-size ceramic panda is not what Forest had in mind. 

 On to Chengdu….

During our visit to Chendu in the Sichuan Province, we visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. While the experience was more like going to the zoo (and crowded like Disneyland (without Micky and Donald (duck that is))) the Research Base appears to be doing great work breeding and repatriating these beautiful and endangered animals back to the wild (there are only 2000 of these animals left, 70% of which are in Sichuan Province). The young pandas were nothing short of a joy to watch playing, climbing and rolling around with one another… way too freakin’ cute.  The fact that this facility is all about saving these precious creatures made it much easier to see them captive.


Most of the experience was very cool until we came across Ne Ne, an adult in a very small pen; he was going nuts, pacing back and forth, hyperventilating and grabbing the cage gate like a mad man in solitary confinement.

This animal was “adopted” by a family with a Irish surname (I guess this means they made a donation). We asked the officials why this animal was locked up in such a small pan and they said that there was not enough room in the outdoor area for all of the adults (adult pandas are not social like the young- in fact they are very solitary creatures). With the great abundance of land in this “park” (it’s GIANT), Xiao and I strongly believe they can do much better than that. We have the animal’s and donor’s name and plan on rattling some cages when we get home.

This ex-traveler peaked as a garden variety generic tourist with a trip on the cruise on Yangtze River. This was not on our itinerary but quickly made the short list after reading my friend Sonia Song’s book Donkey Baby during this trip. 

Sonia was born on the “Long March” in the middle of a war zone just before the Communist Party took control of China in the late ’40’s .  Her parents and their fellow soldiers literally had to stop while her mother gave birth;  Sonia was promplty swaddled and placed on the back of a donkey until she could be brought to a safe place out of the battle zone.  Having a baby in a battle zone is an acoustic equivalent  of having a target on your back.  Like Forest Gump, Sonia lived  astounding parts of China’s modern history, including going to school with the elite (I know, there wasn’t supposed to be elite after the revolution, but there was…) just adjacent to Chairman Mao’s wife’s personal (gigantic) garden, which is now a park, and then as a teenager, during the Cultural Revolution, being accused of being a capitalist sympathizer along with both of her parents, etc., all of which were at risk of being executed (some of their friends and colleagues were wrongly accused and murdered by the overly ambitious teenage red guards). Some of her stories are harrowing, check out Donkey Baby if you want an amazing look at China and its contradictions during this historic period.

In Donkey Baby, Sonia describes her trip back to China (after living for decades in the US)  60+ years after her birth. She tells a story about taking a cruise on the Yangtze just before the gigantic 3 Gorges Dam was completed and the waters began to rise. Her descriptions of the magnificent landscape sold me on taking the cruise, despite the fact that much of the magnificent ecosystems and the sites where ancient cities and villages once stood are now under hundreds of feet of water.The cruise was a realativly classy affair with 3 meals served per day.  Xiao and I are “che su”- eating vegetarian on this trip.  The chef knew us because for each meal he either prepared or at least pointed out the non-meat options to us… the new Chinese love their flesh meals, something that China will never  be able to sustain (but that’s a different blog).   


The spectacular part of the trip, of course was the gorgous gorges….

Before leaving for China, I loaded up my Ipad with lots of crazy electronic music, dubstep, reggae and a bunch of cool world music, including several of DJ Dragonfly’s mixes from his gigs. I also installed a very cool DJ app. On the last night of the cruise, I hired myself (chuckle here) to DJ in the bar. Armed with the coolest music in this part of the solar system, I hit the DJ booth prepared to knock em’… alive!

I began with some smooth and sweet modern, groovin’ tunes, making flawless transitions with a moderate house volume. As you can tell I was very impressed with my maiden voyage in the DJ booth. When crowds arrived (11 fellow passengers) all from Europe and Australia, I was prepared to show them how we do it at Oakland Ecstatic Dance!!!

My first affirmation of how amazing I was was a thumbs-down from one of the European mates. Luckily it was not the gesture that in our society usually indicates absolute and unquestionable disapproval but it was simply a firm request to turn down the volume… so I turned down only to get another thumbs-down (this would be the second of three- (we are not at Ecstatic anymore Toto!). I knew I was already reaching their hearts at this point but it was when they sent a representative to ask for 60’s and 70’s songs that I knew my new livelihood was being launched toward fame- NOT….

“Lord, why have you forsaken me”? I asked over and over again… no response. Then I rembered that the Lord had been kicked out of China decades ago.    I searched my collection finding only “Freebird” from Lynyrd Skynyrd and some Huey Lewis and the News songs… not exactly what they wanted but at least I had something from this bygone era. Lesson one as a DJ, you cannot limit the music you keep only to what you like…. 


We arrived to the stunning, historic city of  Lijiang after two flights and multiple bus and cab rides.   On March 17, Xiao left Lijiang, flying back home to care for her parents who are in the hospital- her mother getting heart tests and her father being treated for his accelerating Parkinson’s. She is also there to support her brother, whose wife is having health problems and possibly headed for surgery.  Xiao’s deep reverence for her family is inspiring- I/we can learn a lot from this and other cultures that still have this reverence in tact.  In China though, like so much else, it is being lost.

Off I go to Lugu lake, a beautiful valley/lake that is dominated by an ethnic community that has maintained its ancient matriarchal society in this patriachal world for countless generations- it is one of the few left in the world. 

Everything is already very different with Xiao gone. I am relying heavily on the Google Translate smartphone app… what a godsend! I am so grateful to have been traveling with Xiao….  I don’t know how I would have done this solo.  Traveling with Xiao has kept the language/communication learning that comes with necessity from occuring but those days are over, for now. 

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Yelang Valley- Whoa!

Chinese Version
Rarely (except at Burning man) do I experience this level of awe with respect to art.


Xiao and I just visited the Yelang Valley in Huaxi, China in the southern Guizhou province. We stayed on the land of Song Laoshi or Teacher Song as we respectfully call him.

In December a friend sent Xiao these links below; this place instantly made it to the top of our China itinerary (if you can only visit one of these links, visit the second one on youtube, you won’t be disappointed):

While the photos/video are worth “a thousand words”, Teacher Song’s story bring this place to life at a much deeper level. His art is a manifestation of leaving a conventional life of materialism and diving head first to the process of his full creative/artistic expression in what was at the time a preciously remote valley.

His art is nature itself that includes the rocks, the beautiful canyon that hold his installations and the water that reflects his stunning creations.


China is in a mad race to modernize. Anything that gets in the way of new infrastructure is destroyed or where possible moved (this has been the case with some moveable/historically significant artifacts/temples). In some cases replicas are made to “replace” the ancient structures, etc.

China’s transition from the old to the new is making way for new residential towers, shopping malls, roads, universities, etc. China has become a consumer society on steroids with the price of environmental destruction and the future of China’s life support systems in decline and understood by few.


When Teacher Song came to this valley it was so remote, it required a long trek through a beautiful forest-filled valley to access it. Today, there are multi-lane boulevards, towering university buildings, but few people. This is a new city that is only currently inhabited by a student population that is a small fraction of what it will be a few years from now.

While the threats to this special part of the Yelang Valley are apparently not immanent, the pressure to build on Laoshi’s land will continue to grow as the surrounding city and universities grow.


Teacher Song’s is now 77 years old; during the more than 3 1/2 hours Xiao interviewed him, we experienced his still strong life-force and passion for creativity, simplicity, the expansion of  his creations and support facilities and, most importantly, for supporting other artists and musicians in expanding their art forms in the Yelang Valley.


When we asked how we can help, his reply was simply to share this place with others. Let them know that this place is available for learning for doing art, music and for expanding creativity and fostering the art of living simply and sustainably on this precious Earth. His sentiment is captured well by this quote from Clarissa Pinkola, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach”.

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Ahhh- Such Beauty in Xingping

When your population is 1.3 billion, you need to have dwellings and all of the necessary support systems for all of those homosapians.

China is doing it.  Perhaps what is most staggering here is the buildings that people live in.  It’s not uncommon to see dozens or even hundreds of 30-50 story apartment towers filling the landscape of cities.

 


Around half of the population of China is now living in such urban centers in the eastern side of China, many on the east and southern coasts.

If you know me,  you know that I love being away from hustle and bustle of cities, preferring small towns or to be in or on the edge of nature.

Enter, stage left: Xingping…. WHOA!!!!

This part of the county’s landscape is covered by stunning karst topography.  Karsts are geological limestone formations.  The topography here is formed by rivers cutting through limestone valleys, leaving these stunning formations.


The visit to the small town of Xingping got even better when we discovered and decided to stay at a small permaculture farm/hotel near our hostel.

It was the first time since being in China that I can say that there were no human sounds (trucks, horns, street vendors , etc.) overnight and into the morning.  Mixing stunning beauty with peace and quiet and conscious community each are gems and when combined together makes for “Nirvana”.


We left our luggage in Xingping proper and with small backpacks spent two nights at this sweet spot getting a taste of what we hope becomes a big part of China’s future.

Many of these amazing karst features have pathways that have been built enabling hikers to get to the top… some of the sections are a bit hairy. These metal steps were built in areas that were essentially shear vertical drops….

Also mind blowing is many (all) of these big mountains are like Swiss cheese.  Our new friend Tiago from Brazil took us into one of the giant Swiss cheese portals into the Earth. The ceiling of these caves reached 300-400 feet high- it felt like some kind of Planet of the Apes apocalyptic film set.  We spent hours exploring the mile long caves filled with limestone stalagtites and stalagmites, some of which were at an inconceivable scale.

For a sense of the magnatude of this cave, see if you can find the little ant in the middle of the photo… that’s me….

Onward to Guiyang on Friday….

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China- Journey to the Middle

Four weeks in China… so familiar so different.

Nearly 6 months ago, my dear friend and companion Xiao invited me to join her in Zhong Guo (litteraly middle country).  The US is Mei Guo, beautiful country. China too is a mei guo!

Xiao was born and raised here in China but because of her social status growing up,  and  her intense schooling (very rigorous schedule in high school and college) and because she has lived in the US for the past 12 years,  she has not traveled in China much.

So after a rich and beautiful (and sometimes intense) two weeks with Xiao and her family in Yancheng (where I froze due to my inability to understand that if you are freezing 100% of the time, you must be under-dressed) , we set off to the warm and beautiful South East of China.

After a brief stop in Nanjing, China’s one-time capital, the site of a brutal massacre by the Japenese during World War II and the location where Xiao attended college, we landed in Xaimen (pronounced like shaman- a good omen). 


I finally was able to peel off some of my 7 layers of clothes and take in the seemingly infinite space that comes with standing on the edge of a continent and breathing the fresh(ish) air of the East China Sea.


We settled into Xiamen visiting local markets and connecting with the local scene.  

Connecting needs to be qualified regarding verbal communication, at least for me….  I studied Mandarin for several months before leaving for China, the language spoken by most but not all Chinese (the South East is dominated by Cantonese and the there are countless dielects throughout all of China).  

Because of some mix of delusion and an over abundance of self confidence I thought that my studying of Mandarin would allow me to communicate with people here.  Nice try Andy ;o).  

Without Xiao my communication would have spanned the spectrum from three-word phrases to tragedy.  And regarding  reading the signs and menus… I sit at the far end of  the spectrum just beyond “nice try dude”.  I do know three characters though… one, two and three.  One has one line, two has two lines and three has… you guessed it… three lines!!!  I can ask where the bathroom is and how much things are and I can say hello and goodbye and several other things.  However, the responses I get… well let’s just say, it sounds like Chinese to me.

I just recently discovered that my Google Translator can tranlate my spoken sentences to audio Mandarin which can be helpful but like so many of the signs here that are written in “Chinglish” (mis-translated English), the Google Translate app is very much imperfect.

Xiamen, an island filled with a bustling city and LOTS of skyscrapers and tall apartment  buildings, etc., was actually  nice- we stayed away from the middle of the city on the edge near the beach. 

But, it was the island off of the coast of Xiamen island, Gulangyu, that was a real treat.  First of all and totally unexpectedly, the island has no cars- Deb would have loved this place!  In fact it doesn’t have any bicycles to speak of either. The streets are narrow and quiet between 11 PM and 9 AM.  When the ferry comes with day-trippers from Xiamen, the narrow streets and choked with people shopping and exploring the long and fascinating history of this island with a rich history that includes the presence of the Dutch, English, Japanse, US and others.

We have been visiting many Buddhist temples.  In the late 50’s and 60’s Chaiman Mao, the leader of the newly born Chinese Communist government successfully eliminated all places of worship from the country.  To be caught practicing religion of any kind could cost one his/her life.   But the Buddha Dharma was, of course, not eliminated… it rested in the hearts of the people that were lovers of the Buddha and resided in areas that the Communist government could not touch like Taiwan, Hong Kong and remote areas of western China.  

Chan Buddhism is the origin of Zen in Japan.  While many of us know about Zen, few Americans know much about Chan- myself definitely included.  

Xiao has been connecting with the roots of Chinese Buddhism, Chan, on this journey.  Many Chinese visit temples and bow to the Buddha statues but few, as we understand it, have regular Dharma practices.  Xiao, with her not uncommon sweet karma, was able to attend a Dharma talk which are reserved for monks, nuns and lay practioners of the area.  This talk was the first of which we have found at temples we have visited.  I attended too.  I sat quietly with desire (the same desire that Buddha’s Four Noble Truths remind us of) wanting so bad to understand the extremely charasmatic and wise Dharma teacher’s teachings and his Dharma humor that had the crowd laughing and undoubtedly gaining insights into the teachings.

NOTE TO SELF: Get fluent in Chinese before you next trip to China ;o).

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