So I went down to Zhengzhou
to see the Shaolin
. Zhengzhou's a country town
only 2 million people live there. Like everywhere in China it's in the middle of
construction on every street and every street corner. Rows of buildings that
have been just pushed half over, 10,000 people working with horses and carts and
hands and feet to carry the broken hulks away brick by brick to build again
elsewhere. China, in a nutshell
And it seems you only have to go 6 hours (by train) south of Beijing to be
in the tropics, that red or yellow incredibly fertile soil that is such a big
part of what China is, thick on the surface of the earth, glorious topsoil,
eroding daily by the supertanker load into the Yellow River
(hence the name)and out to sea. Vast monoculture fields, meet Chinese soil.
Chinese soil, meet "modern" agriculture. How do you do? Pleased to meet you. Let
me cleverly overpopulate then starve the country that sits atop
you. Ok, that would be lovely thanks so much.
Then of course Zhengzhou is the nearest "big
town" to the famous Shaolin Si (Shaolin Temple in Chinese). When you think about
it, there are few other Chinese things that have the same level of recognition
for what they actually are as the "Shaolin Monks". I mean, the word
"shanghai" is in English, but it doesn't mean "megapolis". Unfortunately,
that name recognition has been the utter death of anything that was special
about the Shaolin. If there was honesty in advertising, then the following
would be on the brochure for the Shaolin Si.
- THRILL to the 2-hour bus ride over bone-jarring under-construction
roads! Special rest-stops to pointlessly wash the bus every 15 minutes!
- SCREAM in delight at every traffic accident you see on the journey. "Look! There'a a tourist bus down that ravine too!"
- LAUGH with joy at being just one of the hundreds of busloads of tourists
to tread the sacred stones of the ancient temple that day.
- WORSHIP at the reconstructions of ancient buildings (Batteries sold separately. Huge Shaolin bell tower does not contain huge Shaolin bell.)
- CRY in gastronomic glee at the Buddhist(tm) Restaurant in the grounds
of the temple that serves authentic meat dishes!
- GASP with delight at the ancient pagodas as you view them from 5 kms
away through high-power binoculars (binocular time sold separately, loud
- SIGH with pleasure at the sounds of noisy electronic toys you (or
thousands of other people's children, anyway) can buy directly outside the
sacred cemetery (and nowhere else)!
- APPLAUD the young Shaolin as they show their sacred martial arts
skills to you, in an intimate (5,000 seat) auditorium!
- WONDER at how similar the sacred skills look to the Chinese period
dramas you see on TV!
In case you missed the bulge in my cheek - I really really did have a fun time in
Zhengzhou, and at the Shaolin Si, by all means go if you get the chance!