Reunion of Old and New Friends

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On our First Saturday Senior Student Seminar last month on June 1st, we were visited by an old friend and student from Tidewater T’ai Chi Club days (1975-1985), “Doc” Savage, his son Aiden and a student of his flying in from Texas, Enero Maura.  

 
After Dan’s successful Red Sash Test in July

After Dan’s successful Red Sash Test in July

It was a happy coincidence that they came the day before our own Hector Morales’ Red Sash rank raising ceremony.   The ceremony involved Hector leading seniors thru the entire Wudangshan 108 Taijiquan Form for his very first time, and replacing his Green Sash of Commitment with the Red.  After 4 years of training in the 154 posture’s basic rote choreography, he finally begins training in the Art of Taijiquan, and at senior student level!  It was pure luck that Doc, Aiden and Enero were able to be in attendance for this important milestone of Hector’s Taijiquan’s training.  (This month,  on Senior Saturday, July 6th, we repeated a Red Sash Rank raising with senior student Dan Marlow.) 

 
Congrats to Hector!

Congrats to Hector!

Hector, by the way, had studied Taijiquan before in Puerto Rico, but his training then was focused on Form, without much inclusion of the other two pillars of Taijiquan: Fundamentals and Function, or the “How” and “What” of the particular Form of Taijiquan taught.  As our main goal at this beginning stage of training in our school, as most schools, is basic patterns of posture, sequences and sections, or Form’s rote choreography, our work with Fundamentals and Function is also limited, but now Hector’s work with learning and  using Form begins! His prior teacher and training were unknowing participants in his Big Test of a moth ago.  They laid down more of the groundwork, that we helped finish. Hector did an exemplary job!

Doc and LaoMa working out at Duncan Leong’s Virginia Beach, Va, school, late 1970’s.

Doc and LaoMa working out at Duncan Leong’s Virginia Beach, Va, school, late 1970’s.

It was satisfying and reassuring to hear from Doc that although I too, some 40 years ago, focusing mainly on Form, I still brought to the students’ awareness some inclusion of Fundamentals and Function.  These equal partners to Taijiquan Form were important to Doc, who has a Wing Chun school in Florida, since his Wing Chun teacher, Duncan Leong, emphasized them in his teachings and that’s how Doc became my student, to augment his Wing Chun training.

Doc, LaoMa, and Paul Gallagher (Master Gao) at a Tidewater T’ai Chi Club Workshop in Virginia Beach where we hosted Master Gao teaching “Five Animal Frolics,” and “Four-Section Cane Form.”

Doc, LaoMa, and Paul Gallagher (Master Gao) at a Tidewater T’ai Chi Club Workshop in Virginia Beach where we hosted Master Gao teaching “Five Animal Frolics,” and “Four-Section Cane Form.”

Doc and Jou Tsung Hwa, 1981, at DrJay’s, The Tai-Chi Center, Carrboro, N.C. DrJay and I had been communicating with each other by postal mail, this was our first in-person meeting, and where Doc and I also got to meet MrJou, first time!

Doc and Jou Tsung Hwa, 1981, at DrJay’s, The Tai-Chi Center, Carrboro, N.C. DrJay and I had been communicating with each other by postal mail, this was our first in-person meeting, and where Doc and I also got to meet MrJou, first time!

So Doc and I have been friends for a good four decades.  We had some excellent excursions to to Omega Institute workshops with Master T.T. Liang, Paul Gallagher assisting, in up State New York.  And with hosting  Paul, Raymond Haywood, and William C.C. Chen with Laura Stone assisting, in our Tidewater Taijiquan Club in Norfolk, Va.  One of our strongest connecting link over the intervening years, however, has been his 18 year old son, Aiden.

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Aiden is a quiet, amazing 6 ft 5 inch hulking lovable giant.  This was the first time I actually met him although he has called me on every one of my birthdays since he was big enough to hold a phone in both hands to wish me “Sheng Ri Kuaile!”  He has made this obligatory annual call because he also was born on our shared birthday and Western Zodiacial sign of Taurus the Bull!  It is not that common to know someone sharing your birthdate (right, sister Laura Stone?), and for me at least, it fosters the the creation of a stronger bond with the fellow earth traveler.  But adding to the special character of this same-day birthday bond, he was as well born under the same Asian Animal sign of “Year of Snake!”, AND...exactly 60 years apart!  He was born exactly on the day I was experiencing the last of my 5 twelve year cycles of Metal Snake!!  And y’can’t get any more Holy Tofu than that!!!    Knowing this young man as I do, I know he will be calling me on May18th long after I’ve forgotten the name of the nursing home I’m confined to!

This reunion of old and new friends was one of those moments in life that will live in memory as long as the grass grows, rivers flow, and wind blows!!

Reunion of 8’s ... Aiden 18 years, Doc 68 years, LaoMa 78 years, and Enero (taking photo) 48 years!

Reunion of 8’s ... Aiden 18 years, Doc 68 years, LaoMa 78 years, and Enero (taking photo) 48 years!

Woody and Moms Jeanne’s Joint Birthday Celebration!

Moms and son Woody...

Moms and son Woody...

This year’s annual summer vacation to visit his moms in her retreat to her Sierra Mountains cabin, where at 100 venerable years of experiencing the foibles of our human species, she sill lives self sufficiently independently alone, they retreated to the surf-filled beaches of the Mendocino beaches to celebrate their joint birthdays totaling 176 years!!

I met Moms Lomas at her summer visit to the east coast to visit her son at his home and instantly fell in love with her, and if I maybe  permitted a smug, self-serving conviction, that she did the same with ME!  (At least I can safely surmise by her saving and displaying all the Asian New Year’s lunar calendars I’ve brushed and sent to her as though they are some sort of Tang Dynasty art treasures — even I don’t do that!).

I really feel fortunate and proud to have a genuine centenarian as a loving friend!  I am looking forward to having a supercentenarian friend in the near future, “Long Live Moms Lomas!”  “Moms Lomas Wan Sui!”

Life begins, fr’sure at...  100!

Moms and son Woody...

       生日快樂!

Sheng Ri Kuaile!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Shéshān to Guăigùn: 76 year old Lao Zhang and his “guăigùn form”

DREAM COME TRUE: Shéshān to Guăigùn Almanzo “Lao Ma” Lamoureux

PART II: 76 YEAR OLD LAO ZHANG and his “GUĂIGÙN FORM”

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Lao Zhang was a long-time student of YéYe and beloved by everyone in this mountain martial arts community, 30 years my senior and a deaf mute. It was the only time in my life I ever studied -- anything! -- from a disabled teacher. Because my spoken and listening skills of the Chinese language were rudimentary at best my classmates referred to us as two “no speak men!” But he did not consider himself disabled. When confronted with questions he would grab a rock outside the pavilion and scratch out Chinese characters on the cement floor to answer questions. The students actually understood his grunts and other-worldly sounds as well, to my utter amazement! When he would write a clarification down for me personally he would get up, nod satisfactory, point to the inscription on the floor, then look at me with an astounded expression and proclaim to everyone else, “You laugh at me, pointing to himself then pointing at me shouting, HE can’t talk, understand, READ or WRITE!!” He was hard for me to understand, but I was treated more like a talking monkey and object of comic relief, so I simply sat back and enjoyed his teaching and his humor. He was such a lot of fun too in addition to everything else he was! It was the most wonderful, gratifying and humbling experience of a 3 year magical mystery tour that will stay with me until the day I die; the studying of Guăigùn, in Wŭchāng, on Shéshān from Lao Zhang in the summer of 1986!

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The Weapon Form called Guăigùn, composed of two characters, guăi (枴) meaning walking cane with hook (implied), and gùn (棍) referring to stick or cudgel, is a unique weapon. There are other Chinese names for Cane Forms, gùn zi (棍 子), guăi zhang (枴 杖), and, of course, guăi gùn, to name three. The first refers to Stick Forms, the second to knob or decorative handles, the last to a Hooked Walking Stick, which is the one I know as a weapon and a Form.

Walking Cane 1986-87-2.jpg

Guăigùn can be carried anywhere at any time, without causing alarm from the public or authorities, as formidable a weapon as it really is, even onto an airplane, at the height of 9/11 hysteria! Or into a courthouse or police station. You can carry it about, and it has a myriad of practical uses. For sure you cannot carry a sword, Jiàn (劍), neither straight or curved broadsword, Dāo (刀), in such manner, and practical uses of sharp metal instruments are limited. But not a walking cane. And the Form itself was unusual, like Drunken Forms or Monkey Forms, there is an element of theatre inserted into the Form at its beginning and ending.

Guăigùn has all the techniques of metal-edged sharpened weapons: chop straight down, at angles, thrust, poke, throw, punch with hilt, etc. What it has that makes it unique and effective is the hook. The hook is primarily used to capture, hold and manipulate extremities at the wrist and elbow joints, and apply Qínná (擒 拿) or grappling joint-locking submission holds. With a larger hook, neck, upper arms, fore arms and legs can be locked, held and manipulated as well.

Walking Cane 1986-87-3.jpg

I learned a stick form from the school of Master T.T. Liang, through his disciple Paul Gallagher, many years before the Guăigùn and Lao Zhang. He called it Cane Form, meaning I believe a knob-headed stick, or the rattan weapon favored by Indian police with the 4 ft short staff, and with officers the hooked walking cane. Both are rattan. I do know that Mr Liang’s particular weapon Form originated as a Praying Mantis broadsword and he transformed into a stick Form. But it is not a hooked walking stick. It always amuses me to see his Form or similar ones demonstrated using a hooked cane (the internet is crammed with them!) and there is absolutely no manipulation of the hook and its end of the weapon...otherwise the Cane Form learned from Lao Zhang is just full of martial art weapon styles, and techniques learned prior to Guăigùn study can be modified and brought to use with hooked cane training, or if not known before another style, Qínná for instance, can be pursued separately and then brought back to enhance Guăigùn Form understanding and depth of use.

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At any rate this is a beautiful, satisfying Weapon Form, that like all weapons projects your intent, qì (氣), what have you, away some 3 ft. from your body into an opponent or partner in two-person interactive work! And, you never know, the Cane Form might come in handy someday. I have deterred people approaching me in parking lots with little more than loud shouts and pointing the cane at them in a strong gōngbù (弓 步) stance. It was all I needed to turn them around to flee in the opposite direction, whatever their purpose of advancing on me in a threatening way was in the first place. Also, recently I went to a movie with brother Dr Jay Dunbar, also a recipient of Lao Zhang’s Guăigùn through my tutelage. Being a good student he had his cane, I had one of mine and we immediately began a correction session right there in the lobby between movies. Having a great time and oblivious to all, we seemed not to bother other cinema patrons or cause any concern — of course Southern Village is a high-end, laid back planned creation, but we would have caused more confusion and alarm, I’m sure, if we were packing hand guns, open and carry!

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Lastly, as alluded to above, there is a fun aspect and theatre associated with Guăigùn. Chinese Stage Opera, an art form in itself, employs Chinese Martial Art techniques and Forms as strong, integral components of the stage production. Many bits of humorous theatre are associated with various Hand and Weapon Forms, much like the humor of the old swashbuckling sword play in mid-nineteenth century Errol Flynn movies. Unfortunately for many Western adoptees of Asian Arts, this component gets lost and the more serious attitudes dominate Form demonstrations. As mentioned, these occur with Drunken Forms, Monkey Styles, Rope Dart, and large Máobĭ (毛 筆) (writing brush) Forms, to name but a few. In China, we began training Guăigùn by miming old people, bent over, struggling with shopping bags and a hooked walking stick, let’s say walking thru a park. The seemingly vulnerable, venerable ones detect a threatening presence, a youth gang perhaps, they slow down even more, cautiously look around, set down their shopping bags...and then!! BOOM! The Form begins! The bent over old ones, like human transformers slowly straighten up, morph into super action heroes, go into the Form postures at a bit more vigorous pace than the shuffling grandfolks coming home with mesh bags full of eggs and bok choy! They proceed to lay low the hoodlums one by one. At the Form’s conclusion they smile, look around very pleased and contented, slap the dust off their hands and pick up their bags, with maybe a wack or two at a couple of prostrate thugs, and shuffle off home! This part of the Form always draws an enthusiastic reception from Chinese audiences in China and even in tournaments here in Jīnshān (金 山), Gold Mountain. In fact, it could be the main reason I placed 1st in my second outdoor Regional Tournament in Wŭchāng District (the first tournament I participated in was an indoor Provincial-wide event) performing Guăigùn to an energized audience! Actually, I believe it was more attributed to the fact that I trained to the tournament rules and time limits, the runner-up 2nd Place with 9-linked belt, a teacher of Wŭshù in Wuhan Opera, and of much higher skill and rank than I, came in way under time and was placed second (both of our trophies were an orange/white, rectangular pillow towel with Shanghai written in English cursive script, a highly sought after acquisition circa 1987!)

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For the theatre aspect, Lao Zhang taught us to adopt various walking gaits in the Form’s beginning and ending sequences. Men had one of two walks; “Old Man” bent over, with a slow, staggering, lurching gait. The other a “Scholar’s Amble” which recreates a slow, straight-back, measured, dignified amble with frequent pauses where the scholar applies a couple measured strokes to his long white beard as he gazes around. The women assumed the mincing walk of an old matron in bound feet by walking on their heels in short, sharp steps. A truly impressive weapon Form that was super enjoyable to learn with the added theatrical humor thrown in, remains the same in each and every reenactment, and has long been, since my return from my “Dream Come True” China sojourn, my signature Martial Art Form!

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If you are planning on training with Guăigùn please enjoy your immersion. Work hard, do good, and carry your Guăigùn/Hooked Walking Cane out on a stroll, “to Terror of the Public,” without anyone knowing you are fully armed...and dangerous!

GLOSSARY OF Chinese Characters Used in the Text

Tàijíquán (太 極 拳). Great Ultimate Extremes Fist. Refers to Internal Martial Art

Tàijí (太 極). Great Ultimate Extremes. Refers to many endeavors other than Martial Art

Wŭshù (武 術). Chinese Martial Art (In Taiwan, the term used is Kuoshù)

Grandfather Dīng,” (丁 爺 爺)

Táng Pài (唐 派). Táng System of Martial Art, developed by the first Táng Emperor’s third son, Tangbi

Guăigùn (枴 棍). Hooked Walking Cane

Shéshān (蛇 山). Snake Mountain. Shān can refer to different sized mountains. We might not call the one in Wŭchāng a mountain but a hill, but in China they are all “shān”

Guăi (枴). Walking cane with hook

Gùn (棍). Stick or cudgel

Gùn zi (棍 子). Rod or stick

Guăi zhang (枴 杖). Walking stick

Jiàn (劍). Sword

Dāo (刀). Broadsword

Qínná (擒 拿). A twisting, grappling form of defense involving the capture and manipulation of the joints

Qì (氣). Vital energy, breath energy

Gōngbù (弓 步). Bow stance, the #1 stance of Tàijíquán

Máobĭ (毛 筆). Writing brush

Jīnshān (金 山). Gold Mountain (America). Mĕi Guó is the official name for America (“Beautiful Country”). Jīnshān is what many Chinese people call the U.S., perhaps traced to the California Gold Rush and/or building the Trans Continental Rail Road through the Rockies from the West Coast. Both events drew Chinese workers in large numbers to the U.S.

blackbamboopavilion@gmail.com

http://www.blackbamboopavilion.com/

Shéshān to Guăigùn: 91 year old Grandfather Dīng, "Dīng Yéye” and Snake Mountain Pavilion

PART I: 91 YEAR OLD GRANDFATHER DĪNG, “DĪNG YÉYE” and SNAKE MOUNTAIN PAVILION

First glimpse of Dīng Yéye - before LaoMa had met him.

First glimpse of Dīng Yéye - before LaoMa had met him.

Since entering the world of Chinese Martial Art in 1964 I had a strong, constantly reoccurring dream of studying with a venerable, long white bearded Chinese Master of the martial arts, on a mountain, in a Temple somewhere in China. That dream came true in 1985, came true as real as I’m sitting here fingers pounding a tablet keyboard. Came true so close to the dream of it that though unable to believe in miracles, I definitely am convinced that you can have influence on your dreams actually making it through the mental realm into the material world of us mortal beings. This journey actually began a decade earlier.

Three years after President Nixon’s 1972 “opening” to the West of Mao Tse-Tung’s Mainland China’s isolation post-independence, I was invited with 21 other minority Americans to visit China. We were guests of the Cultural Revolutionary Regime and were to visit Chinese Minorities Peoples (54 separate peoples at that time, compared to our 3 major minority groups) across this ancient land. This bookmark in my life was of huge importance to me as I was able for the first time to visit and tour the newly awakened Sleeping Dragon. So, and more important to me, only five years after I began active training in Tàijíquán (太 極 拳) in America I was traveling all over China and able to join ordinary people every morning in public parks, village squares, and larger open spaces, in their daily early morning, communal Martial Art exercises, especially group Tàijí (太 極), a collective ritual we had been viewing on TV since, and long after, Nixon’s visit.

1975 at Mao’s Birthplace

1975 at Mao’s Birthplace

After the impact of these unbelievable experiences, sponsored and made possible by Rick and Betsy Clemmons, my bosses in the Federal Drug Rehabilitation Program, Rubicon Door, where I worked, another quest was born: the dream to return to China, not to tour the country, but to live and work in one place, become part of a community, and train in the Wŭshù (武 術) of Tàijíquán. I could not conceive of how I would get back there, or what I would do for work if I could. But then...

A decade later in a serendipitous conversation with the brother of a Chinese friend I was given information and a referral to reach friends of his in Wŭhān, China , who would be able to help me realize my dream. And that’s how I was able to reach that quest and my “Dream Come True;” the real life altering experience that changed the course of the next 40 years of my life’s sojourn, and one small mosaic in that dream, the one leading directly to Lao Zhang and the Hooked Walking Stick Form.

Practice in front of Snake Mountain Pavilion

Practice in front of Snake Mountain Pavilion

Unbelievably to me, 3 days after arriving in Wŭchāng, one of three cities making up the mega-city of Wŭhān which straddles the Yangtse River, a chance meeting in the street with a young music student, Chen Danbu, I was brought to the martial art playground on Snake Mountain (Shéshān, 蛇 山) and accepted into the school of 91 year old Dīng Hóng Kuaí, Dīng YéYe, “Grandfather Dīng,” (丁 爺 爺) the lineage holder of Táng Pài (唐 派), and a “National Treasure” of the Peoples’ Republic of China, an important fact of his life I was completely unaware of until years later when a student of mine found this important information on him in perusing the internet! He taught in the Snake Mountain Pavilion for 60 years, through war and social upheaval. The Pavilion is part of a memorial, along with a 25-30 ft. obelisk commemorating the 1911 Republican Revolution overthrowing the Qīng Dynasty, a rebellion started nearby in an Imperial Army barracks. Although the large rectangular Snake Mt. Pavilion was the only roofed structure, it was surrounded by scores of cleared areas claimed by different teachers and was a veritable Wŭshù Playground. The most beautiful site to train in martial arts imaginable.

Snake Mountain Pavilion

Snake Mountain Pavilion

Along with the established teachers in these Folk Schools (Peoples’ Schools, not of the more visible Government “Wŭshù” Schools, though all are accountable to the government’s Physical Culture Institute), itinerant teachers would periodically sweep through the folk schools and teach Forms for a period of time before moving on to other playgrounds throughout the tri-cities of Wŭhān. One such teacher who appeared one day was 76 year old Lao Zhang who began teaching this exotic weapon: Guăigùn (枴 棍), the Hooked Walking Stick Form!

GLOSSARY OF Chinese Characters Used in the Text

Tàijíquán (太 極 拳). Great Ultimate Extremes Fist. Refers to Internal Martial Art

Tàijí (太 極). Great Ultimate Extremes. Refers to many endeavors other than Martial Art

Wŭshù (武 術). Chinese Martial Art (In Taiwan, the term used is Kuoshù)

Grandfather Dīng,” (丁 爺 爺)

Táng Pài (唐 派). Táng System of Martial Art, developed by the first Táng Emperor’s third son, Tangbi

Guăigùn (枴 棍). Hooked Walking Cane

Shéshān (蛇 山). Snake Mountain. Shān can refer to different sized mountains. We might not call the one in Wŭchāng a mountain but a hill, but in China they are all “shān”

Guăi (枴). Walking cane with hook

Gùn (棍). Stick or cudgel

Gùn zi (棍 子). Rod or stick

Guăi zhang (枴 杖). Walking stick

Jiàn (劍). Sword

Dāo (刀). Broadsword

Qínná (擒 拿). A twisting, grappling form of defense involving the capture and manipulation of the joints

Qì (氣). Vital energy, breath energy

Gōngbù (弓 步). Bow stance, the #1 stance of Tàijíquán

Máobĭ (毛 筆). Writing brush

Jīnshān (金 山). Gold Mountain (America). Mĕi Guó is the official name for America (“Beautiful Country”). Jīnshān is what many Chinese people call the U.S., perhaps traced to the California Gold Rush and/or building the Trans Continental Rail Road through the Rockies from the West Coast. Both events drew Chinese workers in large numbers to the U.S.

blackbamboopavilion@gmail.com

http://www.blackbamboopavilion.com/

LaoMa talks to Dragon Yawn about his beginnings

A few weeks ago we posted the first installment of Dragon Yawn with LaoMa. Today we are posting the second interview. This one is a bit longer, so we’ve included a quick list of topics covered and short cuts at the bottom of this blog post.

As many of you know, LaoMa is known to jump around in topics a little bit, so take the time to listen through all his stories in this episode! Please be forgiving on the start times for each of the listed topics - you may come into the conversation a little early or late to the topic but you’ll be in the general vicinity if you click on the link.

However, it is best listened too in the proper order here!!

Dragon Yawn talks to LaoMa

Many of you will remember our close friends Tactical KungFu and MMA in Durham. We held classes there for a few years and made close friends we cherish!

Michael has started a great video series named Dragon Yawn in which he interviews local martial artists and talks on various other subject. And he’s snagged LaoMa into that web!

We’re excited to present the ‘teaser’ version of Dragon Yawn’s stories with LaoMa. This video is a little rough because it was meant to be a test run of the equipment. However, as his students will know, once LaoMa starts, he can talk for a while. It’s interesting stuff - as would be expected - so instead of letting the start of the story of his journey to China fall away, Michael has posted this rough cut of the interview.

We are looking forward to many more stories and laughs coming our way through this collaboration with TKFMMA and Dragon Yawn!

Feel free to use the “Comment” link below to leave thoughts or suggestions of favorite stories we can ask him to recount in future episodes.

Two Brothers

LaoMa and Dr. Jay

Thirty-eight years of brotherhood, love, fun and Taiji, two old guys, brothers from different mothers. Friday Movie night out, lobby of Southern Village’s Lumina Theatre, after viewing Director Peter Jackson’s WWI docu-masterpiece of restructuring and colorization, “Old Men Shall Not Die.”  However, old men did have fun in the theatre’s lobby with Guaigun corrections!  (Photo taken by pre or young teen lady at popcorn kiosk, only people you can just hand your cell phone to and don’t get flustered and know what they’re doin’ with electronic devices that they can be eatin’ popcorn and just flick a shot of you over their shoulder!)

Faces of the World and Travels in China

The World in Faces: Photographer Alexander Khimushin

The World in Faces: Photographer Alexander Khimushin

I had the unique opportunity in 1975 to tour border areas of China, with a delegation of 22 American minority community activists to meet and learn from Chinese National Minorities, from Dongbei (NE), home of the Man People, to Xinjiang (W), Uighur Autonomous Region, Muslim, to the Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna (SE/SW), Dai Autonomous Prefeture the self governing land of Tibetan and SE Asian Peoples. This tour was requested by the Maoist Chinese government to introduce a nation-wide cross-section of America’s 1/2 dozen minorities to China’s 54 (or a good representation of them). At the time, China’s majority Han People (94% of total population, what we foreigners normally call “Chinese”), still recovering from a century of foreign domination and exploitation, Civil War, WWII, Korean War, and Mao’s own disastrous social campaigns were allotted only one set of ubiquitous clothing, the signature baggy pants, Mao jacket and cap in the 3 recognizable colors of blue (people), green (military), and gray (cadre).*

The World in Faces: Photographer Alexander Khimushin

The World in Faces: Photographer Alexander Khimushin

This preamble of mine to the photos shared of vanishing indigenous people of our world is meant to give some background to the fact that during the excesses of Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966-76, the National Minority People throughout China, though going thru the same turmoil and upheaval as the rest of the country, were the only Chinese People allowed to keep their own National dress, jewelry (lots of silver) and customs. Many times the only way of distinguishing one minority group from another was from their distinctive dress and bling! Although I took many photos of the people, it was not my focus during this unprecedented opportunity of discovery (and unfortunately many I did take have been lost or destroyed in the years since, in addition I definitely had not the artistic acumen and ability of this photo artist!). But I did get to see many indigenous, tribal people in China, some in urban settings mingling with the monochrome colors and unisex style of the majority people in their multicolored and infinitely varied hats, bags and other accouterments. It was very jarring and otherworldly experience, being mainly in a monochrome culture at the time, and brought to mind a glimpse of what the mingling of Indian tribes, soldiers, cowboys and all the many and diverse people thrown together in our Far West of our mountains and Great Plains in the 19th Century!

* One other unexpected side effect of the singular dress; being in the PLA, work in the fields, department store, office or hospital was no longer looking at these things to assess an individual. You only had the face to examine. It became clearer immediately that the individual was solely judged by facial recognition, no other distractions interfered. The faces would have been a great photo exploration allowed of the China of that time ! Later it reminded me of the Qing Di terra-cotta army buried in Xian where each individual face is immediately recognized in the singular uniform and grey/brown earth color of the clay.

****This post is taken from Facebook and is a preamble to a shared post from Mongolia Live. The text with original post and photos is as follows:

Photographer spends 6 months traveling alone to photograph Siberia’s Mongolic, Turkic and Tungusic peoples. For the past 9 years, photographer Alexander Khimushin has been traveling the world, visiting 84 different countries. Three years ago, inspired by the idea of documenting remote cultures that are slowly disappearing due to globalization, he began his The World in Faces project. Seeking out small, ethnic minority groups around the world, Khimushin shoots incredible portraits that both honor and immortalize their culture. #MongoliaLive

The Facebook post LaoMa is talking about can be found here. There is also a Facebook for the entire project “The World in Faces”: https://www.facebook.com/theworldinfaces/

Veteran's Day Ambush!

Almanzo Raymond Lamoureux Marine Corps 1959.jpg

Arriving home Monday early evening after an all day surgical procedure at a state-of-art Sandhills N.C. Medical Facility, and thru a prematurely darken sky dumping Monsoon-like torrents of rain over the 60 mile harrowing ride, I open iPad to discover a conspiracy between Mrs. Ma and #1 Violet bringing me face-to-face with an old photo of an 18 year old Jarhead-wannabe in Marine Dress Blues complete with teenage zit where grows the past 45 years a treasured imperial beard of, as many people have been pointing out, a silver grey color!

A R Lamoureux and Truck Okinawa.jpg

Now, had I been appraised of the conspiracy, the photo posted of my and my faithful companion “Kawasaki” (referring to the village some of which can be seen beyond the motor pool fence), the 3/4 ton truck, would have been my choice.  The main difference of life 60 years in the past is the absence of cell phones and the daily photo people take today of themselves, their pets, plates of food, children and myriad grand children, rocks at their feet, cloud formations above, and martial art classes showing the same people in same pose but perhaps different outfits; all the photos I take today.  Few were taken then, fewer survived.  So, before I get to Beloved truck “Kawasaki,” and Okinawan escapades here’s a bit of background of the dumb kid in the Dress Blues.

At some point during middle to end of our 13 weeks of boot camp introduction and terror our 80 member strong Recruit Platoon # 250 was marched to a building that once in we were lined up in single file and shuffled to a portrait camera set up in front of a back drop.  As each “boot” reached the front there were 2 blouses (jackets), sm & lg and 2 covers (hats) also sm, and lg.  The blouses were open in the back like a hospital gown.  The assistant to photographer tightened the one or loosened the other that you stepped into.  The cover either fit atop your head, fell down over your ears or, like Goldilocks, fit just right.  The camera clicked, “next’ stepped into the spot.  We order, all had to, a graduation book with our photos in it.  The action photos were generic and not of the 80 man platoon.  So, to clear the record.  This was NOT my uniform.  Only certain MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) we’re issued this uniform: Embassy Guards, Shipboard Duty, Band and Drill Teams.  You could buy one to wear once a year at Marine Corps Ball on Nov. 10th, at $50 to $75 a months pay, not many Marines had a set of Dress Blues.  I admit, as many kids do, to coveting a set, but once in quickly lost all desire whatsoever.  There were more varied and better things yo spend $50 bucks a month on.  30 loving and intimate years spent with Mrs Ma and I just discovered she thought this was MY uniform and I wore it all the time!  So, I believe this disclaimer necessary to dispel the possible belief I HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH ITS PUBLICATION!  Now onto Kawasaki...

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Before touching the only other photo I have of my 5 year enlistment, another photo of me in the Dress Blues shot has just surfaced, of a very handsome Hasidic Rabbi, doctored I may add.  I must say I agree with Rich Martins response:  “THIS IS JUST WRONG!”  But funny as all hell ... and I can’t stop laughing!  Laughs that are just, if I may add, what is needed in these days!  I will have to write about L/Cpl A.R. “Frenchy” Lamoureux and his beloved 3/4 ton personnel carrier pick-up truck (only vehicle smaller was a Jeep!). FB just might penalize me for excessive wordage here as it is...so let me close this apology!



Chinese farmer gone live!

The New Yorker recently had an article about a small farmer who put a visual taste of her live online daily. It is a fascinating look into contemporary Chinese life interacting and being changed by the internet. My how things have changed from LaoMa’s time in China! We can see things moving forward before our eyes!

The stream is also a good challenge for students to practice finding characters in a dictionary. We often talk about how you need both the character and the pinyin to find an English translation in a dictionary. This resource gives us a taste of the reverse. You are given the pinyin and an
English translation - providing you with the challenge of using those two to find the character!

Here’s a taste of the first bit of the article. Click on the picture or HERE to read the whole story.

Three years ago, Liu Mama was an unremarkable middle-aged farmer from the Dongbei region, in northeastern China. Then she started presenting her life on the social-media platform Kuaishou. Liu Mama’s son-in-law, who would later assume the role of her trusty cameraman, introduced her to the live-streaming craze, and they decided to try it out, for laughs. The first videos, each less than a minute long, show Liu, short and squat, black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, dressed in a red mian ao (a cotton-padded jacket)—the archetype of the good farmer’s housewife—sitting at the kitchen table. She’s chewing on pork ribs and fish heads while composing crude rhymes about the glories of rural life. “Chowin’ on a pork bone / mouth covered in oil / Bringin’ me good luck / two years on,” she hollers between bites.

YeYe’s 91st Birthday Celebration!  Part II:  After Banquet Group Photo Studio Portraits!

In our last Blog about YeYe’s 91st Celebration (before the intervening video of my 77th!), I tried to recreate and outline my memory of the banquet and my first realization of the status I had been given as Ding Hongkui’s, “Di Yi Waiguoren Xuesheng,” or “First Foreign Student.”  But an added surprise was still in store for me, although most of the other participants were all aware of this added and anticipated treat.

A riotous midnight parade from the 4th floor banquet hall down into the eerily deserted and winding, narrow, completely empty streets of what would be called Wuchang’s “downtown” to arrive in mass at an ancient high ceiling photography establishment’s entrance display room and on into large portrait studios in the rear, where we were to be arranged, more or less herded, onto a bleacher style seating platform.

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My reference above to a “riotous parade,” and “more or less herded” is a reference to the amount of alcohol consumed that night at the banquet feast.  This was one tight, happy bunch by the time the banquet ended and we stumbled out and down the streets to the photography studio.  Maotai (also the name of a village or area of southwest China where maotai, the alcoholic beverage comes from), a fiery concoction of distilled sorghum, is just one hell of a sledgehammer drink, but food must be consumed along with it or psychotic reactions are the norm.  Baijiu (White Devil) a category of clear liquors of which Maotai is member.  Chinese feel that the food cushions the alcohol effect.  Drinking this stuff with food slow the effects, otherwise just maotai by itself will fry the brain!  More on this as we continue.

Photography portrait studios were common enough in small town America before and during WWII, we’ve all got wedding pictures of our parents or grandparents taken in them, but they were long gone by the mid 1980’s.  So, it really was a deja vu experience to enter this establishment, and a complete surprise to me as no one informed me where we were going, I was just along for the ride or midnight stroll as it was.  It was entering this studio that I had a further revelation about YeYe’s position in the community where we lived and his importance to it.  First of all, having the whole studio open to us at this late hour made me feel like being in a Mafia Don’s entourage.  The whole downtown was rolled-up for the night and here we were marching in drunken relvery as a rather unruly and boisterous mob.  (Not everyone was tipsy, but I was for sure the only designated driver, if one was needed.  Wives of some guests were pretty much in control of themselves, and there were no fights within my hearing or eyesight, as there were at the wake of his wife who died a few months later.)

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The thing that really gave me an insight into my teacher’s high level of standing in the Wuchang community (later expanded into the larger Wuhan community, and later still into the National Wushu community that I was to discover years later here in America when the Internet World Wide Web materialized) on this excursion was the sight of single portraits of a phalanx of local Illustrious figures of one kind or another.  The framed photos were huge, 3 to 4 feet high, hand colored and arranged high on the tall walls,  lining both sides of the long, narrow display entranceway with its glass cabinets of equipment and photographs.  What hit me like a mailed fist to the forehead were these framed pictures marching down the walls making a right and left turn to meet at the focal point of Ding Hongkui’s portrait on the far wall into the studios, looking more like a bald Albert Einstein contemplating universal cosmic theories while holding a hooked smoking pipe, than a Martial Art Master and foremost authority of the Tang System!!

By this time my head was exploding with trying to keep all the kaleidoscopic events, facts, experiences, both known and unfathomable to me, and to make some sense out of just what the hell was happening and why I was allowed to be here in the first place!  If I had any reason to be at the banquet filling his wine cup it escaped me, though well trained monkeys can do something like that, but at this very important photographic event I was still ushered to his left side as a trusted lieutenant or family member, while my friend and translator, Liang Guojian, beside me at the banquet, was led up to the top right end spot in third row.  I was later to learn that my position was purposeful and at the order of Grandfather Ding, so that even the inebriated friends who pushed each other out of the way for better seats near the living legend did not even try to bother me and usurp where I sat.  I was to learn later, and very glad I was oblivious to the fact until after his death and the splitting up of his school, many of his students, long-standing and ranked as well as newly joined had, let’s say in today’s jargon, “issues” with the foreigner.  At the time, at THIS time, I was in the seat of Heaven at the left hand of the Almighty.  And had no clue as to why.

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The portraits:  of the three accompanying this blog, the one of Ding YeYe holding a pipe came from his family and was given to me by them.  Selden scanned it and the quality is due to not being able to take it out of its frame.  But it does offer a peek and idea of what I write about above.

The two group portraits, with their backdrop of a Chinese landscape with a pagoda sitting upon the promontory heights, will draw this story of an extraordinary Martial Art teacher’s 91st Birthday Celebration to temporary halt, but the conclusion of the group photo shoot won’t truly arrive until the last and final entry to the tale.  Suffice here to mention the small group portrait was meant to be of Dr. Chen and his associate partners in his ground-breaking venture, and YeYe and his top teachers, senior students, and the strange out-of-place mustachioed waiguoren.  The larger group I think included more of the medical establishment, wives and deserving wushu people who survived the evenings festivities and maotai ganbei (dry cup) challenges!

77 What a trip: Selden's Traditional Song for LaoMa

For those of you unable to make the party this Saturday,  we thought we'd share the most popular attraction - Selden traditionally creates unique lyrics to a popular tune and enchants us all with a song for LaoMa.  This year it was set to the tune :77 Sunset Strip!

Happy birthday to The Ma!!!  May you have many more! 

77 WHAT A TRIP
(sung to the tune of 77 Sunset Strip)

77 what a trip (snap snap)
77 who’s the hip-
est guy in town
(write this down)

He’s the one with crazy facial hair
A master story-teller so take care
To listen good
(you know you should)

He’s the guy who was New Hampshire bred
Although it wasn’t long before he fled
Into the Corps
(of course there’s more)

A lovely daughter and the greatest son
3 grand-kids and soon to be the first Great-One
On his way
(But NOT today)

77 that’s a lot of years
77 Have no fears
He’ll last a while
Each year in style

He’s got a lot of wushu left to dance
No need to leave it only up to chance
We’ll drag him through
Me & you

He’s met the most amazing people here
An odd assortment to be clear, but
That’s our guy
77 years gone by
77 my oh my
77 that’s our guy

 

YeYe’s 91st Birthday Celebration! Banquet!

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This photo was taken some four months after I had been accepted (through a harrowing audition in front of hundreds of outdoor martial artists) into the Snake Hill Wushu School of 90 year old Ding Hongkui, respectfully called by one and all simply as “Grandfather Ding,” or “Ding YeYe.”  This audition and acceptance took place in a bewildering, magical set of occurrences within 3 days of my arrival to Wuhan, Wuchang to begin teaching “Native English” at a specialized university.  And thus began the realization of a long-held, 20 year dream-come-true of training in mountain temples, mist-covered mountain pathways, and white bearded venerable Master of Daoist/Taoist lost arts!  YeYe’s 91st Birthday Celebration! Banquet!

The photo in question here marks my true acceptance into the school and heart of this extraordinary teacher.  It was taken at the banquet held in honor of YeYe’s 91st birthday after the January beginning of new year (Western calendar) 1986.  The photo commemorates the joint birthday of Ding Hongkui and the opening of Wuhan’s first “Free Clinic” by YeYe’s senior student, Doctor Chen, who we will get to see in a future Throwback Thursday (the term Free Clinic does not, of course, refer to the clinic of the same name in U.S., but refers to a medical enterprise ‘free,’ or more free, of government control and interference) 

The photo’s setting was in Wuchang’s newest Taiwan-style restaurant, a traditional Chinese restaurant with “western” touches of Taiwan and Hong Kong establishments.  We were at the top of the 4th floor building in two large banquet halls of 10 round tables each sitting 10 revelers a piece.  The guests were a mix of martial artists and people from the folk and government medical world, many of the latter sharing the love and training of the former.

The season was a very cold January.  Wuhan has weather comparable to Washington, D.C., so us east coasters can imagine the temperature.  Pretty damn cold and, because Wuhan-Wuchang lies below the Yellow River there is no central heat in any building anywhere!  Thus the coats, hats and earmuffs...

My awareness of my acceptance, status and title in his school began at this round table. Not only was I invited to sit among all the senior and more deserving students, and other very honored guests (and completely out of my class and rank; little more than a talking monkey!), but I was seated at the honored position to Ye’s left with the important function of keeping his wine cup always filled.  I imbibed at the time in alcoholic drinks, but refrained from such this night for fear I’d blow the job!  In this photo we are probably on our second bottle, and there is little indication, other than in his eyes, of any alcoholic effect on him whatsoever!  What a 91st Birthday this was!  Starting tomorrow, my 77th, I have 14 years to wait for mine.  I am striving to reach that milestone!

This photo however, really marks the date of my Dream-Come-True.  For it was knowing I was there and in that chair at his insistence that I knew this magical experience for me was reciprocated with a similar one for him.  I, a talking monkey, came into his life (YeYe taught in this Pavilion thru war and Revolution, destruction and civil chaos for 60 years) during his last year on earth’s Middle Kingdom, and then along comes this foreign enigma (to my question, did he ever meet a foreigner -Wei Guo Ren- before he replied no, then paused a bit and said, “yes, I met Japanese soldiers once”) with which he had to rely on very different approaches to teach.  He had a final challenge to do what he loved and what his life was centered around.  I am hoping for that challenge to come my way sometimes before the end of the 2020’s!

Throw Back Thursday: Chef

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Chef Zheng in addition to his cooking duties also pulled double duty as guesthouse gatekeeper. Gatekeepers throughout China are the most important of all job descriptions, as they determine when a foreign devil, for instance, can safely and comfortably exit, after about 9:00 p.m., and reenter, around 5:00 a.m., the living quarters. A gatekeeper deserves vast amounts of guanxi...if one wishes to roam around and explore the city's nightlife.

Lao Zheng was the first Chinese to meet and greet me in my new home, a converted Buddhist WWII MilitaryTemple to Cai Da’s guest house and special meeting room, and my home for the first two years of an idyllic sojourn. I arrived mid-morning from Beijing train with severe jet lag exhausting me, and biological clock 12 hours ahead. A knock on my room’s door, I stagger to open it and there’s this short man holing a humongous platter of food! My stomach turns over in disgust and rejection and I pantomime I’m not only not hungry, but the huge pile of food is turning my gut over. He looks startled and scurries away. He’s back at the door, I open and he’s standing with hopeful grin and ... bigger patter of food! I learn later that in general Chinese think we Western Foreign Big Nose people are used to eating gargantuan piles of food!! I learned later he thought I was rejecting the first platter for a second larger one!!

Lao Zheng was a tremendously excellent and talented cook. He had just returned from an Chinese Embassy gig in Paris and my only other house mate, Mary, and I were honored to have, while in China, some of the most exquisite French cuisine offered by this extraordinary Chinese/French chef! Hao Gong Fu, Lao Zheng!

Mary and I took our meals personally created by Lao Zheng in a quaint, movie set tea house in back of the Temple. The walls were of bamboo and we were right off the ageless kitchen, with high ceilings and enormous woks hanging about the walls. Lao Zheng would cook and serve us with an air rifle strapped to his back that would be unslung at a moment’s notice to drill one of China’s ubiquitous “ground squirrels,” or rats to the rest of us, scurrying about the kitchen floor. This one fact of life in China not only curtailed Mary’s presence at mealtimes but also gave me a new and very different view of the “Year of Rat!”

Throw Back Thursday: Boxing!

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Teacher Laura Stone, Bloomington, Indiana Taiji School. Laura, now living and teaching in the Netherlands (www.thestudiotaichi.com, has been a long time senior student of William C.C. Chen of NYC. I was first introduced to Taijiquan by William in his NYC school in 1964 and studied with him during the 70s and early 80s. I would accompany Laura for weekly trips, staying with William's students and taking all the classes he offered, and would host him in workshops at my taiji school in Norfolk, Va. Laura would accompany and assist him in these workshops. I finished his short form and studied both push-hands and taiji boxing. Laura is very adept with the boxing techniques and here shows her pummeling me with a couple of them!

Throw Back Thursday: First photo

YeYe 1985-1. August, Year of the Ox.

YeYe 1985-1. August, Year of the Ox.

YeYe 1985-1. August, Year of the Ox. First photo I took of Ding Hongkui as I was being led by the Pavilion on my first trip to Snake Hill. I was so impressed with this man. Three days later he accepted me in his school as first foreign student in 60 years of teaching at Snake Hill Pavilion. Though known, respected and admired throughout China (as I was to discover over and over in my travels carrying his photos) for his Wushu expertise and overall reputation in Chinese Martial Arts, he was addressed simply as YeYe, or Grandfather. Ding YeYe's special knowledge concerned the Tang System and in this photo he was teaching Bagua Jian, the straight sword form of this system. Although I initially thought I would be studying taijiquan only, when I arrived for my first class (at 5:00 a.m.) I joined this class and began studying this waigong sword form. It was the first of some 30 forms I learned during this sojourn.

Beginnings

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My 53 year odyssey, thus far, with this fascinating and magnificent art form, began in an other worldly encounter with William C.C. Chen in his New York City school back in 1964.  My actual training did not begin then, mainly due to lack of schools and teachers, but six years later in 1970 when a friend and college classmate, Larry Mann, began teaching it in his Norfolk, Virginia, KungFu School.  By 1975 when I took my first trip to China, I had joined Larry and classmate Billy Hook in the founding of the Tidewater T'ai Chi Center, and soon after established my own school in Norfolk, the Tidewater T'ai Chi Club.
 

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In 1985 I fell into the most magical period of my life when I was able once again to not only journey to China, but to live, work and train there -- a vastly different China than the one I experienced a decade before, and a completely different world than that of today, some three decades later.

When I embarked on the 1985 trip, I left the Tidewater Club in the good hands of dedicated senior students who tried their best to keep it functioning during my absence.  I was recently given these photos by Kam Hitchcock-Mort, the senior-in-charge, the other two students are Warren Pretlow and Chris Walters. Many of the students in the group portrait joined the class while I was away and are unknown to me.  One Lady in particular though, Anita Adams, between Warren and T.T. Liang’s calligraphy on Taijiquan, is healthy and in her 90’s and we are still in contact! In the picture of Warren and Kam with the double broadswords I can tell, with her bowed head and the smile crinkling around Warren’s eyes, that a mistake just took place infeatured the two-person, shuang dao set.

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I completely lost contact with Chris over the years since returning from Wuhan’s Snake Mountain, but Warren, after graduating from an Oriental Healing School in California, established a thriving, dynamic and successful Taijiquan/Qigong/Acupuncture School in Anchorage, Alaska where I have had the honor of being “visiting pubah” several times.  Kam retired from librarian work in California and Texas and lives with her retinue of exotic dogs and cats in coastal Virginia.  The three of us reunited finally during my 60th year (Confucius’ milestone, ‘Year of Obedient Ears!’) in both Alaska and Texas (Alaska is the magical land north of the Lower 48, and ya don’t mess with Texas!).

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In 1989 I transferred what was left in a storage locker of the Tidewater Tai Chi Club to Dr. Jay’s Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School here in the Triangle Area of Central North Carolina.  After 26 marvelous years with him and Teacher Kathleen Cusick, I am now at the Black Bamboo Pavilion School, with Violet Anderson in charge, which has become my final Taiji Jia!

The Banana Tree - A truly Native Southern Tree

On a visit maybe five years or more ago, Debra and I walked Mongo thru my wilderness wonderland (now scheduled for the axe of gentry development called Chatham Park where the wild will succumb to unimaginable hordes of the 1% enlarging the town I've called home for a quarter century from  6,000 souls to 60,000!  Selden and I with Mongo and so many friends have had 12 magical years of exploring this Haw River experience, it's hard to have any regrets, plus I'll be dead and dust before the new Utopia is completed!) with the trails she chose, we broke, I maintained.  We stopped at one of our many rest stops we call Banana Tree Station.  A green bucket with yin/yang and USMC decals stuck to its sides is the only comfort piece of this facility.

*Note:  The poem below is by Debra Dean, a long time senior student of LaoMa's.  It was published in One, an online journal!  (http://one.jacarpress.com/) The poem is placed towards the end, but it should be noted that according the editor, this issue is meant to be read "cover to cover" like a book.

In a recent Facebook post, Debra included the two pictures of the tree as well.  If you look closely, you can spot the willow effect.  It's most visible in the first photo and shows as a slanting dark diagonal line in the top right corner.  You can also see the bucket!

THE BANANA TREE

Banana Tree1

for my taiji teacher LaoMa
on his 72nd birthday

Aimless as I am
I could never find it
on my own, nor find

what is found there:
under a canopy of tall trees
a black-leaved sapling turned

willow, beside which my root
sinks so deep, I might believe
I’d emerged somewhere in China,

my guide a man made honorary mare
by a cow’s gift of a heart valve.
Say that Old Horse is the very Earth.

Say that very green upturned
five-gallon plastic bucket
is a tortoise on which I sat

Banana Tree2

beside a wiry man holding
his staff—it’s a snake, you know,
old as the one Moses owned.

With the one I borrowed,
it’s leaning against a tree.
From his vest pocket,

two bananas. I eat one.
The peels lie on my thigh
like beached octopi in the quiet

of that uncertain place.
One at a time, he picks up
the peels by the stem end,

hangs each on a bare spot
of the banana tree—ah!—
laughing now, I am

beside myself, eyes tearing
for everything taken
and given, alive again

in the memory of it,
in the pale fresh peels
like blossoms,

like the bird’s beak
of my hand not yet closed
in Single Whip,

in those soon-to-be
new leaves, draped as if
brought forth from within

and sprung from the branch,
each taking its place
among the others gone black.

Spring Festival and Lantern Festival

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Some photos, taken by and shared by London taiji shimei Lia, on the Second Annual Lantern Festival held in west London's Chiswick Garden Park.  When I first looked at these beautiful photos I thought they were the size of those I remembered seeing during my three Lantern Festivals in China, that were festooned in mountain park trees, but the silhouettes of people in one photo (the swan below) show the huge size of these London displays!

Spring Festival and Lantern Festival:

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These festivals are linked together in China in a way a lot of foreigners are unaware of.  I was privileged to experience 3 of these "Holidays" while living in Wuhan, Wuchang, Hubei Province. Of the three Chun Jie  ! or Spring Festival (what we in the West call Chinese New Year) I spent one of these years in Hong Kong when it was still a British Colony, the other two in Wuchang, but I participated in all three Lantern Festivals 元宵節! with friends and Wuchang, Snake Hill Pavilion classmates.

Lantern Festival 4

Lantern Festival cannot be mentioned without considering Spring Festival. The Big One! The Mother of all Chinese holidays! If you take Easter, our Spring Festival, with its new clothes, new spring flowers; New Year with its alcohol celebration and year-changing rituals; Christmas with its family traveling and gift giving; Thanksgiving with its special food dishes and family meal; throw in 4th of July with unlimited fireworks, mix them all together for 2 to 3 weeks of raucous noise and gunpowder scented streets, a replacement of an annual animal totem and---you have a glimpse of Chinese Spring Festival, or Chun Jie!  Our concept of a one night new year out on the town just doesn't quite fit the bill.  But then comes Lantern Festival...!

Lantern Festival 5

The spectacle of Chun Jie, with its weeks long celebration, incessant fireworks, accompanied by bottle rocket and firecracker injuries to adults and, way too many, young children (my one Spring Festival attendance in Hong Kong was quite different from that of the Mainland; personal fireworks were forbidden, and only prescribed to one government display from barges out in the Fragrant Harbour), and stressful travel with millions of travelers filling train and bus stations finally comes to a close.

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Fifteen days after the Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival brings the tumult of the preceding weeks of hectic celebration with a sedate wrap-up of surprising beauty, grace and neighborly interaction.  Families stroll through the streets carrying candle-lit, birdcage sized lanterns held aloft, greeting one another as the processions wind their way toward a neighborhood park, in my case toward Snake Hill where we met in early mornings in the tiered wushu training areas, to hang the lanterns upon tree branches festooning the paths and sinuous ridge of Sheshan 蛇山, in a gentle glow of swaying colored lights.  A quite magical and breath-taking ritual.

Lantern Festival 2
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