First Comes First - A Confession
I have a confession to make.
I 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
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.
So, 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…
The Left Brain Prevailed
In the years that follow, I did just what I set out to do. I equipped myself with the knowledge and technique to work in the environment where we all moved fast, very fast… I used my left brain, almost exclusively. Logic, critical thinking, problem solving, etc… I thought I was set for that kind of life. Those were the things that I was trained to do; and those were what I was good at.
The Right Brain “Found” Its Way
Until one day (or some days), my right brain came out of its “hibernation”. I started paying attention to the “softer” side of the world, things that may not be explained by logic or order. I started liking architecture, I started liking paintings, and I liked digging deeper on the history or culture of certain part of the world just because... I picked up photography and I heard myself using words like “feeling” (come on, left-brainers are humans too)…
So, what does that have to do with my trip to Zhangjiajie? A lot!
Fast forward to today, I’m standing on the soil of China, ready to visit Zhangjiajie.
If I did not know enough about the province of Hunan, I know even less, a lot less, about Zhangjiajie, the national forest park located in Hunan. To me, it is a name that shows up frequently in the tourism materials for China and it is well-known for its exotic arrangements of rocky mountains.
Yet, I did not know that this national forest park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. I also did not know that the name of Zhangjiajie City was adopted in 1994, meaning "open the family door to welcome the world" in Chinese.
Zooming through the body of the mountain in the world’s tallest (335 meters high) and fastest (it takes only 118 seconds per ride) tourist elevator, I should have known that we would be “above cloud”.
Stepping outside, sprinkled mist in the air, I watched a roll of Chinese painting opened up in front of me. It continued to happen in the next two hours.
Don’t get me wrong. I did say that I did not care about Chinese ancient art. But that does not mean I don’t know how they look. What I didn’t know was that the things that frequented in the paintings all came from real life.
It’s not anybody’s fault. Ancient poets did try to “tell” me that in their poetic work. But I chose to believe all that “fluffy” stuff was not true. See, I was a scientist and I only believed what I saw. I was however wrong in that the world is not just the world that I had the chance to experience; it also includes the part that I didn’t.
Mesmerized by the beauty, I finally got to meet what I saw in paintings many years ago with my own eyes, the “old” and the “fluffy”. Life does like to play jokes with us.