Wednesday, March 31, 2010

hutong and siheyuan / 胡同和四合院


Sketching is a cure for the nostalgia for another city.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beautiful Architecture / 好的建築

攝於國家大劇院 / photo taken at National Grand Theater

攝於鳥巢 / photo taken in front of Bird's Nest

“Excellent architecture offers beautiful scenery from every angle.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Great Wall / 長城



Before traveling to Beijing, I told Von I am going to climb the Great Wall. He asked me what it is. I said it’s a super long stone path, also the only track visible to the human eye from the moon.

He replied, “I will wait for you on the moon.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trees in Beijing / 北京的樹

台北的樹 / trees in Taipei

攝於景山公園 / photo taken in Jing Shan Park

攝於十剎海 / photo taken in Shi Sha Hai Area

攝於北海公園 / photo taken in Bei Hai Park

攝於恭王府 / photo taken outside Prince Gong's Palace

攝於恭王府 / photo taken in Prince Gong's Palace

攝於頤和園 / photo taken in the Summer Palace, Y-he Yuan

Contrasted with the rich palette of Taiwanese trees, their counterparts in Beijing adopt only a single color twisting, dancing in freezing chilly winter. They create equally remarkable visual effects reminiscent of traditional Chinese mountain-and-water paintings.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sun of Beijing / 北京的太陽

攝於北海公園 / photo taken in Beihai Park

攝於國家大劇院 / photo taken at National Grand Theater

攝於恭王府 / photo taken at Prince Gong's Palace

攝於天壇 / photo taken at Temple of Heaven

Before and after the trip to Beijing, friends and acquaintances all mentioned the gray polluted sky in the city. Sometimes it got so smoggy that they didn’t even see their fingers.


But my eyes followed the sun all the while, and for me, red became the key color of Beijing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

After Traveling / 旅行後


I put off unpacking after traveling because I am afraid of forgetting the air and smell that belong to another world. But the moment arrives sooner or later when I have to move on.


I usually put books aside after traveling because my brain and heart are brimmed with too much energy and passion accumulated along the way. I can’t afford to absorb more nutrients until there’s some empty space in me again.


However, on this trip, I visited “some inexplicable old stonework” like in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem at the historic site of Yuanmingyuan and tons of ancient palaces with hundreds of years of history behind them. Thus, different from my previous experiences, this journey rekindled my interest in history and prompted me to do further reading.


As a tourist who witnessed the remaining relics on the spot, it is difficult to imagine that this was once the sumptuous stage on which desire, power, ambition, struggle, humiliation, violence and destruction were played out. I read two hundred years of history within four days. When approaching the end, I couldn’t help feeling sentimental. My paper journey was over, so was the once-powerful empire. But there was a drastic contrast, from everything to nothing.


Now, the table has turned. The fallen empire is once again in the spotlight. Yet, wise people have to bear in mind, only the sun rises and falls, which is the only exception to this constantly changing world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Answers of Travel / 旅行的答案

圖攝於北京,2010年春 / photos taken in Beijing, spring, 2010

“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to imagined places, not just stay at home?”


Elizabeth Bishop came up with this question at the end of her poem—Questions of Travel. I’ve read the poem for ten years. I read and forget, forget and read. I read it when I can’t afford to travel. I also read it after coming back from a trip. I don’t always understand what Bishop was trying to say, but with every journey, I seem to be able to project my personal experiences onto the lines and bring forth my unique interpretation.


After returning from Beijing, I found myself nodding my head like crazy when reading the following stanza:


Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room,
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?


It was an amazing coincidence that while I was reading these charming words on the bus, the lady sitting behind me was recounting to her colleague how she traveled all the way to Kuroyon, Japan one summer just for a glimpse at a kind of bird. I read and envisioned a bus taking her on the meandering roads in the mountains, racing through dark tunnels, going higher and higher.


But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.


These lines reminded me of the streets in Beijing after one snowy night. The dark brown trunks and branches were evenly covered with a layer of cream-colored snow. At first sight they looked like yummy chocolate and vanilla ice cream to me. Now when I think back, my memories do over-romanticize their looks. But you know what? I am more than willing to live in their exaggerated beauty.


After having traveled for so many years, I think I am qualified to answer Bishop’s question: No, I do not travel because of lack of imagination. I am not totally without it, but I can’t live in my small abode. Traveling offers all perspectives, and it constantly gives us a reminder that we are just tiny specks of sands. However, if we choose a viewpoint different from the previous one, we can be happy specks of sands. Imagination equips us with wings, but it might trap us if we fail to find a way out of the twists and turns. In comparison, we are forced to interact more or less with real people on a journey, which is a very realistic challenge. But the good thing is that every step is a true story. Therefore, if I leave in an impetuous mood, I’ll get to cool down along the way. Most important of all, I tend to overestimate myself before departing, believing I am capable of changing others’ life. Staying away for a while humbles me so that I can face my limits with an understanding attitude and eventually let go. Imagination cannot do these for me.


Next time if I say to you, “Go on a trip!”, I am not being perfunctory. It’s just that sometimes distance is necessary not only between people but also between us and our lives.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Traveling with MY class to Beijing / 和善二在北京


These days I’ve developed a new routine—asking how Emily is doing. Emily took her first trip abroad to Beijing, so compared with us, the sentimental girl is deeply attached to numerous stories that took place along the way. I am an experienced traveler with more than 40 inked stamps in my passport. I appear to be the one that comforts Emily, but I know I am actually relying on her when I ask her if everything is fine. This is the magical therapy of group traveling.


Thanks to Emily, I reviewed every step of taking the airplane, something I’d so taken for granted. While I was explaining to her the whole process, I retrieved the long-lost thrill of flying. On the journey, I mingled with the kids in the daytime, but they left me to my silent meditation after returning to the hotel. I don’t know if we obtained a mutual understanding or it’s just because they never got my room number right, I was able to enjoy the quiet moments at night. When I felt lonely, I’d arrange different people to come to eat fruits. It’s my inveterate habit to play secret games, and girls willingly worked with me.


In a blink of an eye, we’ve gone more than halfway. One day when we traveled to the Temple of Confucius without girls, the tour guide Ms. Yu said, “Come here with the girls next year!” It occurred to me that they will no longer be in my life then. Next time when I travel to Beijing, it will be with myself, someone else, or a new group of students. Though I can’t keep the girls, I want to bear the memories of this trip in mind, cherish every moment with my class, and travel together with them through every minute from now on.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Traveling in Snowy Beijing / 踏過下雪的北京


In summer 2009, we sang the song “Meaning of Traveling” again and again on our three-week-long journey across Spain. Then it occurred to us that the lyrics were rather sad. To me, traveling away for a while always makes me realize how important my family and friends are. I hardly travel to get away from someone I don’t love anymore as a way to escape. Thus, we rewrote certain parts of the song. I even sent the new version back to Dee in Taiwan.


However, I didn’t change the part about “trotting through snowy Beijing.” At that time, the line didn’t mean anything to me except a romantic image. I couldn’t imagine that several months later, I would live out the words. The whole thing felt more than surreal. When I heard that the girls were about to perform the song in front of their Mainland counterparts, I got carried away by excitement. The night before the trip, I copied the lyrics from my Spain journal book to a brand-new sketchbook meant for Beijing.


The eight days we spent in Beijing were freezing. The best way to beat the cold was hiding my two fragile hands in the warm pockets of the goose-down overcoat. So I came home with an empty book. Nonetheless, there is a kind of magic about traveling. Even if we leave no record at the moment, the influence will seep into our hearts from all directions. We float in the air like hopeless drunkards, held up by a very beautiful and positive feeling beyond description.


On the day after we returned, I drew the vivid images that existed in my brain for those who didn’t make it to the charming capital with so much historical heritage and modern development. For those who opt not to travel, they won’t have any clue what a grand world they have missed, but for those who take the chance, they will say, “I am glad I went there.” We’ve seen too vast and too deep a city for souvenirs and postcards to depict. The only way to experience it is to travel there in person.