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Published: April 15th 2009
Spring 2009 in Taizhou, Jiangsu
Peach blossoms have been celebrated in the muses of China throughout its 5,000 year history. It is easy to understand the reason. Few colors can paint the arrival of spring more beautifully.
I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT THE TRAVELBLOG SITE MANAGER HAS NOTIFIED ITS CONTRIBUTORS, THAT MOST OF THE PHOTOS THAT HAVE BEEN POSTED ON THIS AND ON OTHER ENTRIES DURING A SPECIFIC TIME-PERIOD HAVE BEEN LOST. I AM SO SORRY. I HAVE TRIED TO POST MOST OF THE LOST PHOTOS AGAIN ON THE NEXT TRAVELBLOG #114. AFTER READING THIS ENTRY, PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT TRAVELBLOG #114.
It seems as if the world has changed since my last TravelBlog entry, and I am still catching my breath. There is my joy of the inauguration of President Obama and the changes it will bring, and the agony of the near collapse of capitalism as we have enjoyed it and its consequences. Maybe this entry will bring you a little diversion from both. So let me begin my rambling.
Two and a half years have quickly evaporated since my teaching assignment at Taizhou Teachers College, and the adventures and the thrill of living and working in this enigmatic country called China does not diminish. Perhaps I can reflect on the few regrets that often pre-occupy my mind:
The Chinese language is "difficult"!!! Taking into consideration, that age diminishes the
Different varieties display their unique blooms and colors.
Throughout the parks of Taizhou, a walk along the paths brings smiles at every step. The variety of peach, plum, and cherry trees can be seen in the their color and type of flower.
ability to acquire this most difficult of languages, my ability to complete the everyday chores of life, my genereal communication on campus and my travels are generally and surprisingly managable. Taking part in conversations and achieving complete independence to accomplish other necessary tasks are painfully impeded, and I lament my lack of progress with the Chinese language.
But English is strongly encouraged in China, especially among this younger generation, and they are always eager to surprise a Western face with rather good English, which is now a school requirement beginning with Grade One. So it is rather difficult to emerse myself into the langue, since I am surrounded by English from morning to night. My conversations with students and teachers are all used in great part to try to test and improve themselves with a native English speaker.
Many stangers will approach me to practice some English, even in the street. In Bus-stations and Train-stations, people will sit next to me to practice English, and usually express the desire to take the seat next to me on the bus and continue our exchange in English.
And of course you will ask, what about your free time? Can
Spring-colors as far as the eyes can see
A stroll becomes a feast for the eyes and the soul.
you not make the effort then to learn Chinese? And I must respond, what free time?
Well! My students are so eager to practice their English with me outside the classroom with one-on-one conversations, that few minutes remain for personal chores. Perhaps their improved knowledge of English will benefit them more in their uncertain future. In my remaining years, the importance of a new language declines. It is a fair trade-off.
Still, Chinese is the one language I wish I had had the foresight to tackle at an early age; but then who could have known, that China would become such a late-life adventure.
Another joy of life I miss greatly is having my own car and being able to drive here in China. I can only dream of the freedom of jumping in my own car on the weekends to enjoy some of the other great cities that encircle Taizhou, with only a few hours drive; some of the more well known of these cities are Yangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai. (You have read about them in my past TravelBlog entries, but they all deserve frequent return visits). But for the moment "reason" dictates, and in
Poets of Taizhou have been inspired by these blossoms.
One of the most famous and most beautiful Chinese Opera, "The Peach Blossom Fan", was written in Taizhou, and performed by one of Taizhou's most famous citizens, Mr. Mei Lanfang.
China, "reason" must prevail: Driving for a Westerner in China's cities is a "life-risk", no matter in the city, on the highways or in the countryside.
China has all the traffic rules needed to maintain road-safety, but every Chinese truck-driver, bus-driver, taxi-driver, personal car-driver, motorcyclist, moped owner, cyclist (there are still millions) and pedestrians seems to believe, that these traffic laws should only apply to the OTHER person on the crowded roads, and each one of them will insist, that their insistent "tooting and honking" of the horns will continue to accelerate and manage their progress on "very" busy streets.
But with every opportunity I have to be a passenger in a car, it becomes clear, that there is a choice in China between the "noise pollution" of the millions of vehicles-horns, and the real or imagined safety the "symphony of car-horns" provides the road occupants.
Other, less desirable customs, which exist in excess in all countries around the world, including my own, those I can manage or at least ignore. My travels have prepared me for many of these ordeals. But the language acquisition and my ability to drive here often cause me a small tear.
A window into Spring 2009
The walls and buildings surrounding and opening to the gardens are graced with wonderfully designed window openings. These become frames for the simple but beautiful, natural garden scenes.
In this TravelBlog though, let me wipe the tear, and let me cheer a "very slow" arrival of Spring 2009 in my city of Taizhou and around the province of Jiangsu. It has been a cold winter, with little snow, but the biting wind and the stinging cold have taken their toll on everyone around me. All of us are ready for Spring and a few glances at some sunshine. I truly miss the climate of Miami and its benefits.
This semester I teach at 2 colleges in Taizhou: Of course with my adopted family, Taizhou Teachers College, and also some satisfying classes at Nanjing Normal Univeristy, Taizhou Campus. All of my students are eager and joy to be with; it has been so since my first day of teaching in China.
My students understand more than ever the impact their test scores will have on their future, only a year or two away, and all are concerned with the competition for jobs opportunities that is waiting for them as they now prepare to graduate.
Though most Chinese have the habit of keeping their feelings of distress and anxiety, about anything, to themselves, in private conversations
Another window into Taizhou's Spring, 2009
The geometric designs differ from window to window.
and in class discussions they make it clear to me, that they are keenly aware of the difficulties the World Financial Crisis has also brought to China and to them.
It is estimated in the 'China Daily' Newspaper and on CCTV9, China's English TV Channel, that many millions of Chinese College Graduates will be unable to find a job at this time and probably in the years to come.
For these young graduates, who since childhood have been "pampered and spoiled" as the only child by all who surround them, the cold realization of having to fend for themselves and enter a world of the "Survival of the Fittest", will become a challenging and daunting task. Having to confront and think about the future responsibility as a spouse, their care for a child and their expected care for their elder parents, without the prospect of a job, must hit like a bolt of lightning.
Many find the situation difficult to grasp, and they are reluctant to confront the expected, or to speak about it. To the parents of my students it must appear, as if their investment and promises in the education of their child may not
Another windows into Taizhou's Spring, 2009
The garden and windows share a symbiotic relationship.
pay off. Though China is still developing at a better pace than in the West, money does not exist in abundance. The future no longer seems so sure at the moment.
But the Chinese don't like to talk about problems and anxieties. The measure of a crisis for them is often the topic least spoken about. So my students rather not evaluate or confront this looming crisis in their lifes, enforcing the old western idiom: "Out of sight, out of mind!" The Chinese live with a the tradition of fate and destiny, where it is easier to simply walk the road and see to where it will lead.
NOW A CULTURAL NOTE:
China has just celebrated its most recent festival.
THE PURE BRIGHTNESS FESTIVAL: (It is celebrated around the 6th of April) During this festival, people often go to "sweep the tombs" of their relatives, offer sacrifices to their ancestors, "go for a walk in the countryside" and "plant willows".
The Pure Brightness Festival has its origin in another important festival of the past, the "Hanshi Festival", which has lost its popularity today. It is also known as the "Smoking-Banning Festival" and was celebrated a
Thousands of trees burst into blossoms as the warmth of spring anounces its season.
There are thousands of trees planted, tightly packed together. As they open their blooms, the visitor is stunned by a carpet of colors.
few days before the Pure Brightness Festival. The Smoking-Banning Festival has its origin with a loyal court official (Jie Zitui) in the "Spring and Autumn Period" of China's history, many centuries agol.
Jie Zitui was a capable minister in the ancient Chinese state of Jin, the prince of which was Chong Er. A civil war broke out in this state of Jin, and Prince Chong Er had to escape. During the exile of some 19 years, the court official Jie Zitui had always been by the prince's side in spite of all the difficulties. It is said, that he even made broth out of the flesh of his leg to feed the prince when they were short of food.
Later, when Prince Chong Er became the King, and he became known as Jin Wengong in history, he richly rewarded those who accompanied him in his hardships, leaving only the loyal official Jie Zitui neglected.
Many people felt very indignant with Prince Chong Er for this neglect of his loyal friend, Jie Zitui. These advised Jie to ask for reward from the King. But Jie Zitui despised those people who struggled for rewards so much, that he packed
The centerpiece and most recognized structure of the Peach Blossom Park
This tower is quickly becoming the landmark of Taizhou, and is part of an expansive park encircling the old city. The park becomes a visitors delight when the spring blossoms of its peach, cherry and plum trees explode their colors.
his luggage and retired into the mountains with his mother.
When King Jin Wengong got the news, he helt so ashamed that he took some people and went to the mountain to find Jie Zitui. But it was a difficult task to find two people in the thickness of the forest. Some of those who accompanied the Duke suggested, that they could set a fire to the forest, so that Jie Zitui would be forced out of the woods.
The Duke took the advice and the fire seared its way across the mountain. Jie Zitui still did not show up. When the fire was extinguished, people found that Jie had already died under a willow with his mother on his back.
A letter, written in blood, was found in the hole of the willow tree, next to the bodies. It said:
"Giving meat and heart to my lord, Wengong
Hoping my lord will always be upright,
An invisible ghost under a willow
Is better than a loyal minister beside my lord.
If my lord has a place in his heart for me,
Please make self-reflection when remembering me.
I have a clear conscience in the nether
The Taizhou Ming DynastyTower is seen on the horizon.
Within this delightful park, I am able to spend many peaceful hours among the blossoms of spring.
Being pure and bright in my offices year after year."
To commemorate Jie Zitui's death, Duke Jin Wengong decided on this day would be marked as a festival, Hanshi Festival, and ordered that no fire should be permitted in the whole country on that day.
The next year, when Duke Wengong went to hold a memorial ceremony on that mountain with other ministers, they found the willow tree greening again. So they named the willow "Pure Bright Willow", and christened the day after the Hanshi Festival as "Pure Brightness Festival".
This past weekend, The Pure Brightness Festival was being observed all over China. The Chinese people have traditional respect for the seniors, especially to their forefathers, who have passed away. During the Pure Brightness Festival, the families will pay a solemn visit to the tombs of their ancestors. They remove the weed around the tombs, add some new earth to them, burn incense sticks and offer some food and paper money to show their sincere affection and respect to the dead. This tradition is called "shangfen" or "sweeping the tombs."
However, as cremation is gradually taking the place of ground burials, it is becoming more
Here is where I spend many hours reading or just thinking.
Some of the trees are already in bloom, while others wait for a little more warmth. The time of blooming will last about 4 weeks.
difficult to see tombs in the fields. But people can still commemorate their forefathers in other ways, or they can go to the 'Martyrs' Park in their towns to mourn for them by offering flowers and wreaths onto their tombs.
The Pure Brightness Festival occurs during the spring time, when trees, flowers and grasses begin to sprout and blossom. The countryside turns lush and colorful, and it is a great time for the families to enjoy nature. The countryside becomes a favorite place to visit during these holidays. It has been a tradition going back to ancient times and the walk in the countryside was called "Taqing Festival." So Pure Brightness Festival is also know as the "Taqing Festival".
During their family outings and walks, people will wear willow twigs on their heads to expel Ghosts and disasters, and pray for peace and happiness. Around the time of the Pure Bright Festival, girls and women can be seen picking fresh, wild herbs and make dumplings with them.
Children can be seen everywhere flying kites, playing tug-of-war and enjoy swings; of course carefully supervised by their parents and grandparents.
This is also the auspicious time to sow
Lets take a walk together.
Take a stroll with me through this lovely Taizhou Park during its most colorful season, Spring 2009. If you find the time, please enlarge the photos by clicking on the picture and enjoy the better details of our walk together.
the fields and perform other agricultural activities. As one of the Chinese proverb tells: "Plant melons and beans around Pure Brightness Festival."
In ancient times, it was also the cusom to plant willow trees. The tradition is remembered in an ancient poem: "A street of willows covered with a green veil, weaves the Pure Brightness Day."
And what will I be during during the 3 day festival holiday?? I will be heading for a spectacular "Dragon Boat Festival of Qintong", near Taizhou. It is part of the annual and colorful holiday celebration during this time of the year. Thousands of visitors from around the country, as well as international visitors, will pack Qintong Park's lake, to witness one of the largest boat spectaculars in the province of Jiangsu. (Thank you Arthur and Susie for hooking me up with a pair of hard-to-get VIP tickets. You always make me feel special!)
The photos of this Dragon Boat Festival in Qintong will be the feature of one of the next TravelBlog entries.
I strongly encourage you to enlarge the photos of this TravelBlog by clicking on the pictures to enjoy the colorful details of Spring 2009 in Taizhou.
These trees love to be adored.
The colors of the blossoms invite a closer look. I think they enjoy being admired.
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