Chinese Girl

We are a bit of an attraction here in Feicheng, because they rarely get international visitors, especially those from America. People giggle and point at us, then get embarrassed when we notice them. We smile, say hello, and attempt in very bad Chinese to communicate. Frequently, the teens and children come to us to talk; all of the children take English in school, and some speak moderately well.

This girl approached me in the park, talked a little bit, and asked to take a picture with me. After we posed for her mother’s cell phone, I asked if I could take her picture.

IMG_9820I think she is beautiful.

Teenagers

A high school senior sitting in my writing workshop asked me today if teenagers in the United States are very different from teenagers in China. She represented most of the Chinese teachers and students I’ve talked with when she said, “I think American teenagers are free and do not feel stress.” I explained that most teenagers in my country work hard to get good grades and to perform well in extracurricular activities in order to get scholarships because college is absurdly expensive. There are some teenagers who are lazy; however, their future opportunities are limited.

I was taking pictures of the people shopping in the streets last week when I heard these boys shouting that they wanted me to take their picture. When I look at this image, I see teens who could live anywhere in the United States.

IMG_8902We are more alike than different.

I’m back in China.

Feicheng after dinner, when the people leave their televisions and join their friends in the park to dance, play games, watch movies, or just share the day.

I’m training teachers in Feicheng City, in the Shandong Province, China. Although it’s a small city of nearly a million people, it has a small-town feel, which I love.

IMG_9717-2

Sunday Post: Peaceful

I took this shot July 3, at a city park where I worked in Feicheng, Shandong Province, China. I’ve returned to this image frequently, trying to attach a story to the woman.  At first look, this might appear to be peaceful scene, but the more I look at it, I don’t think it is.

Resting After Supper

Resting After Supper

The reflection of trees at the top of the image give us a feeling of peace, and the woman is resting in the peace of the evening. However, the lotus leaves cut across the shot, right in the center, creating a feeling of unease and unrest. Look closely; there is a discarded paper cup littering the lotus leaves. A metaphor?

The woman, herself, appears to be more troubled than peaceful. Her brow is raised; her posture is not relaxed. She has carried her portable stool down the hill to the lotus pond, possibly searching for a quiet rest,  for a moment of peace. Is she praying for someone? Her husband? Her child? Herself?

You can find other posts in response to Jake’s Sunday Challenge at his link:  http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com

 

Ancient Homes Amidst Progress

When we were walking after dinner one evening, we came upon this small street that seems out of place amidst the new construction in Feicheng. The street reminds me, in part, of the Hutong Area in Beijing.

At first I thought that many of the apartments were empty, but I’m not so sure. An old woman who came out of one of the doors eyed us suspiciously and returned to her home behind the wall. Oh I wanted her picture, yet felt as if I would be imposing.

I wonder if these homes will remain or if they will fall in the path of progress and high-rise apartment buildings. Why allow 20 families to live in a space that could house 200 or more?

Click on an image to see it full size.

The Community of Games

I surreptitiously watched card games and Mahjong games being played on make-shift tables on sidewalks all over Shanghai and Feicheng. The players, seated on small collapsible stools, spent hours at their games.

I was disappointed that I was never able to get a picture.

At the end of my stay in Feicheng, I had a few hours to wander in the park across from our hotel, and finally got my shot, not of cards or Mahjong, but something equally absorbing. The haze of cigarette smoke drifted amidst the men who were so focused on the game that they took no notice of me or my camera.

Not a single man glanced my way, which allowed me to watch their game without feeling as if I were intruding.

They play with discs that are similar to checkers; yet the moves seemed more like chess.

I learned later that the game is called Chinese chess.

The Art of Music

Musical instruments, in the right hands, can gift our ears with heavenly sounds and elicit in us strong emotional responses. Musical instruments, especially the ancient ones, can delight the eyes as well, because they are exquisite works of art. The Hulusi, Guzheng, Sheng, and Erhu are four such ancient Chinese instruments that both look and sound beautiful.

I heard extraordinary music from two young people at my Feicheng friends’ home. Their son, who is a gifted musician, brought tears with his brief piano concert (Lang Lang will have serious competition in a few years.) and for his finale played the ancient Hulusi. Their young neighbor played the Guzheng with breath-taking skill and artistry.

The Hulusi, or Cucurbit Flute, has three bamboo pipes passing through a gourd wind chest.

The Guzheng or Gu Zheng is something like a zither. It is a beautiful instrument and would be a showpiece in any living room. Under skilled hands, it becomes the language of angels.

When walking along a river park in Feicheng, I discovered a group of musicians performing for a small assembly of citizens. It’s a shame because they were so good and should have been in a large venue.

This instrument, the Sheng, is one of the oldest Chinese instruments, with images in artwork dating back to 1100 BC. It is one of the primary instruments used in the Chinese opera.

The Erhu is a two-stringed bowed instrument, sometimes called a “southern fiddle.” It is now used in both traditional and contemporary music.

This is the pagoda (taken a few days before) where the musicians shared their music with a few people in the park. The shot shows the juxtaposition of the old architecture (although I’m sure that the pagoda is new) with the sleek new high rise.

Lotus Flower

We have been served different parts of the lotus at some of our more formal dinners here in Feicheng. It is not only delicious, but it is rich in vitamins and minerals.

So much for the nutritional value. The lotus is, quite simply, beautiful, and I was delighted to finally photograph it today. The plant grows in insanely murky water; yet it produces one of the most spectacular blooms on earth. I understand why it carries so much symbolism in the Buddhist faith.

The lotus grows in murky water and mud which reminds us that we are born in a world where there is suffering, which is a vital part of the human experience and makes us stronger and teaches us to resist temptation.

The lotus symbolizes the purifying of the spirit which is born into murkiness.

A closed lotus represents the time before a person finds Buddha or enlightenment.

The lotus in full bloom symbolizes full enlightenment and self-awareness.

The pink lotus flower represents the history of Buddha and the historical legends of the Buddha. The white lotus blossom, which I did not find today, symbolizes purity in the mind and spirit.

The lotus flower in Buddhism represents rebirth as a reincarnation, when a soul leaves this world in its present form to be reborn in another.

The lotus is used in traditional Chinese medicine and is rich in vitamins and minerals.

SOURCE:  “The Meaning of the Lotus Flower in Buddhism”