Audrey Jones, Qufu, China 4/8/08
Another day gone by so fast, time fading away quickly like the ink on a calligraphy brush. Speaking of calligraphy, that was our first activity of the day, after breakfast, of course. We attended an invigorating lesson on the evolution of Chinese calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting. First, we learned the proper brush holding technique, then the ink was poured and we made pitiful attempts to mimic Professor Xu’s perfect characters. Believe me when I say that calligraphy is much harder than it looks. The xuan paper I was practicing on was covered in random squiggles and scattered ink blots, badly imitating the characters on the board. Apart from my feeling very frustrated, I thought the calligraphy was really interesting, especially when the instructor showed us how one character changed from one thing to a completely different thing over a stretch of time.
I found the Chinese paintings even more amazing. We watched the teacher create a beautiful painting out of a blank piece of paper and some ink. When it way our turn to try, nothing compared to what the instructor had done. [The instructor has been teaching this for 20 years. -- Tom]
Anyway, after the calligraphy class we went back to the hotel for a little bit of free time before lunch. We had a little more free time after lunch when we packed our bags and umbrellas because it rained off and on all day. We boarded the bus and headed out to a village.
I was shocked when we arrived. It was by far the most devastating thing that I have seen. Sure, I have read or heard about poverty but it never occurred to me that it’s actually happening to people. Nearly all of the houses were pretty run-down and things were falling off of them. Stone walls and gates were broken. One house that I saw had a thin blanket, pock-marked with holes pinned up as a blanket. I found that just walking through the village was depressing and I grew more and more depressed with each step I took or with every broken down thing I saw. Materially, compared to the villager’s lives, my life is perfect. I complain that my sister ate the last cookie; they are grateful for a filling meal. I’m upset because I am not allowed to buy the cool shirt I like; their clothes are filthy and tattered. Seeing how these villagers live will cause me to look more closely at how we live.
We left the village and got on the bus to go to Confucius’ birthplace at Ni Hill. I was expecting something incredible like Confucius’ tomb and was surprised when we got there and all that I saw was a cave. Chunlei told us a lot about Confucius as we stood outside of the cave. Confucius’ mother went to the cave to pray for a baby and ultimately gave birth, so the legend goes, in that cave.
We went to the Confucius school on the hill above the cave. We didn’t have a tour guide telling us about the different buildings and I really liked being able to just walk around. I don’t know what really struck me about the school but I loved it there. (TC: This is one of my favorite spots in all of China; a great, quiet place to be alone and to reflect.)
It was so peaceful and quiet. I completely forgot about the depressing village and instantly became calm and relaxed. It was so beautiful; I walked around, mostly alone, admiring the buildings and the landscape and I was very reluctant to leave. I felt that I could have spent all day there, just sitting. I wish that we could have stayed longer.
After we gathered and pod-checked we headed to downtown Qufu and some shopping. It was pouring.
At 7:00 P.M. we met in the third floor common area and read from our journals. Some of us were stretching on the floor, others were spread out on the couches; all of us were listening to each other’s outlook on our experiences so far, laughing and sharing stories. It was a comfortable atmosphere as we discussed opinions or commented on one another’s thoughts.
It was a great way to end a great day!