Thursday, March 21, 2013
I have arrived in Wutai Shan, the mountainous abode of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. This is a Buddhist pilgrimage site, and the site of several monasteries and temples. Very few people speak English here, and the cold winds have become oppressive. Since it is off-tourist season, I am one of the only people on the slopes and most of the shops are closed. However, upon visiting the temples, I can hear the monks chanting, ringing gongs and bells, and striking drums.
I have arrived in Shanghai, an international city of skyscrapers, heavy traffic, and modern streets. I came here on one of the overnight bullet trains. Beijing is said to represent the China of yesterday, whereas Shanghai represents the China of tomorrow. While walking around the Yuyuan Bazaar, one of the only ancient neighborhoods in Shanghai. A man and a woman asked me to take their picture. The man, Leo, taught Chinese to expats living in Shanghai. After taking their picture, we got to talking about Buddhism. I told them of my conversion to Buddhism several years ago and they invited me to a tea ceremony. I tried several different teas, all of which tasted completely different. I bought some loose fruit tea and ginseng oolong. Before serving each cup of tea, the hostess poured a drop of tea onto a statue of the Tea God. I also got a statue of the Tea God for my house. On the wall was a hanging scroll of various Chinese characters representing the three main religions of China: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, as well as other characters. Leo explained to me the meaning and history of these characters. The character for tea, he explained, is actually an image of a man picking tea leaves. After wards, my new friends gave me a bag of goji berries as a token of companionship. These are used to flavor tea in China, and also taste delicious eaten alone.
Last night I attended a concert at a bar in Beijing known for its live music acts, Yugong Yishan. There were two bands performing, Chasing Star and Whai. Chasing Star was entertaining, but Whai were virtuoso. It is a band comprised of three men, each from a different Chinese ethnic minority and combines the indigenous music of their three cultures with industrial rock.