A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Childrens Day Fun & Adventure

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

What do you get when you have two thousand happy children, the surprise return of Leeds Loss, a visit from Tingalishess, a school dinner, Tattoo Man, KTV and plenty of beer?

You have one hell of an awesome Children’s Day!

I must say, it was awesome to see Loss again. But all he did was eat a million dumplings. And then he got more for the train. Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

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The soundtrack to this entry was by KISS The album was 'Revenge’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Ancient Heping Village Adventure

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Hangovers! They may be bad but once over them you realise how good it is to feel healthy!

Friday night was spent at a lavish restaurant with several of the 'Big Guys’ from the city police along with several school leaders and teachers. Saturday was spent mostly in bed recovering as the humidity began to tip toe into Fujian Province. Thankfully Sunday Lisa, Catrine & I all woke feeling ‘normal’ so around lunch time we decided on a visit to Ancient Heping Town/Village which I was lucky enough to visit several times the last time I was living in Shaowu. The township is one of the oldest communities in northern Fujian and while other towns its age or older have been partially restored, the ‘town’ of Heping has pretty much retained is uniqueness. It dates from the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) when it was a simple rice farming town. The name Heping is made up of two Chinese characters which mean 'Rice Plain'. The village of Heping dates well beyond the town.

Moss covered cobblestone alleyways allow you to zigg zagg your way around the village and visit some of the three hundred or so buildings which were built during the Ming (AD1368-1644) and Qing (AD1644-1911) Dynasties. On both the inside and the outside of many of the buildings you can find beautiful stone carvings. The area has a famous history when it comes to education. One of Chinas oldest Classical Learning Academy's was first opened in Heping in AD926 during the Tang Dynasty by a government official named Huang Qiao. He retired from his position in the capital of Luoyang (Henan Province) and moved to Heping town and now many people who share the same name from surrounding provinces travel to Heping to pay their respects.

Many scholars, officials and members of the elite were graduates of the academy.

It was such a beautiful and peaceful place to visit and all buildings can be entered for free, some homes you will actually be invited into and even after a short time walking its polished cobble stone alley ways one gets the feeling of walking through a real life movie set. It's hard to explain how it makes me feel visiting such places but I guess the one feeling I can explain is the feeling of being lucky to live such a wonderful life. To experience the places I am lucky enough to visit is such a precious gift. Around five we headed back out into the town and grabbed the next rickety old bucket of bolts that came our way.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Hugh Cornwell The album was ‘Hoover Dam’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Wuyishan & Da Hong Pao Part 2 - Impressions

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

WUYISHAN & DA HONG PAO - Part II (Impressions)

As the term is nearing its end, new schools are looking at joining Buckland’s.

A month ago a Headmaster and several Chinese English Teachers came to my school to watch two of my classes and soon after contacted Owen and wanted me to join them the following week. Obviously I declined the offer as I would never dream of leaving my school or my students before the end the school year, but I did accept an offer to visit the school when I had time. As it was a new school and Owen (my boss) hadn’t seen it for himself we both decided to head there last Friday.

Owen and Travis (the new teacher) took a flight from Guilin to Wuyishan where the school collected them and put them up in the only Four Star hotel in Shangrao city. My story on the other hand went a little different.

Everyone here told me it was a two and a half to three hour journey so I boarded the only train to Shangrao city at ten in the evening expecting to arrive at around one but finally arrived at half past three Saturday morning. I then had to fight to cut the price from one hundred Yuan down to ten Yuan with the thrifty motorbike taxis at the train station and after a ten minute ride we then went about the Hotel Shuffle. After finally finding an extremely cheap hotel that would allow me to stay there without an expensive 'girl provided’ I then found that it was not only one of the dirtiest hotels but also one of the noisiest hotels in all of China.

What does one do in this situation at four in the morning? One goes across to the street side BBQ and sits for beer and meat sticks.

I finally got to sleep at around eight to then receive a call a few hours later telling me to hurry to the school as lunch was about to begin. What lunch, isn’t there only going to be the three of us and someone from the school showing us around? In the end the school had put on a HUGE performance complete with speeches, fanfare and bells and whistles to welcome Travis and Owen.

No one had told the school I was coming; So thankfully they didn’t wait for me to arrive before beginning.

Sadly though, if someone had told the school I was coming I not only would have got to stay in a four star hotel but I could have got a lift all the way from my city to the school in Shangrao in Jiangxi Province as after saying a huge G’Day to Owen and the school staff who did I find sitting with a big smile at the lunch table when I arrived?

My current schools Headmistress, Ms Zhaung.

She had been invited by the new schools Head Mistress and had been driven all the way in a private car. I on the other hand had only had three hours crappy sleep and stunk of shampoo as I expected to find a much better hotel at a much better time of the night. My crappy hotel didn’t offer free soap but what it did offer was two little satchels of shampoo that smelt of cheap bubblegum.

The first thing she said was; we could have gone together yesterday afternoon in the car and had dinner with the school….Anyhow, what was I to say to such rational thinking!

In the end I finally woke up after a few beers and the lunch was more than delicious, so much so that I was surprised when I was told that each lunch time all of the schools teachers sit together for the same type lunch. After several hours of Cheers and Toasts everyone headed back to their homes for several hours sleep. While they slept the afternoon away, Travis and I decided to crack open his bottle of Spicy Peppered Rum he had brought along with him from America. At around four Owen, Ms Zhaung and I were loaded into the schools car and after waving sleepy goodbyes we sped off in the direction of Wuyishan where we were met by several of Owens friends from Guilin who were in town to see the latest feature offered by the Impressions Team.

Happily for me they knew I was coming so there was an extra ticket for me. Unbelievably though, we had to sit through another huge dinner. The rest of the night is as below…..totally awesome!

Da Hong Pao is Zhang Yimou's fifth release in his Impression’ series; Each dedicated to a place of unique natural beauty and culture.

‘Impression Dahongpao's’ stage covers nearly one hectare and has a budget of two hundred million Yuan or more than twenty nine million US dollars. The seventy minute show boasts a 360-degree rotating auditorium and fifteen projection screens and seating capacity of two thousand. It uses the natural landscape as the background and incarnates local folk tales, tea culture and town life from both an upper and lower-class perspective.

It also involves two hundred and seventy local performers.

Supposedly being the largest movie theatre in the world, the stage broadens audiences' views as far as two kilometres which includes the two most famous peaks of Wuyi Mountain, Dawang (Great King Peak) and Yunu (Fair Lady Peak). ‘Impression Da Hong Pao’ is based on the ancient tale and love story between Dawang and Yunu. Elements of Xiamei traditional residential housing (architecture style of Wuyi Mountain) popular in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties using stone and woodcarvings have been combined in the stage design.

The show, set in a tea cultural park, projects the appearance of a giant teahouse, with waitresses dressed in traditional folk costumes serving Da Hong Pao or Red Robe tea which is a Wuyi Mountain specialty with the reputation as China's ‘King of Tea’s’

Impression, Da Hong Pao has five chapters: Feast in Tang Dynasty, Dancing in the Bamboo Forest, Legendary Love Story, Selling and Producing Tea and Cruising on a Bamboo Raft.

<u>Wuyishan Legend of Dawang and Yunu</u>

Yunu, a fairy maiden, fell in love with Dawang who was an earthly king. She came to Wuyi Mountain to enjoy its fantastic natural beauty together with the king. She loved it so much she decided to stay there. However, a demon named Tieban (Iron Plate) informed the Jade Emperor of her decision and the Jade Emperor flew into a rage and turned the demon into a peak, known as Tieban Peak, to separate Dawang Peak from Yun&uuml; Peak.

The two lovers can’t see each other though they are only a short distance away.

The name Wuyishan comes from a story about a legendary person called Qian Keng who lived during the Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century B.C.), believed to be the eighth generation descendant of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor. Because of Qian Keng's outstanding achievements, King Yao gave him the title of lord of Pengcheng and thus he became known by the surname Peng. His descendants referred to him as Peng Zu (Ancestor Peng). To escape from wars occurring at that time, Peng Zu took his two sons, Peng Wu and Peng Yi, to a scenic mountain area in northern Fujian where they settled down, worked the land and lived as farmers.

Later, in memory of these first settlers to the region, people name the mountain range after the two sons, Wu and Yi, and thereafter also used the name Wuyi to refer to Peng Zu.

<u>Who is Zhang Yimou (the main creator of all five Impressions)?</u>

Zhang Yimou was born in Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi province, China. Zhang's father, a dermatologist, had been an officer in the Nationalist Kuomintang army during the Chinese Civil War, and an uncle and an elder brother had followed the Nationalist forces to Taiwan after their 1949 defeat. During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, Zhang left his school studies and went to work, first as a farm laborer and later at a cotton textile mill in the city of Xianyang and during this time he took up painting and amateur still photography.

Several decades pass by…. now he is China’s most commercially successful film-maker after proving himself worthy of being able to translate traditional Chinese themes into international box office gold with the martial arts epics such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

Several more years pass by…..when it came to compressing hundreds of years of Chinese history into a single dazzling display, Zhang Yimou was the obvious choice for the Opening and Closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Zhang launched his Impression series with Impression: Liu Sanjie in August 2003, which is still running in Yangshuo, Guangxi Province. He continued the series with Impression: Lijiang in June 2006, Impression: West Lake in late 2007, Impression Hainan Island in 2008, Impression: Zhangjiajie in 2009 and Impression: Wuyishan in 2010 with Impression: Taiwan soon to follow.

Impression: Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Part 1 &#8211; 10 minutes Impression: Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Part 2 &#8211; 10 minutes Wuyi Mountain in black & white ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Machine Head The album was &#8216;Hell Alive’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Wuyishan & Da Hong Pao Part 1 - Tea Culture

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

WUYISHAN & DA HONG PAO - Part I (Tea Culture)

Question: What is the most expensive tea in the world and where does it come from? Answer: Believe it or not, it comes from Wuyishan, one hour from where I live.

The most expensive tea in the world is the original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) from Wuyishan in north western Fujian Province in China. In 2002, twenty grams (about 2/3rds of an ounce) of Da Hong Pao sold for 180,000 RMB, which is approximately $23,000 US. The original Da Hong Pao tea trees are over three hundred and fifty years old and the tea has only been available for a public auction three times (1998, 2002 and 2004).

Previously, it has only been offered to government, emperors and religious leaders.

In 1972, Mao Zedong gave President Richard Nixon fifty grams of this tea during his visit to China. Nixon was apparently insulted with such a "small" gift. That was, until someone pointed out that, fifty grams represented half of all the Da Hong Pao harvested that year. Even though now there is more Da Hong Pao Oolong tea on the market, the leaves from the original four brushes are still highly prized. In 2005, a small amount of leaves were auctioned off at almost two million U.S dollars per kilogram. In 2006, the four bushes were insured by the People’s Insurance Company of China for one hundred million RMB, or about fourteen million U.S dollars.

The two shots below are of THE four original tea trees.

<u>Why Did I Begin This Blog?</u>

On Sunday (yesterday) I was invited into a very special new classroom that my school has built.

It seems that due to the availability of tea drinks (both hot and cold) in China’s modern society, its Tea Culture is beginning to decline. As my city/school sits deep within one of China’s most famous tea growing areas my school decided to take the inniative and the first steps to help save China’s 'Tea Culture’. Thankfully they did as not only have many schools is this area followed suite, but schools in other tea growing areas are now adding such classrooms.

So what are these classrooms? They are Tea Culture classrooms.

Here the students are not only taught the history of tea but also China’s &#8216;Tea Ceremony’ which though not as extravagant as Japan’s, it does exist. They are taught how to clean and prepare the tea items prior to pouring and then serving. They are then taught how to play several of the musical instruments that are part of such a ceremony and not only is the school very proud but the students are more than happy to be taught a part of what China is famous for but also to take it proudly into the future.

Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) &#8211; News Feature Photos of Wuyi Mountain in colour

<u>Legends Of Da Hong Pao Tea</u>

Legend says that in the Ming dynasty, a young man on his way to the Imperial Examinations fell ill near Wuyi Mountain. A monk from a nearby temple offered him a bowl of tea and after drinking it, he immediately recovered. Thanks to the monk, he made it to the exam, where he achieved the highest score and was received by the emperor.

He told the emperor about the tea that cured him and offered it to the court.

Amazed by the tea, the emperor sent a big red robe to clothe and protect the brushes that grew the oolong tea. The moment the robe was placed on the brushes, their leaves turned red on the edge. Thus this tea was named "Red Robe."

<u>The History of Da Hong Pao Tea</u>

Before going into the history of the tea, it is important to go back a bit farther to explain what was happening in the world of tea. During the Yuan Dynasty Wuyishan was famed for its production of Dragon and Phoenix Tea Cakes, which were sent as tribute to the emperor every year. During that time people did not drink loose leaf tea. Instead they would take the cakes and grind them into powder to brew tea. The first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) proclaimed that only loose leaf tea was to be sent as tribute.

This caused the entire Wuyishan market to collapse instantly.

The Tea Farmers on Wuyi Mountain got together and created a new type of loose leaf tea, which became Oolong Teas. Four of the original Da Hong Pao Tea trees are still living on Wuyi Mountain and are believed to date back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). These trees still produce leaves and every year those leaves are made into what is probably the most expensive tea on earth. The tea is picked and processed by only the best Da Hong Pao Tea producers in China. A portion of the tea goes directly to the President of China and the remainder is sold at auction. The leaves sell for millions of U.S. Dollars per Kilo. Many cuttings have been taken from these trees to create today's Da Hong Pao and the quality of the leaves is graded depending on how close to the original trees the trees are located.

<u>The Art and Origins of Tea Drinking</u>

&#8216;The Chinese people are without a doubt the ones who best understand the nature of tea.’

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of tea in Chinese culture. At various points throughout history, China's national drink has been designated as the state currency and used as cash. While references to tea in Chinese literature go back approximately five thousand years, the origin of tea's use as a beverage is unclear. Ancient folklore places the creation of the brew at 2737 BC, when a camellia blossom drifted into a cup of boiled drinking water belonging to Emperor Shen Nung.

Most scholars though believe it to be around 350 BC. Originally, tea was valued for its medicinal qualities.

It has long been known that tea aids in digestion, which is why many Chinese prefer to consume it after their meal. (Another interesting side effect for smokers is that tea hastens the discharge of nicotine from the body). The elevation of tea drinking to an art form began in the 8th century, with the publication of Lu Yu's "The Classic Art of Tea." The highly esteemed poet and former Buddhist priest had strict notions about the proper procedure for brewing, steeping, and serving tea. For example, only water from a slow-moving stream was acceptable, and the tea leaves had to be placed in a porcelain cup. The perfect milieu for enjoying the finished product was in a pavilion next to a water lily pond, preferably in the company of a desirable woman.

His work also contained several practical tips for manufacturing tea. Many of which are still in use today.

In the centuries following the publication of Yu's work, tea's popularity spread rapidly throughout China. Not only did tea drinking become a fitting subject for books and poems; Emperors bestowed gifts of tea upon grateful recipients. Later, teahouses began dotting the landscape. While the Chinese have never developed a ritualistic ceremony surrounding tea drinking resembling the Japanese tea ceremony, they have a healthy respect for its role in their daily lives.

<u>Types of Tea</u>

Tea aficionados are often surprised to learn that all tea comes from the same source: The Camilla Sinensis bush.

While there are hundreds are varieties of Chinese teas, most fall into four basic categories. Reputed to provide the most health benefits, white tea is made from immature tea leaves that are picked shortly before the buds have fully opened. Green teas are not fermented during processing, and thus retain the original colour of the tea leaves. Also known as "red tea," black teas are made from fermented leaves, which accounts for their darker colour. Popular varieties of black tea include Bo Lei, a Cantonese tea often drunk with dim sum, and Luk On - a milder tea favoured by the elderly. Finally, Oolong teas are partially fermented, resulting in a black-green tea.

There is also a fourth category known as "scented teas," made by mixing various flowers and petals with green or Oolong teas, the most well known among these is Jasmine tea.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS: Some of these photos have been borrowed from my previous adventures to Wuyishan, others are of the new Tea Culture school room and an old Tea House that was once a very famous part of Shaowu city. The rest (food photos) are from a lunch we had on Sunday (yesterday) with the school and my boss Owen Buckland. More on that in my next blog: Wuyishan & Da Hong Pao Part 2 ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Meat Puppets The album was &#8216;Too High to Die’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Students Market Helping Hand to Help Japan

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Life is a book, we all read it. Love is a blessing, we all need it. Always be happy, walk with a smile. Remember in this world we are just for a little while.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill When the funds are low and the debts are high When you want to smile, but you have to sigh When life is pressing you down a bit Rest if you must, but don't ever quit. (from the Children’s Marketplace)

The funds from this year’s School Market Place will be sent to Japan to continue to help the survivors of the earthquake. My school has not forgotten the help Japan gave during and after the Sichuan/Wenchuan Earthquake of 2008. When asked where the money should go this year, the first answer most students gave was 'Japan’.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by My Disco The album was &#8216;Paradise’ ____________________________________________________________

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Students School Market


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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)