Hangzhou and Putuo Shan Dao





The conference was in Xiamen — Summer Gate in Fujian this time a curious harbor town on the eastern coast right across from Taiwan. One could tell that the war between the Nationalists on Taiwan and the Communists was not too long past. One hill in town was hollowed out with air raid shelters, now filled with shops like those in Beijing, and pill boxes dotted the beaches. The life in town had a tight restlessness of Southern China. We were accosted by money changers three times in the first block from our hotel. Everybody else stayed in a modern high-rise hotel, I had decided on a more modest place overlooking the harbor and the ferry pier for Gulangyu Island, the former European enclave.

We met our Russian friends, whom I had recommended to the organizing committee, at a sumptious buffet dinner on the second night: Anatol Oraevsky, Sasha Poppov, who received us with Russian hugs and kisses. How I had missed this emotional largesse! And Zhu Qingshi was there with whom we had dinner one night. Barbara saw immediately that my emotionally charged attachement to him would separate us for ever: You are on parallel tracks, you will never understand his reserved ways, and he considers you with a certain refined distaste. She was right, of course.

 A "nuclear" family passing under posters advertizing "One couple, One child..." The little girl has the prized crossed eyes!

There was not much of interest in town except walking the teaming croocked streets at night and spying on the family life in the lighted apartments. One day we explored Gulangyu Island, a time piece full of the unexpected. Old stately mansions gone to seed. Graves hidden in the bushes. Laundry hanging from the windows where once English and Dutch merchants resided. "You know," observed Barbara, "the servants of the former inhabitants live their now." From one dilapidated place came the sound of a piano, someone was practicing Mozart....  

 And on the terrace of the house of the former governnor I found this flower blooming. The European idea of classical Chinese beauty — Qingshi was not with us, he would have repeated his disappointed words: "You always need strong colors in your pictures..."

 At the end of this seventh week in China we flew to Hong Kong and on to Los Angeles.



The week before our stay in Xiamen — Julia had returned to Nanjing —we had taken the train to Hangzhou and stumbled into one more unexpected adventure. We had arrived very late at night and succumbed to the entreaties of a cruising pedicab driver. I gave him the name of an outlying hotel, and he pedaled us, working very hard, along the shore of Xi Hu — West Lake to our destination. The place was booked out, but the receptionist made a helpful call to another hotel. He told the pedicab man where to go, and I added a generous inducement. The road became very dark, fog was drifting in patches across the road and occasionally a full moon illuminated snatches of the lake. He turned off the main road into a path through dense foilage. I was about to voice my doubts when we were suddenly blinded by a pair of search lights. A gate, two solicitous PLA men. We had been expected. Someone spoke English, it was the Guest House of the local Communist Party Section. A former estate, several houses in an old park by the shore. The place was empty and we were put into a luxurious suite, bedroom, sitting room, and the best tiled bath ever for a very reasonable price. We fell asleep looking out through a huge glass window next to our bed onto Xi Hu, the fog, and the moon....

Barbara was still fast asleep, I woke very early to this view, ,...


 ... which continued to change as the sun rose and......


 slowly changed the lake into a misty painting of subtle colors....



Lingyin Si — The Temple of Inspired Seclusion 

Hangzhou is the city of history and old shrines. The most impressing is Lingyin Si which was saved from destruction by the hordes of the Cultural Revolution by the intervention of Zhou En-lai who came from Zeijiang Province.

 First built in 326 AD and many times rebuilt thereafter Lingyin Si houses this 20-meter-high(!) sculpture of the sitting Buddha Gautama — which was installed in 1956. Barbara dared this officially forbidden photo. While I observed the locals in front of it.  

A very rare photograph of public emotions: a woman crying and her son hugging her... The others are lighting joss-sticks for some deceased relative... 

 A women buying fruit from a street vendor outside the wall of the Daoist temple.

Daoist(?) monks


 Buddhist pilgrims walking the town. They are recognizable by their yellow shoulder sacks on which they collect the chops of the sanctuaries they have visited.


Putuo Shan Dao

I first read about Putuo Shan Dao Putuo Mountain Island in a long discontinued Hong Kong guide of Zhejiang. The island is part of an archipelago in the Jiangzi River delta, east of Shanghai. The film "Shanghai Triad" takes place in these islands. The pictures in the guide roused my curiosity. Putuo Shan is like Emei Shan one of the five holiest Buddhist mountains in China, sacred to Guanjin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion (or Mercy) who is the female incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, like the Dalai Lama is Avalokiteshvara's male incarnation. In Hangzhou we found that there was a boat to the island from Ningbo. We took the train to Ningbo and a five-hour boat ride through the islands to Putou Shan Dao. Ningbo has a surprise a neo-gothic, German-looking Catholic Cathedral! As it turns out all the old families of Shanghai have their ancestral roots in Ningbo. They moved to Shanghai in the eighteenth century when it began to overshadow Ningbo economically.

 West Beach and the archipelago in the distance. Putuo Shan Dao's village has a quiet charm rarely found in China.


 Old camphor trees shade its streets. The entrance to one of the monasteries in the village.




 Reflections in the carp pond.

 The mighty Gingo Biloba trees in the yard of the main Ch'an monastery. Ch'an is the original version of Chinese Buddhism from which eventually Zen developed in Japan.


Pilgrims having their shoulder bags stamped. Two Ch'an monks in the door. 


Near the very top of the mountain hides a small monastery from the wind behind stunted pacific pines. On the Buddhist-yellow wall at its entrance appears the character fo — Buddha, the character's left side is a short for "man" and the inverted S on its right is "self" struck-out by two vertical strokes. A man who has extinguished his self....