China Collage: Tales from the Flip Side Episode Twelve

1/1/11 New Years

I waited until the day dawned to create.

The first light of the new decade has fallen here in China — golden

and full of promise

I feel the warmth of the day upon my cheeks and stare at the

brilliance of the universe with wonder as a soft holiness suffuses my


The boundless potential of the future lights my way through the

shadows and into the light

On this day of beginnings I entreat the comforting immensity to send

us all love, happiness and contentment

I offer a simple blessing from here within the shadows of a perplexing

multitude of a culture undergoing great change

I feel the roll of the distant thunder through the shifting ground and

know better days are ahead, while I prepare myself for the whirlwinds


The bright light ever-shining calls to our better nature and we who

answer will find shelter in the embrace of that which we hold sacred

My heart swells from the hope of the upcoming year

My body is warmed by glittering sparks falling from the starry heavens

My mind calms as the waves of my once storm-tossed cerebral sea break

upon the firmament of my indissoluble hopefulness

My reconstituted soul billows in the breeze of the celestial dance

To the future I sing out my ode to joy

To kindness

To understanding

I raise my glass of cheer.

Fill the cold sky with our warm voices

Softly sing in harmony against the discordant cacophony

Bless this day and each of the next we will be granted

Take not a breath in doubt

Take not a step in hesitation

Stride forward

Be well

Find peace


Sacred Sunrise


Time and Tide wait for no man

We went to Xi’an the ancient capital of China for 6–10dynasties (I can’t remember how many). I’ll tell you more about the trip later, with some more artistic shots.

Here is a doozy (all true) — We decided to rent a car (an interesting experience) and drive to the Yellow River, as it has been said to have a phenomenal “waterfall” . I was suspicious at first, but away we went. I said the river will probably be frozen and no water will be running, but younger brother went there (in Spring) and so… For various reasons, the 300 km trip took about seven hours. Our average speed was about 50 kph. This includes driving on highway, with a gps to guide us, and paper maps. Let’s say the gps does not update fast enough, and does not include new roads. So we drive onwards, the promise of food long unfulfilled I drifted into a low blood sugar fugue state, but remained generally optimistic.

Okay, it is winter, the river flow would be reduced — in my defense, I mentioned this a dozen or so times before we left. Now, we arrive, it is 3:30 in the afternoon, the gate is up and ticket booth locked — Hooray — no 15 dollar entrance fee — apiece. But up the road we find the parking lot gate down and the road blocked with a government car. So we pull over and walk down. There is the ice encrusted river just ahead — the golden goal. Out steps the local lawman, who explains rather threateningly that we “Cannot take one step further.” The government has decided to close the area because it is winter and stupid people might wander out on the ice and die. But, but, but,.. what if we look at the river from the parking lot?” “NOT ONE STEP FURTHER!” You can hold my hand if you like, and I will happily pay you five bucks to spend five minutes taking photos of… GO AWAY! NOW!!!!

So we took pictures from the side of the road, looked at the river from above, and were stopped 99.95% of the way there.

Such is the life here in this global investment paradise. But at least we found a brand new four lane highway just a couple hundred yards from the serpentine roads we had driven — You mean we could have driven the highway and saved about three hours drive time? What didn’t??? But, but, but,… not one word more.

Whooping it up in the Middle Kingdom

I have a series of articles on Xi’An


Some local governments BURN DOWN OLD GROWTH –ON PURPOSE!!!! So they can replant monoculture pine trees which they then clear cut to use as pulp and chipboard. They refer to old growth as “Junk forest” because it is just standing there and they cannot show a profit from its natural wonder. Of course they have eaten and skinned most everything that skitters about those trees. Most see wild meat as more nutritious, no matter what it is.

Have we become fragile, and frail ghosts of our ancestors’ unrealized dreams?

Can we develop into the future with a new economic paradigm, or will we continue to cobble together half baked ideas, piled high in endless reportage?

Which is easier? Entropy. Are we doomed, probably not? But I fear that the brighter future, which takes mighty efforts of uplifting and change — that may be lost to us, and will fade like the dyeing of the great white buffalo — make it look like the others will ya, so we don’t have to comprehend that anomalous bit of data.

ErHai Lake
Centuries old mural
Pottery from the ancient Tea Horse Road — ShuHe Yunnan
Old building near north shore of ErHai, Dali Yunnan
Ancient leather saddle from Tea Horse Road — ShuHe
YuLong Shan — Jade Dragon Mountain
Jammin’ with local musicians ShuHe
Fierce Warrior Hong
The Other Cotton Club
Dongba Script from Naxi People
OMG Coffee, bacon, toast, eggs…
ErHai Lake

FeiLai Temple far northwestern Yunnan, Tibetan Village

Tibetan People
High Mountains of Northwest Yunnan
Arid Tibetan region Northwestern Yunnan
Rock road we drove into high mountains


from the highest regions

I have just returned from a two week trip to Guangxi and Yunnan. We went to the furthest northwest area and spent some time with wonderful Tibetan people in a Tibetan family hotel and watched the sunrise over the sacred Meili Mountain. The town is at over 11,000 feet in altitude, which I did not know at the time, so that would explain my headache :-)

It was miraculous to watch the sun hit one of the eight sacred mountains of the Tibetans. We had typical Tibetan breakfast with yak butter tea, bread, ground corn and wheat, and some extra yak butter for my bread. Afterward we visited the local FeiLai Temple, burned yak butter candles, and spun the prayer wheels outside in a counterclockwise path with the local wonderful people. I said a little prayer for everyone.

Feilai Temple
Yak Butter Tea
Tibetan Family Hotel where we stayed

My god the Tibetans are the kindest, sweetest people I have ever met. They love to smile, laugh and have a general good natured manner. The area is just down the road about 10–15 miles from the border, but this area has been their home long before there were such borders.

Traditional Tibetan Breakfast
Upper Reaches of the Mekong River

We spent several days in an ancient city that was part of the tea-horse road. The road joined up with the Silk Road in the western desert. The ethnic minority people are incredible. We found a very mellow place to hang out and just chill. And the Yunnan coffee is delicious and full bodied.

Naxi warriors with enormous bird — condor?

On Valentines Day Hong and I hung prayer flags for happiness and prosperity on a stupa — there are dozens across the area. We then circled the stupa spinning the prayer wheels.

Valentines Day

April 2011

Subject: all quiet on the eastern front

I just sent my taxes again even though I am never sure they arrive — I do send them. I always imagine that final scene from Indiana Jones when they put the Ark into storage in giant warehouse. The outbound mail is an iffy proposition, but I have faith there are people each step of the way who will do their job.

The Nuclear reactor meltdown

Holy F-ink-hellacious troubles with the Japanese reactors. DAMNIT!!! Stop telling part of the story. I see a variety of news often contradictory about how much leaked, how much is leaking, how much is dumped into ocean — like it is just koolaid they are dropping into our only oceans. CRAP. It makes us crazy over here, because no one knows who is talking. So the news today, they upgraded disaster to the highest level a 7 out of 7 (Chernobyl being a 7).

Bob Dylan performed in Shanghai to a sold out crowd, and he was a hit, more or less. He then went on to play in the Hanoi. The strangeness of life in the 21st Century deepens.

I grow weary of people thinking of this country as one big unified front, one collective. Chinese people want, more or less, what all Americans also want, the first being something better for their families.

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