"China 2010" story # 16

Kongtong Mt., Gansu Province           August 1, 2010

I rode a train to the next province: Ningxia Huizu Zizhiqu. The name means: Pleasant Summer Autonomous Region of the Hui Minority. I like that name.
     The train was so full that when I got on I had to huddle between the standing people and the train's door. Once I got to my cheap seat, I didn't get up to go to the bathroom the whole eleven hours. "Bu neng," I said to my neighbor. (It isn't possible.) He was lucky enough to have a window seat, so he could use a small table as his pillow.
     He, and most standing people, would be traveling overnight. By ten p.m., dark workingmen stood asleep in the aisles, and women rested on big bags until people had to get through - which was often.
     China's Hui minority supposedly resemble the Han majority, except that they're Islamic. A large man in a white, head-hugging cap gave a friendly grin, as we both stood on our seats to stretch our legs. A slim, dark woman with her hair in a wrap - the hard skin around her eyes looked fifty, while the smooth skin on her upper chest looked twenty - stood with her hands in her pockets, too proud to lean or to ask a stranger for a spare piece of seat; railway employees and other men pushed her rudely, she silently snarled at them, and I felt bad for her.
     Not far from me was an eight-year-old boy who had the roundest head and the deepest dimples, and who kept grinning at me. "Ni xihuan qu huoche ma?" I asked. (Do you like taking the train?) Smiling, he shook his head emphatically, no. I said, "Dou xihuan qu houche!" (Everyone likes taking the train!)
     For my part, I got up to leave at one a.m. I had to burrow my way through the people in the aisle, like a piglet pushing its way through other piglets to reach the mother's teat. Then, when I got to the door, it wouldn't open! Oh, claustrophobia ... Why had that man told me it was my stop? We were stopped, in the countryside, near my destination city, but this wasn't an actual stop. I now wanted off so I could camp, even if I had to go through the window.
     In my rush for freedom, I banged some people roughly, including the woman with her hair in a wrap, who was the only one I managed to say, "Dui bu qi" (Sorry), to. One victim began to say something about "waiguoren ..." - Had these people bribed their way on-board!? - and I slipped out a window.

Again, I would battle with people.
     A man and I wrestled with my bags, next to a steep drop, on a stairway going up a mountain. He and a rigid woman were determined to make me buy a 120-yuan ticket. I wanted to know to whom all this money was going, and if I'd get money back if I'd be dissatisfied; otherwise, I was determined to climb the mountain without a ticket.
     The out-of-shape man and I were breathing hard and a bit shook up. I couldn't believe their determination could be so great. Defeated, I gave them 120 yuan.
     "Wo shi gongzuoren," said the woman, explaining why we shouldn't question her actions. (I'm a worker.)

"Wo shi gongzuoren!" a young, female railway employee had said, days earlier on the crowded train.
     I couldn't understand what she and a wise-guy passenger were arguing about; perhaps it had something to do with the sales-pitches railway employees kept giving, trying to sell us worthless junk. At any rate, I was amazed how this young girl refused to back down. The laughing passengers seemed to be on the guy's side; she was nearly in tears; the guy argued tenaciously. Yet, whenever the guy began to say something new, she quickly responded with a louder sentence that cut him off.

"Keneng nide gongzuo bu hao," I suggested to the woman on the mountain. (Maybe your job isn't good.)
     She assured me that her job was very good.
     Later, it occured to me that I could've said, "Nide zhengfu shi pang zei!" (Your government are fat thieves!) China's government workers seem to represent an elite class, and there are rumors of corruption. Compared to common people, they're overweight, unhappy, drive titanic SUV's, sit in luxurious offices above disgusting public facilities, and seem to hide secrets behind dark glasses and tinted windows. But, since most people in China would love to be in their shoes, I guess it isn't my place to complain. I'll calm down with some Taoist quotes:

"The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become." - Laotse

"To have enough is good luck, to have more than enough is harmful. This is true of all things but especially of money." - Chuangtse

"Freedom means doing nothing; Without-care means there is no problem of food; and No-obligations means there are no expenditures." - Laotse (according to Chuangtse)

There were two things I would later find out about the Taoist mountain I was going to. 1. None of the ticket sales revenue went to the Taoist monks. 2. It was spectacular.
     On Kongtong Mountain ... wooden tiger heads and tusked elephants peaked out at you from under rooftops; ... red strings were strung in the trees; ... magpie couples, symbolizing happiness, and red-black-and-white-necked cranes, symbolizing long life, were painted above doorways; ... the foggy smell of incense made you happy; ... and white-goateed monks wearing navy blue tapped on metal bowls to play music, while they waited for you to make an offering to their idols;
     ... black, ferocious idols attacked you with spears; ... walls alive with 3D people, including a shirtless man holding a snake and screaming, jumped at you in the darkness; ... stone steps led you upward, beside a steep drop into the abyss and a lake far below; ... purple-polka-dot, pink, dragon-headed horses (or horse-bodied dragons) frollicked in paintings; ... and silent men sat with religious books beneath ying-yang signs;
     ... worming dragons snapped at you from the pillars of a crumbly, stone gate built in 1613; ... tanned men struggled to carry heavy loads up the steps, to earn 13 yuan ($2) a trip; ... a black-and-white-painted peacock stretched its magnificent tail over foggy mountains; ... and a "dong!"ing bell told you (well, not you; me) and your young, monk friend it was nine p.m., time to stop playing Elephant Chess and retire to your damp rooms to sleep.
     I spent two-and-a-half days on Kongtong Mountain. A bright, smily monk, "Xue", found a spare room for me to sleep in and invited me to the monks' vegetarian cafeteria. When I asked him why he was a monk, he said, "I like this job." He studied English and Taoism and was finishing his law degree, while he lit incense and read mantras for visitors who sought long life or good fortune. He was only a temporary monk. The monks received money from Taoism's head office, and they also raised crops.
     He took me to the highest temple, which government workers were building or restoring. A man tried to stop us from going to the top floors to see the view, but I just ignored him and walked by. Xue came too, laughing and saying he envied me. When I asked him if he liked law, he said he did because, "It's fair." But, he said the Chinese government doesn't follow the laws.
     In addition to Xue, I befriended female tourists to walk around with and try to seduce into kissing me. One wore a purple dress that clung to and hung from her full hips and small, powdery-white chest. She had a lovely, tiny laugh that burrowed inside her. I got her to hold my hand as we crossed a bridge suspended over a gorge. But, she was probably closest to me while she was reading personal things in my Chinese journal.

"People - girls, especially (who are more compassionate) - are uncontrollably attracted to someone who is honest and open." - J.Breen philosophy (2006)

But, my seductive tactics ultimately proved insufficient. Thus far, Chinese girls have seemed invincible to the romantic efforts of guys who don't want to become their boyfriends. Many seem stick-like, unsensual, distant; very practical; unflinching until they can get what they want. They're as stubborn as I am! - but they want opposite things. Oh, no ...

Modern Oddyseus.

"gentleness overcomes rigidity" - Laotse

Thanks to the guy who drove me to Yinchuan!

"For love is victorious in attack,
And invulnerable in defense.
Heaven arms with love
Those it would not see destroyed." - Laotse

Much thanks to Josh, Ivan, & two other Chinese boys; and Xue for the places to stay!

"this universe resembles the unity of all things. When one perceives this unity and is united with it, ... He cannot be disturbed." - Laotse (according to Chuangtse)

Leave a Comment
go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com