Oh so much to share!!
One of the many things I’ve been reflecting on while here in China is just how fulfilling each day is. I love the simplicity of waking up knowing I’m going to eat yummy Chinese food ALL day! :-D And that I get to speak Chinese ALL day too!! That also means I’ll be learning ever new and expanding vocabulary, exchanging smiles and stories with some of the friendliest people, AND I get to go be with my most beloved Chinese family!! I also get to facilitate the learning of 4 awesome Canadian students and their burgeoning relationship with Dr. Zhao, Ayi, their family and all the other wonderful people in the clinic. AND we get to invest the whole day being immersed in the world of Chinese medicine, herbs, healing, compassion, wisdom and learning from a system of medicine 1,000s of years old. Every day I learn so much, and as I mentioned in my last update, I LOVE the variety in which Dr. Zhao has been teaching us on this trip!
So! Now you can see why I wake up and like to start dancing around my room!! :)
Chinese Medicine is the key to understanding
Yet, on the outside people may wonder why I, who loves and flourishes in Cascadia, the land of tall trees, flowing fresh rivers and mountains, is also so drawn to be in the enormous city of Zhengzhou, a forest of ever-growing tall buildings, cement and close to 10 million people! Most of the reasons are the ones I just stated above. I have also mentioned before that Zhengzhou is home to some of the most generous, loving and friendly people on the planet. :-) Also, even amidst the busyness of urban life, traffic and cement, I sense a groundedness, a deep, innate connection with the Earth that’s held in the collective cultural consciousness. This surprises me…and it’s a feeling that’s challenging to pinpoint, but amidst the chaos of life and some of the extreme unsustainability of modern day living, there is also a living, pulsing thread of connection that runs deep into the ancestry, the cultural fabric and web of the people here. And I can sense it. This may be what Dr. Zhao referred to when he said, “Zhongyi jiushi yige yaoshi. Ta jiu hui dakai Zhongguo de wenhua.” “Chinese medicine is the key that unlocks the door to understanding Chinese culture.”
I noticed early on when doing my study abroad program in Taiwan as a junior in college, that everyone seemed to share a common, innate knowledge that I didn’t have. They spoke of things like preventing heat, cold, wind or dampness from getting into the body, or common remedies of what foods to eat to promote healing of certain ailments. They also knew what foods to eat in what seasons and why and how this correlates to our organs. For example, fall is the season of the lungs and they can be easily irritated in autumn. It’s good to eat steamed pears to nourish the lungs and stay away from too spicy foods. Women on their moon time were to avoid any cold foods (this is both “temperature cold and also “quality” cold), stay warm and nourish their bodies and blood with foods and herbal teas. I found this all fascinating.
Later in my semester I heard of a month-long postpartum practice one of my Chinese language teachers mentioned in a causal conversation. I stopped her and started asking her about it. She explained they called it Zuo Yue Zi坐月子—“Sitting for a Month” practice. It’s a practice most Chinese and Taiwanese women do after birthing a child that is steeped in Chinese Medicine and culture. Through diet, herbs, rest in the home, protection from wind and cold, it is a time for a woman to rebuild her bones, blood and strengthen her and her baby’s health. The mother rests with her baby as her mother or mother-in-law prepares a lot of the foods, teas, etc. I was so intrigued by this that I applied for a grant and came back to Taiwan the following summer to do 3 months of research on this topic for my senior thesis, interviewing and living with women in the city and country-side villages of northern and southern Taiwan.
Understanding Life & the Happy Hum of Harmony
This is all to give some examples of how indeed this system of medicine, a system that comes from the desire and wisdom of understanding Life, is a major thread that weaves through history and soul of Chinese culture. Its teachings are of the way of nature, and restoring harmony. And that is exactly what I experience daily and profoundly in Dr. Zhao’s clinic. I love being immersed in the natural smells and aromas of Chinese herbs. In Dr. Zhao’s herb room, he has a wall of beautiful wooden drawers holding 400+ herbs; next to the clinic is also an herbal storage room and the smell has a powerful calming effect on my nervous system. I just feel good around them and feel a sense of comfort. I’ve explained before on other visits, how when I’m back with the herbs, I feel like I’m again with old friends. :)
This feeling of calm and harmony runs through the clinic and throughout each day. There are no computers or machines, just a few waiting chairs for patients, Dr. Zhao’s treatment table, some wooden stools, this wooden desk, two small wrist pillows for taking pulses, his herbal prescription pads and hand-written patient logs. He doesn’t even use a calculator to add up the cost of herbal prescriptions; he uses an abacus. Life at the clinic is simple and real. The atmosphere is one of trust, care, honesty, compassion and the realness of life. People from all walks of life, ages, vocations, studies, come – all similarly desiring the same thing – to live their best life and be well. There is a joy in healing, in finding a master doctor. And with Dr. Zhao, as he warmly attends to each patient, there is compassion that flows out of his eyes, his attention and through the steadiness and sturdiness of his being.
Meeting Zhang Zhong Jing & Zhu Ge Liang ~ Fathers of Chinese Medicine, Wisdom & Resourcefulness
So in my last update, I spoke a lot about our time in the clinic…AND we’ve also enjoyed several awesome adventures outside the clinic!! As Dr. Zhao seems to thrive on full days, our days off are sometimes even more full! One day we met up at 6 a.m. to drive to Nanyang – home of both Zhang Zhong Jing, from about 200 AD and one of the many great fore-fathers of Chinese Medicine, and Zhu Ge Liang, a man from the 3 Kingdoms era known throughout history for his resourcefulness and wisdom. The 3-hour drive is beautiful, through green mountains with lots of trees! :-)
I had been to Zhang Zhong Jing’s temple once before 11 years ago with my Qigong Grandmaster, Xu Mingtang, on our way to our month-long training at Shaolin Monastery, though I didn’t know as much about him or the medicine then. It was wonderful to have such a good guide this time…Dr. Zhao! :-) That first visit, Mingtang had encouraged us to meditate among the gardens, trees, statues, calligraphy carvings of Zhang Zhong Jing and many thousands of years of great Chinese Medicine teachers represented in an open hallway with stone carved portraits. This was one way for us to pay our respects and be open to receive gifts of wisdom from these teachers.
This time I loved hearing more of the stories of Zhang Zhong Jing and seeing his actual grave. It was a pyramid-type stone monument grave and the 4 corners had beautiful stone rams head carvings that were smooth and shiny due to the hundreds upon hundreds of years of people coming to pay their respects and rubbing the stone heads for good luck. I asked about these stone rams’ heads – why did they chose rams? Dr. Zhao explained that the character for “yang” 羊， meaning sheep/ram is in the phrase “ji xiang ru yi 吉祥如意” which means a blessing of good fortune and happiness. :) The Chinese language is so cool! :)
There were stone carvings of various teachers calligraphy along the courtyard walls, and after our few calligraphy sessions with Dr. Zhao, this was fascinating to see the different styles of “shufa書法” – and to see Dr. Zhao’s eyes light up with admiration as his fingers traced the swift, flowing strokes of some of these masters. :-) One of the rooms at the temple/monument had a whole wall dedicated to quotes from Zhang Zhong Jing’s most famous work, the book I mentioned in my last update called, Shang Han Za Bing Lun 傷寒雜病論 – a Treatise on Cold Diseases. Dr. Zhao called me over, “Kailun, lai lai.” I saw the text…but didn’t realize all the formulas written on that wall from the book were all written in “gejues” – “rhythmic rhyming poems”. These yaofang gejues 藥方歌訣 – herbal formula poems tell the formula and some also have several formulas in one “gejue” – as it mentions how by adding such and such herbs, it becomes a different formula. Dr. Zhao stood by the wall and began reciting by memory the first gejue – a famous formula to “qing re 清熱” –dispel heat!! :-)
Awkward importance of the “little” things…
One funny thing that happened is the reporters that had come to the clinic earlier in the week, had some photographers come with us and took pics of us all while Dr. Zhao was giving us a tour. It was a bit funny that, every time I turned my head towards our Canadian students to translate what Dr. Zhao was saying, a big camera was clicking in my face. I was trying to just act natural but it was a bit awkward! They also had us do jumps and funny things. Though one thing I was pretty self conscious about is…as it was hot and sunny that day, I was wearing my new sunglasses. But lo and behold a tiny (but very important!!!) screw fell out of my right lens…so the only thing holding it upright at all on my face was if it rested just right on my cheek! This means that at any given moment, if I moved a bit fast or tilted my head or smiled too big, that this lens could flop down awkwardly on top my face, exposing one eye and um….well look rather ridiculous, really! I hope none of those shots make it into the film! :-P
Shaolin Temple & 1,500 year old trees!
Wow! Well, I don’t have much more time to write so I’m going to include some more pics of our other adventures to Shaolin Temple and Longmen Grotto and just say a few words. While Shaolin is now quite a tourist destination, it harnesses and holds such treasure and mystery that is still quite palpable…especially if you can take some time away from the tour groups and just be with 1,000 and 1,500 year old White Cypress and Gingko trees, and the 1,500 year old temple rooms, buildings, stone carvings, quiet courtyards and incense-offering billowing smoke twisting up towards the infinite sky. The amount of history and legends in these surrounding Song Mountains, caves, and temples is not always visible, but is tangible to the sensitive sole/soul.
We went on a Monday. Dr. Zhao stayed in clinic to treat his patients while I accompanied Brynn, Megan, Cassidy and Emma along with a small Chinese tour group. Once in the temple we decided to all split away from the group and enjoy solo wonder wanders. I met several friendly monks, and, as I made my way slowly to the back of the temple, I noticed more and more monks – more than I had ever seen before at Shaolin Temple. One monk graciously explained that they were on day 2 of a week-long ceremony. How beautiful to witness them all come together to meditate and chant amidst the drums and gongs of the practice hall. It was magical and such a soothing balm to our spirits.
Over 100,000 Buddhas in 2,345 caves ~ Longmen Grotto
Our other adventure that day was to visit Longmen Grotto (Longmen Shiku 龍門石窟) in Luoyang, Henan. This is another most amazing World Heritage Site. It’s by a rocky river bank with over 100,000 Buddhas carved in over 2,345 caves ranging from 1 inch (25 mm) to 57 feet (17 meters) in height. Many of the carvings were commissioned by WuZeTian of the Tang Dynasty, the first and only woman Emperor in China. While these pics give you a peak and small taste of the site, going there and experiencing these buddhas and the stunning yet peaceful energy they create is truly beautiful.
Special Invite to Come to CHINA!!!
Okay, well it is getting close to time for me to wrap up my blogs for this trip. And I have one more story to tell of our last adventure to the ancient markets with Dr. Zhao. I also have a special invite to any of you who would like to come to CHINA and experience some of these amazing treasures and adventures with me! As you know from my many blogs, I LOVE sharing about China AND this November 8-19, 2016, my friend and colleague, Szu-ting Yi and I are offering one more Qigong & Wilderness trip in Yunnan Province of Western China – Discovering the Land of the Last Matriarch! We have couples and friends discounts and I would LOVE to share this amazing Land, people, culture and adventure with You! :)
A trip to an ancient market
So on our last full day in Zhengzhou, Dr. Zhao had planned to take us into the mountains to hike – as he knows this is something I LOVE to do, and when he is in the States, I love to take him hiking in our mountains. :-) But, the weather was quite stormy – rain, wind and thunder – so, we went to one of the ancient marketplaces in town instead. As I’ve explained in past blogs, Dr. Zhao LOVES ancient treasures and has quite an eye for finding true gems. And I love this marketplace and was secretly hoping we’d get to go there on this trip! :)
This place has 4 floors – each with a maze of hallways and little one-roomed shops displaying scrolls, pottery, teapots, jewelery, -- some new and most very degrees of ancient from previous dynasties. There’s an additional rooftop area where extra merchants can also set up a rug and and display their items/treasures for sale. Dr. Zhao had invited some family friends along with me and Brynn (as the other 3 Canadian students has left by this time and Brynn had some one-on-one study time with Dr. Zhao and me). I love to see him beaming with excitement as he picks up and peers at different treasures through his nifty magnifying glass with a built in flashlight! (Tara, Nate’s 2y/o daughter, would LOVE this! :-))
Dreams & Dragon-Phoenix Treasures
On this day and this trip to China, really, I had a special treasure I desired to find. In April of this year, I had a powerful dream with Fenghuang 鳳凰, the Chinese phoenix. I hadn’t even known about Fenghuang before this dream. But after I awoke, I was in awe of this Being and immediately began some research. As soon as I saw its name, I knew that is the Being I met as chills went through my body. The same thing happened when I saw some drawings and some images that matched the Being in my dream. One of the many things I desired to do to acknowledge its presence in my Dreamtime was to find something in our physical world to honor this Being. As I prepared for this trip, I felt what better place to find something than in China, the land of the Far East, the home of the Chinese Phoenix? When our plans changed to come to this marketplace, I also had secret hopes of finding some treasure here.
As we started exploring the mazes of the ancient market, I whispered to Dr. Zhao desire to find Fenghuang. As I mentioned, I hadn’t been aware of Fenghuang before my dream, and although I have probably seen images of this Being on other trips to China, I didn’t notice. This time, however, soon after I voiced my desire, I began to see images of Fenghuang everywhere. I’ve included a few pics – on paintings, etched in clay tea pots, painted onto ancient vases, etc. They were beautiful images. Yet I still hadn’t found anything that jumped out as the treasure I knew I would recognize.
Towards the end of our explorations, Dr. Zhao took us to his “Laoshi老師”, an elder man in his 80s whom Dr. Zhao calls his teacher. Dr. Zhao, now 68, deeply respects this man and they are good friends. I have been to this man’s humble shop once before and will always remember him. He worked for the railway system during the Cultural Revolution – a time when there was much chaos in China and many of the traditional cultural relics, treasures – be it artwork, pottery, jewelry, carvings, calligraphy, books, poems, martial arts, medicine – were targeted to be destroyed. This man, however, saw what was happening in village after village he passed through via the train. He did what he could to go unnoticed while saving treasures from destruction and stashing them in his compartment on the train. Many of these items he hid for 50 years. Now he has a most humble little shop at this market, but every square inch is full of authentic, phenomenal national, cultural treasures.
This elder beamed just as bright as Dr. Zhao when we arrived, with barely enough room for us all to squeeze in his shop. :) He is so passionate about sharing and immediately started taking out various carvings, singing bowls, sculptures from 1,000s of years past, and from dynasties I hadn’t even heard of (such as the Shang Dynasty from 1600 – 1046 BCE, and the Xia Dynasty from 2700-16—BCE)!! It was amazing! He even brought out a carving of the grandfather Sun God and the grandmother Moon Goddess from a more Shamanic time before the dynasties. (I have some pics of some of these items :))
Laoshi was showing us all of these items on his glass case/table, within which are numerous other treasures and trinkets. We were all so busy looking at the items he was bringing out for us, that I didn’t even think to look below the glass. Yet, after a while, Dr. Zhao did. And he saw it –a hand-carved piece of jade with Fenghuang in the middle surrounded by 2 Dragons. “Kailun! Ni kan! Kailun, look!” Laoshi immediately knew what piece Dr. Zhao was referring to and brought it out onto his glass table. This was the treasure I was searching for. Laoshi smiled and his eyes twinkled. He explained this was a hand-carved piece of jade from the Ming Dynasty – over 600 years old. Dr. Zhao exclaimed this was extremely auspicious and good fortune to find such a treasure, and especially in the year of my wedding! He then recited a well-known Chinese idiom, “long feng cheng xiang 龍鳳呈祥” – “the dragon and the phoenix bring prosperity and excellent good fortune.”
Wow!! It is so beautiful! In many tales, the Dragon represents the Emperor and the Phoenix the Empress. Together they also represent the balance of Yin and Yang, and together they bring a greater harmony to Life.
Dr. Zhao and his friend, the Teacher, exchanged some words, and then Laoshi offered it to me for a very special price. Oh my goodness!!!! While I was thrilled to see this treasure, I didn’t see how it could be something I could afford. Yet, with his offer, I most gratefully accepted. I am very grateful for this treasure, as it is priceless, magnificent and full of meaning. I then told Laoshi about my dream and about my wedding and he beamed even brighter, taking my hand and smiling with a wonderful twinkle in his eyes. He was very happy indeed.
Oh, I have more I can say and share, AND it’s time for me to conclude the wonderful tales of this amazing spring journey to CHINA!! Thank you so so so very much again for joining me on my travels!! I will send you all the clips of the news video/film when it comes out! Here is the link to the news article on Zhongguo Bao Dao’s 中国报导 website – Dr. Zhao sent it to me on WeChat so I don’t have the direct link to the website…but you can use Google Translate to get a “flavor” of the article – they did a great job!
I also have some fun pics below of our visit to a Chinese kindergarden!! Wow! So fun!!! The kids are adorable and ran up to us to give us so many hugs!! I had visited once before and the teachers in preparing for our visit were running around asking their peers what English phrases they knew. Well they did great, because each classroom we peeked our heads into, the kids gleefully shouted, “Kailun, I Love You!” Oh my Goodness!! So CUTE!!! :-)
Dr. Zhao, on our last day together as we were all leaving the market also said in such clear English, “I miss you!” He is so wonderful!! He continued, “Ni jiushi wo do nuer …Meiguo de nuer” – “you are a daughter to me, my American daughter.” I miss him too and so so love my dear, beloved Chinese family!!! Thank you for joining me on another trip to China, another special visit and study with my dear Chinese family and teacher. Dr. Zhao and Ayi send their love and greetings and I also send my big love and appreciation to you all!!!