[Part 1 here]
As I noted last week while walking by the canal seen here, the image below rather sums up twenty-first century China up in a nutshell; calm water between walkways lined by trees and red lamps, while in the background cranes scrape the sky.
I never get tired of seeing these roofs. I tried to avoid the couples in these photos, who were enjoying some quality time on the bridges.
Our group drove out to a place called ZiXi Mountain Scenic Area (紫溪山景區), which unlike what I’d seen in Taiwan and Yunnan thus far, bears resemblance to mountains and forests in Europe and the United States. People in the field by the entrance ride ponies, eat corn, walk around, and shoot slingshots. People there really love shooting slingshots, attempting to hit pine cones from far away, or setting up water bottles on top of stone monuments or tables and doing target practice. While walking by someone who used her slingshot to shoot upwards, I wondered what the likelihood of being hit in the head. I figured the chance was low so I didn’t worry much.
This is a statue of the “Headcloth King”, who in this area is said to have been fathered by a dragon. He could turn “bamboo into horses and beans into goats.” He wrote a letter to his father, the dragon, attached it to an arrow and shot it toward the Black Temple where the dragon lived. Instead, the arrow landed in the ChuXiong government office, compelling the government to send armies to attack. In the end the Headcloth King was defeated by spell-casting Taoists.
There was a young boy with his mom, who asked me who I was. “I’m a monster and I eat children!” I said, and he tried to get by me. I blocked him for a while by just moving back and forth as he tried to get around me, like basketball. He soon got too quick for me and returned to his mom, who was watching nearby.
Water streamed beside us, mushrooms grew on dead trees, moss covered the steps. It was peaceful. We walked.
We took a train brought us from JianShui (建水) to KunMing (昆明). Across from us were an old woman and her granddaughter. When asked, she said she was seven years old. She had a small plastic ‘suitcase’ of toys. She didn’t have an English name. She was playing a game on a smartphone that requires you to touch the notes of Pachelbel’s Canon (why is this tune everywhere in China?) in sequence, kind of like guitar hero. She kept playing, which meant everyone heard the familiar notes. A man near us kept asking us questions, especially who I was and why I was there. The accent is thick in Yunnan Province, so given my Taiwan-trained ears it’s hard to tell what people are saying. I was the only foreigner around. A police officer saw me and asked to see my passport. The seats were full, so some people stood, and watched me as I talked to the girl and the man. She kept handing me her phone, so I helped her advance in the game. Green hills, red soil, farms and buildings passed us outside the windows.
Then we got to KunMing station where we went outside to find food in the form of noodles and dumplings. Then was the train to ChuXiong (楚雄), where we were picked up by friends and driven to a restaurant, where I was encouraged to drink BaiJiu (白酒), literally ‘white wine’, which is the typical liquor of the Mainlanders.
We stayed in a hotel. Here is the view from the room:
We went to a friend’s tea shop, which was decorated with Buddhist art and iconography, as well as traditional Chinese designs and artifacts.
I went for a walk outside the tea shop. The area is more dominated by Muslims, many of them from Myanmar. Lots of seemingly identical Burmese-run shops around the city sell jewelry. One of the shop owners said hello to me, and wanted me to come into the store (the entire outside wall is open during the day, with a shutter closing over the entrance at night). I asked him how long he’d been in China.
“9 years” he said in Chinese. I looked for a few minutes to be polite. I asked where the photo on his wall was taken.
“Saudi Arabia” he said. I thanked him and went back to drink more tea.
We ate lunch at this spot by this canal. It runs through the city’s Old Town (古城), which is extensive.