Wan Chai market

 

Tucked between gigantic buildings, erect monsters made of glass and steel, where people are very very busy breathing artificial air and adding up countless numbers, I found the small market.

There, colours vibrated from the bright green of long string beans (I had never seen such long ones!) to the earthly hues of fat bamboo shoots to the yellow of tender orchids.

And I could feel the breeze coming from the South China sea!

Merchants smiled while shouting the prices of their goods.

The smell of recently fished fish intermingled with the steam of dumplings and the scent of ginger flowers.

It felt like home. I bought deliciously fresh apricots and many handfuls of raisins from Xinjiang Province.

Finally, sensations I could feel, sprinkles of humanity I could touch.

Kenza.

The Terracotta Army

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The terracotta warriors they call them.

Yet peaceful and often smiling they stand with their topknots and shoes, and without swords.

A few rest on the ground, asleep.

What is our role in this play? To witness the greatness, the whims of an Emperor who never had any misgivings about destroying human life so that he may have a place in heaven and fight the armies of the beyond?

The beauty and calm of all the warriors – what are we to make of them? Should we make something of them?

The sheer size and details are astounding: the perfection of the eyes and the wrinkles on the foreheads of the generals, the slight bellies and pointed shoes of the mid-level officers, and the peaceful faces of the common soldiers standing erect.

They seem to be waiting as though to welcome rather than to fight. Maybe history is just a trick and what the Emperor wanted as threatening, comes to us as peaceful and silent.

Kenza.

Illustration: A photo I took at the Terracotta Army site built in 210-209 BCE, following the orders of Qin Shi Wang, First Emperor of China – Xi’an, China, June 2018.

Fuxing Park – 复兴公园

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In the late morning, I walk into Fuxing park
grateful for the refuge it offers from the bustle of the city.
The cicadas’ vibrating chants echo amidst the stillness of the bamboo grove,
and I wish to be one of the giant dragonflies that fly so freely over the lotus pond.

Kenza.

Photo taken in Fuxing Park, Shanghai.

Lotus

In the large temple,
the gilded Buddha and Bodhisattva statues towered over me.
Their bodies stiff,
their eyes sharing nothing.

It is the lotus that spoke to me.
In silence,
it taught me humility
and simple beauty.

Kenza.

Inspired by a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai, China in June 2018. The same thing happened to me when I visited the giant Buddha in Kamakura, Japan, a few years ago. It was in a rose tilting under the weight of rain drops that I found serenity, not the giant metal statue.

中国 (Zhōng-guó) – The Middle Kingdom

 

My son and I are traveling to the Middle Kingdom.

We hope to glean some wisdom – a bit of Tao, a bit of Chan, and certainly many noodles. The latter are the ones holding the wisdom. Just ask any sage.

I know that through our travels some smile dust will stick to our robes, the dust left by all the smiles that will greet us along the way.

And I promise that when we return, I will spread some here for all of you to enjoy.

Thank you.

Kenza.

Not a trace

A flock of birds flies north.
Two tired bees buzz near the blooming lavender.
A cloud, mindless.
The last ray spreads its gold.
The birds leave not a trace in the sky.

Kenza.


Note: “Mindless cloud”: In Zen poetry as well as in classical Chinese poetry, the cloud is often a metaphor for the mind –floating, shifting, insubstantial.