Unrest in the Southwest - foaming torrents and gurgling stomachs in Yunnan Provence.
As ever we left Chengdu by overnight train, arriving early in the morning in Panzhihua, close to the Sichuan/Yunnan border. Overnight we had passed through some high mountains, with Kim's popping ears keeping her awake much of the night. We were swiftly bundled onto a dishevelled old bus ready for the tortuous eight hour trip up through the mountains to Lijiang.
But first, of course, there were the usual formalities - a ten kilometre journey, which due to roadworks in this narrow and steep-sided section of the Yangzi River valley took nearly an hour. Then everyone piled off the bus (remember the "Chinese Fire Alarm" anyone?) at the bus station to buy tickets. Due to our "most favoured idiot" status some chap took our money. Of course, the tickets that were now issued had seat numbers and pandemonium ensued as the passengers tried to rearrange themselves to accomodate the encumbants and the new arrivals who had bought tickets at the bus station, not the railway station. The bus driver returned with our tickets but they were on separate seats, so I refused to let him on,
or anyone else off, by blocking the door and shouting loudly like everyone else until he relented and gave us two seats together. These happily turned out to be the best seats at the front.
Finally we set off and once we climbed out of the river valley, passing some frightening industrialisation on the way, we entered the cool pleasant wooded hills, lanscaped with cultivated terraces, that seem to form much of the delightful provence of Yunnan.
The old town of Lijiang is another deservedly World Heritage listed site. Capital of the Naxi people, the town is a maze of ancient cobbled streets, winding lanes, waterways crossed by stone bridges, lined with willow trees and traditional architecture throughout. Small squares contain pools of water, separate basins for drinking water, food washing and people/clothes washing, which remain in constant use by the townspeople even today. It took me a good three days before I could confidently find my way around without getting lost, although Kim seemed to understand the layout much more quickly.
Lijiang is understandably a major centre for internal tourism, an excellent base for surrounding trips into the high mountains around Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge.
If clear, the 5500m Jade Dragon Mountain can be seen above the town's rooftops.
As our bus pulled in the hotel touts descended, but rather than the usual bunch of surly males, this was a pack of young women in their early twenties, who laughed and joked as they puursued the bus through the watery craters of the bus station. Unable to distinguish between their uniform offerings we walked off towards town when suddenly we were talking to an elderly woman who seemed to be saying the right things, in a bit of English too. So we stayed with her. This was our first stroke of luck, as her pleasant family run guesthouse was tolerably close to the teeming market square, but was situated in the much quieter quarter near the bus station. After a quick shower and a bit of a rest we headed in search of food - and here was our second bit of luck. Completely lost, and with no idea which direction we were headed, we saw a small place with a sign saying "Welcome Lonely Planeters." Given we were both suffering from bad stomachs we were looking for some easy Western food. We were
Tummy trouble again
Qiongzhu Si, Kunming
greeted by a young Chinese-speaking American and an English-speaking Chinese man, both on holiday from America. They translated as we ordered the most beautiful aubergine salad, in a slightly spicy sesame sauce, fried potatoes rosti-style, stir-fried rice with curried beef and the local Naxi delicacy, wind-dried ham. This caused some consternation as I was making up a new dish, aiming for a ham-sandwich. We settled on big chunks of stir-fried gammon atop the local bread, a thick flatbread not entirely unlike a deep-pan pizza base. It was a gorgeous meal complemented by complementary tea and chinese cabbage soup, as we seemed to be the only customers. Apart from serving great food the small cafe was relatively cheap and secreted well away from the noisy cavorting of the beery chinese holidaymakers, eating bad food in expensive tourist joints. Next night we were joined by Jen and Mike, and English couple who had both studied in Sheffield and had come overland from Southern India, Nepal and Tibet. As well as some repeat dishes we added potato dumplings, sumptupous crispy pork (another Naxi delicacy), spicy tofu and a plate of fried green chillis - pepper in China rarely means capsicum. [The cafe is
China ranks second in C02 emissions globally, with 3.5 billions of tons per year (worlds total 24.5). They're along way behind the leader, the US, with 5.7 and just ahead of the EU with 3.2 billions tons. Next is Japan with 1.2
called Alily Restaurant and Bar, mobile 13578485180, no 7, Zhong Yi Lsnr, Guang Yi Street, Lijiang].
It is strange that I should feel the need to describe te food in such detail, as our first three days in Lijiang, and our last two in Chengdu, were punctuated by rather agressive bouts of diarrhoea, thankfully with no other symptoms such as fever or vomiting. After our night out with Jen and Mike we realised we had to take our woes more seriously. After a day of bananas, rice and mild Chinese blocker, showing no improvement we succumbed to antibiotics, which cleared things up very quickly. The downtime also gave us breathing space to book flights and dive courses as far as Australia, deciding to spend time in Bali and Lombok saving the more expensive Borneo for another time.
We launched ourselves on the two-day trip of Tiger-Leaping Gorge not knowing whether our bodies would hold up. Having booked flights on a tightish schedule we didn't have too much time to waste.
Tiger Leaping Gorge seems to have become something of a tick-list item for many travellers to China. Does it deserve to be ? Probably, but only just.
Loogie food per capita
When you adjust for the population size however, China drops towards the bottom of the list with 2.6 tons per person ... but I guess they will catch up fast. The EU and Japan float in the middle ground with 8.4 and 9.5 respectively, whilst good old Uncle Sam stays out in front with 19.7, closely followed by Australia with 17.4 tons per capita. Presumably the Ozzies are all driving around searching for some ozone to hide under.
The Yangzi River is the third longest in the world, travelling 6400km form its source high in the mountains above the Tibetan plateau to the Pacific Ocean near Nanjing and Shanghai. It is a river of great importance and impact to a large proportion of the Chinese population, for a long time forming the only realistic route joining the mountain-bound provence of Sichuan with the rest of the Middle Kingdom. Yet, but for a bizarre accident of geology just 70km west of Lijiang, the river would flow alongside the Mekong, the Shueli and the Bramahputra south into the Bay of Bengal. For much of its first 1000km the Yangzi also flows south, before encountering a hill of hard rock which causes an irrevocable 180 degree deflection in its course sending it down into the basin of China, passing through Tiger Leaping Gorge on the way. The gorge, about 70km North of the fateful bend, is positioned at the back side of Jade Dragon Mountain and is said to be the deepest in the world.
In places the gorge is so narrow that legend has it ta tiger once escaped capture by leaping across. This legend may well be grander
and more romantic, but I prefer the gritty realism of our own "Vanishing Charlie Street," a street so densely packed with parked cars that a drunken Charlie was able to make himself invisible by hiding behind them, surprising both onlookers and himself each time he miraculously reappeared.
It is often said about travel that the journey is more interesting than the destination.
Our first female bus driver in China was also the largest Chinese person I have ever seen. She was also the slowest driver I have encountered since leaving Britain, which was extremely frustrating given we had an eight hour walk to do plus a two hour bus ride, with the bus departing at 8.30am. Perhaps she was driving carefully as her parents were on the bus, which otherwise was loaded with western and Chinese trekkers. After a brief stop so she could load up with scooby snacks, we were on our way. In between eating, she wittered incessantly, presumably to her parents although they didn't reply, or seem to pay any attention to her whatsoever. We could see no evidence of a mobile phone. It is a matter of family honour and pride to every driver in
China to drive as fast and dangerously as possible, to overtake on every blind bend and to shoot every traffic light (in Chengdu a taxi took us the wrong way down a dual-carriageway in order to avoid the toll booths). Every driver in China that is except one - and as she sat behind every horse-drawn cart and rubble-laden lorry, straining to summit even the smallest of climbs, the passengers drifted off to the sound of her siren tones. After about an hour and a half she stopped at a tourist market, and the passengers sat frustrated as her parents did a bit of sightseeing. Normally I would have said "Ah, that's nice" but we had a serious deadline based on traversing some mountains of unknown altitude and difficulty. She does this route every day - doesn't she realise?
But of course, she did. Just before reaching the ticket booth at the start of the gorge she handed out cards to Tina's hostel, about six hours into the walk. Kim and I looked on the map drawn and provided free by Sean's hostel, at the eight hour halfway point and realised we needed to get off the bus. But
the driver wouldn't let us, saying "No no, start walking up here", pointing up the road. At this point an Australian lady sprinted across the road from the Gorging Tiger Cafe opposite the ticket booth and boarded the bus shouting - "If you want to hike get off here". There was general confusion at the conflicting advice, but relying on the map we decided to get off. This involved my standing with one foot on the buss and on foot on the road shouting "Stop" loudly and continually at the driver who was determined to drive off. In the end all the westerners got off, except the pair who had hired a chinese guide. Our slightly harassed Australian friend then gathered everyone into her cafe, and proceeeded to check one by one that we all knew what we were doing, saving us 15 Yuan in the process by informing us there was a student discount and we should go back and demand it. Once she checked we had the map, enough water and knew the vaguries of the start of the route, she sent us on our way.
I'll take a brief interlude from the intricacies of the local
corruption to describe the gorge itself. At this point the Yangzi River is at about 2500m high. Jade Dragon Mountain is more than 5500m. Looking from the path on the opposite side of the gorge, the rock wall joining the two appears almost vertical, and I suspect it is. I can't be sure exactly how high we could see, as it was cloudy, but certainly above 4500, making the drop on that side of the gorge a good 2km, although from the very top it is of course 3km. At the bottom the Yangzi is probably only 100m wide, maybe less in places, so 1000km of river with some 2500m drop from the Tibetan plateau behind it is channelling through 25km or so of very narrow gorge.
Sadly, as ever, the coach parties have caught up. Metalled roads have been built through the gorge so that endless coach parties can have their picture taken against the foaming grade zillion rapids of the Yangzi. Most westerners take the high road, contouring along the valley side through woods, goats and picturesque Naxi villages, staying just far enough above the road that you can mistake the roar of the buses for the
roar of the river. The eight hour walk to Sean's guest house is pretty tought, only a few make it in one day from Lijiang. Many choose to stay at the "old" halfway house, which probably has better views. Competition for business is tough, and the trail is littered with graffiti pointing to various establishments, many some way off the real trail. We met two groups that had made major errors because of this, and ended up with strenuous backtracking. We found the trail fairly easy to follow, but then you do when you are lucky enough not to get lost, don't you.
Initially I was quite disappointed with the gorge, not finding it a major wonder at all, although feeling glad to be out of our room in Lijiang and doing something. However, as the day wore on I begrudgingly admitted that the place had some claim to the word "spectacular". The nearest I could place the cliffs opposite would be the fjords of Norway or South Island, New Zealand. The nearest I could place the type and nature of the trek would be the contour paths that encircle Chamonix valley in the French Alps, roughly one third
of the way up from the valley floor. Some dancing Pandas would have been nice though.
We arrived at Sean's pretty tired and were greeted merrily by a rare pair of English-speaking Chinese tourists, who we immediately got on with, to the detriment of our much needed showers. We spent a convivial evening sittingt on the terrace above the gorge, two poms, two Chinese, a Canadian and two Estonians, eating, drinking, spinning a yarn or two and watching the gorge and the mountains disappear into the clear night sky, lit by satellites.
Our new Chinese friends are worth a mention. Both had eschewed the normal tour-bus circuit and seemed to be following a more western traveller style holiday. Both spoke good English, and so speaking to them it was fascinating to learn about China from a chinese perspective. Both were perceptive, although whilst her specialised topic was local gossup, his was football, which I appreciated. They were both lovely and like so many Chinese we have met, English speakers or not, went out of their way to help us. They also had some sense - when she fell into that common travellers trap of offering unsolicited advice, she
caught herself - "With your guidebooks you probably know more about this than we do". Maybe.
It was very interesting to learn that our friends also suffered at the hands of unscrupulous merchants and taxi drivers. They had been travelling around the mountains North and West of Lijiang, where Tibetan is as common as Chinese. They understood how difficult it is for us foreigners travelling around China, and got ripped off several times by the Tibetans/ Their tales of bargaining were also illuminating. If they help a foreigner to get a good price in a shop, the shopkeeper will often threaten them with, and carry out, physical violence. Traders will not generally assault foreigner but apparently will not think too long before assaulting their chinese fellows. We only have one source for this information, but they were very definite that such assaults could be launched in less than 45 minutes. My view was they seemed pretty reliable.
Anyway, lets kick back to the kickbacks. Cousins Sean and Woody both run places in the pleasant little village of Walnut Grove. Every other rock on the trail has a painted confucian message such as "Come to Woody's", "Only to hours
to Woody's", "Woody's is great". We learned from Travelblog (Wazza)
that Sean and Woody are desperate competitors, with Sean aiming for to maintain the traditional 'mountain hiker' type experience, whilst Woody is looking for the mass-market dollar. We learned from our Chinese friends both are Chinese, despite their aliases, and that the Australian lady at the Gorging Tiger is actually Sean's wife.
Which leads us back to the rather repellant bus driver, who clearly has her fat fingers in many pies. We surmise that being in bed with Tina, the longer she takes to get to the start of the walk
the more people will stop at Tina's, since Walnut Grove is a fair distance away (although if you make it to Tina's it is an easy road walk to Walnut Grove). She clearly doesn't want to drop people off at the Gorging Tiger, presumably for the same reasons, and wouldn't stop there except she is compelled to by the ticket booth. But the bit that really pisses me off is that the official ticket office at the bus station at Lijiang will not sell you a ticket for the 7.30am bus unless you are very persistent and sure of yourself - if not you'll be on Miss Piggy's snooze express to nowhere - which can be a serious disadvantage if you want to walk the whole of the 50km gorge route in two days, remembering we are close to the tropics here and days are not that long.
Thankfully, due to the innovation of the cursed tourist road, you no longer have to do the full two-dayer. We spent our second day with a leisurely walk down into the gorge from Sean's and then ganged together to get a minivan back to the start of the walk at the
top of the gorge. This saves a long 5 hour bus trip back from the other end, and if you have a full minivan's worth you can avoid Miss Piggy and charter a much swifter trip back to Lijiang. Or, with this info in mind, do what the charming Swedish couple from Umea were doing and spend several days and nights relaxing in the many charming guest houses high on the gorge walls, rather than race through in one day.
The last act should go to "Tiger", the kitten at the Gorging Tiger cafe that is being trained to leap from one chair to another, across a cardboard Yangzi. Sadly Tiger was asleep when we visited.
We left Lijiang for Dali on the swanky new Express bus, a Volvo whose size and internal layout resembled a 747 more than the clapped out bangers we had been used to. Our "trolley dolly" adopted the standard issue posture for Chinese females behind a microphone - unblinking eyes wide open staring straight into nothing chnating her official mantra in a monotonic unwavering voice with an unaturally long time between breaths. What on earth she could find to talk about for five
Yangtse, Tiger Leaping Gorge
I'm not sure of the vertical range in this picture but I think it is ~2000m. The highest point of the mountains, probably not visible, is 5500m whilst the Yangtse is ~2500m at this point.
minutes solid about a simple three hour bus trip I cannot imagine ...
"Welcome to the Lijiang Dali express bus. The journey will take about three hours. Our average speed will be 70km/h and our crusing altitude will be 2500m. Please wear you seatbelts. Hot water is available at the front of the bus. The toilet is in the centre. This is a no-smoking service. No, not even in the toilets, I will be checking. . To your side you will find a large expanse of glass through which you can observe the countryside during the journey. No spitting on the floors. Or the seats. Or the other passengers. If we encounter any wildlife during the journey please do not attempt to eat it. ...." and so on.
The scenery was very pleasant, the first half of the trip through pleasant wooded hills that made me wonder why we hadn't explored this area more fully. As we entered the basin of Er Hai Lake in which Dali is located, the density of villages grew and the views became less appealing.
Dali old town is sandwiched between the 4000m Cang Shan mountains to the west and
the 40km long Er Hai lake to the East. The slopes above the town are dotted with temples and the plains below are filled with rice paddies. Villages fringe the lake shore and the villagers spend their time between the backbreaking labour of planting and harvesting the rice (women and old men) and the tranquil business of fishing on the lake (healthy young men).
Without exception everone we spoke to preferred Dali to Lijiang, although we cannot understand why - Lijiang is infinitely more beautiful, Dali seeming to be just another Chinese market town with a few backpacker cafes in which to sit watching copied DVDs of an evening. Our guess is that we were lucky enough to find the quiet and cheap face of Lijiang, away from the Chinese package tours, whereas others didn't. Dali doesn't suffer as much, and here prices are (slightly) cheaper and tranquility easier to find.
In order to catch up on our lost day we didn't stay long, but long enough to bike through the paddy fields down to the lake, and through the narrow lanes of the Bai villages where we could watch the rice being threshed (or whatever it is
you do with rice). It gave us a brief insight into the lives of rural peasants in modern China, as opposed to the rugged mountain dwellers and nomads we had seen until now. Then an overnight sleeper train to Kunming, capital of Yunnan and our fourth major Chinese city.
So far each city we have visited has had a distinctly different character. Beijing, with its imposing spacious centre plays the part of a great nation's capital well, whilst the welcoming hutongs give it a homely, accessible feel - we hope they survive China's rapid modernisation. Xian, enclosed inside the city walls, feels more like a town than a city, but step outside the walls and you quickly realise how big the place really is. Chengdu feels ramshackle and disordered in a half-heartedly modern sort of way, and is overrun by cyclists and fashion shops. In many way modern, clean Kunming, with it's warm but not oppressive tropical mountain climate - the "City of Eternal Spring", is the nicest of the lot.
Kunming is very modern although the modernisation appears to have been done with some forethought and taste. Colourful displays of flowers line many of the wide streets.
Yangtse,Tiger Leaping Gorge
The third longest river in the world, about 1000km from it's source high above Tibet. Here it has about 5400km to go.
The population of 2 million or so appears more relaxed than in other citys and the number of English speakers is significantly higher. Maybe Kunming is China's Denver, the place people now go for a better quality of life.
All is not necessarily well - the modernistation has destroyed many of the traditional dwellings in the centre - the old Muslim quarter of Shuncheng Jie is now almost entirely rubble, waiting for the next skyscraper to magically appear. The nearby pet market, where everything from puppies and chickens to illegal endangered species can be bought, is still standing but for how long? As the small butchers, fruit and veg sellers and cheap traders are forced out of the centre who should be ready and waiting to fill the vanuum but a strategically-placed, multi-level Carrefour, selling everything for local Yunnan specialities to Gordon's Gin.
As nice as Kunming is, there is not a great deal to do in the city. There are many attractions around about, the most famous being the Karst Limestone spires of Shilin - the 'Stone Forest'. Even though we had a day to kill we didn't bother goingt, the combined 80 Yuan entry fee (more
In China, if you don't get dinner, dinner gets you
than the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and almost as much as the Terracotta warriors) plus the 70 Yuan minivan fare put us of - our average daily budget in China, inclusive of everything, is less than 240 Yuan per day so we weren't going to blow 150 Yuan each on some dubious attraction overrun by package tours. BTW, 240 Yuan is at the more luxurious end of what you need to spend in China - but we're not hanging around and want to see a few things on the way.
Instead, we took public transport to Qiangzhu Si, a fourteenth century buddhist temple situated in the pleasantly wooded hills west of Kunming. Built while China was run by the Mongol Kublai Khan and somehow surviving the ravages of the cultural revolution, this was by far the nicest temple we visited in China. This accolade is awared less on account of the beauty of the temple itself but more on account of the lack of tour groups destroying the tranquil atmosphere. One party of school children did invade whilst we were there but they soon got bored and quietened down.
It was not the temple itself that
had drawn us here but the unique collection of 500 clay statues, lifelike and almost life-size figurines, a motley collection of emporers, monks, beggars, goblins, scribes and scholars adorning the interior of some of the temple buildings. Created by the eminent Sichuanese sculptor Li Guangxiu in the late 19th century they forma masterpiece of imaginative sculpture. Sadly they proved a little too avante-garde for Li's contemporaries and this proved his last commision.
We were never quite sure whether we found the 14th century stone tablet, inscribed in both Mongolian and Chinese script, but we did find the nice restaurant in one of the courtyated, and once we ad managed to persuade the confused and confusing staff to bring us some food, we had a pleasant lunch amidst the trees, flowers, birds and assorted tropical noisemakers.
Back in Kunming we did some essential and non-essential shopping prior to boarding our 20 hour express train east to Guilin. I picked up an almost exact copy of a Lowepro Photo-trekking rucksack with good quality material and zips for less than 15 gbp - a good six times less than in the UK. It has already made life easier for us both
on our many day treks.
As before I'll round off with a few random observations:
Every country seems to have its own bizarre variant of a snack to complement beer-drinking. In India I was very taken with "Peanut Massala" - salted peanuts mixed with chopped onions, garlic and spices. In China the dish of choice are the excellent and very tasty dried and salted peas. Not for everyone but I find them surprisingly gorgeous. Takes all sorts.
Each level in the Carrefour in the centre of Kunming is separated by a set of gently sloping escalators. These are not the stepped type, just a smooth ramp. Not wishing to miss an opportunity to sell, the sides of the escalators are lined with goods, so shoppers can make a wild grad, supermarket-sweep style, as the sail past. Keeping the goods in good order poses a problem for the assistants, as if you ascend the escalator you don't have time to rearrange them. Customers therefore have to be alert to the teams of young women running down the up escalator, mimicking the traffic flow on the roads, desperately trying to grab and replace packets of rice or whatever without
stumbling over the oncoming shoppers and each other.
Yesterday's China Daily carried two editorials. The first, entitled "One World, One Dream" espoused the open and inclusive ideals embodied in the newly announced Olympic slogan for 2008. The second was yet another attack on the Japanese people for their crimes against China before and during WWII. I'm going to restrain myself here, just to say that the ironies in this article and its placement are many and rich. I fully understand the hidden-agenda behind these attacks on the Japanese, but I can't help thinking these are the people who gave us the 70 million Chinese deaths from the Great Leap Forward through to the Cultural Revolution, many of whom have now benefitted massively from Japanese investment. Maybe they should read a bit of history before they get out into the streets in protest - but of course that is exactly the point. They can't. The government won't let them.
I have some reservations about publishing this last bit, but I think it is important so I have chosen to. It transpired that one of our travelling companions worked for the World Bank, in absolute terms in a clearly very
responsible position. We enjoyed their company very much, and to some extent I felt for them, as whenever you meet people on holiday and they realise what you do there is a fair chance the conversation will turn to politics. We managed to avoid this for most of our time together, but at one point I started a conversation which went something like this (the quotes may not be exact but the general points are).
* Us: "Have you heard of Jeffrey Sachs?"
* Them: "Yes"
* "Have you read his book?"
* "Which one"
* "The End of Poverty"
* "No. Sachs is a strange character. He was an economist, a Harvard Professor, a total proponent of capitalism. Now he has swung completely the other way. He is a redistributionist. He believes the rich world should redistribute its money to the poor."
* "I ... don't think ... that is exactly what he is saying. I think he is trying to say that with appropriate investment a country can climb on the wealth creation ladder, where a surplus is made which can be reinvested. Unless you get to that point any money or aid will be wasted in
* "The problem is that the government's are corrupt. We gave money to and the President built himself a huge palace with it."
* "True, I agree. But not every African government is like that."
* "That's true. Uganda has made great improvements in their inftrastructure".
* "Musaveni, yes. Of course Uganda's problem is that whilst it has good roads internally the road to the coast through Kenya is a disgrace. Hence it is difficult for them to export competitively. Kenya is shocking ....."
- Them : "In the World Bank the fashionable thing used to be infrastructure. Then it swung to social issues - educating the people training specialists etc. Now it swinging back to infrastructure again."
- Us: "That's the problem. You can't just tackle one issue and expect it to solve the whole of a country's problem. You need to tackle all the issues, to get over the hump. Otherwise you are wasting your money ....."
* Us: "Do you have a strategy for HIV? Or is that not in the World Bank's area?"
* Them: "Yes it is. But the problem in Africa is
that the social conditions mean that people sleep around too much. They get educated about condoms but they don't use them. Then people are saying - give them drugs to keep them alive long enough to look after the orphans. But it's like TB (?) - these drugs are difficult to administer, you can't get the Africans to take them regularly and then they are useless."
So, not much hope for Africa then. I realise this isn't exactly a policy statement, and "them" could have been playing devil's advocate to see what I would say. I'm going to refrain from voicing my own opinions much as I would like to, suffice to say that this conversation is an echo of Sach's book and each point is dealt with in detail. I'm naive enough to believe that the World Bank has done some good in the world - Robert McNamara told me so. On his watch they eradicated sleeping sickness. Malaria has been eradicated in many areas of the world, so why not in Africa? Given his history I don't hold out a great deal of hope for Mr Wolfowitz, but maybe we will be surprised. Either way, he won't
be there forever.
As a postscript to this my Dad sent the following poem, which reminded him of the description of Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Up and up, the Incense-burner Peak!
In my heart is stored what my eyes and ears perceived.
All the year - detained by official business;
today at last I got a chance to go.
Grasping the creepers, I clung to the dangerous rocks;
My hands and feet - weary with groping for hold.
There came with me three or four friends,
but two friends dared not go further.
At last we reached the topmost crest of the Peak;
My eyes were blinded, my soul rocked and reeled.
The chasm beneath me - ten thousand feet;
The ground I stood on, only a foot wide.
If you have not exhausted the scope of seeing and hearing,
How can you realise the wideness of the world?
The waters of the River looked narrow as a ribbon,
P' en Castle smaller than a man's fist.
How it clings, the dust of the world's
It chokes my limbs: I cannot shake it away.
Thinking of retirement, I heaved an envious sigh,
Then, with lowered head, came back to the Ants' Nest.
Po-Chu-i ( A.D. 772-846 )
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