Discovering Pilgrim's Mind, a Journey to Tibet
Shanghai and Huang Shan

Yu Garden, Shanghai

Lone entitled son
Match-making elders desperate
Sighing in the rain

Family is so critical to most Chinese that parents can be found in the park with laminated descriptions of their child in the hope to arrange a date for them with an eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Try to imagine your parents managing your Tinder or eHarmony account on your behalf. With decades of the "One Child" policy limiting every couple to a single heir, they live in terror of that one child not achieving success. Retirement is fundamentally defined by the success of their lone progeny.

Expats confided in us that this has led to sincere spoiling of the children, a nation of only-children. Never to have a brother's advice, a sister's tough love, no nephews or nieces, no cousins. The great pruning of all family trees seems to have left all slender reeds - often bumping into each other but finding it so hard to connect.

Bride and Groom Market, People's Square Shanghai

Currently there are 20 million men in China who will never marry as their brides were never born. A patriarchal society is contingent upon father-hood, heirs, family. Soon a sizable minority of China will create a new value system to guide their lives because they cannot

Walls within the walls
Surrounded by multitudes
Grasshopper alone

Caged grasshopper at the Bird and Insect Market, Shanghai

Last millennia's built environment is a choppy framing of vignettes in China. This led to a two-dimensional diorama-design approach focused on creating living paintings. Scratch the surface and the plaster flakes, exposing the impermanence of culture.

Exploring the old city within the moat is a bustling community with clean laundry flying gaily across every alley. Shops selling every necessity abound, and scooter repair can be had on every corner. Micro-commerce is the promise of Shanghai, freeing the brave from a life at the factory manufacturing nearly every item on my person.

Old Town, Shanghai

Their crowns in the smoke
The very air is a fume
Empty skyscrapers

On the cutting edge of digital connectivity, Shanghai redefines space and commerce in a blood-bath of competition. Any product can be delivered to your door within an hour or two with the right phone app. Competition is so fierce in the unregulated market it can squash small producers within hours while counterfeit products flood the market. This disconnect from one another seems to suit the lone-minded population. Only just beginning is the notion of dining alfresco. Not so much as a coffee can be enjoyed on an old lane in China. The idea was not considered sanitary and the streets design precludes a use other than transport and commerce.

The notable exception to the rule are streets designed by foreign countries. The French Concession sports a vast sprawl of swank bars and cafes. Shanghai's history and most of its notable historic architecture is defined by its role as international hub of China.

Ever-present is the walls within walls. Defining family from other extends from the Great Wall down to the domicile down further to the caged cats and grasshoppers. Everything and everyone in its place.

Yu Garden, Shanghai

We counted dozens of empty skyscrapers.

Angela, Huangshan Scenic Area

Dragon mountain crags
Longest day and fullest moon
Wet steps in the mist

Visiting Huang Shan (Yellow Mountains) needs to be on your "bucket list". Hiking the 10,000 steps is not for the feint of heart, but there are palanquins for those who need a lift. The dramatic natural beauty is alternately picturesque and belittling in the vast reach of the dozens of peaks. This natural treasure is only slightly marred by the radar station at the very top.

In the distance: stairs to Greeting Pine, Huangshan Scenic Area

The stairs help to make this wonder accessible to millions every year. While solitude is in short supply anywhere in China, you can still transport your mind to the distant peak (only to find yourself hiking up its stairs an hour later, gazing back upon your previous summit.)

Jason, Huangshan Scenic Area

Being in China has shown me a desperation born of profound loneliness while fighting to keep my place in every line. While my dear friends in Japan cultivate a garden of hospitality, I know most of that country is similarly isolated. The grasshoppers in their wicker baskets are chirping. Each of us surrounds ourselves with comfortable homes; each one an extension of our neuroses and aspirations.

Many of my obstacles are geographic. When you are on the road, and you move from foreign to weird to unfathomable, you find your umbilical cord cut. Like any birthing process, it is profoundly uncomfortable. Hence the efficacy of leaving your home, and going on pilgrimage.

Peregrine rejoices
Lama-la in a bathrobe
Feet in the cool pool

Arriving in Beijing, Angela and I trudged into the swankiest hotel ready to join our fellow pilgrims. Making our way to the room we first encounter Lama Dudjom Dorje, our teacher, walking towards us dressed in a plush white bathrobe!

Jason, Lama D Dorje, and Angela with the model for the proposed KTC Dallas Gompa (Lama in bathrobe picture omitted)

Tomorrow we are with our Sangha. Tomorrow we fly to the Tibetan Plateau.


Thank you for reading this far and being witness.

Jason Winn and Angela Hartsell

Thursday, June 24 02016

The Kyoto notes: