Train Travel

I caught the train to Beijing last night, a soft sleeper… that means you can live/sleep with 3 complete strangers for 15 hours in an area of 3 square meters… it becomes particularly interesting if your three companions are middle aged men who like to sit up all night smoking and gambling…Actually I have not yet had that pleasure… my ‘travel companions’ (to Shanghai) have been a young couple with a hyperactive 7 year old – David, who proved to be an excellent Chinese tutor… and (Beijing) two students who sat up giggling and whispering shyly most of the night (the throes of a budding romance?)

I really enjoy the opportunity to ‘met the locals’ and learn a little Chinese… so I make my way straight to the dining car … this allows you to order some quite good food, drink a bottle of local beer (yes I have reacquired my taste for beer – the local beer ‘Tsingtao’ is made a brewery in the coastal town of Qingtao in Shandong province, using local spring water – so I’m pretending its like Cascade – only much cheaper; a long neck costs 2 Yuan (12 Yuan = 2 dollars)

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Temples and Other Places of Worship

I went to the Jade Buddha Temple this afternoon … spent the morning at the International Post Office sending kilos of art books to myself and some interesting bits and pieces I picked up in the old Chinese quarter around the Yuyuan Gardens and Tea House, close to the Town Temple… tiny little Tibetan boots, paper cuts, chops (stamps/seals) and even the odd Mao t-shirt (during a moment of weakness)

As you may be aware, Buddhist temples face north; so the front gate is located in the south of the complex. The first shrine ‘Maittreya Buddha’ faces outwards – this ‘future’ Buddha is happy & chubby. (just like a couple of special people I know)

Next there is usually a ‘Wei Tuo Bodhisattva’ a fairly grim looking figure holding a ‘vajra’ (looks like a stylized thunder bolt) he faces the monastery and is the protector of the Buddha

Then the main shrine housing the ‘Buddha Sakyamuni’ resplendent with gold and red banners, knee stools covered with embroidered cushions (for praying) and offering of oranges, mandarins, pomegranates and other auspicious gifts…

To the side you will often find ’Guanyin Bodhisattva’ who represents compassion (a personal favourite of mine), I tend to spend more time here

At the Jade Buddha Temple I selected three sticks of red incense (for Frank, Liz and Timna) – which I lit from large ‘dings’ in the courtyard and then held as I bowed three times to the north, west, south and east…

It makes me smile every time…

I tied a red ribbon to the temple doors for my family (love you tom!) and thought of peace, compassion and generosity of spirit…

(The entire courtyard area is covered in red ribbons, fluttering from the trees adorning the stone lions and covering the lattice doors and gateways)

During my period of quiet contemplation I watched an elderly woman gathering pieces of fallen incense and placing them in two small brass bowls; she must have been over 80 years old because she had tiny feet which had been bound (this was banned in the 1920’s) and when she rose (unfolded) to her height of 4 foot she beamed the most beautiful smile at me and I couldn’t help wondering about the changes she had seen in this ‘great’ city of Shanghai…

Reflections on Shanghai

Well… my most vivid memories of Shanghai are those of noodles… polystyrene bowls of five minute noodles being consumed 24 hours a day in every conceivable location … the clearest image being dozens of people squatting along the walls of the metro tunnels, bowl and chopsticks in hand

Shanghai:

A city that’s being built as fast as they can tear it down… Pudong – the new suburb (with the huge bulbous TV tower, used in all promotional material) did not exist 15 years ago – the entire area was a boggy tidal swamp, not even suitable for agriculture…

The Bund… a broad attractive avenue of historic buildings (now housing mainly banks and other financial institutions) runs along the northern side of the Huangpu River opposite in every way to Pudong

I caught the lift to the top of the Peace Hotel (an historic art deco building) and sat in the rooftop garden at night just watching the cities arteries pulse with movement and light

Then walked up Nanjing Road – the most astonishing display of NEON I have ever seen – (It’s been a while since I walked around with my mouth open in astonishment) towards the Peoples Square and my metro station

I am now quite comfortable with the public transport system and haven’t used a cab for days … its 3 Yuan to get into town (12 Yuan = 2 dollars) – the trains are fast, clean and crowded – I find my self watching in amusement as 50 people desperately try to get through 1 door into the carriage as another 50 people try to get through the same door to get off… there seems to be little concept of ‘waiting’ and for those who have ever even hinted that my personal characteristics included being a very ‘I, sort of person’ – I can only suggest you visit Shanghai!!!!

Shanghai, China

Nee Hao, Wo boo hway shuo han yu … this is phonetic so noone else will be able to read it.

I’m in Shanghai… spent yesterday at the Peoples Park celebrating the national day holidays with 6 million other shanganese, friendly people (generally) – tend to love to have their photos taken – even thrust the young emperor (single male child) in front of the camera and command he smile.

Lunch at ‘5’ on the Bund – crispy river prawns (eaten whole) followed by seared something on a bed of fresh beans, corn and capsicum with a bottle of aussie white (VVV Expensive) – just joking total each $120 Yuan = $20AU ish

Then the town temple… i got into the spirit of things, burning incense and bowing a lot… fantastic Buddha’s, amazing architecture, millions of friendly Chinese tourists and a very pert pagoda.

Then the back street tiny shop front markets … would you like a Mao – cap, t-shirt, poster, book, bag, watch, lighter, badge, button, suit or set of playing cards?

Tommorrow I’m off to the Moganshan Lu artist colony – studios, galleries (Bizart, Shangart and the new Red Door Gallery) about 100 studios in a converted cement enclave… found several well known chinese contemporary artists ‘at home’ and was able to organise ongoing discussions via email

Then the Town Buddhist Temple and it’s museum of Buddhism with hundreds of different incarnations in a variety of medium.

Just for something really Kitsch I’m going to catch the underground trolley car through the gaudy bund sight seeing tunnel (a stupefying 678m long voyage of flashing lights under the Huanhpu River) to the China Sex Culture Museum.

My mate Wendy flys back to Ghongzhou this afternoon – then I’m on my own?!

Have to run the gauntlet of the thought police again later … logging on to google and bigpond is a bit hit and miss here…

Take care

Love XXX Kate (Mum)