Before and during our stay in China, I took Chinese lessons. Both teachers spent time introducing sounds, kanjis, and hours explaining words and expressions. It was intriguing and difficult. Every word, expression and kanji has layers of symbolic and historic meanings, intricate and complex. It is a language that is very hard to pronounce due to the different tones, and very complicated to translate, because it uses metaphors to ancient knowledge and onomatopoeia (using a term for a word that sounds like what it is describing.) I did not even scratch the surface of the language, and I have a very superficial understanding of the Chinese culture. I wanted to stay longer, in hope to dive deeper into the root of the Mother of Asia, but I had to leave earlier than expected. I mourned that dream during several months, but maybe it wasn’t for me to understand it more than I did.
Having said that, here is what I do understand about Chinese. They are the most disciplined people hive, each following carefully its duty tirelessly, and without apparent doubts of the purpose, means or end result of a mandate. The trust and obedience to their president, the leader of the Communist Party of China is rewarded with experiencing a peaceful and safe country, and punishment with harshness in a penitentiary system where people receive a questionable fair trial. As a result, people massively obey in to fear of being taken away, rather than love to the Communist principles. Policies and decisions are made vertically, and people follow the orders from government with apparent tranquilly and bitter resignation but without protest.
The CPC system causes for visible contradictions, which exacerbated my fascination for the Chinese culture. For instance, how to conciliate communism with religious devotion? In December, we visited Putuoshan Island a pilgrimage centre. We took a bus from Shanghai and then a ferry from Shenjiamen. Putuoshan Island is a centre for pilgrimage with its 30 to 40 Buddhist temples, and around 4000 Buddhist monks and nuns from China and around the world. I had anticipated a forgotten site with ruins and poverty. However, what we found was serious devotion from Chinese from across the country, who would give donations and walk silently for hours-on-end in exchange for miracles on pregnancy, passing exams, obtaining jobs or promotions. We stayed at an AirBnB where the host asked us if we would kindly refer to her as our friend if anyone asked. It is forbidden to host tourists. We walked along the towns, crossed fields and mountains to reach the temples, took a minibus around a mountain top where a grand temple sentinels a humongous effigy of Quan Yin or Guan Xing (the female bodhisattva of compassion and mercy). Her image is visible in many places, with numerous devotees. The temples and the impressive sites somehow survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Perhaps the area was too isolated for the people’s liberation army, or perhaps some monks and nuns were able to hibernate, camouflage or flee during the harshest persecution. Maybe some came back or there are new ones who are populating the monasteries. Moreover, the current system has not been able to crush the spiritual needs and beliefs of all in its ruthless requisite for uniformity. Fascinating and troublesome.
|Temples in PutuoShan|
|Beach and temple|
|Ear Cleaning Museum|
|Traditional wooden houses facing canal|