Sunday, September 21, 2008

Zheng Zhou

We just got home from our two show day in Zheng Zhou. We are here as part of an arts festival and we only do three shows here. Our last performance is Monday night. Zheng Zhou is truly in the heartland of China. It is reputed to be the oldest capital of China and the oldest civilization in China. Which makes it the oldest civilization in the world.

I have learned a few things about history that I have never really grasped before. I have learned that civilization really refers to a formed society that stays in one place and builds a community with a government and laws. This usually means that agriculture is being practised. Hence, no need to be nomadic. It makes sense that The Chinese Were the first to make Ice Cream and Spaghetti, and alphabets etc. etc. Ironic side note: gunpowder was discovered by accident as they were trying to concoct an immortality drug! They had a working Seismograph 1700 years before anybody else!! I saw it at the splendid Henan (pronounced Hu- nan the u as in bush) Provincial Museum. It was here that I became fascinated with the progression of crafts and written language in this culture. This museum starts at the beginning and leads you through a chronological progression of the history. You get to see how they got from A to Z. I am now particularly interested in the origin of Dragons and their mythology. Here they are benevolent symbols of power. Their origins have something to do with water and hurricanes. It is a whole realm of research for me to do.

We also travelled on Saturday to the Longmen Grottos in Louyang. This is a cliff side by a river which is covered in myriad carvings of Buddhas and Bodhisattva's of all shapes and sizes. Longmen means "Dragon Gate" in Chinese. Work started on these carvings in 494 AD. Many are missing or defaced or beheaded, but there are many spectacular specimens left. They range in size from 10,000 one inch high figures in one cave, to spectacular 50 ft high giants in the grandest of the walls.

Now I've seen a lot of Buddhas in my day, (All that time in Japan as well as travels in Thailand)
so after 30 minutes I was sort of over it, but the biggest carvings just knocked me out! And our walk across the river bridge and the view of the countryside softened by the misty atmosphere made me want to just keep walking away into the landscape. It was really beautiful.

In, fact, one of the great things has been seeing the country side. I remember family vacations when my Dad would go so far as to stop the car to talk to farmers about how the crops were doing. He was still a farmer where ever he went. I guess I inherited that trait. I was fascinated by all the little farms along the road. Lots of tidy little fields of corn and squash and other crops growing in the rusty colored soil that distinguishes this region. They have farmed this land for centuries and much of it is terraced into small plots. Where there is flat land there are crops. and Trees! Apparently the government has made a big push to plant trees along the road sides. There are row upon row of tall, straight, fast growing trees. They look like Maples or Alders to me. Even on our 9 hour bus ride through the rain from Xian to Zheng Zhou, the sight of these orderly forests pleased me greatly.

So far I have found China to be warm and inviting. The people have been friendly and happy, and the sights have been great. I'll talk about The Shaolin Temple ( home of Kung Fu) next.

No comments: