May 26 2008

CHINA ON MY MIND

Marianne

chengdu-old-mans-teahouse.jpg In recent days, my thoughts are frequently drawn to China, most specifically Sichuan Provence, the area so horribly affected by the recent devastating earthquakes. When traveling last fall to parts of China with others interested in the culture of the ancient tea leaf, we flew from Beijing into Chengdu, a city of beautiful roof top gardens and home to one of ancient China’s most famous poets.

After spending a day in Chengdu, we began our journey through the surrounding countryside, traveling into the mountains where we climbed for more than half the day before reaching Qing Cheng Shan, a remote mountain seldom visited by westerners, where we spent the night at a Daoist Temple. We spent our time there meeting with the Daoist monks, learning about their lifestyle, their local wild tea plants, Tai Chi, and drinking in the clear, beautiful mountain air and breathtaking views. As we enjoyed the simple, but deliciously spicey food and wonderful tea, it was a pleasure to leave the world behind for 24 hours.

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Reluctantly we left the mountain the next day, traveling back through the agricultural towns, where the road took us past straw mats spread on the ground on which so many local products were drying in the sun: spicey red peppers, rice, corn. It is unthinkable that this province of abundance has been subjected to such a devastating event. I think of the warm and friendly people we met there: Echo, our local guide who is a bright, intelligent college student, a wisp of a girl with dreams of visiting the western world one day; The daoist monks with whom we met, bright, centered, and spiritual beings yet very knowledgeable of current affairs and the world; The friendly local people who waved and smiled, thrilled at glimpsing us western visitors. I wonder how all of them are, hoping they have survived this devastation. As I read the media coverage of the searching, grieving, and sometimes angry survivors, I wish there were something more I could do than pray for their peace, as I can only imagine this will be very hard to accomplish. I hope to eventually hear from Echo that she and her loved ones are safe and well. I hope this is so.

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