Archive for the 'China' Category

China 16: meeting the master

November 12, 2009

John Wyver writes from Beijing: Ten minutes or so after we arrive at today’s location I succumb to a quiet and personal moment of despair. I can’t see how we are going to get anything from the building site behind and beneath which the White Cloud Temple seems to be hiding. We were hoping that this (usually) beautiful and ancient temple in Beijing would be a key location, along with Taishan, for our approach to Daoism. But the courtyards are crammed with pipes and paving stones, there are workmen everywhere — and Ian can’t see a single shot clear of construction clutter. Added to which, Master Qiu doesn’t want us to show anything of the mess. Read the rest of this entry »

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China 15: civilization once stride forward

November 11, 2009

The first impression of Beijing as the flight from Luoyang comes in to land is of snow across the surrounding landscape. According to the Guardian, the blizzard on Sunday was enhanced by the local weather modification service (I’m not making this up!) to ensure that the nearby farmland received the maximum possible water. As we taxi to the gate the plane is alive with the sound of mobiles being switched back on — despite the stern warning over the tannoy prohibiting precisely this. We’re back in China’s capital for the final four days of our trip — and for a good part of the time we’ll get to be tourists.

Beijing T Square with Mao Read the rest of this entry »

China 14: revolution in the air

November 11, 2009

John McCarthy takes a walk in Luoyang: Luoyang is very proud of its peonies. Ning says that one should come in May when the peonies bloom – then the city is beautiful. Yet, even though we are visiting in early November, we do not find the city peony-less. I see two Peony restaurants, a Peony hairdresser and at least one other hotel with peony in the name before we arrive at ours, the Peony Plaza. It’s just across the road from the Luoyang Peony Maternity Hospital. Read the rest of this entry »

China 13: a great Buddha, a great day

November 11, 2009

Longmen closer across river

John Wyver writes from the Longmen caves: There are days when it all comes together — and this was most definitely one. The weather was sparkling, our scholarly contributor a delight, access was unproblematic (thanks to excellent preparation by our Chinese colleagues) and the location was, simply, marvellous. I think we knew that the Longmen Buddhist cave temples would be a highlight of our Art of Faith II filming trip but I really wasn’t prepared for just how extraordinary, involving and moving they would turn out to be. I came away feeling that I had visited one of the wonders of the world — and one that beyond a circle of experts and some intrepid tourists is hardly known in the west. Read the rest of this entry »

China 12: Luoyang express

November 10, 2009

John McCarthy on the train from Tai’an to Luoyang:train lead official

10.56, Sunday, Tai’an: Ning won’t brook any malarkey. The train for Luoyang is pulling in and will be away again in four minutes, exactly. So we are ready poised with the load, suitcases, camera, rucksacks, tripod, monitor, pot noodles and cakes equally distributed among us. The train is still moving when Ian and I make a move. The Platform Guard (in splendid uniform) and the Policewoman (slightly less splendid attire) turn sharply, warning us back. The train stops and now there’s no holding us. Or there wouldn’t be but for the matching brace of officials who emerge from the train to exchange pleasantries and sheaves of papers with the first pair. Read the rest of this entry »

China 11: markets, Mao and mountain men

November 10, 2009

John McCarthy, writing from Tai’an: Everywhere we have been we have seen massive building projects. The other day, coming back here to Tai’an, we went under an elevated section of rail link which one day will unite Beijing and Shanghai to cut the journey time from twelve hours to five. Snaking its way 50 feet above the flat farmland, this project, like other road construction works we have passed obviously improves the country’s infrastructure. But they also throw into sharp contrast modern, booming China with one that seems a hangover from the days when five year plans were directed by political ideologues rather than bureaucrats with MBAs. Super-highways thunder past poor and depressed landscapes where famers push, pull or pedal carts laden with bushels of drying maize stalks. Sometimes just a couple of hundred yards lie between the tiniest of dwellings and a vast new housing estate.

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China 10: return to Taishan

November 1, 2009
Poem on cliff face

Poem by Emperor Qianlong on Taishan

John Wyver writes: Re-working our schedule, and committing to a nine-hour-plus train journey (which is being put to good use as it’s when I’m writing this post), has meant that we can add another day’s filming to our schedule. So instead of going back to Beijing now and then flying out the day after, we can stay for one more day in Tai’an and return to the holy mountain of Taishan. Our planning, however, appears to have been in vain when we wake to persistent rain and heavy clouds across both town and peak.

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China 9: big bang in Tai’an

November 1, 2009

John McCarthy writes: According to Wikipedia, North American Indians discovered popcorn by heating corn over a fire. I’m in no position to say they didn’t but I think the Chinese might have beaten them to it. Gunpowder came to the world from China, likely as the unexpected result of Daoist alchemists hunting for the elixir of immortality in the 8th century. More than somewhat ironic, I’d say, to discover something so good at causing death when you’re after eternal life. But that’s beside the point. Read the rest of this entry »

China 8: place-settings and plans

October 30, 2009

lead red lanterns at Qufu

John Wyver writes: Early Friday evening (China time), and we’re back in Tai’an after a further morning in the Confucius Temple and another hair-raising drive. (I’m not sure if the worst moment was the near-collision with two police cars or the crossing over into the oncoming traffic to overtake in what became for a moment the fifth lane of a four-lane highway.) Time for a further clutch of random reflections. Read the rest of this entry »

China 7: Confucius, we say…

October 29, 2009

Ian and John climbing Mt TaiThoughts from John McCarthy below, but first John Wyver writes:
John M’s vivid verbal snapshot of our trip up Mt Tai needs little elaboration. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims make the journey each day, at a cost of around £30 if they take the bus and cable car, but it still seems like something of an adventure. We were lucky with the weather and only disappointed that the Daoist monk who we had hoped might tell John’s fortune instructed us that this ritual was strictly one-to-one and could be observed by neither a film crew nor an interpreter. A little reluctantly we gave up on the idea.The clusters of temples right across the top of the mountain make the place very special, as do the inscriptions left on the rocks by eminent visitors including Song, Tang and Ming dynasty emperors. Read the rest of this entry »