“The river winds like a green silk ribbon,
while the hills are like jade hairpins”
Chinese poet Han Yu (768-824)
The white-grayish clouds seem to merge with the gently flowing waters of Li-river, creating a visual art piece in front of my eyes. I consciously choose to hold my often quietly
passionate horses and leave my camera out of it.
Nowadays, there is something deliciously rebellious to only taking mental pictures and putting your entire focus there – deliberately, consciously, and fully aware that every hell YES to a certain decision equals a NONOPE to a different one. Just like you cannot not communicate, you cannot not decide – because even the choice to remain passive and not decide can be a decision with far-reaching consequences both for your own and for other being’s lives.
Is it the energy of the poetic scenery all around me that makes my mind wander- wonder like this? No surprise there, after all, Li River is a gentle force of poetic beauty and inspiration to be reckoned with.
Uncovering Lijiang River’s mystery
If Li River, the most written about waterway in China, was a person, he/ she would obviously be called Li. Li would be a mysterious being, maybe born in one of those foggy and elusive winter months, with a tantalizing, seductive, and deep gaze, with a deep-blue scarf ever so effortlessly thrown around their neck, with a few strands of dark hair falling loosely about his or her head.
Of course, Li would lounge around in bohemian teahouses, read forbidden books, discuss art with fellow mysterious beings, write alluring poems and ethereal music, and muse about life. Li would live on the inspiration alone that the river, the green and lush karst hills, and the rugged mountains pour out so generously day after day in Yangshuo county. Li would be a miracle being indeed!
Back to more grounded perspectives and to our leisurely walk along Li river, where we even get to admire the famous scene that became the inspiration for the background image on the 20 Yuan banknote! We also get to witness water buffalos leisurely grazing along the river bank, some of them carrying enormous backward-curving, crescent-shaped horns stretching close to an impressive 1,5 meters (5 feet) long.
On top of that, we get to take in the exotic sights of black cormorant birds with their long, curved, elegant necks and watch savvy-mean fishermen gone tourist-entertainers pimp out their birds for a quick shot along the river boardwalk.
All the while our host, a passionate Chinese teacher, is dead set on instilling as much knowledge into us as possible, and so we learn new words such as “Měilì de” – beautiful, “ni kan” – look, and “Wǒ bùxiǎng” – I don’t want to, by the bucket load. As well as all about the intriguing meanings behind the Chinese language symbols.
There is something profoundly enticing about the poetic richness of Mandarin, which literally means ‘speech of officials‘, a group of Chinese languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China.
And while it’s so refreshing to take in all that new knowledge, it feels wholesome to balance the neverending stream of enthusiastically exclaimed Chinese words thrown in our general direction with some soul-soothing contemplation of the breathtakingly beautiful panorama in front of us.
There is a fairytalelike, enchanted, and deeply peaceful quality to the mountain magnificence that we are privileged to lay our eyes upon. Painted in gentle shades of blue, lovingly covered up by elusive layers of mist, there is truly no-where I’d rather be.
Secrets in the air: The transformative power of true love
Can you find such peace within the realm of human relationships? While we continue to explore the natural beauty all around us, treasured memories of my beloved grandfather Werner come to mind. The peace and soul-deep love between us has carried me through many a storm since his passing fourteen years ago.
Soulmates come in many forms and shapes, is what the wind whispers to me in its melodious hush-hush voice while we meander through Yangshuo’s magical surroundings.
Understanding between primary soulmates happens without words, from heart to heart, and soul to soul. That’s at least what my own heart and my experience tell me…and for your own truth, always orient towards your own heart as your one true north.
True soul love impacts us in ways that are deeper and more far-reaching than the mind could ever comprehend. True soul love just is, or it isn’t, and it can never be forced. No amount of begging, wishing, or prodding, can make a more loosely knitted kind of love wear the cloth of an ocean-deep bond. Love comes in many shapes, forms, and levels of strength and depth. It is always given freely and at the same time should never be given up on too lightly once it has made its way into our hearts.
Let the love for yourself and the love for another merge into waves of bliss, joy, laughter, and compassion, and voila – you’ll turn the mundane into the magical…When you choose to turn your back on contorted notions of love and experience for yourself, when you turn towards love and loving as the most healing and transformative journey and the rawest elixir of life, you can create bonds of true love that can give you wings and let rainbows manifest out of thin air.
“Love is the be and end-all of why we are here” – the Chinese wind gets a more decisive tone to it and jolts me back into the present. Can you savor, truly savor, this wisdom on your tongue and soak it up with all you are?
Soaking it all up, Yangshuo-style
Breathing in the incredibly pure, innocent mountain air that clears the cobwebs of old thoughts and reveries out of your being surely helps in opening up to new wisdom and inspiration. You can feel your fingertips getting colder, your heart growing bolder. You might even want to smolder: I mean – graceful karst hills all around you, a wide expanse of mist-covered waters, layer upon layer of peaks shrouded in fine gauze, and floating clouds everywhere you look…
As one of the most represented landscapes in traditional Chinese paintings and poems, Yangshuo sure knows how to impress.
We continue walking, while our host keeps on eagerly instructing us in Chinese. All the while, we take in the melodious whispers of the shaddock trees, the sight of a tucked-away learning center advertising Tai Chi classes, and the graceful green bamboo trees gently swaying in the wind.
After five minutes of relative silence and contemplation, our host exhales loudly and exclaims “Wǒ èle, wǒmen chīfàn ba“. Man, my brother is intensely passionate about Chinese. What did he just shout into our ears? He notices my wondering gaze and quickly adds “I am hungry, let’s eat!”
Yangshuo’s food scene: Of Steaming hot pots and snake sacrifices
With Rudolph-the-Red-Nose-Reindeer-looking noses from the cold and growling bellies, we make our way back to Yangshuo’s bustling town center and enter a casual-looking restaurant on bustling West Street. I reckon we shall leave the food order to the expat- expert, agreed?
Twenty minutes and a cup of warming ginger tea with extra-large pieces of ginger later, a steaming hot XXL- large hotpot dish arrives. What a delicious-looking dreamboat! Ahem, steamboat. Mr. Teacher instructs us on how to prepare a Hotpot meal: there’s a simmering pot of soup stock in front of us, and we just take our chopsticks and dunk the different ingredients such as bok choy, crispy Chinese cabbage, and Chinese eggplant, tofu, mushrooms, and seafood into the pot.
Mouthwateringly tasty, an incredible richness of different flavors start to melt in your mouth and satisfies your palate like ooh yeah, more of this, please… While we hungrily devour the food, my gaze wanders through the restaurant and my eyes meet …a pickled snake in a bottle! No kidding.
We ask the waiter about such a curious sight to behold, and find out that the snake has been marinated in alcohol for a very specific purpose: Dead drunk snake matey apparently alleviates knee issues! Does it? Does it? Please let me know about your experiences with homemade snake booze in the comment section 😛
Our very cultured host then goes on to explain that in China, it’s common knowledge that when you consume certain organs, these improve the health of the corresponding organ in one’s body. With a conspiratorial gaze, the China expert lets us in on a – pretty disgusting, really– secret, or better said, a real-life-horror-story…here goes: on some parties of the rich and famous, these fellows enjoy…cutting open a living monkey’s head and sip its brain! Freaky. At least from the perspective of our Western and animal-friendly-socialized brains…
Wow, we might need some booze to digest that latest story, hey? … Snake-booze, to be exact 😛 What more crazy adventures might mighty China hold for us? Stay tuned for our next post, when we will head out to have a very messy Chinese lunch with Chinese locals, learn why some Chinese nightclubs have moving floors, and explore Li River on a leaky bamboo raft, amongst many other things.
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to China? If yes: What were your absolute highlights? If not: Where would you most love to travel to within the Chinese borders? As always, I would love to hear from you! Stay well and curious:)
Wanna shout me a juice, a book, or a tiny horse :P? Donations welcome:)
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