Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Countdown to 回国: 1 day

By this time tomorrow I'll be two-thirds of the way home - back to New York, that is. My luggage, like me, has 减肥 jianfei - slimmed down since our arrival in September. I'll have less girth than I came with! I've given away the books I brought and am taking home only a few new ones.
None backs up the appeals to China in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion or Chief Justice Roberts' dissent in SCOTUS' gay marriage ruling. But the 海尔 Haier brothers, who've smiled at me from the fridges in both places I've stayed, surely approve. May love win everywhere!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Merci, Benoît

Can't resist sharing this photo, taken last week at the final meeting of the Comparative Theology class whose first section, led by a Korean pioneer in East Asian Theology, I attended. I missed the second, shorter, part, taught by a French Jesuit Thomist, since I was traveling, but was invited to the photo shoot anyway, in the classroom of the 利徐學社 Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute. The woman at far left set us up in this rather overdetermined way, but I include the photo to register my thanks to 魏明德 Benoît Vermander, the other French Jesuit - the beaming blonde one - without whose help my year at Fudan would have been much less stimulating than it was. I didn't expect either the Francophonie or theology to be parts of my Shanghai year but, happily, they were!

Countdown to 回国: 2 days

I cleaned out my desk at the ICSCC today, and bade farewell to various Fudan friends. This involved food, of course, including xiaolongbao 小笼包, the soup dumplings which were my first taste of ostensibly Shanghai food in Taiwan in 2007. (In fact there is no uniquely Shanghai food.)
So why a photo instead of a yummy fresh fried scallion thing I had this afternoon? Because xiaolongbao are filled with pork, and in China this ostensible vegetarian fell often off the wagon. Vegetable dishes here are just bland passes-partout for meat. Back home, I'll do better.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Countdown to 回国: 3 days

A rainy day, mostly at home. No problem, since I’m connected to the world by internet, right? Well, thanks to my VPN (virtual private network) I am. I can’t quite imagine what my year in China would have been like without it, though I have friends here who live without it,

getting what they need through Chinese internet sharing sites. Beyond basics like my home e-mail and blogger, blocked because Google-based, what do I need it for? I get most news about the rest of the world without it from the Guardian. It’s about China I’d be handicapped.
I wouldn’t, for instance, know of the "七不讲 seven don't mentions," or that the Communist Youth League has deputed university CYL members to help “green the internet" by being more chaste and civil on it (but also reporting the uncivil) - part of a broader campaigm/clampdown.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Countdown to 回国: 4 days

Four days to go, a lull before frantic last-minute activities... so I went somewhere new. It's the vast campus of an international boarding school in a still semi-rural part of Pudong which one of my friends has been hired to direct. Or perhaps resurrect. A picturesque dump now, by the
time I next visit Shanghai (or maybe the visit after that) it may have become, as planned, host to 6000 Chinese students, from primary school through college prep, doing English A-Levels, American APs and the International Baccalaureate. "If you ever want a job back in China..."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Nanjing Museum!

Very glad I made it back to Nanjing, even if I only had time for the Nanjing Museum! The history section, really a kind of Jiangsu provincial museum, overflows with glorious artifacts, and, in the newly arranged displays of its 4-year renovation, revels in the wealth of its collection.

The art section, focused on a handful of modern Nanjing artists, is a little thinner on older works, but still satisfying.

There's also a subterranean street recreating Republican Nanjing, complete with tea house and live opera; in a dowdy coffee shop I had coffee made vacuum style, as it apparently was when coffee first came to China in 1918.

A futuristic but largely past-focused "digital gallery" panders a little too much to young people's presumed inability to appreciate things that don't move, witness this animation of part of a famous painting below!

Countdown to 回国: 5 days

Last night there was a sort of farewell dinner for me at Fudan, where I was rather grateful to be upstaged by another guest, a billionaire Daoist master (therein lies a tale!). I didn’t have a chance to dodge the questions I thought I’d be asked about discoveries and writing projects.
I also didn’t have a chance not to report that my happiest discovery here had nothing to do with the academic study of religion but rather was something closer to my heart: the fledgling queer Christian community 彩虹见证团契. What a privilege to witness its witness!

Omnibus of 北京山西旅游 omnibuses

北京-山西 trip omnibus 4

This final installment of Beijing-Shanxi trip pics shows our road trip to Wutaishan, and return by rail from Datong to Shanghai by way of Beijing. At right the window of a shop selling silver and gold in our hotel, the Great Helmsman overshadowed by the "Venus of the Orient" (from Huayan Temple) but still there.
Scenes from the four-hour road trip, including one from one of the less incomplete rest stations along the expressway, two tunnels (one under Henghan, the other with a Mao quote), giant windmills, and a somewhat frightening drive over a stormy pass into the verdant valley that's suspended between Wutai's five peaks.

After an exploitatively overpriced lunch in the town at Wutai's center (all the mushrooms and greens were, apparently, hand-picked on the mountain) we walked up to nearby 南山寺 Nanshan Temple, really a bunch of older ones which had been restored and expanded during the early 20th C; views within and without were impressive. Some of Wutai's famous mushrooms drying on a sidewalk, an internet cafe, another nearby temple at nightfall, and the cheery nocturnal scene near our hostel.

Next morning, looking a bit like the two monks on our hostel's logo, we explored the area around the big white stupa, finding countless religious of different stripes - not all Buddhists, since the Daoist temple tot he Fifth Dragon King (with live opera!) continues Wutai's pre-Buddhist tradition; passed up the chance to be photoshopped into a floating lotus flower; and, my friend tiring of what struck him as a remorselessly this-worldly tourist trap, headed back to Datong without visiting more of Wutai's many temples.

The way back offered less typically touristic pleasures, all under a stunning blue sky, from an open-air statue of the Buddha's Enlightenment (at the pass, near Wutai's eastern peak) and one of the many cows roaming the mountains to Buddhist statuary hitchhikers, Maoist billboards, newl (re?)built temples, inspiring highway art, one of the final watchtowers on Datong's new-old wall under construction and the waiting room at Datong trainstation, concluding with wee hours sleepers at Beijing West, and on the high speed train back to Shanghai, a grandmother crouched on the floor beside her little emperor. Done!