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Moresby Meanders Observations From an Ongoing Journey

A Monk From the Future

CHINA | Friday, 17 May 2013 | Views [12023]

As I sit in a vegetarian restaurant in the Tibetan district of Chengdu, chewing on particularly tasty chunk of imitation lamb, I observe a Tibetan monk on the table opposite, thumbing messages in to his smart phone with one hand, lips moving silently as he counts prayer beads with the other. He stops only momentarily to sip at his can of coke before he continues. I smile to myself as I marvel at the complex, dynamic melding of ancient and contemporary that is modern-day China.

 In 2006 I spent six months living in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Provence studying Mandarin in an effort to reinspire my love of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which I had spent two years studying at the University of Technology in Sydney some years previously. Rooted in Taoist and Confucian philosophies, this unusual induction to the study of Chinese culture and practices (for a middle class white boy from Sydney’s North Shore) had painted a rosy, nostalgic picture of China in my minds eye. Unfortunately the curriculum had not closely examined important elements of recent history such as the Cultural Revolution and the plethora of other influences that contributed to the modernisation and birth of contemporary China. Although I was very much aware that China was a growing superpower with all the mod cons of any western country, I had to some degree still expected to walk off the plane and find aged men in flowing robes stroking wispy beards while they imparted words of ancient wisdom to my expectant ears… No such luck.

 Now on my fourth visit to China, I know that I, as a western tourist, can observe the practice of ancient rituals and hear the rhythms of age-old mantras as they are chanted in renovated and re-built temples, surrounded by the majestic skyline of skyscrapers, after a woman behind a glass window imparts those few re-furbished-ancient-gate-opening words; “20 RMB entry”. Jaded somewhat?

 Don’t get me wrong; I love China, for what it is. That is why I keep coming back here. I find it remarkable how this great nation can manage to cradle the stories, philosophies and practices of an age gone by under one arm while it relentlessly bores, builds and business deals it’s way in to the future with the other. This is truly a land of surprise and inspiration. In fact to my surprise, by the end of my visit in 2006 I had returned to Australia inspired not to get out the old herbs and acupuncture needles but instead to enter the world of business, but that is another story.

 China leaves different impressions on different people, and for me each subsequent visit has had a distinctly different effect as I visit new cities and regions at different times. So far I am enjoying Chengdu and the impressions it is making on me and I am looking forward to the experiences that this visit to Sichuan will offer up in the coming weeks.

 Anyway, before I get too carried away I have some fake lamb to finish, a temple to visit and a dwarf village to track down.


Tags: chengdu, china, monks, temples



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