An American in Chengdu

The Tao of Chinese mountain climbing | October 7, 2009

I had booked a three-day tour to a park in Sichuan with glaciers and hot springs, but Cecilia told me a few days later that no foreigners were being allowed on that trip. Something about unrest in the area, which politically-minded foreigners might exacerbate. My “foreign expert” experience in China is rife with seeming contradictions: I’m treated like an honored guest and a potentially dangerous contamination, an expert and a child. To be fair, I’d doubtless be treated like more of an adult if I could communicate like one. But the language barrier doesn’t explain why one of the students would think it necessary to advise me not to leave my purse with my bicycle when I park it, or why no one expects me to be able to use chopsticks.

But I digress.

In lieu of seeing glaciers, Cecilia and I set off yesterday to climb Qingcheng Shan, a nearby mountain famous for its views and significance in Taoism. Climbing mountains in China–at least, the famous ones that are reasonably easy to get to–is not a recipe for solitude. The paved paths are crowded enough that your pace is more or less determined by that of the people ahead of you, and if you hear a birdsong, it’s far more likely to have come from the whistle that a nearby child bought from a vendor than from a bird. Still, it’s nice to be on a mountain, and there’s no danger of getting lost in the wilderness. Instead of bird watching, Cecilia and I spotted girls climbing the mountain in high heels to entertain ourselves. I wonder what Taoists think of the place. Plenty of people pray and light incense at the temples along the way. Do the photo-snapping, whistle-blowing, high heel-clad hordes put a damper on their spiritual high? I should investigate.

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1 Comment »

  1. Now I’ve got great chopstick technique! I hold them in my left hand and then push things onto my soup spoon, works great 🙂

    Comment by Deano — October 8, 2009 @ 12:40 am


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    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.
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