China trip – Beijing to Xi’an

Beijing Drum Tower
Beijing Drum Tower

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 - park with haze
Zhengzhou – park with haze

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.

Shaolin Temple view
Shaolin Temple view

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!

Shaolin Temple detail
Shaolin Temple detail

If you’re in the mood, you can try out some exercises as illustrated right on the architecture!

Xi'an - terracotta warriors and horses
Xi’an – terracotta warriors and horses

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.

Xi'an - beautifully sculpted terracotta horses
Xi’an – beautifully sculpted terracotta horses

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!

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer

New Year’s Buddha…

Laughing Buddha doodle... laughing Boodle?
Laughing Buddha doodle… laughing Boodle?

I tweeted this image recently and Tom sent me a haiku. I thought it was so perfect for the image that I have incorporated it right onto the picture. So this was partly created with Zen Brush – original drawing – and partly with Gimp – the text and signature part.

Anyway, a wonderful and inspiring 2013 to all who drop by!

image (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer
haiku (c) 2013 TJ Radcliffe

yin yang fish…

yin yang fish

Aren’t they the cutest yin yang fish ever?! There is a significant tradition of using fish shapes to represent the yin yang symbol. Mine is a cute cartoon style version – so happy and cuddly!
I was just doodling and this is what happened – hope you enjoy 🙂

UPDATE: Cute and cuddly poem to match these fish – thanks Tom!!

When two fishies fall in love
they sometimes snuggle up
fin to fin and head to tail
like wine within a cup:

each touching all, conforming close
to contour and to form
smiling all the while: they know
they’ll never be forlorn!

In complementary shapes they make
a perfect pair ideal
their yin and yang in balanced smiles
revealing how they feel.

Copyright (C) 2012 TJ Radcliffe

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer

two years old!

happy koi

This past week my blog turned two years old! I was in the midst of doing character studies for the new project but here is a little celebratory doodle. One of my most visited posts ever is strangely enough “the meaning of koi” which expounds on said topic – lucky, lucky fish! So I thought they were a suitable doodle topic along with a water lily… just ’cause. Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

UPDATE: Celebratory poem from Tom – thanks!!!

Beneath the water-lily’s flower
Lurk the koi in cooling bower
Where the breadth of sun-bathed pads
Shades the fish from all that’s sad

O happy koi in water clear
Bringing luck to all come near
Such subtle spirit-healing power
Gold beneath the purple flower

Copyright (C) 2011 Tom Radcliffe

image (cc) 2011 Hilary Farmer


completing the trio of great Chinese thinkers...

Confucianism may not be my favourite of the three main streams of Chinese philosophy – too rigid and hierarchical – but for centuries his thoughts and maxims have influenced and directed Chinese life. It was only during the last few decades that his ideas were banished in China – but apparently no longer! There is a new statue of the sage in Tiananmen Square! I am not sure that either Mao or Confucius would really be happy about their new proximity…

image (cc) Hilary Farmer


more thinking

Laozi as a youngish man – usually he is portrayed as very old…

Here is a short chapter (44) from the Taoteching as translated by Red Pine. (I really enjoy his version which includes historical commentaries alongside the text.)

Which is more vital
fame or health
which is more precious
health or riches
which is more harmful
loss or gain
the deeper the love
the higher the cost
the bigger the treasure
the greater the loss
who knows contentment
suffers no shame
who knows restraint
encounters no trouble
and thus lives long

名 與 身 孰 親 。
身 與 貨 孰 多 。
得 與 亡 孰 病 。
甚 愛 必 大 費 ﹔
多 藏 必 厚 亡 。
故 知 足 不 辱 ,
知 止 不 殆 ,
可 以 長 久 。

image (cc) 2011 Hilary Farmer

meditative doodle…

Thinking about things...

Time to post something new for the new year!

The start of a new year seems like the right time think about things – looking backward to look forward or something like that. I am happy that this blog has given me a forum to experiment and show my work and I definitely plan to continue over the coming year. I have a number of other creative projects underway and in the works (maybe too many!) Perhaps if there’s one thing to focus on this year, it’s having a better balance between all aspects of life – most of us could use some of that – I know I could!

Here’s a short poem about poetry – in particular, the poetry of a certain Tang Dynasty Chinese monk named Han Shan – as interpreted by the American poet, Peter Stambler… It seems about right for a cold winter day…enjoy!

The Uses of Poetry

To join happy men, collect Han Shan’s poems,
More sonorous, more savory than a morning’s sutras.

With bamboo shoots, pin them to your cracked walls.
Read them over in the evenings, keeping out the cold.

image (cc) 2011 Hilary Farmer