April 16, 2004
I still find it amazing to think that right now I have seen and been to so many famous Chinese sites. The fact that I have walked on the Great Wall and that I have seen the Terra Cotta Warriors is still mind-boggling. I never imagined that I would get an opportunity to see such things.
There have been a few days when I’ve gotten a little homesick and wasn’t really enjoying it all, but I was able to overcome those feelings by keeping a positive attitude and by eating tons and tons of chocolate which I have discovered is definitely my comfort food. That and French fries. Sometimes you just want to eat something that you are familiar with, the ingredients of which you know. However, there is an orange-colored sauce we have on meat here that I absolutely love—and I have no idea what’s in it. But that is one of the ideas behind this program: to try to discover new things that you have never done or eaten before. The other idea is to create a peaceful relationship between China and America by communicating through the arts. In a way, we are like Jao Jung who was a peacekeeper between China’s minority groups and central China. Like Jao Jung, Journey East is trying to respect cultures that are different from Jao our own even though we may not fully understand them. Therefore, in trying to understand one another we create a peaceful relationship. Journey East is different than Jao Jung though, mainly because one of us would not give our body to a minority king as a peace offering. You see, Jao Jung was the emperor’s concubine and also his peacekeeper. She was not looked down upon for being a concubine; in fact, she was revered for keeping the peace. She is so well thought of that there is an annual celebration for her at her tomb which we visited today.
We also visited the largest Buddhist temple in Hohhot which was built in 1579, during the Ming Dynasty. Even though the temple is 425 years old, it is still an active place. We saw a dozens of monks in their traditional robes—many worn over jeans and sneakers. I found it interesting to see how they are able to hold on to their traditional clothing but are still able to dress in the style of the 21st century.
When we were at the temple I ended up buying a Buddha statue. I was looking at its detail and noticed how the Chinese were able to change the original Buddha into one with Chinese characteristics such as the shape of the eyes, the elongated ear lobes and the shape of the face. Our tour guide in Xi’an, Sally, told us about these Chinese details so I thought it was kind of cool that I noticed them.
During our tour of the temple, a few people noticed a small detail that I had overlooked. It was small symbol that was carved into one of the stone tablets. This symbol was what we know as the swastika. Yet this Buddhist temple had nothing to do with Nazi Germany. It turns out that going in the direction it appeared in at the temple, the symbol means good luck in Buddhism and in ancient times it represented the sun. I guess that shows how there can be cultural misunderstandings when a person does not know too much about a certain culture. However, that is why we are here. To help people gain a better understanding of American culture and for us to learn Chinese culture. In doing so, I like to think that with this better understanding of one another we are one step closer to a more peaceful world.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
-- Johnny Redmond