Saturday, January 19, 2013

Angela Kern's Blog

Saturday morning we got up to go on a hike at the beautiful Qing Cheng mountain. It is a very important mountain in the Taoist religion,there are temples for worship along the trail. It is also a very important mountain to TCM because practitioners used to go there to study the concepts of yin and yang.
We drove about an hour and a half outside the city on a bumpy road through farmland. It was still fairly urbanized, but it was nice to get out of the city for a few hours. The mountain was 1,260 meters tall, which ended up being about a two hour climb. The nice thing was that at each of the temples along the way had shopping... Buddhist prayer beads and small statutes and of course panda hats. So I had a pretty legitimate excuse to stop and rest.

Whenever I did stop, I was amazed by the amazing sights. Although the smog does not lift even outside the city, we could see for quite a ways into the valley and we were surrounded by mountains. The smog gave the whole place an eerie and mystic quality, almost like a higher power intended the mountain to be a place of study and worship. The temples were ornate with large statues of deities.
I have absolutely no idea how they moved the materials for the structures up there. Perhaps in a similar manner to the one they use to get water and materials up there to sell to the thirsty tourists: I saw several men with huge packs including several cases of water on their backs. In fact, the Chinese in general seem to have great aptitude for climbing in less-than-ideal situations. I saw a woman doing the endless status that almost dropped made with a chubby toddler strapped to her back and countless brave (or stupid) women wearing heels, not willing to abandon their dedication to fashion even for a hike. It was pretty embarrassing to stop for a break only to be passed by a woman wearing four extra inches, and I was very impressed.
We made it to the top after a couple hours, and boy was that tough
hike worth it! There was a huge status at the top in a temple with
thousands of red ribbon tied in the banister around it for good luck. They have been carried up there by believers for years. There was also a large fence with too many locks to count attached to it. Newly wed couples (or I guess really confident unmarried couples) can come up with a set of locks and when they reach the top, they lock them together and throw the key as far as they can. As long as their locks remain, they are guaranteed not to separate. Back in the day, people had to walk into the forest and try to find their key if they wanted a divorce. That's probably why some poor sucker invented lock-cutters. We sat on the top to have our lunch, and then planned to take the tram back down to rest our tired legs. When we got down to the tram station, though, it was closed. We ended up walking down another way, and it was really beautiful. The vegetation was nothing I've seen before. We also saw a beautiful lake. The best part was that it was less crowded than our original path we went up so we could make the trek down quickly.

When we got back, we had about two hours before the Szechaun
opera. I didn't really get dressed up fancy because I determined that a nap was more important. When we got there, I felt like my nice jeans fit in just fine. The opera was nothing like I expected it to be; it seemed more like a talent show than what we would consider an opera. There were people who played random instruments, sang, and had other (pretty weird) talents. On of the coolest was the guy that did shadow puppets with his hands. He did a horse running at different speeds, an owl,all sorts of beautiful birds, dogs and cats, and many other scenes. It was pretty incredible to watch him work with his hands. I never thought I would say this, but his shadow puppetry was a true art form.


There was also a girl that juggled and threw huge pots and talked on
her feet, made more impressive by the fact that she probably weighs 80 pounds soaking wet. One man played a traditional Chinese instrumentthat sounded like an annoying bird call which he was able to replicate by blowing into his hands and then again through his lips. It was absolutely hilarious, I couldn't stop laughing, and he was probably my favorite dude of all! There were a bunch of people who would change masks seemingly magically. A man balanced a bowl of fire in his bald head through all sorts of tricks. There were so many different things going on, I loved it.
The weirdest thing was that you could have someone clean your ears while you watched the opera. It was such an unusual experience for us, and a chance to just laugh and enjoy ourselves for a couple of hours!

When we got home, we decided to go out to a're only in
China once, right? Almost our whole group went, and we had to take
three taxis to get there. We went to this club strip and wandered
around like lost puppies until someone originally from New Orleans
happened upon us and invited us into a club where he already has a
table. We met a lot of different types of people there, there was
another group from North Carolina as well as some medical students from India. We all had a lot of fun dancing on the platforms, and I think we were a shock to the Chinese people who were there. They were very reserved with absolutely no facial expression whole they danced. What a shocker to have a bunch of excited Americans come in to tear the place up! It was a really long, wonderful day. I was so glad to feel well, but also very glad to fall into bed at the end of the night.

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