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Monday, May 2, 2022

Laoshan Coastal Mountain

 

I did not expect that in this area of Qingdao, a busy city with many shipyards and factories, there is a tall mountain near the seaside. A green area with forests towering over the shores of the rippling blue sea. This place is a shelter for weary city people, looking for a calm and peaceful atmosphere. 

The mountain is Laoshan, or Mount Lao (since "shan" means mountain), linked with the sea, with the coastal line winding around the mountain with various rocks, islets and bays staggered.  Mountain and Water are the two key features in Fengshui. From its perspective Mountain is static and stable thus associated with power and support, while Water represents flow, dynamic, thus associated with progress. The presence and balance of Mountain and Water make for good feng shui, and are ideal features for a country. 

Overlooking the sea, the mountain is characterized by imposing canyons, undulating peaks and shrouding mists. With a peak of over 1000 meters Laoshan Mountain is the highest mountain along China’s coastline. With a view not only on the sea to the east and on the land to the west, but also on beautiful Jiaozhou Bay to the southwest it explains the honorable name “No. 1 Coastal Mountain” given to Mount Laoshan. 

Mount Laoshan consists of numerous mountains, including Mount Fu, Mount Zao'er, Mount Shuangfeng, Mount Dading, and Mount Taizi, and it is home to 13 bays and coves, dotted with 18 islets.

It is also known for its ancient trees, its crystal-clear springs, odd=shaped boulders and rock outcroppings. Among the smooth boulders and stone outcropping farther up the mountain grow densely packed pine trees, and in the few green clearings where trees do not grow, sprout seas of flowers that blossom in a myriad of colors each spring and early summer.

 

THE END

 

Source:

http://www.china.org.cn/english/travel/87510.htm

 







Monday, April 4, 2022

An Interview with Samuel

 

Photo: Wikimedia

“What can I talk with Samuel, this absurdist writer?” that was my reaction to stenote, the publisher, when he first asked me to interview Samuel. “He wrote this book titled ‘Texts for Nothing’, what can one expect to discuss about nothing? He even wrote this in the book ‘He thinks words fail him, he thinks because words fail him he's on his way to my speechlessness, to being speechless with my speechlessness, he would like it to be my fault that words fail him, of course words fail him’. What can we talk with such words, they are so obscure. I heard from Charles Juliet that he is quite capable of meeting somebody and sitting for two hours without uttering a word.”

My publisher said: ”No, not really, he is not such a reclusive person, he likes to drink quite heavily, hopping with friends from one bar to another, enjoys chatting about cricket, actually he played cricket for Dublin University, and he had won medals for swimming and boxing. He also played golf and tennis. So, to start the conversation with him, try bringing a bottle of wine and talk about sport.”

Encouraged by my publisher, I flew to Paris and made appointment with Samuel to meet at Îles Marquises restaurant in Monparnasse. I brought with me a bottle of Lacrima Christi which he took delightedly. But, his tall, gaunt and archaic presence made him seemed aloof from the cozy surrounding.

 

I started:

“Sam, who is your favourite cricket player?”       

 

Samuel glowed with pleasure and responded:

“Frank Woolley, I had admired as a boy. You know, I saw him in the bar at Lord's cricket ground. He was escorting the legendary 84-year-old Wilfred Rhodes, perhaps the greatest England cricketer ever. By that time, Rhodes was totally blind.”

Then he stared and pointed out on the wall above our table photographs of the great boxers: Joe Louis,Georges Carpentier and Jack Dempsey.

  

I said:

“My first thought, sport seems out of place in your world. Your characters emerge as homeless people, down-and-outs, tramps, failures, and you wrote ‘Fail again, fail better’ in your ‘Worstward Ho’ story.”

  

Samuel:

“Actually, I wrote ‘All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

  

I said:

“ You achieved your own gold in 1969 for Nobel Prize in Literature. How did you feel?”

  

Samuel:

“My publisher, told me in a telegram ‘Dear Sam and Suzanne. In spite of everything, they have given you the Nobel Prize. I advise you to go into hiding.’ We anticipated a spike in publicity and people trying to reach them.”

 

 I said:

“You were right, the Swedish Television asked for an interview”.

  

Samuel:

“I agreed only with the stipulation that the interviewer couldn’t ask any questions. “

  

I said:

“Thus you created a bizarre ‘mute’ interview and sent the video clip to them showing yourself in silent in nature, with background of the sound of wave from the beach, and the sound of bird chirping. And you didn’t attend the award, you sent your publisher to take the award, while you and your wife Suzanne travelled to Tunisia to avoid publicity.”

 

Samuel, citing the opening of Texts for Nothing 4:

“Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this, saying it's me?”

 

I said:

“When your play ‘Waiting for Godot’ premiered at Théâtre de Babylone in Paris, it is reported that many audience members walked out of the theater, perhaps because of the unconventional form of the show, there is no plot, the characters are not revealed, the dialogues are random and ridiculous. Two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting to meet someone named Godot, who eventually does not turn up. But some of the critics liked it, some critics said that pointlessness is its very point in this kind of theatre.  

Martin Esslin called it The Theatre of the Absurd, in his book with same title, depicting ‘sense of metaphysical anguish at the absurdity of the human condition’. And this type of theatre has been associated with your name.”

 

Samuel:

“The early success of Waiting for Godot was based on a fundamental misunderstanding, that critics and public alike insisted on interpreting in allegorical or symbolic terms a play which was striving all the time to avoid definition.”

 

I said:

“The greater part of Waiting for Godot's success came down to the fact that it was open to a variety of readings and that this was not necessarily a bad thing.”

 

Samuel:

“Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can't make out. It's all symbiosis; it's symbiosis”.

 

I said:

“Then, may I ask you who or what is Godot?”

 

Samuel:

“I don't know who Godot is. I don't even know, above all don't know, if he exists. And I don't know if they believe in him or not – those two who are waiting for him.”

 

I said:

“Godot’s messenger boy tells Vladimir that Mr.Godot has sheep and goats, and the boy tends the goat is not beaten by Godot, while the boy’s brother who tends the sheep is beaten by Godot. This seems to be the reversal of the Bible story in which Christ separates the sheep, representing people who will be saved, from the goats, representing people who will be damned.

In the play Vladimir asks if Estragon has ever read the Bible. Estragon says all he remembers are some colored maps of the holy land. Vladimir tells Estragon about the two thieves crucified along with Jesus. One of the gospels says that one of the thieves was saved, but Vladimir wonders if this is true.”

 

Samuel:

“St Augustine’s reflection on this story is ‘Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved: do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.”


I said:

“I reckoned that perhaps the theme of the story is the two who are waiting for Godot, rather than Godot.”

 

Samuel:

“An inmate of Lüttringhausen Prison near Remscheid in Germany, stage the play in German and after that wrote to me: ’You will be surprised to be receiving a letter about your play Waiting for Godot, from a prison where so many thieves, forgers, toughs, homos, crazy men and killers spend this bitch of a life waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting. Waiting for what? Godot? Perhaps.”

 

I said:

“During the World War II in 1941 you and Suzanne joined the French resistance unit Gloria SMH, an information network, but in 1942 the group was betrayed by a double agent, members of your group had been arrested by the Gestapo. You had to flee Paris, heading for the Unoccupied Zone in the south of France. It took almost six weeks, sometimes alone, sometimes with other refugees, to cross into the free zone at Chalon-sur-Saône in Burgundy; you made your way by hiding in barns and sheds and sometimes behind trees, inside haystacks and down in ditches.”

  

Samuel:

“I can remember waiting in a barn, there were ten of us, until it got dark, then being led by a passeur over streams; we could see a German sentinel in the moonlight. Then I remember passing a French post on the other side of the line. The Germans were on the road so we went across fields. Some of the girls were taken over in the boot of a car.”

  

I said:

“You also witnessed the aftermath of bombing of St-Lô in 1944. The town located in Normandy bombed by the American, as it served as a strategic crossroads. It caused heavy damage, most of the city was destroyed, and a high number of casualties, which you reported as ‘The Capital of Ruins’, you witnessed real devastation and misery, people in desperate need of food and clothing, yet clinging desperately to life.”

  

Samuel:

“St.-Lô is just a heap of rubble, la Capitale des Ruines as they call it in France. Of 2600 buildings 2000 completely wiped out. . . . It all happened in the night of the 5th to 6th June. It has been raining hard for the last few days and the place is a sea of mud. What it will be like in winter is hard to imagine.”

 

I said:

“After the War, a lengthy clean-up began, literally by hand including the corpses of residents and soldiers, which lasted about six months. However, officials hesitated to rebuild Saint-Lô, some were willing to leave the ruins as a testament to the martyrdom of the city. The population declined, preferring to reinhabit its city. You volunteered to join the Irish Red Cross to build a provisional hospital in this town”                       

  

Samuel:

“The new hospital was designed to be provisional. But ‘provisional’, is not the term it was, in this universe become provisional.”

  

THE END

 This is an imaginary interview in memory of Samuel Beckett.

 

 

Sources:




Sunday, March 13, 2022

Tibet, along the Yarlung River

 

Our next trip was to go with a bus from Lhasa to Shigatse driving along the Yarlung River. The scenery of the clear river water, with mountains at the background and combined with green fields is amazing. The Yarlung River is 1,323 km long river originating from the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau in southeast Qinghai, and its join the Yangtze river in Panzhihua in southwestern Sichuan. It then passes through India flowing through the Assam Valley as Brahmaputra river. 

Yarlung means “the river down from the upper reaches” in Tibetan language, has a large amount of water and irrigates the fields in the lower valley. There are many ancient villages scattered along the banks of the river, with many historical sites and temples, shrouded with colorful myths and legends. It is the cradle of Tibet’s ancient civilization, and the area is the earliest birthplace of Tibetan culture. 

In Tibetan culture, rivers are sacred and in particular the Yarlung river is sacred as it represents the body of the goddess Dorje Phagmo, one of the highest incarnations. This reverence for the natural world was born from the Tibetan plateau and dates back centuries.  Now we can admire the clean river, undisturbed by human interference. When people swim in the river, they were told to never use it as a bathroom, because there are river gods in the water. There’s a very strict tradition that no one will go near certain water or do anything that would disturb it. They really don’t need laws to prohibit them to dump garbage or toxic wastes in the water to preserve the environment. 

There is another reason, the Yarlung river is still used as water burial site, people dumped dead bodies into the river and fishes might consume the body, which partly explains why Tibetan do not eat fish.  Tibetans believe that upon death, the body retums to one of the elements - earth, air, fire, water, or wood. Water burial is considered as a derivative of the celestial burial.

  

THE END

Sources:

https://www.tibettravel.org/tibet-travel-guide/yalong-river.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/8/china-to-build-the-worlds-biggest-dam-on-sacred-tibetan-river








Saturday, February 19, 2022

Tibet, at the Musical Show

 

The Princess Wencheng musical show is really a grand show, the stage is spectacular set in open air, complete with the palace in Chang’an and the Potala palace in Lhasa. At one time we can see real horses running on a highground at the back ground of the stage, and in other time we can see cows and goats walking leisurely in the front part of the stage. The lighting system is also spectacular, sun and moon appear together from the darkness, and the waving huge cloths depicts the wild waves caused by hailstorm. The sound system loud and clear vibrate the melodious traditional songs on stage, apparently they use the most advanced sound technology. It is a wonderful marriage of a famous legendary story with modern technology, staged on expertly-designed theater beside a hilly mountain under the stars. 

The story is about a marriage of two great cultures, Tibetan and Tang dynasty. The story happened about 1300 years ago when Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty left Chang'an (Xi'an now) to marry Songtsen Gampo, king of Tibet. Their marriage was aimed to maintain good relations between Tang empire and Tibet. She and her entourage marched over 2,000 km from Chang’an to Lhasa, crossing deserts, hailstorms, and snow-capped mountains. 

In her journey Princess Wencheng brought a substantial amount of dowry  which contained not only gold, but also grains, farming tools and technology to increase Tibetan agricultural productivity. She also brought Buddhist scriptures and statues of Buddha, among them was the golden statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni Buddha, now placed in Jokhang Temple. 

There are many folk legends about Princess Wencheng’s journey to Tibet which are depicted in the show. One of the legend tells about ‘the Sun and Moon mirror’, a precious mirror that the Tang Dynasty Emperor Gaozu gave Princess Wencheng before she set off on her journey from Chang’an.

The mirror was said to let her see Chang'an and her relatives from wherever she was. When the princess reached part of the Quilian Mountain Range, an important thoroughfare to Tibet, she got out of her carriage and looked around. It was cold and barren, she could only see snow capped mountains, then she felt a surge of homesickness. She recalled the words of the emperor when he gave her the mirror, ‘Whenever you miss your home, you only need to look in this mirror to see us’. She took out the mirror to see her hometown, but saw only her own tearful face. So, she threw the mirror down onto the mountain. But then she continued her journey to the west as she knew she had a duty to the two nations, and, resolving not to miss her country any more. The mirror was broken in two pieces shaped like the moon and sun. From then on, the mountain got its name, Riyue Mountain, the Sun and Moon Mountain. 

The musical of the historic marriage is performed by around 700 actors, showing a dazzling array of traditional Tibetan dancing and singing, dressed in both traditional Tibetan and Tang dynasty costumes.

The show is performed every night, from spring to autumn, on about a 100 meter long huge open air stage, in Bumpari. 

 

THE END

Sources:

https://www.tibettravel.org/tibet-history/songtsan-gambo-wencheng.html

http://tibetanbuddhistencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/A_brief_introduction_to_Princess_Wencheng