Friday, September 19, 2014

Feng Sue, Tai Chi, Royalty and Duck

Any morning in the park
Catch ball
        It's all about the line, here in Beijing. The Feng Shui balance.  Wind and Water. The Tai Chi flow. Things on the right side must jive with things on the left side. The Ying cannot be at odds with the Yang or the qi - life's spirit - will be out of sync. Then it's a bad day for the emperor and, I guess, Buddha too and us. Apparently there are spiritual laws or geomancy, which can get you as close as possible to "good luck" and send away bad fortune, if you live on that kind of system. 

Back hand ball
Chinese people consult a geomancer if things are out of whack, and hey, maybe if you move your bed to another wall, your life can get smooth and cool again. The big shots rely on the geomancer to approve architectural projects, dates of important decisions, even how you decorate your home and offices. The geomancer totes in his master's bag a compass with 8 ancient triagrams of nature, its elements and 8 animals - horse, goat, pheasant, dragon, fowl, swine, dog, and ox. It resounds in Chinese philosophy about being right and medicine - where the five elements contain five types of energy at different times of the year - so you must keep up with where you are when : water dominates in winter, wood in spring, fire in summer, metal in autumn and earth sneaks in between seasons. So there,

Looking for a groom
       Beijing is set up  a la feng shui along a strong axis from the North Star to the South Star. For example, if there is an earthquake on one side of the meridian, they have to do something to balance it out on the other - it can take the form of prayers, offerings or even building a whole new structure. Everything must line up, and so through history, major structures have followed this path - this is why the exotic Bird's Nest structure (opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics) along side the giant blue water tank (where swimming took place) - they represent wind and water - rectangle and circle (earth and heaven) - were built on the same axis as the Forbidden City, which housed the Emperor, the most holy, powerful, god-like person in all the billions who lived in China. 

Tai Chi with master
He is no more but memory now. Everything generated from his Dragon Throne from which the emperor governed as the ritual mediator between heaven and earth. And going south from the Forbidden City, the Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and a special park which is filled daily with the elderly exercising (more later) and, even though Mao ZeDong outlawed anything imperial, he built his mausoleum - I guess so he wouldn't miss out if spirituality counted - smack on the proper line. Woe to he who is out of line. (I wonder if this is where the expression originated - Don't you get out of line!).

Forbidden City
        Since I've been a bit off kilter (maybe I'm off line), probably a reaction to the polluted air which you don't notice at all nor does it have a smell, we had a easy morning - and one of the most fun on the trip. We went to the Sun Yatsen Park behind the Forbidden City and what a surprise - thousands of Chinese probably in the 50 and up range take advantage of all sorts of activities outdoors on the spot - from group Tai Chi to bellydancing to just dancing anyway you want before a quartet playing antique instruments, to delicately swinging a sort of lightweight racket while keeping a rubber ball on it as you rotate it (I'm going to try this), and a new catch and throw thing that makes you move.

What's behind the door
With female lion at Forbidden City
        Everyone was smiling and laughing. What a lovely environment for forgetting one's troubles to start the day. Most fascinating were the lines and lines of grandparents and parents who lined the walkways with PR about their granddaughters or daughters to see if they can interest other parents and grandparents about arranging a marriage. Loved this old way of doing things. No photos. Just descriptions in Chinese on crude sheets of paper or even a box top. I'm told that if a parent is interested, he or she has a discussion with the "offerer" and if things look hunky dory, then they arrange a "date" to test out the vibes between their children. Oh, Lordy. That would never catch on in the US. But you get the amazing sense of Family, here, of living together - sometimes three generations - and of caring about their futures. I guess it is so. If you can have only one child, at the most two, then that child is as precious as heaven to you and your future.  And the agility of these aging people makes the Grizzlies Grannies look like pikers.
Imperial child
Only the Emperor stepped here

        We wandered until we came to a small opening among the pines and there was a Tai Chi master who would take us through the morning moves. He was dressed in a white silk pajama outfit. Having experienced Tai Chi many times in the past, I tried to follow the Master in his well-balanced moves. He explained the whys of positions - mostly for self-defense - and said we were "very good" by the time we were done and everything was aching. Tai Chi is tough if you do it right. From here we went to the Temple of Heaven - I guess a stop there isn't such a bad idea. It is not as ornate as one would think. And there is nothing to go into, just concrete bridges of various levels to cross. At the top is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests where people can pray - from outside - for prosperity or a good crop.

Restorer of Qian Long's quarters
Temple of Heaven
        After a dim sum lunch (I'm an addict for dumplings and the veggies we can eat) we went back to the treasured Imperial Palace or Forbidden City, memories of which come flowing through as I saw the Last Emperor movie, which was made here. What is hard to understand is that when an Emperor, the most powerful man on earth, the god before all gods, was born, he NEVER for any reason whatsoever could leave the confines. (one committed suicide to escape). He could dictate orders and govern, but he never saw people below a certain rank, never greeted diplomats, never even bedded most of his concubines, (there were thousands) the women chosen  every three years between the ages of 13-16 who, once having the honor of being chosen, could never again return to their families or friends, and were locked behind the walls of the Forbidden City for life. Let me tell you that the Forbidden City is HUGE. There are buildings as far as you can see, and more appear behind those, and more behind those. But there was such an order and a restriction that being chosen a concubine or to be a eunuchs was worse than life imprisonment, though they and the emperor lived in luxury.

New friends in China
        As we went from level to level, from courtyard to courtyard through the Forbidden City, there came a moment I had to sit down. Generously, there are comfortable benches lined up against some walls for the weary and aged. I sat down on one and immediately was surrounded by two elderly women, one 85 and one 76 who wanted to have a picture made with a white lady. The daughter in law was with them and she was quite friendly, so we sat there, the three of us, canceling out barriers of all sorts just by being together (apparently most Americans won't take the time), and we sat and sat and pictures were taken by many.  We even shared pictures of grandchildren via the IPhone. Was this special? I suggested to the women that one day maybe we will all be in Heaven, since Heaven is a destination for Chinese too. It was their first time to the Forbidden City, as it was mine.  God opened a little window for me here.
Da Dong Restaurant

        We had special - more special than I realized - privilege to have a peek at one of the interior rooms (no one is allowed this, apparently), the quarters where the only emperor who ever "retired" stayed til his death. We had to put covers on our shoes. The first thing I noticed besides the elegant embroidery and panels and bamboo work and wall paintings, was that I had to duck my head through every doorway (that wasn't really a door but just a passageway.) The beds of the emperor were definitely short. We were taken to the room where the Peking Opera would have been performed for his entertainment and then, wow upon wow, we were allowed to go up stairs to the balcony area from which the emperor could also have viewed entertainment. I was told no foreigner has ever been allowed that privilege. The delicacy and smallness were impactive and it was something I will remember forever. The entire ceiling was painted with wisteria vines.
Peking Duck

        To top off the night, another bucket list check-off - We ate Peking Duck at the most famous "duck" restaurant in the nation - Da Dong on the 10th floor of a Mall. Truly it was an extreme experience and the duck, having been roasted over apricot wood,  was served in a crepe, in a "hamburger" bun (would that a hamburger had that kind of bun!) and dipped in crystal sugar. 

After this we went to the Peking Opera, a one hour presentation (couldn't take much more) of a traditional war opera where the two major characters lifted legs and twirled and fought with sticks and hands - (all faked) in movements that took our breath away. Can't say much for the music and sounds, nor the very screechy voices (all male), but it was splendid, in Jing Ju style, at the Li Yuan Theater and the ultimate for our Beijing experience.     


Anonymous said...

Dearest Audrey,
Now we know what is wrong with us. Our Yings and Yangs are out of sync. This condition was probably exacerbated when Judge retired. We obviously need to consult a geomancer!!
Can't imagine just how special your tour of the Forbidden City really was. To be able to go places that were off limits to others was awesome. Great photo of you at the Forbidden City in front of the female lion. Nice picture of you and your two new friends.
We used to have two pet ducks that used our pool as their sanctuary every year. When it was feeding time they would climb out of the pool and waddle to the kitchen door where they pecked on the glass door asking for their dinner. We will honor our relationship with these ducks by never eating Peking Duck no matter how good it is. Geraldean had two pet goats when she was a little girl, so goat, lamb, etc. will be something we will never eat.
NEWS FROM HOME: Last Sunday afternoon Judge drove to Covington for the funeral of Bill Peeler's brother, Robert. It was a nice service that was well attended.
When I went through the long visitation line and spoke with Bill, he said his 96 year old mother who was further down the line was really sharp. So, when I finally got to his mother, she was jovial and in good spirits, so I asked her for a date. She quickly said, " are too young for me. Her words brightened my day. There is hope!
I haven't been back to the Court since I retired on August 31st. Understand that major changes are being made. Dan has asked Sheriff Oldham to take over the detention center. Don't know what prompted this decision.
Today is beautiful! The temperature has dropped to 80 degrees during the day and last night it was in the sixties. Very pleasant.
God bless you! Please take care of yourself. We miss you and love you very much,
Geraldean and Judge

Anonymous said...

Please don't invite us to a Chinese opera. We attended a Thai musical in Bangkok. Staying awake was difficult!
Lots of love,
Geraldean & Judge