Well, here is the final version with colour added! The choice of mostly shades of blue is to give the flavour of Chinese pottery. The yellow accents came about because yellow represented the emperor in ancient Chinese society. For example, only the emperor could have yellow roof tiles or wear yellow robes. So it is used sparingly in this mandala for the centre, the lanterns drifting away in the sky and the mostly hidden dragons…
Here is one quadrant to make it easier to see the details.
Happily, Tom was moved to write another poem for this final version of the mandala!
Beneath a layer of protective blossoms
the Earth abides in softly glowing shades
of summer fading toward a rainy autumn:
evening drawing nigh as August fades
toward a long September ocean blue
swept by early storms and errant waves
crashing up against the harbour’s thews
protecting ships at anchor from the staves
of floating logs and wayward whales withal
as beacons glow through scudding rain and wrack
calling home the wanderers and all
who’ve lost their way and yearn to find a track through storms and seasons ‘cross the empty sea
riding down the gales into the lee.
Time to think about a new painting for my class – even though I won’t have time to complete it before the end of the course next week.
This idea came to me when a friend was describing a painting she had seen. The strong image in my head turned out to be very different from the actual painting and I decided that it would be an interesting project to try to make my image into reality.
This one is called “the poet” but is meant to be an imaginary portrait of Li Bai, one of the most – if not the most – famous Chinese poet. Perhaps he is looking too studious… Anyway, it is not an exercise in historical accuracy!
UPDATE: New poem from Tom perfectly captures the mood of the scene and even a bit of the flavour of Li Bai’s poetry!!
Walnut writing desk
rice-wine close at hand
I look down… wondering.
What name evokes “immortal”
yet completes the poet’s rhyme:
“moon’s reflection cold and white”?
Our intention was to head back to Tunxi and then catch a bus to some interesting villages slightly to the east. However, we just missed a bus and would have had to wait 3 hours for the next one so… quick change of plans and we were off (without delay) to Nanping instead. Far fewer tourists and generally more rustic, the village has been the backdrop for many a Chinese period film.
Even narrow alleys had interesting patterns in the stone.
There were three main family names in this village and each had a large ancestral hall for – family reunions?
These ancestral halls were quite elaborate and the courtyards and interior halls were grand and spacious.
Fire hydrants and electrical cables are fairly well tucked out or sight. Like the other villages, Nanping seemed to have most modern conveniences.
The colourful fabric still left from the filming of Ju Dou animates the courtyard and gives a small glimpse into the imagined past.
The doorways are deliberately staggered so that bad energy can’t rush into the house.
Now this kitchen that is really out of date! The house actually had four different eras of kitchens intact – above just the Ming dynasty part. Nanping was the only village we had a guide for and this was one of the interesting tidbits gleaned from her commentary .
Another alley curves off to somewhere…
Time to go. While heading out to the main road to catch the bus back to Tunxi, the view back shows Nanping’s beautiful setting with rice paddies and mountains.
Further along the road towards the slightly larger road… a water buffalo and her calf watch somewhat warily from the rice paddy as we pass by.
After lunch we hopped on a bus and went to another world heritage site village called Hongcun. The first view of the village across the small lake was stunning even in the rain!
We had booked a home stay for the night so first thing to do was find it and stow our packs. Much more enjoyable visiting the town with less on our backs. The room was simple but the setting just amazing.
At first the village seemed a confusing maze but it was true that the flow of the water was a constant reference to find the way.
This extensive house had a series of courtyards and interesting interiors.
What a pleasure to step from a small dark interior into a large courtyard… bright and open while still feeling private and intimate.
The intricate carving in the structural members would have been indicative that the family was particularly wealthy at the time the home was built.
This bridge was the backdrop for the opening scene of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon… so beautiful.
So I had to cross it too!
And over the top of the tiny bridge… lotus blossoms ahead!
The lotus is not just a beautiful flower but also a cultural and Buddhist symbol – while it grows out of the mud, it floats above it untouched and undisturbed…
The ancient villages of Southern Anhui province are considered a world heritage site. Among them, Xidi’s Ming dynasty charms along with the stunning setting were enough to make me promise myself another visit one day. These villages are living museums (you pay a fee to enter) with on the one hand ancient infrastructure and architecture and on the other, people going on about their daily lives in a perfectly modern way (in amongst all the tourists).
Xidi’s beautiful gate is the first monument you see when you enter the village and the last when you leave…
A charming gate leads back out of the village to a water garden and, across a narrow neck of land, vegetable plots.
Classic Ming dynasty roof top profiles… and communications towers.
Narrow curving lanes wander between the ancient buildings – there’s just enough space for scooters!
The residences still have traditional woodwork at the front courtyard. Often, the family still lives in the building. Tourists come and go freely but respecting that access is only if the gate is open and only to the front courtyard unless invited further.
Love these mossy gardens!
Caught on camera by my friend as I soaked up the ambience.
Many of the people living in the village clearly make their living in one way or another from the tourists. There are small shops selling handicrafts and local tea etc. Others will prepare a home cooked meal for your lunch at a reasonable price. The view above is from the roof top of such a home. After selecting what we wanted from the fresh local produce in her kitchen, our hostess encouraged us to enjoy the view from the roof while we waited for lunch to be ready.
These villages are great beauty spots in China and as such attract art students from all over the country. School was just over for the year so there were many taking advantage of the break or on group trips.
Southern Anhui province was love at almost first sight… it took a couple of tries to find this alley in Tunxi (also know as Huangshan Shi or Yellow Mountain City) where the hotel was located… The pedicab driver from the train station got lost!
The hotel was converted from two old homes so entering meant going through a series of courtyards complete with beautiful mossy planting, cat and puppy. Sorry, cat not caught on camera.
The hotel reception was all traditional wood detailing and art work… a pleasant place to wait in the rain…
Across from the reception another courtyard…
…and then stairs led to the room. I would have stayed here longer if I could have – it was lovely!
Caught here slightly off hours, Laojie was usually crowded with shoppers and shopkeepers. The most charming part of Tunxi.
Found a lovely two storey teashop the last day in Tunxi. Drank delicious green tea and nibbled on cookies prepared on site. An interesting confection filled with dried fruit and so strangely reminiscent of my mother’s mincemeat tarts.
And other fabulous food in Tunxi… we managed to order up some vegetarian feasts!
I just got back from my vacation last week. It’s the first time in quite a while that I have gone very far afield so I decided to share a few photos here.
I arrived in Beijing but just stayed long enough to enjoy one evening in a busy hutong and then meet some friends the next morning as they were finishing their China trip before I headed off by train to Zhengzhou.
Zhengzhou is not my favourite place in China. It is a useful travel hub with lot of high speed trains coming and going to various destinations. However even this less than lovely city manages to have a large and leafy park serving as much needed lungs for the populace. It was very well used anytime I visited it from very early morning to late evening.
From Zhengzhou it is a short bus ride to Shaolin Temple – famous both for kung fu and for being the site where Buddhism entered China. Although crawling with tourists even more than when I was there 15 years ago, one can still get glimpses back in time… blinkers required!
If you’re in the mood, you can try out some exercises as illustrated right on the architecture!
After doubling back to that hub Zhengzhou, we went to Xi’an. Last time I was in China it seemed too far but now the high speed train takes you there in just 3 hours – 300 km per hour!! The terracotta warriors were fascinating, impressive and also appalling when you consider the megalomaniacal mind behind the whole thing.
And for the end of this segment one of my favourite shots… perfect horses ready for parade in any era – very life-like!
I will continue with the next leg of the trip soon!