среда, 16 января 2013 г.

Impressions of China (Part II)

China manages to be both ancient and modern at the same time.

On the morning of day 4 of our visit we went for a massage. In China people go for a massage in much the same way as one might go for a haircut. My brother goes about once a week after work. Immediately discard images of seediness or loose women. The staff are professionals with several years training, dressed in white medical gowns and with a decidedly non-sexual determination to rub, elbow, press and bend your body back to health and vigour. The premises feature detailed diagrams of the body, charting ancient knowledge about pressure points and connected parts of the body. 45 minutes costs the yuan equivalent of five UK pounds; good value but I wasn't tempted to ask for more time. Despite requests to take it easy on the foreigner the massage guy worked my back and neck showing no pity. My emergency stop button was the Chinese word 'tang' which means pain. I mean pain. My brothers took some audio-video footage of me 'enjoying' the experience. No, I hope it doesn't make it to Youtube. Having said that, once released, I profusely thanked my tormentor. I genuinely think it did me good.

Later the same day we visited one of the three main tourist attractions of Jinan: the Baotuquan springs. Around the central feature - a triple natural spring, bringing hot water to the surface - is a sophisticated park complex in distinctive old Chinese style. Despite the winter temperatures the combination of trees and one- and two-storey Chinese wooden buildings creates a relaxing atmosphere. One of the buildings is devoted to a local writer who around the 10th century wrote Chinese poetry and spent the final period of her life as an itinerary poet. One is struck by the cultural sophistication of the time, including the education of women, especially when compared with our own civilisation about the same time. Notwithstanding my brothers' and daughters' drawn-out snowball fight we were able to take in the various features and buildings, even sampling a tea soup in an ornate tea house near the springs. 

It was getting dark by the time we left and we had an important dinner in the evening. The parents of my sister-in-law, Miao Miao, had invited us to a formal meal to welcome us to Jinan. Having purchased some additional presents for Miao Miao's aunts (in China what you give to whom in the presence of whom is a major cultural issue), we headed off to the restarant. The format was a buffet with a wide range of international and local foods, including various fish and other seafoods. Besides having a very generous meal we had a chance to meet the in-laws and extended family (Mum had already met folk on her previous visit). Thanks to translation by Lawrence, Miao Miao and her sister and brother-in-law we were all able to ask questions and hold conversations. I was particularly interested to ask about Chinese history and also about how the city had changed in the last 30 or so years. Various speeches of welcome and thanks were made. I also made a 3-4 sentence speech in Chinese which a healthy sense of self-preservation has so far prevented me from publishing online. Here is our group photograph at the end of the evening.

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