Friday, 9 March 2012

Return From China

The first part of our trip was spent in Hong Kong, which simply amazed me; New York is known as the city that never sleeps, but I challenge anyone to find a city as crazy and manic as HK.  My description amused several people:  "Like Blade Runner, only jolly."

Orange sellers coming alongside as we made our way down the river Li

Our trip to mainland China was fantastic; I have learned so much about another culture, it is true what they say; travel really does broaden the mind, often in very unexpected ways.  My observations are made from a very priviledged western viewpoint and are doubtless somewhat romantic but it seemed to both of us that many of the people, though poor, were finding ways to live and working very hard and had more dignity than poor people we have seen in USA or UK.  They have no choice in the matter; only a very small percentage of the population receive a pension from the government, and the rest have to do the best they can. 

I was fascinated to see the elderly folk meeting in their local parks each day, there are no gardens for most people, to exercise, practice singing, play cards.  The government has instigated a programme to install simple robust gymn machines in all the parks to enable the elderly to stay fit and supple and they are used regularly.  We asked if the young people would ever vandalise them and were told that the young people did not have time to make such acts!  We witnessed many people practicing Tai Chi, exercising using similar movements but using fans, dancing, playing table tennis, (Mike joined in and there was furious competition and much laughter because his weak shots fooled them every time!) and running, sometimes backwards, which we learned from Mr Yang, our Tai Chi master in Yangshuo, is to help keep the balance between Yin and Yang.

The boat trip from Guilin down to Yangshuo was a highlight for me: although the rain, mist and cold temperatures made it difficult to stand on deck for the whole journey, they certainly added to the atmosphere.  When I was a very small child I remember seeing pictures of Chinese paintings with tall pointy mountains, pines clinging to ridges, mist swirling around and a little old man with a bundle of firewood on his back and I thought it was all invented.  It was not until years later that I realised that such magical lands existed and now, at last I have seen it for myself.

Cormorant fisherman on the river Li

Misty mountains on the river Li

I have to admit that I did tire of dumplings by the end and it was an enormous relief, when we were out for the day, to find an occasional western style toilet although I was adept at squatting! 
I am looking forward to using some of the material I have collected along the way to make some new work as well as continuing with my current studio work.

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