Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Down from the Mountain

By Charles
Ending our overnight trip to the top of the magic 'Yellow Mountain', we descended by stairs and then cable cars to make a bus trip to Hong Cun Village where 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' was filmed. On the way, we stopped to examine a roadside Water Buffalo (no farmers on our bus)!

When we arrived at the village we were amazed to see the many dozens of students who sat around the town's lake in a painting class - Western style! The city and landscape were historic Chinese and breathtaking.

The highlight of this relaxed day was to be a visit to Hukaiwen Ink Factory where we got sticks of Ink made with our handprint.

But we discovered a new highlight on Tunxi Old Street thanks to Elza. Artist Mao Yin Fu was at work. In the ancient tradition, he lived and worked as a guest of the tea house owner in the front room of his business. (This charming and amazing artist even looked like an ancient Chinese artist!) Sandie bought a Wisteria treasure for her home and Nan had him produce a calligraphy for her studio. Nan insisted on having his 'personal seal' on the work so he phoned his daughter on his 'cell phone' to bring the treasure immediately. We had to be dragged away from his studio.

After dinner, a late bus ride to Huangshan airport.
It is 11:30 PM and we were preparing to return to Shanghai when it was announced that the "airplane is broken". We were asked to stick around while they tried to fix it, but finally we got into a smoky bus and were taken to a hotel at Midnight. There is only one flight a day to Shanghai. At breakfast we were told to be ready to return to the airport about noon - same bus.

China Eastern had flown up another airplane overnight just for our tour group! Everyone got four seats! Efficiently, the airline had a full compliment of attendants and our two burly security guards for the pleasant flight to Shanghai. Shall I describe the airline lunch sandwich? Three half slices of white bread with a 1" round cucumber slice and a 1" square of 'perhaps ham'! We all found it very interesting if not edible. The airline delay took away a day of free time in Shanghai but most of us were pretty exhausted and relaxed at our very nice hotel.

The next excitement came in the morning when we voted to abandon our luggage to the bus and we would take the 7 minute bullet train from downtown to the airport instead - at up to 480 kph. The train was a wonder: clean, fast, on time with beautiful stations. The Chinese had done it again! Did I mention the sound barrier pop when two high speed trains meet going in opposite directions at full speed?
We left on time for our 14 hour return to America which was cut short by the jet stream.We left almost exactly 24 hours before the terrible earthquake.

In reflection, was there anything missing for us in China? No! The Chinese were charming, friendly and graceful. The cities were booming.

Major highways had beautiful landscaping. The natural beauty was unbelievable. We were treated wonderfully as we soaked up the history and beauty of the country. The Chinese welcomed us and made our visit memorable. We shall not forget them.

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There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.