Monday, 1 December 2008

sunday in the park....and monday

Guilin. Sunday. Lovely parks.

Colin Thubron on Guilin: "A long-time Nationalist stronghold, it had been blitzed by Japanese aircraft in 1944, and had survived as one of the ugliest towns in China. Now tourism was shoddily recreating it." That was written in 1986.
What a lot can change in 20 years! Like all of China it seems, Guilin has lost no time in reinventing itself, but there is little shoddy here now. Shoddiness too has been swept away. Its a charming low - rise city, on the river Li, full of parks and waterways, and tree-lined avenues.
I spend all Sunday....and Monday, walking around the lakes, sheltering beneath Osmanthus trees in the heat of the day to read my latest Chinese novel, "To Live" by Yu Hua; very good book which was first banned in the 90's, until it started to win all kinds of award im Europe. Its the story of a Chinese Everyman who endures the vicissitudes and horrors of the last half century in China.

How deep the changes go in Chinese life, who knows? Perhaps they are as counterfeit and insubstantial as the fake Calvin Klein briefs I wear that cost me tuppence in Xi'an.

A child starts sobbing when it sees me at the next table at lunch. My beard I guess. The Chinese don't grow beards - you can't call the wispy Confucian strands you see on a handful of very old men beards. Mine you may remember went through an elegant Tsar Nicholas phase, then a wild Chinggis Khan look (co-incidentally in Mongolia), and now untamed and unpruned is coming into its Santa phase in time for Christmas.

For a new month a new feature for loyal readers - Sight of the Day ; SoD for short.

First SoD for December: two flat wooden trays of drying persimmons, deep apricot - coloured discs lying in tidy rows, in the sun by a bright blue metal shutter.

Another train to catch - only 17 hours to Kunming, west of here, where we will get our visas for Vietnam.