Living in Beijing

I’m very comfortable here and can move around easily and safely, my Chinese is hysterical (at least the Chinese think so)… Many of the new comers (little creative souls from all corners of the globe even seek out my advice (and seem to enjoy my company)

My book is being printed… I’ve actually started drawing and painting, which I blame my friend Brian Wallace for cos he’s offered me free accommodation out in the artist commune – north west of Beijing and there is nothing else to do, and there are great big white walls and piles of paper and oil paint and silence and its warmer in the fridge than in the studio……..

I had dinner in the village with the local ‘framer’ (an artisan – like the old days – respected as a master) and he ordered ‘dog’ (gou ruo) and it tastes a bit like corned beef but not ‘salty’… after someone fished the pad of the paw with a claw still attached from the hot pot bowl my interest in experimentation died completely.

This morning, off to Wangfujing (the main shopping street next to the Forbidden City) to meet with Zhang, the Chinese girl who’s studying at La Salle (Singapore). We did the MAPD marketing course together in Melbourne just before I left Australia and she’d like to do an exhibition of my work ‘for the Chinese’ … in Qingdao, so we’ll see what happens…

Tonight an exhibition opening here, at ‘Shangri-la”, a group show (east/west) with a bonfire (thank god) and African dancers / drummers (there are a lot of Africans in China)

Adventures in the Hakka Villages of Fujian

I’m in Quanzhou …. Fujian Province… have just reached civilisation (as the Chinese know it) after spending 3 days in the mountains sleeping in bare earth rooms with wooden floors (those big round Hakka buildings)

Firstly I managed to find Yongding… I caught a train from Shenzhen and arrived at 4am… then a mini bus to the Hakka Villages, huge round rammed earth building, some up to 5 stories high containing 250 rooms, staircases worn smooth with feet, massive inner courtyards full of smaller buildings all with curved gray tiled roofs and cobbled stone floors, full of pigs and ducks and chickens and hay and old baskets and pictures of the ancestors and the red guard and the long march with an occasional color photo of a modern looking grandchild…. the outer courtyards filled with hundreds of wooden racks covered in orange persimmons and deep crimson flax drying in the sun…

Late that afternoon I was molested by an seemly charming, 84 year old man … after a cup of tea in one of the earth buildings, he suggested we walk up through the persimmon groves to get a better view the whole village… it was quite hot and the hill was steepish, at the top he kept holding his chest… I thought he was having a heart attack… concerned I reached forward where by he ‘fell upon me’ ravishing my upper arm with his wet kisses (he was much shorter than I) whilst squeezing my breasts with both hands…. quite a surprise really!?…

Left that village at dawn, after a troubled sleep (there was no lock on my door… and no windows to speak of…just holes in the earth walls)….

Then spent 4 bus trips (about 12 hours) finding a tiny stone village called Peitian, which I had read about and it was worth the trouble… difficult to describe the ‘warmth’ I felt… genuine friendly inquisitive people…. stone streets lined with small fresh water streams… Mao slogans still visible (abet slightly faded) on stone walls, courtyard type single story houses with rice raked to dry, hay hanging from every available rack, chickens and dogs under foot, wooden carts and troughs and water buckets… the locals had set up a rough sort of stage in a rice paddy decorated with wooden gods and hand painted scrolls and piles of ‘offerings’ and all the old men were having a wonderful time letting off fire crackers and burning incense and playing music (and I suspect, drinking rice wine) from before dawn to well after dark each day…

And best of all the Chongqing Opera was in town for the four day festival… I had been ‘befriended’ by a group of teenagers who had ‘helpfully’ shown me all of the ‘houses’ describing the features… paintings, carvings, eaves, shrines, paving, people…
we communicated well in our broken englese… (well enough) and they took me to the opera… in an ancient house (600 years old) the large courtyard filled with thin wooden benches… and full of ancient Chinese men and women, best clothes still holding the creases of careful storage…. hair and teeth scrubbed ….and dozens of small children and babies, everyone excited and chattering loudly right through the first act…. of rather softish performance…. the second act was more lively as the performers and the audience competed for volume superiority… and by the third I thought the performers had won until for some reason the crowd noticed me… turned around ‘en mass’ back to the stage… to have a good long look at the strange creature…. Catherine was in photographic heaven!!!!!

I later discovered that the younger boys (aged 11 or 12ish) who had spent the day wandering around with us, had never seem a ‘westerner’ … so that explained the fascination….

At night all I could hear was the stream outside my window and in the morning (well it was still dark really) the crowing of a rooster in the courtyard woke me… this made me smile… (I remember cursing when the roosters woke me too early, when I lived in Matong)…

Today, I have been on a bus (well 3 buses) from Peitian to Penkou to Longren to Quanzhou, from the mountains to the sea.. Quanzhou was a major trading port (in the olden days) and there is a strong central plain influence to the architecture (pre Song Dynasty 960 – 1279 AD), the houses are quadrangles built with red bricks and tiles and contain large brick and stone carvings…. tomorrow Hui’an and the ancient stone city of Chongwu (1387AD) built by the Ming Dynasty as a front line defense against marauding Japanese pirates…. (can I say that?)

Back in Beijing on the 21st/22nd… (Its been good to be warm… for a while)

XX Kate

Freezing in Beijing

It’s freezing in Beijing… temp under 0 degrees at nights… I have invested in a large padded jacket which keeps me warm (at least the middle bit of me) during my evening walks to and from cocktails at the Australian Embassy…. everyone is excited about the potential outcomes of the election and planning to ‘celebrate’ on the 24th.

Today I leave my apartment at TuanJieHu and move across to the centre of the city…. I will be staying at the newly refurbished Wangfujing Hostel (where I am working with the owner to redecorate the bar and bedrooms with my photographic images)

On Sunday I am catching the night train to Shanghai…. SOPA has contracted me to conduct a feasibility study into hosting an exhibition of Chinese Cultural Revolution posters during the Beijing Olympics… So I’m having lunch with Mr Yang at the Propaganda Museum on Tuesday to negotiate the proposal and select the posters.

Then on Friday 9th I’m catching the fast train to Hong Kong and flying to Taiwan for a week, which should be interesting as the Chinese TV (CCTV) is televising heated debates about Taiwan’s ‘disruptive/disrespectful’ application to join the UN…. some veiled talk re: ‘of course we don’t plan any military action’…..

I then plan to travel back to Beijing via the coastal stone villages and have a look at a ‘different’ part of China.

This Saturday there is a big opening of a new contemporary art museum called UCCA, at the 798 Art District…. should be a busy day as I am also taking the final draft of my new book to the publishers there….

Trekking on the Great Wall

Had a wonderful time yesterday, spent 5 hours trekking/climbing the great wall from Jianshanling to Simatai (about 10 km’s)… fabulous…. once I ‘lost’ the large group of ‘loud’ well meaning women in red T-shirts … ‘Doing the Challenge’ for medical research (with ‘porters’ to carry their bags, jackets, water, food?!!!!!) …. I really enjoyed myself… chatting to the local ‘farmers’ who now generate income from selling ‘drinks’ to the tourists (warm beer at 10am???) …. wandering along…. taking photos….

Those of you who know me well, know I am terrified of heights (have trouble on a step ladder)…. hate ‘going fast’ … hate ‘falling down’…. so you will understand how brave I was to ‘DECEND’ the wall via a ‘flying fox’….. approx 1km from the top of a mountain, over a transparent blue lake to a little boat which took me to my final destination… (my knees were literally shaking as I waited for my ‘turn’)….. and, it was OK….. I was really proud of myself…. besides I think I already had blisters on the soles of my feet and would have found the final steep decent via the stone steps ‘difficult”….

Bumped into a rather entrepreneurial friend who I met last year in Pingyao…. he, ‘Jack’ owns a string of youth hostels and restaurants (1 Pingyao, 2 Xi’an, 2 Beijing)… we were both standing in a Sinopetrolium service station in Miyun (sort of like meeting in a service station in Goulburn) serendipity… He is opening a new hostel, just off the main shopping mall in Beijing…. (I did some artwork for him in Pingyao) …. so he took me to dinner and we are meeting at the hostel this afternoon…. he is very keen to create a sophisticated ‘atmosphere’ and wants to use large prints of my images in the ‘fit out’….?! ….So that’s exciting…..

Oh, I have an exhibition of my work (as a part of a group show) next Tuesday evening at the Artist ‘Commune’ in BeiGao (Shangri-la)