Sunday, February 10, 2013

Travel East - Fujian (福建)

Transportation in China was very poor. Sometimes it was so difficult even to get a ticket or a place to stay. That was frustrating. My parents always helped me out. Their oil company had better connections to obtain train tickets and they often asked their friends where I was going to help me arrange a place to stay and a ticket to return.
     There was one time though that I went to the East Coast for a meeting in Fujian Province. I had to take a train to Shanghai and stayed overnight. Then I continued to take another train to Fuzhou and then a long distance bus back to the Wuyi Mountains (武夷山) (I did not know yet that my ancestors had settled here in the foothills when they came from the North) where the meeting was. I had a broken window by my seat. Even though it was not that cold, the evening wind blew on me for six or seven hours. I was very cold, plus hungry. I never felt that cold before and I thought that I would catch a cold that night. When we reached our destination finally and sat at the dinner table, my hands were still shaking. I could hardly pick up my food with chopsticks. I soon warmed up after dinner, and I was amazed that I did not get sick.
     The Wuyi Mountains have 4,000 years of history. This was the place of the ancient city Chengcun, the capital of the Minyue Kingdom. In the seventh century, the Wuyi Palace was built for emperors to conduct sacrificial activities, a place for Taoism and later Buddhism. The highest peak in Fujian was at 2,158 meters, the lowest elevations were around 200 meters by the sea. This was one of the most beautiful mountains I ever visited. On the field trip, first, we sat on a raft of big bamboo sticks. Our feet were in the water and the raft was floating. There was little room for us. We sat so we would not fall into the water. The water was so clear, you could see everything on the bottom of the stream. Every now and then, we saw a school of fish swim by.

Hanging Coffins in Fujian's Wuyi Mountains
Then, we landed and started to climb a high peak. We saw the vegetation change with elevation from rainforest, subtropical (the largest remaining tracts of humid subtropical forests in the world) to temperate coniferous forest. It was hot and sunny. I got very tired at one point. I couldn’t move and my face was pale. After I rested for awhile, I was fine again and for the rest of the trip. It must have been too much for my body to handle the fast changing altitude from 200 to over 2000-meter.
The tablet next to me means “walking in the clouds on Mt Wuyi
     While I was there, my roommate, who was a few years older than I was, quickly visited Zhuxi’s (朱熹 1130-1200) place where he used to study and teach, then we went to the local market and I saw this ivory white puppy. He was so cute and I just couldn’t leave. So I asked how much even though I wasn’t suppose to buy or own one in the city. The farmer said, “one Yuan.” I said that I was not buying. He thought that I considered one dollar too expensive and said, “fifty cents and he is all yours.” So, I got the puppy. We took him back to the hotel where we stayed. We didn’t tell anyone though. 
Zhu_Xi (朱熹 1130-1200) and MT Wuyi
     We had our traditional three meals, eight to ten people sat around the table. We shared everything except our own bowls of rice. So, we had to hide some meat and take it back to our room to feed the dog. When we got to our room, the puppy had made a mess and didn’t eat the food we brought. It was obvious that he was still drinking his mother’s milk and he cried all night, so none of us could go to sleep. The next morning, I got some milk for him to drink and some bread to eat. He ate some of the bread and milk.
The second night, we started to feel itchy all over because the dog had fleas and cried again at night. We were miserable. The next morning, the hotel worker came to clean our room. She saw the dog and said, “I did not see that. I did not see anything.” Finally, I had to give the dog away to local people. It was difficult to find a home for him. I certainly learned my lesson.
      On the way back, It was easy to get to Shanghai because of help from the meeting hosts. I had a place to stay with the help of my parents; however, I had to get a ticket to return home. When I went to where the train tickets were sold, the place was filled with people lined up for tickets. I thought I would try to get a ticket for the next day or two later, but people were in a line a few blocks long. Most of them either had a blanket or coat to stay there overnight. I heard of people lining up overnight for the next day’s ticket, but I never saw such a line until then. Well, I guessed that I had to line up. So I found the end of the line and more people came after me even though the line didn’t move. After I stood there awhile, I asked people standing in front of me how long they had been there. They told me that they had been there since the day before. That really shocked me, “You mean you are still here.” I wasn’t going to wait that long. I was going to the train station and try my luck. Maybe, someone would try to sell his or her ticket due to a change in schedule.
     I took a bus to the train station and the station was full of people. I saw people sell their tickets to other places, but not to my city. There was only one train to my city each day. So I waited and walked around to see if there was one person who would sell a ticket to Chengdu. Finally, I gave up. Well, I would try tomorrow. While I walked out of the station, a man was holding two tickets to Chengdu. I was so excited, “please sell one to me.” He wanted to sell two. I said, “please sell me one. I have been here all day waiting for you and I haven’t had anything to eat or drink. You will have no trouble to sell the other one.” He looked at me and seemed to say, “Okay. Poor thing.” He did sell me one ticket for the next day.
      On the way home, I stopped in the city Hangzhou (杭州) that was founded about 2,200 years ago during the Qin Dynasty. It was one of the Seven Ancient Capitals in Chinese history. Hangzhou is at the southern end of the Grand Canal finished in 609 and extending to Beijing. It was one of the three great centers of culture in southern China during the tenth century, along with Nanjing and my city Chengdu.
     I went to West_Lake (西湖), famous for its picture-perfect gardens, ancient buildings, and stones. To my surprise, I noticed four kneeling statues in front of Yue Fei(岳飞) which I had never seen anywhere in China. Wanqi Xie (万俟軼), Zhang Jun (張俊) Lady Wang (王氏) and Qin Kuai (秦桧) kneeling before Yue Fei’s tomb by West Lake for centuries. Qin's descendents tried very hard to remove the kneeling statues, still no luck today. Yue Fei (March 24, 1103 – January 27, 1142) was a famous Chinese patriot and military general who fought for the Southern Song Dynasty against the Jurchen armies of the Jin Dynasty. He was not killed in battle but by betrayal of the four. Han Shizhong (韓世忠), another general threw his helmet and sword on the ground, and attacked the Emperor for not following through in kicking out the Jurchen.
Front entrance to Yue Fei's tomb in Hangzhou
Statues of Lady Wang (秦王氏) and Qin Hui (秦檜) at the Yue Fei Temple, Hangzhou caption
Statues of Moqi Xie (万俟卨) and Zhang Jun (張俊) at the Yue Fei Temple, Hangzhou
The Tomb of General Yue Fei, was built by Emperor Xiao Zong (1163 - 1189), rebuilt in 1715 in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) and repaired in 1979.
     On the train back home, the woman next to my seat was going back to her hometown for a visit. She had one little boy in her arms and another older boy by her husband. She was a typical “Sichuan Girl.” She spoke our Sichuan dialect with us, but spoke mandarin to her husband. I heard stories about how Sichuan girls were married outside of the province for economic reasons, or sometimes by a kidnapper who sold them to farmers. We did not know why this young woman married out this far. She told us that it was her first time to go home after so many years away. The Sichuan men sitting around her started to feel jealous for the outside husband who took this fine young woman away from them, even though I am sure that some of them were already married. They started to talk to her about her hometown and how much it had changed since she was gone and how much better the farmers’ life had become. I could see from the young woman’s eyes that she missed her home. Those men made her feel worse. She started to order her husband to get this and that for her children so she could talk more. Her husband could not understand Sichuan dialect, but he nicely followed her orders and went away for whatever she wanted.
   When I traveled alone on the train, we talked a lot to occupy the long hours on the train. I met a lot of interesting people on the way. You could tell who were the frequent travelers. Every now and then, someone on the train asked whether I was single or married (because Chinese people didn’t wear rings to indicate that they were married). I usually told them that I had been married for a few years. They were usually surprised by my answer and I didn’t want to get into any trouble either. The scary thing about traveling alone was when I reached a city where I would have to transfer, I had to find a place to stay overnight. Once in Beijing, everywhere I went there was no room. Every place was full. I had to take a bus or walk to find a hotel. Finally, I was lucky to find a place in the late afternoon. One woman just checked out. I could not imagine where I would stay if I could not find one.