A Few Days in Zhangye

A Few Days in Zhangye (Gansu Province) 张掖

Stage 6: Zhangye and around

(see stages 1  2  3  4  5  of our 2011 trip)

& Danxia Landforms Geology Park 张掖丹霞地貌

& Mati Si / 马蹄寺

A Few Days in Zhangye: Zhangye Temple
A Few Days in Zhangye: The Dafo / Great Buddha Temple

A Few Days in Zhangye: Getting there from Alashan Yuoqi

A few days in Zhangye 张掖, the friendly and attractive city in western Gansu province, is best way to get to know this remote area of China. Zhangye is only a three to four hour bus ride away from the Inner Mongolian town of Alashan Youqi, the gateway to the Badan Jarain Desert. And, as the friendly ticket lady at Youqi’s bus station had assured Adam two days ago, there are no problems getting tickets. So we swap the tickets for the 15.00 bus which the Badain Jaran travel agency had erroneously bought us, and hop on the 8.30 one instead.

A Few Days in Zhangye: The Dafo / Great Buddha Temple
A Few Days in Zhangye: The Dafo / Great Buddha Temple

The bus starts out half-empty, but doesn’t stay that way for long. This is still peasant country, where local people prefer to line up by the road side with their sacks and bundles, waiting for the bus to pick them up, rather than make their way to the bus station. The main difference with 20 years ago is that most of the transactions, involving pick- ups and drop- offs, are arranged on mobile phones these days.

A Few Days in Zhangye: The Dafo / Great Buddha Temple
A Few Days in Zhangye: The Dafo / Great Buddha Temple

The other thing that takes us back into time is the speed of the ride; or rather, the lack of it. In fact, we have seldom come across a driver less in a hurry. Though we normally want our buses to go slowly and carefully, ever fearful of accidents, even we think that this guy could speed up a bit.

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Yushu Earthquake

Yushu Earthquake: For anybody who has been following our blog over the last few months, you will know that we were in Yushu and the surrounding area last year. It is one of the most stunning and fascinating areas of China we’ve visited.

It’s difficult to express how we feel at the moment. Sitting here in the comfort of our flat in Madrid, the catastrophe in Yushu seems a world a way, and yet so close. We can only hope that the people we met and their families have survived this tragedy.

Monasteries around Ganzi

Places to visit around Ganzi 甘孜

Dagei Gompa大金寺, Began Gompa, Beri Gompa白利寺

Monasteries around Ganzi are well off the beaten track and make a great day trip if you hire a taxi. We visited 3 monasteries within a 30 kilometre radius of Ganzi: Dagei Gompa, Began Gompa, or Baigei Si, and Beri Gompa, or Baili Si (all names are approximate).

Hire a taxi to see all three in a day

In order to do this, we hired a taxi for a half day for 250 Yuan. Our driver was a friendly chap who seemed to be of mixed Chinese- Tibetan origin and could speak both Mandarin (of sorts) and Tibetan. More importantly, he seemed to get on well with everybody.

Monasteries around Ganzi: Our first stop, Dagei Gompa

Our first stop, Dagei Gompa, is about 30 kilometres back towards Manigango. The landscape along the way is glorious: lots of grazing animals, imposing mountains and small villages, their houses and walls covered in vertical beige and white stripes.

Dagei is quite large, almost a monastic village. Hidden away above Continue reading “Monasteries around Ganzi”

Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa 石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院

Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa

石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院

We pass quickly through Serxu Xian, the modern administrative town, 35 kilometres after the huge Serxu monastery. Our driver seems concerned that the local police may look for an excuse to fine him, just because he has Qinghai number plates.

It feels like a long drive now. Progress is brisk, as the road is paved and in reasonable condition, but in general, signs of life are few and far between; we pass a few Tibetan villages with the odd monastery.

In some places the landscape is a bit less harsh; we pass a large lake, surrounded by soft, green hills.

Soon after, there is a succession of passes and the landscape changes abruptly. Suddenly, Continue reading “Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa 石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院”

Beijing Coma Mǎ Jiàn A Book Review

Beijing Coma (北京植物人) Mǎ Jiàn (马建) A Book Review


Beijing Coma Mǎ Jiàn A Book Review. This book should come with a health warning: unsuitable for first-time visitors to China, for they may well decide to cancel their trip. Even old-time China-lovers, such as myself, should proceed with caution, as some of the things you’re about to read may put you off going back there forever!

“ ‘They aren’t evil, they’re just products of an evil system.’ ”

Having suffered through some graphic descriptions of the unspeakable suffering, and the cruelties Chinese people inflicted upon each other during the Cultural Revolution; having shuddered at the inhumane way the death penalty is carried out and gasped at its utterly immoral connection to organ transplants, I found I had to keep repeating the words Dai Wei, the protagonist, says to his girlfriend, Tian Yi, as if they were a kind of mantra: “ ‘They aren’t evil, they’re just products of an evil system.’ ” (p. 504).

Synopsis

Dai Wei is in a coma; unable to move a muscle, though aware of his surroundings and with his memory intact. Through his memories, he relives his life, from his early childhood, when his father returns from a 22-year stint in a series of reform-through-labour camps, to the fatal denouement at Tiananmen Square, during which he is shot in the head.  At regular intervals, Dai Wei’s attempts to return to his past are interrupted by his awareness of present events – the visits of his girlfriend or friends, his mother’s comments – or interspersed with clinical observations on the deterioration of his own body, as he is after all a Biologist.

a traumatic first arrest for ‘immoral behaviour’

From his family history, childhood and adolescence, with a traumatic first arrest for ‘immoral behaviour’, we move gradually to his university days, first in Guangzhou and later in Beijing. At university, Dai Wei’s political awareness, a vague feeling of anger and frustration that until then had lain dormant, is shaken when he starts reading his father’s journals from his camp days.

children of parents who suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution

Over time, he becomes increasingly keen to shake off the ‘stigma’ of being the son of a ‘rightist’ and to make a success of his life in a better society. Dai Wei and his fellow students, all children of parents who suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, vaguely imagine this society as a place with freedom of speech and thought, freedom from corruption and oppression and justice for all.

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2009 Map

Here is the map of our 2009 summer route.

We’ll be putting up some more material in the next few days and weeks related to the trip. The next text will be about the Sichuan and Chongqing towns of Pingle and Songji. This will be followed by more information about Yushu and the area around. We took so many photos that it is taking ages to sort through them.

The Uninvited 不速之客

The Uninvited’ – a novel by Geling Yan (A Book Review)

the-uninvited.jpg



Introduction

The Uninvited 不速之客; Scratching beneath the surface of Beijing’s modern façade, Geling Yan reveals a world of inequality, corruption and sycophantic banality. The main character, Dan, is an unemployed factory worker who lives with his wife, Little Plum, in their old factory’s run-down accommodation on the outskirts of Beijing. By accident, Dan realizes he can earn a nice living and enjoy the pleasures of China’s finest cuisine by pretending to be a journalist.

In modern-day China, journalists are often invited to functions in order to write positive reviews about whatever corporation or society is holding the event. They are wined and dined in lavish style and then, to top it all, they are paid “money for your trouble” to reward them for their attendance and encourage the publication of favourable articles. The banquets are bizarre and farcical; for instance, the bird watchers’ society culminates its event by serving up one of China’s most endangered birds.

The Dark side of Beijing

Dan’s life becomes more complicated when he meets the famous painter, Ocean Chen, and the determined and ambitious journalist, Happy Gao. From this point onwards, Dan is taken on journey of discovery that will immerse him in the bowels of Beijing’s less savoury side. Quickly, the thin veneer of a stable, dynamic and modern city is peeled away and its rotten core revealed. Exploited prostitutes, money-grabbing constructors, crooked policemen and judges, as well as vain and self-centred artists are all woven into a web of corruption.

Irony and humour

Despite the biting irony of the book, ‘The Uninvited’, is often humorous and consistently down to earth. The main characters are likable and real and the plot unravels unexpectedly. Definitely a good read.