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#TBT – #China Style

6 Jun

This is how we do homecoming in China! We go WAY back to the ancient alumni era 😜

#Art I Love ~ The #Buddhist Goddess of Mercy

1 Jun

Obtained from ThaiYogaUp.com. Original Artist – I’m Not Sure

The Goddess of Mercy in Chinese Buddhism is named Guanshiyin  (观世音菩萨 — Guān shì Yīn Pú Sà) or Guanyin for short.  The name means “one who always hears the cries of the world. While many of the Buddhist deities are rather frightening (as seen in their paintings and depictions), Guanyin is actually very highly respected for being merciful to her followers. 

There are many legends surrounding the lovely lady.  Apparently, the original story (stemming from India) had her as a man called avalokitasvara. He was extremely kind and worked non-stop reaching out to those who cried out for help.  Some actually claim he was the most powerful of all the Buddhist gods, and certainly most agree he was the nicest. It wasn’t until the Song dynasty (960 – 1279) that the deity was changed into a woman. The Indian name was translated into Guanyin, and the uniquely Chinese feminine version was born to become mother to the world. 

In China, the story is that she was a human who eventually became immortal through her good deeds and worthy heart.  According to one story, she was holy and kind enough to find herself at the gate of Heaven. But, upon hearing the weeping and tragic cries of sorrow and pain from those suffering on earth, her heart was moved. Turning back from her place in the joyous realm, she returned and devoted herself to helping those in need. Thus her name — she always listens to and helps those who call out to her. 

Another story comes from 827-840AD (the Tang Dynasty) in the city of Xi’an.  According to the legend, the Emperor at the time was a man called Wenzong.  Now, Wenzong had the unfortunate love of clams, asking from clams day after day, three meals a day! But, if you’ve ever lived in Xi’an, you would know that it is very far from the sea–so clams were hard to find.  And of course, he was not happy with any clams – they had to be fresh and delicious! So, every day before the light came up, the poor fishermen in Zhejiang’s ports would collect up clams and rush them inland.  Then, finally a miracle happened! One of the clams they found was HUGE (20x the normal clam size).  All agreed, this clam must absolutely go to the emperor.  But when they tried to open it, they found that the clam was shut up and would not budge. When he heard of this strange even, the emperor himself came to see it. At last! Right before his eyes, the clam shell opened and inside was an elaborate carving of Guanyin.  Looking into the statue’s eyes, he heard her beautiful voice echo in his ear — “These poor workers have sacrificed much to satisfy your simple pleasures. You are abusing your people and wasting their money.”  The people had prayed for someone to save them from the painful, meaningless labor and the goddess had responded. The emperor learned his lesson!

As a Buddhist deity, she seems to be an all around lovely person. She is known for reaching out to those who are ill, lost, abandoned, elderly, orphaned, and just generally in a tough spot.  She is recognized for having eternal, unending love for people and the kindest of hearts.  She is often a fertility goddess who gives children to those who need them.  Always there to help, she is the supporter and defender of the unfortunate.  She also helps guide the lost and missing, and has become one of the “sailor’s” deities. The fact that legend has her living on an Island in the South of China has contributed to this theory — thus the frequent depiction of her with pearls from the ocean or rising from a shell or lotus blossom like Venus. Even here in Xinzheng, Henan we have a statue of her–you’ll find them scattered all over China. I’ve been told both the Shaolin Temple (China) and Kiyomizu-dera (Japan) are dedicated to her. 

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My good friend Harry in front of a Statue of Quan Yin in the Zheng Garden.

Most images of Quan Yin show her in bare feet with ancient Chinese-style thin, blowing in the wind kind of clothes.  They always bring to mind the lovely ladies of wuxia (Chinese historical) dramas or the old films. Lithe, graceful, elegant — an all around perfectly kind, beautiful, and gracious woman inside and out.  Usually, the pictures show her alone or with two other people. Sometimes she has a child in her arms. At other times, it is two soldiers who defend the faith. The first is general Guan Yu, a real man made famous in the fictionalized story “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” Honored for being very loyal and virtuous, he is still prominent in the Buddhist faith. According to the believers, he not only fought of enemies of the country, he defended the righteous from demons as well. The second is Wei Tuo, a young prince who proved faithful to Buddha by protecting the holy relics. Together they stand guard as the goddess works her wonders. 

Sometimes you’ll see the goddess of mercy in a different way, with several heads and hundreds of arms.  There are several versions of the story as to why she has so many arms and heads. You can read one version here.  Another version says that she dedicated her life to helping people in need, promising that she would not stop until she had helped everyone. Eventually, she realized that no matter what she did, there were still too many people. Frantically thinking about all that was left to be done, her head finally exploded into eleven parts.  Concerned, one of the buddhas came to help her and ended up offering her eleven heads to hold the eleven parts.  But now, hearing the cries so much better with her 22 ears, she became even more upset–pulling herself in many directions trying to read everyone at once.  Reaching. . . reaching . . . finally her arms just shattered.  Again the buddha reached out to the poor, good-hearted goddess and offered her one thousand arms to hold all those pieces so she could help more people.  Thus the statue in Kaifeng has 1000 arms (although they follow the first version of the story instead of the second)!

Mercy

The Goddess of Mercy statue in Kaifeng, Henan

Life in #China – Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

29 May

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!  Today in #China we are celebrating the Duanwu #端午 festival!  It’s been a Holiday here for more than 2000 years!

It celebrates the Famous #poet #quyuan. Devoted to #China 🇨🇳, he wrote beautiful poems about its history, nature, and people. When the invading Qin armies approached, he chose to drown himself rather than see his beloved country fall.  Although they sent out many #dragon boats to look for him, they could not save him in time. 
 So to commemorate his memory, every year they eat  #粽子 (aka Zongzi), a sticky #rice #treat wrapped in banana leaves. And the big cities send out Dragon #boats for big battles and races on the lakes and rivers! Cool!

#Chinese Garden

24 Mar

Wanna climb the pagoda? 😊 The beautiful sight greeted me on the way to classes. It’s a lovely pagoda up on the hill and part of a park in the middle of our campus.  I love all the #colors!

**Just don’t go up there at night. 😂  It’s pretty much destined to live as a kind of ‘kissing kastle’ sort of place at night.  When all the students have 7 other kids in their rooms, couples find privacy here 😜

Ancient Murals Found in Chinese Tomb

18 Mar

“Ancient Tomb Decorated with Vibrant Murals Found in China”

by Owen Jarus via “LiveScience”

Male servant

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Japanese Wood Art

9 Dec

Treasure Trove of Ancient Human Footprints Found Near Volcano

20 Oct

Treasure Trove of Ancient Human Footprints Found Near Volcano

by Michael Greshko via “National Geographic

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Nine miles from the volcano the Maasai call the “Mountain of God,” researchers have cataloged a spectacularly rare find: an enormous set of well-preserved human footprints left in the mud between 5,000 and 19,000 years ago.

The more than 400 footprints cover an area slightly larger than a tennis court, crisscrossing the dark gray mudflat of Engare Sero, on the southern shore of Tanzania’s Lake Natron. No other site in Africa has as many ancient Homo sapiens footprints—making it a treasure trove for scientists trying to tell the story of humankind’s earliest days. . . .

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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

15 Sep

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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival from China to you!

Today (September 15, 2016) is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie). The festival will fall on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, which just so happens to be today for 2016.  Although today is the official day of the holiday, most people in China will take a 3-4 day weekend to celebrate. 🙂 For example, at our university all classes are cancelled for Thursday – Saturday, with Friday’s classes made up on Sunday.
Based on the lunar calendar, on the 15th of the month, the moon should be a full moon, shining bright and beautiful.  So a lot of the stickers and pictures being sent around WeChat (Chinese version of Facebook) are full moons or things shaped like full moons. 🙂 

The moon has a special place in the world of Chinese art and culture, with many of my students great enthusiasts of the “romantic and beautiful night sky.” So during the Song Dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival was created to celebrate the Harvest Moon. This is supposed to be the brightest, biggest, most beautiful moon of the year. 

One of the best and largest part of the Mid-Autumn Festival is the tradition of eating what are called “Moon cakes” (月饼 – Yuè Bĭng).  Moon Cakes are little pastries or cakes about 4 inches around and 2 inches thick.  The pastry crust tends to be pretty thick and then inside are any variety of treats or fillings. Most common in Henan is the red bean or Jujube paste, but there are many others with nuts and fruits inside.  (I’m not terribly fond of the paste ones, but a few of the nut versions are pretty good.)  The pastry top will somehow be stamped with a Chinese character of good fortune luck, peace, happiness, etc. They are usually passed around to family, friends, teachers, business colleagues, etc. Visit a Chinese shop before the holiday and for at least two weeks they will be selling these cakes like crazy.  

Image result for chinese moon cake bean

According to legend, the moon cake became a holiday tradition during the Yuan dynasty. China was under the control of Mongolian rulers at the end of the dynasty, and the Ming Chinese were fed up. They decided to stage a revolution, but had a difficult issue in the logistics of communicating their message to the people without tipping off the Mongolians. The story says that the leader Zhu Yuanzhang and his adviser Liu Bowen came up with the brilliant idea of using moon cakes. They started a rumor that a horrific and deadly disease was spreading through the area and that special moon cakes were the only possible cure. Of course the people began buying up moon cakes and hidden inside each moon cake was a message telling them the date and time for the revolution (Mid-Autumn Festival).  The Chinese revolted, the battle was won, and moon cakes became a permanent staple of the holiday! 🙂 

Image result for chinese woman one the moon

Another famous legend about the festival is that of a tragic romance. In the west, our culture has the beloved Man on the Moon, but in Chinese it’s the beautiful Chang’e, Lady on the Moon.  The story says that centuries ago there live a famous hunter, Hou Yi, and his wife Chang’e. At the time, the world was surrounded by 10 suns and they were burning the earth and its people to death. A brave man, Hou Yi took his bow and arrow and went out to shoot down nine of the suns. He saved the world in the end. As a reward, he was given a special potion that contained immortality. However, because he loved his wife so much and because the potion was only enough for one person, Hou Yi refused to drink it. After this, he was very famous and many people came to learn from him. But some also came to steal from him, including one wicked man. One day while Hou Yi was out, the evil man snuck into the house and attempted to steal the potion from Chang’e. She realized she could not keep him from taking it, and so drank it herself. The potion immediately gave her immortality, and her body flew up, up, up and up to the moon. Heartbroken, Hou Yi came home and prepared a feast on a table under the moon in honor of his wife and in the hopes that she would see his efforts and know how much he missed her. So (according tot the legend), ever since the Chinese like to eat big meals under the moon to remember her sacrifice and to celebrate their own families. 

Medieval Castle Rebuilt with Medieval Technology

7 Sep

Life in China ~ Hungry Ghost Festival

17 Aug

My Chinese friend called today asking to hang out. When I asked what was up, she said she intended to go home today but her brother called and warned her not to travel today. Apparently today the province is celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival.

It falls on the 15th of the 7th lunar month. According to my friend, they believe that today many ghosts are able to travel around the country. This is why my friend couldn’t travel- she has to leave the way clear for the ghosts instead. Instead many adherents will go to the graves and leave lots of food for the hungry wanderers to eat.

Our Delicious Dumplings 🙂 

They also make hand-made traditional dumplings out of long noodles. They are long so you can wrap up your ancestral ghosts in the strand and keep them close to you in the future. Funnily enough, we went to the little Chinese garden here and ran into 5-6 grandfathers out with their grandkids. They had been tasked with entertaining the kids while grandma made the dumplings. To participate, my friend and I had beef dumplings at the local street market and she promised to wait until tomorrow to go home :p

 

 

4 Year old and her 6.5 year old sister. The older sister starts English classes tomorrow, and they both knew the ABC song!

 

 

 

Twin 4-year olds. They start Kindergarten this  year and are excellent Bubble-blowers!

 

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