Thursday, December 24, 2009

Walking into Chinese Brush Painting – Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, China

Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China

First Comes First - A Confession

I have a confession to make. 

Roof of Ancient StructureI grew up in China.  But I did not start being serious about traveling and getting to know the various regions of the country until more recent years. 

So when I came to the US at a young age, my knowledge about the country was very fragmented.  At the time, I did not realize that.

Leaving the Old and the Slow

Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China (2)As I mentioned in my earlier post, I could not sit and watch China’s seemingly slow modernization process and took an “expedited” approach.  I arrived in an airplane at a country that’s half a globe away from where I was born, a country that was widely considered the best country in the world.  After all, impatience seems to be the trade-mark of young people.

Beautiful Mountains - Zhangjiajie, Hunan, ChinaSo, one can imagine how happy I was to leave China and everything associated with it.  Who would need to understand the  culture, history or the literature from thousands of years ago?  After all, we are moving at the speed of motor vehicles, airplanes and space rockets.  I was happy to not be bothered by anything old and slow… 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More on Tradition vs. the Modern

Changsha, Hunan, China
The other day, I was watching a video by a world renowned nature and wild-life photographer Art Wolfe

As he was demonstrating the use of light, he showed a few pictures, including the one with a barn in it. 

Now, the pictures were all amazing.  But what he said next stroke me and completely resonated with me on the subject that I brought up in my earlier blog post “To Be, Or Not to Be – Changsha, Hunan Province, China”.   

He said, in his 30 years of photographing, he’s seeing an “erosion of tradition” and things like barns are being “replaced by metal roof…”.         

Thursday, December 3, 2009

To Be, or Not to Be – Changsha, Hunan Province, China

 Changsha, China

Our trip started in Changsha, capital city of Hunan province.  I could not wait to explore this city when we arrived in the airport. 
Anticipating the Unknown
How much do I know about Hunan? 

Spicy Hunan Pepper I love their food, spicy and homey.  The most common staples are turned into delicious home-made dishes.  And that’s what I call real good cooking, not the type of cooking with expensive materials like lobsters, shark fins or abalone. 

Hunan food is like an unassuming person that knocks your socks off with extraordinary performance or a woman that does not have much makeup on and yet can talk stuff that amazes you.

Additionally, for those that are into the recent history of China, Mao Zedong was born in Hunan.  As a controversial Changsha Mapfigure, he lead the communist to take over the whole country in 1949.  For many years that follow, China and its people experienced endless political turmoil, including the 10-year long cultural revolution.  In many people’s opinion, he’s one of those that contributed to the country’s stalled (if not retracted) development and the agony in Chinese people’s lives.  (For a more complete account of Mao Zedong’s life, please visit    When the Modern Meets Tradition

Furthermore, one of Hunan’s famous archaeological discoveries is the Tomb of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) at Mawandui, and its well-preserved female mummy from 2,100 years ago.  Can you believe her joints were still flexible when freshly out of the tomb?

Oh, and in terms of its culture, Hunan embroidery is one of the major export products of the province.

All these scattered information, unfortunately, was not helpful in putting  together a reasonable expectation before I hit Changsha.  After all, most of what I know about Hunan was history.  And, after all, I Will This Building Still be Here Tomorrowhave been told over and over, how much change China is going through…