<Side note: These posts are from a trip I made in 2012 and lived in a gorgeous city named Chengdu for 5 months. Nevertheless its memories are fresh and warm in my mind and I’d love to share them with you. >
Wuhou Memorial temple is a temple dedicated to a renowned minister and military strategist for Emperor Liu Bei. It spans a huge area of 37000 square meters, so there’s enough to wander around and explore. There are figures of royalty sprinkled around the place and old trees lining the lovely pathways around the place. There are many tablets with inscriptions in lovely calligraphy too.
When a fellow tourist says “please, excuse me” and gestures to a camera on the phone, do not assume they want you to take a picture of theirs and smile, nod and say a happy “Sure, ok!”. Sometimes they will just place themselves beside you and ask their friend to take a picture of the 2 of you together and leave you utterly bemused!
An old Chinese guy with a walking cane was looking at the bonsai flowering plants that I was passing by too. He smelled the flowers, smiled and gestured to me to try them myself. I agreed, and they had a lovely mild fragrance, almost bringing back a pleasant memory. I looked back at him, nodded and smiled to indicate I liked it. He grinned like a child and continued spending time at each type of flower, giving it the attention it deserved. I wonder if time slows down as one gets older, and brings with it a true appreciation of what we missed noticing in the rush to stay ahead.
I tried to do the right thing and take pictures in the Chinese traditional clothes. I’d never felt more like a queen while looking like a grinning fool. While my friends tried to click pictures of me I took off my glasses for it and realised my mistake only when I didn’t know which way to look! Every Chinese person around was clicking pictures of the weird Indian lady in their traditional clothes.
We next went to the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu. The parks we visited here seemed to compete with each other just in terms of area. This one was 90,000 sq meters vast. This one was made in honour of the poet Du Fu. He lived in a thatched hut in the area in 729 AD and wrote his most famous works. The hut itself has been re-created and its starkness amidst the deliciously green surroundings was quite an oasis of calm.
I also loved the museum with paintings of scenes from Du Fu’s poetry. It’s quite humbling to realise how less we know and how limited our learning is to be able to appreciate and enjoy the magic in every language in the world poets are able to capture.
Destination : Kuanghaixiang Alley
I had the best guides ever. A police-officer who was a very enthusiastic budding photographer, a beautiful student of Chinese literature and my gracious colleague, Michelle who agreed to show me around the place.
I was introduced by Michelle to her cousin Rene and the 3 of us walked to the car where her boyfriend was waiting for us. As we got started on our way I asked Michelle for his name. As most Chinese people do not have an English name, she paused for a moment, turned to me and said. “You can call him Brave” 😀
While walking along the ancient alleys with beautiful homes made during the Qing dynasty we made splendid conversation. We spoke of war, of food, of language, of poetry, of music, of cinema, of art, of society and tradition, of faith and culture, of love and family, of how they all bind us together and how they tear us apart.
We walked along and I got to watch a food item made of rice dough that was partly rolled and thrown on a drum with a bang to bounce onto a sheet for an outer dusting which then bounced back on to a plate.The sound produced by its preparation itself was supposed to motivate the soldiers during a war! [That far away from home, I was reminded of the songs sung during the boat race in Kerala.]
Lacquer, porcelain, ebony and silver (Sigh!) seem to be the main raw materials of most of the artwork I saw in China. I kept seeing sceptres in museums I had visited finally asked them what they were for. Rene said they were supposed to make your wishes come true. The wistful smirk made me quickly make a hasty wish just in case 😉
There were quite a few performances in the alley
- An old couple playing instruments while a guy with a strong voice sung a song with a Russian influence.
- An old lady embroidering a cloth slipper.
- The sugar painting
- Intricate carving and painting on egg shells!
- Lightly blowing into a sugar pipe to produce animals and birds of all shapes.
After an idyllic evening there, my only complaint was that my hosts didn’t even let me pay for the lovely seafood based dinner we had at the greek-themed restaurant that gave us a day that couldn’t have been more lovely with easy conversation, music, art and new friends in ancient towns.