Posts Tagged ‘ China ’

_Dancing Over Kyoto_ – A new, just published Ebook.

Friends and followers of this site know that this has been a work-in-progress for some time. A love letter, tribute, homage and tragicomedy.  Link to the Amazon purchase site below.


Available at  Dancing Over Kyoto:  A Memoir of Japan, China & India.


A Quick Break from Bad Blood Between China & Japan.

I preface this by saying that before anyone gives me a hard time for  “not understanding the complexities and historical dimensions” of the China-Japan feud (attempted invasions, actual invasions, shocking atrocities, arrogance, real or feigned rage over historical events), please, I do get that.  I just want to do my infinitesimal part in creating more positive vibes . . .

Kobo Daishi, a/k/a Kukai

First, let’s go back 1200 years . . .

Since Esoteric Buddhism was relatively unknown in Japan, Kobo Daishi knew he must go to China in order to gain a better understanding of the Esoteric teachings.  Fortunately, Kobo Daishi was able to join a Japanese envoy in 804 that was traveling by boat to Xi’an (the capital of China at the time) to visit the Tang Dynasty. After spending some time in China, Kobo Daishi was given the opportunity to learn the essence of the esoteric teachings under a priest Huiguo, an authority on Esoteric Buddhism. Master Huiguo then initiated him into the Esoteric Buddhism tradition. It was truly remarkable that Kobo Daishi was able to master the complex esoteric teachings and be selected to be the eighth patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism in such a short period of time.

In spite of Kobo Daishi’s initial 20 year directive to study Buddhism in China, he returned to Japan after only two years with the mission from Master Huiguo to spread the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism throughout Japan.

Kobo Daishi returned to Japan in the province of Tsukushi (Fukuoka Prefecture), with a great number of religious textbooks and artworks. However, having disobeyed the 20 year directive from the government, he was not allowed to enter the capital city. After several years had passed, Kobo Daishi was finally permitted to enter the capital city. Immediately after being welcomed back into the capital city he proclaimed his devotion to propagating of the supreme doctrine of Esoteric Buddhism.

Kobo Daishi is also known as the father of Japanese culture. He is renown for his talents as a teacher, engineer, inventor, poet, calligrapher and creating the first public school in Japan. . . .

Read more here on the history and influence of China in Japan through Kobo Daishi

Bad relations between China and Japan suck.  I mean, they really rot (the bad relations, not the countries).  Makes me, and American, cringe.  I like both countries.  A lot.  But they’re both freaking out over each other now.  Here’s a recent piece on the latest Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands kerfuffle.  And today I just read where China’s refused to grant visas to three Japanese members of the Taiwanese National Symphony Orchestra on the eve of the Orchestra touring Mainland China.  Gad.

So, while it will do absolutely no good, I still feel compelled to offer-up this, an American tribute to both China and Japan, to Japan and China.  It may be silly, it may be naive, it may be superficial, but it’s still a really hep song, and it demonstrates that in other parts of the world lots of people think both countries are really cool and celebrate them both.

Bodhisattva – Steely Dan (1973)

Would you take me by the hand
Would you take me by the hand
Can you show me
The shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china
Can you show me
Bodhisattva . . .



Prayers at the Temple of the Jade Buddha. Anshan, China. July 2008.


Over 1200 years ago Kobo Daishi — yes, the same guy who would go to China — founded To-ji Temple in Kyoto . . .

Prayers at Toji Temple. Kyoto, Japan. May 2008.

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China’s Communist Party’s 90 Years of Something.

Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Tiananmen Square. July 2006. One year after "Delegation."

This is not an essay on the Communist Party of China (CPC).  It’s just acknowledgement of its 90 years of existence and to provide a link to a National Public Radio (NPR) story on the anniversary.  And to highlight a true tale of mine that winds up and crescendos (if that’s the word) with an analysis of Communism in China provided to me by a local government official.  Here’s the link to the NPR story:  After 90 Years, Graft Threatens China’s Communists.  The NPR piece is both text and audio.  Here’s an excerpt:

. . . The pair was detained, and while they were in custody, their house was torn down. She believes the ordeal was a factor contributing to the deaths of her mother and her father-in-law. Her verdict on the Communist Party is scathing.

“It’s rotten to its roots. They don’t care how many laws they break,” she said. “Nationwide, how much farming land has been taken from us? What are we farmers supposed to eat?”


Many of you who are regular visitors or subscribers to this blog have already read my piece, “Delegation,” which chronicles some moments in time during a 2005 visit of mine to Beijing and parts north.   The story contains everything you’d want to read about concerning a business trip to China — Jade Buddhas and elaborate massages and such.  But it winds up in the back of a car with a local government official discussing Communism.  I think it ties-in quite well with the NPR piece.  Mind you, I’m just reporting what I heard, not analyzing.

Jade Buddha & the Practical North Korea

Since the Democratic (sic) Republic of North Korea, as well as its relations with its big brother, China,  is in the news a lot these days, I thought it worth while to highlight this story, a true one:  “Delegation.”  The events related here took place in the summer of 2005, during my first trip to China.


Main Entrance, The Forbidden City. Beijing. 2005.

Following the excerpt below, please see a couple of photos from the Jade Buddha temple of Anshan.

Excerpt from “Delegation:

The new temple, the Jade Buddha, the new jade mall, none of this was bad.  But the whole scene had a decidedly contrived, Epcot-esque feel to it.  I halfway expected to find a log flume ride behind the temple’s main hall.  Yet the locals were trying.  And jade had, indeed, been an important and venerated area resource and commodity since time out of mind.  Credit should be given where it’s due.  The Very Important Officials, these people who shepherded us to the temple and who proudly showed off their Jade Buddha and who took us to the nearby jade mall, were kind-hearted and enthused about the new leaf their hands were collectively turning over.  They wanted us to feel welcome and to return home and say nice things about their city.  And I was happy to oblige.  They also wanted Chinese tourists, who would certainly make up the vast majority of visitors browsing through all of jade jewelry, boxes, bowls, 3-D landscapes, dragons, Guanyins, Hoteis and various other figures from history and legend and Faith; carvings large and small, bulky and delicate, made to impress visitors, to intrigue and entice them, and, ultimately, to turn them into buyers.

Back at the temple, I had seen something more poignant when I watched the resident priests, just outside the main hall which housed the Jade Buddha, instruct the many Chinese tourists on how to light their long, red votive candles and offer-up prayers.  These were people who had grown up in a country where religion had been frowned upon at least, and persecuted at most.  So in their forties and fifties and even older, they were being taught how to go through rudimentary devotional motions that their Buddhist brothers and sisters in other Asian countries had learned as toddlers.  I wish them all, the city, its leaders, its residents, its visitors, the best of luck with all of this. . . .


.     .     .


Prayers Offered at the Temple of the Jade Buddha. July 2005.



The Jade Buddha of Anshan.

.     .     .

Sparkle of Your China*.

July 2006.  On my second trip to China...

July 2006. On my second trip to China...


I first visited China in the summer of 2005 and ever since have been working on writing-up my experiences there and reflections of my various, weird things encountered and witnessed in Beijing and up north in Liaoning Province.

Delegation is the story.  Just click on the tab above, “Sparkle of Your China“.   As is the case with all of them, it’s quite true.  Except for a couple of name changes and a couple of strategic omissions.  For several years I started, stopped and started over.  No, I didn’t spend four years constantly writing less than 3, 000 words.  It’s just taken me four years to finally sit down and, over the course of a few weeks, assemble and flesh-out various little notes and vignettes into something I believe makes for a readable narrative.  I dedicate “Delegation” (again, by way of “Sparkle of Your China“) to Uncle Ron, whose deep knowleged of and enthusiasm for All Things Chinese influenced untold numbers of his students to eventually make the trip; for many, to make their life there.  Also for my father, who always told me, even when I was a kid back in the mid ’70s, “China’s the country to watch for.  This thing they’re doing with Communism?  It’ll never last.  They’re merchants.  They’ve always been merchants and they’ll always be merchants.”   That’s what my father would say, with no shortage of respect.  He was still with us back in 2005 and very much enjoyed hearing my story about “Practical Tim”.  He had, indeed, been right.

A note on the stories featured on this site: they’re in more-or-less finished form, but I’ve no doubt some editing is still in order for any of them.


*Steely Dan  fans assuredly “get” this right off the bat.  To those who aren’t familiar with the album “Countdown to Ecstasy“, I hope that that is something you’ll someday consider treating yourself to.