Day 253 in Beijing: A Temple Excursion.

Juxtaposition of time and architecture.

Juxtaposition of time and architecture.

During the Spring Festival, there are loads of temple festivals going on all around Beijing.

We decided, on the last day of the festival, to venture out and see what they are like.

We decided on a smaller one because we didn’t want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with the crowds and pushed along by everyone else.

We met our friend Federica and paid the 10RMB to enter and were surprised by how few people were around since this is a major holiday.

We looked at the signs and realized that it had actually ended the day before!

We had checked online and the webpage stated it would continue to today but I guess the websites were not correct.  This is actually a pretty common occurrence, from what we’ve seen, where many of the websites are horribly outdated or just have incorrect information and no one seems interested in fixing them.  This could be a big business opportunity if someone wanted to fix these issues but no one seems to care.  C’est la vie…or maybe it would be better stated at, “C’est la Chine.”

The temple’s name is “Dongyue miao” and it is quite beautiful.

It was originally built in 1319 and has 376 rooms.  There are also massive stone tablets that reach about 20 or 30 feet into the sky.  They are covered with old Chinese writing and explain the auspicious events that occurred in the past.  These stone tablets were made to give thanks to the Gods for allowing prosperity.

A full restoration was done in 1997 and, from the pictures that were posted, it needed it.

It looked like it was it utter disrepair and the massive stones had fallen down into dirt and refuse.

They did an excellent job and it is quite beautiful and stunning.

Since there weren’t a lot of people, we were able to take pictures of some of the statues and look into each of the little rooms that have depictions of each part of this Taoist belief system.

Each room had a “Department of…” and they ranged from “Department of signing forms” to very obscure and more spiritual departments which I didn’t understand.

It didn’t really matter though, as the statues were amazing and I could get an idea of what kind of location this department was in and if it was a hopeful department or a hellish one.

 

Day 240 in Beijing: Chinese New Year

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Jill and I have been told about the awesomeness of Chinese New Year fireworks for a few months.

We weren’t sure if we’d stay in Beijing, or China, for it as it is a massive festival and most businesses shut down.  Also, if one wants to travel around China, there are about 200,000,000 people traveling back to their homes and the trains are jammed packed and quite chaotic.

Speaking of travel in China during Chinese New Year, Jill and I watched a brilliant documentary on this migration titled, “Last Train Home.”  I would recommend it to anyone that wants to have a better understanding of what an average Chinese worker goes through to survive in today’s world.  It is very powerful and moving.

We were told of a rooftop party at a restaurant near Houhai Lake.  This is a beautiful area and I have a blog coming out, in a few days, when we went to watch people ice skate on the lake.

Luckily it is a quick subway and then bus ride to get there and we planned on grabbing a taxi home since all the buses shut down around 11 pm.  One of the joys of Chinese New Year in Beijing is that almost everyone else has gone home so the subways and buses are almost empty.  It has never been so easy to get a seat as it has been in the past day or two.

Amazingly, it wasn’t that cold and we were able to walk around in just our jackets and didn’t even need our hats or gloves for most of the night.

We arrived at The Orchid and sat down for a few drinks.   It was an all you can eat and drink menu for 300RMB (about 50 USD).

Not a bad way to say goodbye to the Year of the Snake and welcome in the Year of the Horse.

We waited for our friends, Nick, Deven, Nic and Jason and when they showed up we moved upstairs so we could look out the windows and watch as the festivities started.

Another couple arrived and we invited them to sit down with us since they looked like they didn’t have anyone else to celebrate with at this point.

As we talked with our new friends, we found out that he originally Eric was from Half Moon Bay and Kimberly was born in Santa Rosa, California.

For those that don’t know, I’m from Healdsburg, California.  It is a beautiful little town in the middle of the wine country.  Santa Rosa is about 10 miles away and was one of our main rivals in sports and pretty much everything else.

As Jill’s and my world gets bigger, it continues to get smaller.

As midnight approached, we went on the rooftop but it was so packed we had to stand on the stairs.  I was worried about Jill and her knees being in pain and tried to figure out somewhere else to stand and still be able to see the fireworks clearly.

Jill noticed our friends on the top of another roof and we asked if we could come join them and they agreed.  We hung out with them and enjoyed the fireworks for about 30-45 minutes.

We then went back to the party and hung out until around 2 am and were lucky enough to grab a cab almost the second we walked out the door with another friend we met tonight and shared the cab ride home, turned on our air filter to the highest power (it makes a grey noise that blocks out the sounds from the constant fireworks and firecracker explosions) and happily fell asleep after welcoming in the Year of the Horse.

I wishing you all “春节快乐“, which is pronounced “Chunjie Kuile” and means Happy New Year in Mandarin.

 

Day 239 in Beijing: Pondering the Past, Present and Future.

Jill and me at the Forbidden City.

Jill and me at the Forbidden City.

Chinese New Year is tonight.

I sit and ponder what culture, family, and happiness is today.

I look to the past and see how different we are compared to when extended families were the norm and most people lived with 3 or possibly 4 generations under the same roof.  In the West, this is pretty rare but, in China, this still occurs.

Then again, in China, there are kids living with their grandparents, and parents having to live hundreds, and possibly thousands, of miles away, to make ends meet.

As I sit in Beijing, with Jill, and we are getting ready to go out to a hotel and watch hours of fireworks and firecrackers (Beijing’s Chinese New Year’s fireworks are the world’s largest unorganized fireworks display every year) I realize how lucky I am.  In fact, at 8 am the day of Chinese New Year’s, as I’m writing this, firecrackers are already going off.

This will last for 10 days straight.  I has been recommended by friends that live in Beijing that we would be smart to buy earplugs so we can sleep.

My life, in almost every way, is exactly the life I want to live.  The only problematic issue is being apart from my family and friends back home.  This becomes quite obvious when someone passes away or a wonderful occurrence happens like a wedding that I will miss because of the distance.

Jill’s grandmother died this week, at the age of 97.  She wasn’t able to go home because of the long flights, then long drives, and the timing of everything.  So we celebrated Grandma Helen with a few of other dear friends and talked about her life.

I believe that this way of  of “family” that expatriates learn to accept and master if they want to stay stable and content living far from people they love.

Some people don’t like being this far from their “family” and yet others love it.

Living in Beijing, I’ve found a new definition to what is “My family.”

That is all there is, in a way, yet there is so much more.  My family includes my father, Michael, my mother, Judy, my sister Stacy, and my brothers, Robert and David.

If you extend it a little farther it also includes my step-father, Phillip and his son, Kody.

If you then extend it farther it includes my aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, brother in laws, sister in laws and other people that continue outward into the human race.

Do I include my friends?

Do I include my enemies?

Do I include people I have never met?

Do I include people that I will never meet?

I think of the Buddhist belief that we are all tied together and there is no self in regards to caring about, and connecting with, others.

There is a classic saying “. . .that if a butterfly chances to flap his wings in Beijing in March, then, by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.”

Strangely enough this is often mistaken for Buddhist lore but it was stated by an MIT meteorologist named Edward Lorenz in 1906.

I love how science and Buddhism are like cousins, far removed from each other, but actually closely intertwined.

Most of us, at least in the Western World, think of ourselves as more individual and fairly limited to a family connection.  I would suggest otherwise.  I believe that we are all connected.  If you trace my DNA and your DNA back to a certain point, we most likely all merge at some place.

According to the story of Adam and Eve, all humanity descends from two people.  Other religions have similar ideas.

As we progress scientifically, I am interested to see what science finds out about our genetics and our connections to each other.

I think that is why I’m so fascinated by Buddhist belief and the style of thinking that the Dalai Lama uses.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “If Buddhism has a belief that science is not able to prove incorrect, then we should believe it.  However, if Buddhism has a belief, and science does prove it incorrect, we must discard it and take on a new belief.”

As noted before, I work as a behavioral therapist.  This belief is one of the reasons that behavioral therapy is so useful to my clients.

I also use behavioral therapy on myself for the same reason.  One of the tenets I learned from David Burns, MD, and my supervisor Brac Selph, PhD, was that I had to go through all of the interventions that I would ask my clients to go through.

I would learn more empathy for them and understanding of what they are trying to achieve and how hard it is.  I have done, and continue to do this, and I find more evidence, each time, for the method I use and the responses my clients get to heal themselves with an amazing amount joy.

I look at my past and wonder how much easier life would be if I could just learn, adapt and discard illogical, useless and harmful information and feelings instead of holding onto them and causing damage to myself, others and the universe.

I am doing that more and more each day and can quantify exactly how much better my life is now.

I welcome you to do the same on this, the first day of the Chinese New Year and Year of the Horse.