Sunday, June 23, 2019

Gone but not forgotten. A poet and more.

Monumental bonsaied Podocarpus at Du Fu's 'Thatched Cottage'
 Humans being humans, I suspect only a fraction of my Blog and Facebook friends will even click on this image and read this blog: green is not a color that registers apparently. Even though I did capture a few red bits in the distance.

One of numerous Gingko biloba all around the entrance,,,
 I took the Chengdu subway to the "Thatched Cottage" stop: the cottage was still a mile away and I didn't have a clue where it was, so I took a pedicab (which was quite an experience for me, having once struggled through half of "Camel Boy" as a Chinese Student (in the original). The Camel Boy didn't use a bicycle--he was on foot--so my fellow was more up to date--but it did summon images of an older China to do it! We'll get to the trees eventually...hang in there!

My first pedicab ride: 10 yuan, and gave him a 2 yuan tip!

Entrance to the Thatched Cottage
 I couldn't believe the crowds at the entrance of the "Thatched Cottage": this is China's equivalent of the Shakespeareana at Stratford-on-Avon. China's most celebrated poet spent four (or five?) years living in Chengdu after the Anlushan rebellion caused the government to leave Chang-an. He wrote hundreds of his most famous poems in a thatched cottage he built with friends, presumably somewhere on or near the site of what has become an astonishing multi-acre theme park dedicated to the poet. Something tells me that proportionately far more Chinese know the name Shakespeare than English Speakers know the name Tu Fu (or Dufu using current pinyin).

I bought a ticket and proceeded to spend the next few hours marvelling at the lovely park and that vast throngs of Chinese gathered there: the entrance fee was not cheap by Chinese standards (around 10 dollars): people must have paid that to go--and there were thousands! It's 60 acres so each shot may not look crowded, but in certain areas it was pretty congested.

Of course, part of the appeal is the park itself, full of bonsai, huge trees (mostly labeled as you'll see) and landscaping. This monument to Du Fu is hundreds of years in the making, and still being polished away!

Cycas revoluta
 Many of the plants obviously were venerable, like this enormous Sago Palm.

There were buldings scattered throughout: lost count. Some were galleries, some had refreshments, some had exhibits about the Tang dynasty and Dufu. 

Here the Chengdu Forestry department gives the "number" for this particular "Ancient and Famous Tree" 

The directional signs and other signage was (I thought) elegant and helpful. Not a lot of English--but then I was the only non-Chinese I saw the whole time I was there. I am sure there were several thousand visitors.

Even the fire hydrant was neatly labeled!

Not a lot of color (except for the Koi), but the cool, green vistas were refreshing and obviously popular...

Many encrusted limestone rocks throughout--I'd be curious how many centuries ago many of these dated to..

Chengdu is one of the largest cities in the world: I've been curious about it for a very long time. There are no end of things to do there (I was told to go to the Panda Breeding center--glad I didn't go, friends who did that day said the pandas were all in their dens!)...but there are many reasons I came here...

 These lotus leaves are enormous, by the way--many a meter across...but why come here to visit? You see, I spent eight years studying ancient Chinese (and modern too) before dropping out of Graduate school  1) realizing I wasn't that good at it 2) realizing there might be other things I'd enjoy more than being a Chinese scholar. But during those many years of study, Tu Fu (oh yes, now we must call him Dufu) was one of my instigations for that study, and an inspiration throughout. At one point I'd memorized dozens of his poems and read William Hung's the superb biography about him. Looking it up to provide you the link, I see my copy has increased gratifyingly in value!

If you read that biography, or read more about Tu Fu, many things will come to mind: he was an extraordinarily powerful poet dealing with day-to-day emotions of love, loss, longing and friendship He obviously possessed deep wisdom and compassion--and embodied many of the Confucian principles that still imbue so much of Chinese culture and society: thoughtfulness, integrity, kindness and honesty. His life story is fascinating: he was a minor figure during his times, and considered himself a failure. He spent most of his life in obscurity and died unhonored, and little known.


The irony that Tu Fu (shucks, I mean Dufu) should now have such an enormous and truly splendid monument not where he was born (Henan), not where he lived most of his life (Chang an, now Hsi-An) but in a town where he was stranded during a rebellion...and that this monument should be so popular and a major tourist attraction (for Chinese tourist it's true)...well, frankly, I'm gob-smacked and walked around in amazement the whole time...

Honestly, I can't do commentary on each picture: it would take hours! But will enjoy sharing a few (I took many more) of what I found to be a very rewarding visit! Most of the pics are self-explanatory.

Maps throughout to guide you: it's a big place!

Countless acres of lily turf (Ophiopogon)

 I finally realized I'd spent and hour or more and never saw the "Thatched Cottage!"--another half hour finally led me to this:

That says "thatched cottage" in Chinese: it was still five minutes walk away...

 Escorted by these charming tiles...

I saw it peeking over the wall...

Ta DA! Here it is. I don't know why I was so pleased to find it: it is manifestly NOT the one he lived in, but probably a Ching Copy of a Ming Copy of a Yuan Dynasty copy of get the point...the real cottage may have been a mile away...

They did try and make it look authentic!

Could he have written a poem here? or nearby?

 His putative bed...

The living room...

Or maybe this was where he wrote?

 Aha! some color!

Not all is touristy froo froo: real scholarship is esconced at the very heart. What would Dufu have thought, I kept asking myself!

 After all these images, I have to offer at least one of the poems he might have written here:

春夜喜雨                 Spring Night a joyful rain (Tu Fu 712-770 AD)

好雨知时节      Good rains know when to fall.
当春乃发生      In spring they burgeon life
随风潜入夜      After a gust of wind they follow in the night
润物细无声      Drenching everything soundlessly
野径云俱黑      On the country roads the clouds grow black
江船火独明      On the riverboat the stove fire glows
晓看红湿处      As it dawns the countryside glistens red
花重锦官城      Blossoms bend heavily in Chengdu.

 And if  you have time check out this page the many translations of one of his greatest poems. Astonishing how different each is from the other.

In the subway, on the way back to the hotel, I saw this: not sure what to make of it. From the Sublime to the ridiculous!

1 comment:

  1. This was most interesting. I had never heard of this poet. The Thatched Cottage is quite interesting. I think he wrote at the low table in the second photo.


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