Dead Poet Tourism. Retrospective Travel/5

One of the highlights of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was a visit to Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage. Our friends, Tia and Carol, (their chosen Western names) recommended this visit and I’m so pleased they did. That visit, in August 2015, sparked an interest in the poetry of the Tang Dynasty. Lasting for 400 years or so, (7th to 10th century CE ), the Tang Dynasty is regarded as the Golden era of Chinese literature and art, comparable to the Renaissance era of Italy and Europe. Over 48,900 poems penned by some 2,200 Tang authors have survived to the present day. Skill in the composition of poetry became a required study for those wishing to pass imperial examinations while poetry contests were common among guests at Imperial banquets.

Du Fu ( 712-770) is regarded as China’s Shakespeare: he is revered as one of China’s greatest poets. His poetry is studied at school and is recalled fondly by Chinese adults. They enjoy sprouting a few lines of Du Fu’s more famous poems, akin to Westerners dropping a few lines from Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet in order to sound erudite. It’s also interesting to know that many non-Chinese scholars are dedicated followers of the Tang Dynasty poets, as work continues on better translations. Translation into English (or any other language) is painstaking work and requires a 4 step process-

  • translating the more stylised characters used by the Tang poets into the modern form of Chinese logosyllabic or logoraphic script,
  • writing this in Pinyin, the Romanisation of Chinese characters based on phonetics, including stress indicators for tones,
  • producing a translation that includes elements of the original sound and structure, as well the encapsulating the imagery and meaning of the original.
  • polishing this version until it is harmonious and accessible. A worthwhile translation of a single poem can take years of work. Versions vary greatly and after studying this field, you may find your preferred translators/ translations.

Du Fu’s cottage and museum is set inside a 24-acre park, situated on the outskirts of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China. It was created in the early 16th century during the Ming Dynasty and extensively renovated in 1811 during the Qing Dynasty. In 1961 the Chinese government established Du Fu Thatched Cottage Park as a National Heritage site. The park is beautiful to wander through, providing a break from all those dead poets.

The park consists of several areas:

  • Du Gongbu Memorial Hall (工部祠Gōngbù Cí), where the life and work of Du Fu is displayed, including some rare Song dynasty wood carvings.
  • The thatched cottage of Du Fu. A reconstructed thatched hut partitioned into a study, a bedroom and kitchen, recreating the living and working environment of Du Fu’s time.
  • The Hall of Great Poets (大雅堂Dàyǎ Táng). An exhibition hall with a 16 meter long by 4 meter tall mural painting portraying scenes from Du Fu’s poems: “My Thatched Hut Wrecked by the Autumn Wind” and “A Song of War Chariots”. There are also statues of twelve prominent Chinese poets, including that of Li Bai, Du Fu’s friend, and drinking companion. There are also panels displaying different styles of calligraphy.
  • There’s also a bookshop and library. As a traveller, I had to resist the temptation of buying these beautiful but weighty books.
  • Panels of Poems, Du Gong Bu memorial Hall, Chengdu.

Another ancient style.

Two beautiful poems by Du Fu

Rain

Roads not yet glistening, rain slight,
Broken clouds darken after thinning away.
Where they drift, purple cliffs blacken.
And beyond — white birds blaze in flight.

Sounds of cold-river rain grown familiar,
Autumn sun casts moist shadows. Below
Our brushwood gate, out to dry at the village
Mill: hulled rice, half-wet and fragrant.

Full Moon

Above the tower — a lone, twice-sized moon.
On the cold river passing night-filled homes,
It scatters restless gold across the waves.
On mats, it shines richer than silken gauze.

Empty peaks, silence: among sparse stars,
Not yet flawed, it drifts. Pine and cinnamon
Spreading in my old garden . . . All light,
All ten thousand miles at once in its light.

Self Portrait with calligraphy.

And another, which reminds me of our time in isolation during this pandemic,

Spring View

The country is broken, though hills and rivers remain,
In the city in spring, grass and trees are thick.
Moved by the moment, a flower’s splashed with tears,
Mourning parting, a bird startles the heart.
The beacon fires have joined for three months now,
Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces.
I scratch my head, its white hairs growing thinner,
And barely able now to hold a hairpin.

Dear Reader, Do you read poetry? And if so, who is your favourite poet? Do you find that reading poetry provides you with a silent space for reflection?

References for further inquiry.

  • Hawkes, D. (1967) A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
    Hinton, D. (1990) The Selected Poems of Tu Fu. London, Anvil Press Poetry.
    Hung, W. (1952) Tu Fu: China’s Greatest Poet. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.
    Watson, B. (2002) The Selected Poems of Du Fu. New York, Columbia University Press.
  • An example of the translation process at work, using the poem, Spring View, can be found here. http://www.chinese-poems.com/d15.html

and some sites consulted,

Chinese Street Scenes. Order and Philosophy.

In a country like China, where everyday life is complex, busy, and often crowded, order creates harmony. It enables Chinese life to work smoothly. Orderliness can be seen in the cleanliness of the streets, the hygiene applied to food preparation and the behaviour of the Chinese people. The ancient principles of Confucianism, a system of norms and propriety that determine how a person should act in everyday life, underlies many aspects of Chinese society, with later overlays of buddhism, daoism, communism and capitalism. Below: some sketches of everyday life in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

Scene below the Ohm hotel, Chengdu. A very orderly dumpling operation.
Not a leaf or butt in sight. Kunming.
Street Recycling, Kunming.
Beautiful brooms made of twigs. Sichuan Province.

Partners in Chengdu

Living statues usually busk alone. These partners work together in Well Alley, Chengdu. Well Alley is near Narrow and Wide Lane, an historic tourist precinct in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.

Living statues busk together in Chengdu, China
Living statues busk together in Chengdu, China

For Daily Post prompt, <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/partners/”>Partners</a&gt;

Dinnertime in Langzhong

We were travelling by car around Sichuan province with some friends from Chengdu, China.  Shú song (树松), a dedicated foodie, and Tia, her anglicised name, found the best places to eat at dinnertime.

Ma Po Tofu, Cabbage and chilli, White lotus and Black fungas.
Ma Po Tofu, cabbage and chilli, white lotus and black fungus.

They both took a week off work to accompany us on the road trip of a lifetime, visiting the more remote regions of Sichuan, and travelling through wild and overgrown passes in Éméi shān (Mt Emei ). Towards the end of the journey we stayed in the ancient city of Langzhong, where we shared the most remarkable meals.

River fish hotpot, Sichian style
River fish hot-pot, Sichuan style ( hot)

Shú song would have private chats with the chef at our Tang Dynasty Hotel, or go hunting around the town in search of good river fish, and bring them back to the chef to cook.

More fish in Langzhuong
More fish in Langzhong

Dinner time was always a special occasion in Sichuan with these two friends. It was a little more difficult sourcing a wine to go with the meal. Beer and spirits are readily available throughout China. But things are slowly changing as the Chinese become more interested in wine production.

A quick lie down after dinner
A quick lie down after dinner

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/dinnertime/

The Dead Poets of Chengdu: Family Letters are Worth Ten Thousand Pieces

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Imagine three large museum halls set in a 24 acre manicured park dedicated to a poet from more than 1200 years ago. The Chinese love their Tang Dynasty poets, especially Du Fu. Du Fu’s thatched cottage, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, is located in the Du Fu Cao Tang Park along with other museum halls displaying panels of his most famous poems, exhibitions of ancient stylised calligraphy, and a sculpture hall for the other major poets of that era.1-dufDu Fu enthusiasts from around the world come to pay their respects, the locals to enjoy reading the famous poems they learnt as youngsters at school, or to appreciate and try to translate these ancient stylised characters and letters. A visit, including the magnificent gardens and lake, takes at least half a day.

Panels of Poems, Du Gong Bu memorial Hall, Chengdu.
Panels of Poems, Du Gong Bu memorial Hall, Chengdu.

The Tang dynasty  (7th and 8th centuries) is generally regarded as the Golden Age of Chinese Culture, and might be compared to the Renaissance cultural awakening in Europe.

Self Portrait with calligraphy.
Self portrait with calligraphy.

The art of writing characters and letters is given prominence in schools in China, despite the presence of the ubiquitous iPad or tablet. Calligraphy tables are set up with paper, ink and brushes in the hotels in Chengdu, for all to have a go.

Concentrating on Writng letters. A friends child, 6, practices calligraphy.
Concentrating on writing. A friend’s child from Chengdu, 6, practices her calligraphy.
My grandson, at school n China, leaning calligraphy.
My grandson, 11, at school this week in Nanjing China, learning calligraphy.
Spring View
Du Fu 春望
The country is broken, though hills and rivers remain,
In the city in spring, grass and trees are thick.
Moved by the moment, a flower’s splashed with tears,
Mourning parting, a bird startles the heart.
The beacon fires have joined for three months now,
Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces.
I scratch my head, its white hairs growing thinner,
And barely able now to hold a hairpin.

http://www.chinese-poems.com/d15.html

Connected in Chengdu

Steaming baskets, Narrow Lane, Chengdu, China
Bamboo Steamers, Narrow Lane, Chengdu, China

Chengdu, Sichuan Provence, China. Inter- connecting bamboo steaming baskets tempt those wandering by. Narrow and Wide Lanes are two pedestrian only areas in central Chengdu, famous for bars, restaurants and small courtyards.

Steaming baskets, Chengdu, Chna
Steaming baskets, Chengdu, China

 

Pandas of Chengdu. Travel Theme/Endearing

Cute animals and babies immediately come to mind when considering this week’s travel theme topic, Endearing, nominated by Ailsa, of  Where’s My Backpack. How cute and endearing are Pandas!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A visit to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (Xiongmao Jidi) in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China is an enjoyable day out. The pandas have acres of bamboo forest to enjoy, the nursery pandas are kept separately, and there is a birthing section, complete with all the paraphernalia of a maternity hospital.

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The park itself is huge, with large promenades of bamboo forests, a large lake and an excellent restaurant where you, like the pandas, can enjoy a plate of bamboo, pickled and steamed.  Like everything else in China, the park and facilities are spotlessly clean and a pleasure to visit.

The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, No.1375 Xiongmao Avenue, Outside Northern Third Ring Road, Chenghua District, Chengdu 610081, China.

Travel theme: World Cups

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After an enforced absence from posting due to internet censorship in China, with no access to Google, Gmail or WordPress, I re-visit my blog tentatively, my brain now wonderfully word slow but over stimulated with image and colour.

This week, Ailsa, from Where’s My Backpack, has chosen World Cups as the travel theme. With all the tea in China, beautiful cups are never far from sight.

The cups above graciously decorate a Tea House in Chengdu, Szechuan Province, China. The cups below wait for the return of Mao in a well preserved Tang dynsasty courtyard house in Langzhong, an ancient city in the north of Szechuan. Mao visited this particular courtyard house on the Long March. Mao memorabilia is now quite scarce in capitalistic China.

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