Shanxi Province - China
I'm riding in an air-conditioned bus, playing with my ipad, on my way to see the oldest wooden structure in China, the Nanchan Temple built in the 8th Centure. My eyes lift up and out towards a scene that could be just as old - a farmer plowing the field. The skies are grey from coal coughed exhausts sending power to factories. I sip chilled water from my plastic bottle.
Chinese Diaspora in Japan
Two Chinese ladies by a Stream - Japanese painting 渓辺二美人図 by Sakai Hyakusen is currently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum. He is considered one of the three founders of the Nanga School in Japan, a group of painters who longed for the ideal life of the Chinese literati of the Ming and early Qing Dynasties and looked to Chinese literati paintings as their model.
James Cahill, the noted Asian Art Historian, explored Sakai Hyakusen's background in a lecture I attended yesterday. Cahill's research on Sakai Hyakusen's life revealed that he was born into a family that operated a Chinese pharmacy and Cahill believes that Sakai Hyakusen was of Chinese descent - a surprising and interesting fact.
Each of the thousands of terra cotta warriors have individual facial features which lead people to believe they were modelled after real people. This one seems like a nice guy.
Training to become a docent at the Asian Art Museum has been a real eye opener. The Asian Art Museum's 338 Seated Buddha is secure behind a glass case at the entrance to Gallery 16 - Chinese Buddhist Art. Pleasant and nice, I never gave it much thought.
At the beginning of this fall training session, we were told that this Buddha is the earliest and most important dated Buddha from China and many people come to the museum just to see it. Well! I'll go take another look. It's important because the inscription in Chinese gives it a reliable date of 338.
I was flipping through my new book on Chinese art and I found this image on the right -- almost identical! It is reported to have been found in 1979 near Xi'an, China. It's also inscribed, but this time in the Kharoshthi language and -- no mention of a date. It is dated approximately 300 or 38 years before the one on the left. With no actual dated inscription, I guess it suddenly comes in second. Little things mean a lot.
Hup Seng Cream Crackers
I was walking up and down the aisle at 99 Ranch Market the other day checking out all the "exotic" stuff. I like the old time graphics from Asia.
Orange Garden Chop Suey Chow Mein
Neon signs are fading from American streets. As parts of a neon go dark, owners are increasing letting them go until only the painted backdrop is left. Americans also want "authentic" cuisine and shun the pretend exotic Chinese dishes grandma and grandpa enjoyed. Are these the last days for this neon sign?
Chicago Chinatown is a short subway right from downtown Chicago on the Red Line. Just north of the traditional Chinese gateway leading to the older section of Chinatown is a mall with shops and resturants. We had dinner at Ken Kee Restaurant at 2129-A South China Place. Ken Kee Restaurant serves Hong Kong style food so it was a surprise to see a Szechuan dish prominently featured on the menu. The photo looked enticing so we tried it. Szechuan Fish in Spicy Broth is strongly flavored with Szechuan pepper corns, Szechuan red pepper sauce, and chilis. Wonderful spicy taste, but be warned if you are not used to this dish, it may be an issue for gastro-intestinal tract. I don't see this dish on their on-line menu, but we saw it on the restaurant menu.
If you want to try it but aren't going to Chicago, I found a recipe on-line here.
Year of the Dragon
This dragon float has been sitting in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza for the past week waiting to fly through the firecrackers in the New Year's parade. At dusk it is lit from inside and glows with positive cheer. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. If you know someone's sign, then you can guess someone's age. Happy Birthday, Alex!
Gung Hay Fat Choy
Happy Lunar New Year 4710! It's the year of the dragon. In Cantonese they say gong hay fat choy wishing people happiness and prosperity. Pictured above is a moss called fat choy and sounds the same as the words fat choy in gong hay fat choy -- it's traditional to include this in meals at New Years.
Increasingly expensive, less and less is being used. Sold dried, it is re-hydrated before using. This small amount is floating in a bowl of water.
The Chinese Bed
We needed to move our Chinese bed The entire bed, canopy and all comes apart piece by piece without tools or hardware -- a genius of ingenuity - truly a Chinese "puzzle".
There is a logical sequence of taking it apart and putting it together, so we took pictures to help us remember the sequence. I'm not sure how many generations have slept in this bed, if it could only talk!
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