Invited into Splendid Dreams

Some books stay with you, well beyond turning the last page.

Anchee Min’s first book Red Azalea is one such book. I read it years ago, completely emersed in this brave woman’s attempts to live through the harsh realities of what has become known in China now as The Ten Years of Turmoil – known as the Great Cultural Revolution.

That book followed in a long line of books written in English, dealing with the struggles faced by Chinese people . Who hasn’t heard of Pearl S. Buck? Her novel The Good Earth first published in 1931, has achieved world-wide fame and taught in many high schools.

Anchee Min has written about Pearl Buck, and her lifelong friendship with her school friend. Anchee explains how she researched the story of Willow and Pearl here:

 

In this video, Anchee reminds us of Pearl S Buck’s description of writing – chasing spirits and being invited into splendid dreams. I haven’t read Pearl of China yet, but look forward to it. I’ve since read a plethora of books dealing with life during the Cultural Revolution, beginning with Jung Chiang’s best seller Wild Swans – another book whose powerful story gets under your skin and creates lasting visual memories.

Anchee Min’s Red Azalea is like that. Some books have the power to invoke strong visual representation in the reader’s mind – I can still see my own personal image of the young Anchee lying in her bunk bed bemusing her fate during the difficult times of the Cultural Revolution.

I guess I was invited into splendid dreams.

The latest in Live Streaming, China style

In a world populated by terms that should not even exist – like “fake news” and our screens are increasingly full of horrible events, its nice to read some good news which puts a smile on your face.

I must say I’m not big on live streaming. But today I discovered a pair of unlikely live- – astreamers who brought a smile to my face.

76 year-old Cao XueMei’s husband Cui Jingli has Alzheimer’s disease. In order to brighten up her husband’s life, their daughter helped them make their own livestreaming channel, Kaixin Nainai,  or Happy Grandma.

The couple take to the airwaves for three hours each day, singing, dancing, and generally chatting to their followers – all 27,000 of them. Cao happily dispenses advise to younger people who form the biggest section of Kaixin Nainai’s  followers.

Happily, with all the chatting, singing and dancing, Cao has found her husband’s condition has improved and he is able to speak more clearly and his memory is improving.

The couple have become China’s latest internet sensations, with their moving story touching the hearts of many.

Looking for Pedestrian Badfish

Spaceship passengers and fellow-travellers, it’s been a long time between drinks and blog-posts here on the Spaceship. there’s many a good reason for that. Truly, I’ve been meaning to post and have dreamt up many exciting wonderful things to share with you about China.

But  not one of those fanciful things happen here in this post. You see, it’s kind of a blogging emergency. Way back a year or so ago when the world was young, a resilient blogging community was birthed in the back bars of one of Blogsville’s most loved addresses, the Badfish and Chips Cafe. Many regular readers, travellers and stowaways on the Spaceship will have sipped tea there or had drinks – some of you may have even got to meet the Ghost of Elvis down in the basement bar. True Story.

Thing is Dear Readers, Badfish has gone missing. It look the courageous spirit of our Amsterdam correspondent, Lucille @ Lucile’s Bridges ( disclosure: not her real blog name), to send out a search party. Lucile has issued a “Where’s Waldo/Wally” type challenge, to see if any of our intrepid blog readers can find the missing Badfish.

So the challenge goes like this: you post pictures of whereever your blog is at, and see if your readers can find Badfish amongst them.

is he hiding amongst the Bamboo at the Cang Ling Ting – Blue Wave Pavillion – in Suzhou?

Is he just over the hill and heading towards Mongolia?

 


Hiding in this urn in the Temple of Heaven?

Masquerading as one of Beijing’s Senior Citizens doing taijiquan  or selling crotheted dragons at the fore-mentioned Temple of Heaven?

Perhaps that’s him there, watching the Yellow Sea by that red monolith thing in Qingdao?

Hangin’ on the Wind and Rain Bridge with the Miao people?

Or maybe he is wearing pyjamas while going to the butchers in Shanghai?


Honestly folks, I tell you, it’s a thing, a real thing. The first time I saw it, I could hardly believe it. I giggled, and pointed out the pyjama-wearing auntie to my friend. Then I saw someone else, and another one. Shanghai people wear pyjamas as casual clothes. ( disclosure 2: I’m too embarrassed to snap away at someone shopping in their bed-clothes – I borrowed this photo from the internet. All the other photos, I can assure you, you can blame me for.)

Gee I miss China. So many wonderful, interesting things, people and places. Always full of life and colour.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that Baddie’s thongless foot? He posted more pics of his foot than his face back in the day.

Dear blogging community, if you want to participate in the Where is Badfish photo challenge, just post pictures of your favourite location and a picture of the Badfish himself ( you can steal it from up there at the top of this page). If you are all techy and that, you can even photoshop Baddie into said locations.

oh, and should you actually come across Pedestrian Fish, please tell him to head on over to Amsterdam. Lucille of Lucile’s Bridges ( just in case you missed the first link) is waiting for him, on the Banks of the Red Bridge, with a cup of tea and a bottle of the Green Fairy.

 

Total Eclipse

During the darkness, you might see stars.

During today’s solar eclipse, Sirius is one of those stars you might see.

天狼星 – tian lang xing – is the star’s Chinese name. It means Wolf Star. In ancient china, it was a Sky Dog 天狗 tiangou – that ate the sun during eclipses.

It’s common for modern day people to presume the ancients were simple people with odd beliefs, like celestial dogs eating the sun. Myth, however, is much more than that, it is a coded reference to the way the world works, and to understand, one has to understand the codes.

According to Wudangshan Daoist Zhou Xun Yunancient Chinese had three practices to “save the sun” 救日jiu ri .

The first – confess evil deeds and ask for forgiveness. Secondly, ask help for the future, and thirdly banish evil by making a big noise to scare away the Sky Dog.

The Chinese have one of the most detailed records of stellar bodies in history. Records of solar eclipses date back to some 700 years BCEarlier still, around 1065 BC, the Chinese recorded a lunar eclipse. 

 

Modern practice is to go chase the sun, or watch the effects through Nasa’s photography. 

Yet others prefer to recall the wisdom of the ancients, keep a period of silence like the Navajo people,

and dream the future. Dream Big!

If you are interested in reading more about the eclipse or seeing more pictures, click on the links in blue!

 

Follow the Whisper of your Dreams….

Focus, follow….

 

Summer/Winter Solstice June 20th / New Moon in Cancer June 23 2017

Ive been planning a trip home… and found these Dolphins calling to me

all the way from Stradbroke Island, an island in Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia…

just as I planned to follow them home

a message beeped on my fone…

Where will the Spaceship land? I don’t know… I’ll just follow the whisper of my dreams, and see where we end up…..

 

Feline Friends

The rising middleclass in China has seen an increase in the number of pets – usually dogs or cats. It’s also seen a rise in the number of abandoned animals, like Miao.

Heavily pregnant, Miao started wandering around our office space. She was a scaredy-cat at first, keeping well away from humans. We bought her food, left it out for her to eat.

At first, she kept her distance, hiding in the grass and trees.

Gradually she began to trust us, and came closer.

Miao had her babies, got pregnant again, and started waiting beside our office in the morning, miaowing… that’s how she got her name.

The People’s Republic of China is third in the world for dog ownership, behind only the USA and Brazil. It’s second in the world for cat ownership ( behind the USA) with around 58 million pet cats. Thats with only 2% of the population that are cat owners!

Everyone else in need of feline companionship can just drop down to the Cat Cafe.

It’s a booming business – have you tea or beverage of choice while patting the resident cats.

Unfortunately, abandoned cats and dogs are becoming increasingly common. Many housing compounds come complete with stray animals, wandering around looking for food. It has been estimated that Beijing alone has over 20,000 stray cats.

Miao has become our friend. She no longer flinches when humans walk past, and she lets me get closer to her when I put out her morning food. Maybe one day she will let me pat her. Can humans and felines be truly friends? Can a scaredy cat who is used to human ignorance and maltreatment become close to the hand that feeds them? Can interspecies friendship exist?

I don’t know, I just think that Miao is gradually becoming my friend, and I hope that when I go, other humans will feed her and take care of her. Miao has her own friends, of her own kind. There’s a ginger cat that hangs around, another stray. I’ve seen them mate, and Ginger must be the father of Miao’s babies. She’s pregnant again.

Yesterday I saw something I’ve never seen cats do before. I saw Miao and Ginger kiss. Or at the very least, rub noses. They are constantly together, sleeping in the sun near the office, going for long strolls together.  Ginger rarely comes to eat the food we leave out for Miao, though. He knows it’s her food.

In the afternoon of the same day, I saw a grown-up kitten, a motley ginger and white cat, surely one of Miao’s first litter. He was a skinny runt, a scaredy cat, running away from humans. The stray cat population has increased in our neighbourhood, but Miao is becoming more trusting of her human friends each day.

 

 

 

Sources:  /www.forbes.com/sites/mariannacerini/2016/03/23/chinas-economy-is-slowing-but-their-pet-economy-is-booming/#1ea7c9554ef7

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-03/27/c_136162069.htm

http://actasia.org/consumer-education/stray-and-companion-animals/help-for-stray-cats-in-china/

Evanescent: Sunset in Xiamen

 

厦门 – Xiamen. Wikipedia calls it a “sub-provincial” city.  (What’s subprovincial, anyhow?)

Suburbia spread out over a long harbour, a bit like a mini-mini-mini version of Hong Kong, mainland style, Xiamen is famous for its universities, subtropical climate, and a car-less island in the harbour once renowned for the sweet tinkling of pianos as you walked around.

Like many places in our 21st Century world, an onslaught of tourists have filled the empty spaces in what was, once, a charming island.

Xiamen will soon be home to a meeting of BRICS nations ( Brasil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). BRICS is the new world order, what other countries are doing when the established order isn’t looking – an inter-country banking system which ignores the World Bank and stares unblinkingly at the IMF. BRICS came into being some years back and has already funded massive projects in South-East Asia.

Like many cities across China, Xiamen is becoming increasingly gentrified. Western style restuarants and bars spill out along the sidewalk beside the waterfront. Sipping on a mojito in a bar named Havana, I watched the evanescent sun setting over the bay.


Xiamen is a charming city, mid-way on the road  to reinvention. It’s not really bustling, not quite beach-culture, but it’s off-shore islands full of tropical plants and its by-the-harbour overpasses make it a town worth savouring.

the beach on Gulangyu, Piano Island in Xiamen.

 

The modern character for “xia” means mansion, and “men” is gate: Xiamen is a Mansion Gate. It’s older name used a homophone, another character xia, 下 meaning lower. Contrasting with 上海 , shanghai or ‘upper sea’,下门 was the lower gate.

Like most famous places in China, there’s a classical poem that sings it’s glory. The poet Cao Cao lived around 100 AD,  in the Three Kingdom period. Cao Cao is more famous as a warlord, whose adventures were novelised in the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. After gaining control of Central and Northern China, Cao Cao was defeated by the remarkable strategist Zhuge Liang  at Red Cliffs. The famous battle has been immortalised in the 2008 film Red Cliffs.

In between fighting land and river battles, Cao Cao must have gone on a trip to Xiamen. Walking from Xiamen and Looking at the Blue Sea is the name of his poem.

gazing at the blue sea, Xiamen

East of Jieshi mountain, I gaze at the blue sea.
The water dances so gently, the mountain island towers.
Trees here grow thick, a hundred grasses are lush.

 

Since the main ferry to the piano island was rumoured to be swarming with tourists, the taxi driver recommended taking the ferry from another island, Haicang. The taxi sped past a lush of trees, hibiscus plants, and giant banana leaves waving in the breeze. The trees were still thick, surely there were hundreds upon hundreds of lush grasses, and at the dock, I gazed at the blue sea.

on the ferry in Xiamen harbour

 

The only difference from Cao Cao’s time were the throng of tourists. I decided I’d give piano island a miss, and returned through the mountain island, gazing at the blue sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day of Summer

It’s the first day of summer on the lunar calendar.

For my lunch today, I was given a boiled egg along with the usual mix of vegetables, meat and rice. I wondered the symbolism of the egg, but no-one much knew. “Chinese tradition” they said.

The Chinese calendar is quite a complex thing, a mixture of lunar and solar reckoning. There are 24 “solar terms”. This particular solar term, 立夏li xia, marks the sun reaches the celestial longitude of  45 degrees, and the beginning of warmer weather.

The eating of eggs is supposed to give children nourishment, and protect them from the onslaught of heat and humidity. Traditionally,  black tea-dust or walnut shells were used  in the boiling water, giving the eggs a dark red colour, thought to protect the heart.

Yesterday I saw some children make little nets with string, and was told it was for the eggs at the beginning of summer. Bemused, I turned to google, or as I’m in China, Bing. (“Bing” is the default search engine in China, and instead of saying “google it” , people will say ” I  will “bing it”. ). Apparently games are played with eggs in the little nests made from colourful strings attached around the children’s necks.

Regardless of the Beginning of Summer, it’s still been rainy and somewhat chilly here. Would someone please tell the Weather Gods that it’s summer already?

Earth’s Treasures ~ Butterflies Swirling in Your Dreams

Flowers are the treasure of earth

They are the expression of Gaia’s joy, pure bursts of enthusiasm

sometimes surprising

always vibrant

blessing our world

with majesty

The first flower is a peony, 牡丹花 mudanhua, China’s national flower.

The surprising flowers are a type of peach, blossoming in both pink and white in the same flower, found on a Jinan street.Bright peach blossoms are framed by the elegant spaces of a Suzhou garden.

Dried flowers, cut and wrapped flowers, all the treasures of earth. Found in  a nearby flower shop in Suzhou.

As the peony ~牡丹花 mudanhua ~is the Chinese national flower, you can expect there are many poems written about them. 

One of my favourites is by Tang Dynasty poet Qian Qi

Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,

Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.

I envy you, drunk with flowers;

Butterflies swirling in your dreams.

If you are drunk with the majesty of poetry and flowers, you can find more peony poems here  https://crickethillgarden.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/peonies-in-classical-chinese-poetry/

with a sidebar full of peony prospects…..

WordPress Photo Challenge: Earth

Chocolate Surprise!

No matter how many years I live in China, I always manage to find something epicurean to surprise me. Chinese food has four regional cuisines  and many subvarieties within that.

Ordering food in China is an art – one must balance “hot” and “cold” foods, meat and vegetables, a range of flavours, and dishes presented with artistic flair.

Despite travelling widely within China and having eaten at banquets, people’s homes, fancy restaurants and street stalls, I am always amazed that I always find something culinary to surprise me.

Recently whilst eating out in Jinan, capital of the province of Shandong, one of the dishes was this:

The waiter came along and lit the ball of chocolate.

I watched, almost breathless, as the candle burnt down…. wondering why there was a candle in the chocolate ball anyhow. I mean to say, it wasn’t anyone’s birthday…

“Wait!” I was told.. I waited… watching….

When the candle finally reached the bottom, the chocolate ball split open –

Surprise!

Can you guess what was inside?…. ( something yummy, of course….)

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