Such contrast in movies I've been watching via DVDs… 'Any Given Sunday,' versus Lars Von Triers'! Some of you might have heard of Oliver Stone, the director of 'Any Given Sunday.' But, I'll bet even Marty isn't familiar with Lars Von Triers a Danish filmmaker ('Dogma 65' Group')?
I told Xu Tan, if you ever want to understand America watch 'Any Given Sunday,' a movie about 'winning at any cost!; ('overcoming all to win!') This is what American society is all about ('kicking ass!' one of the characters explains!). Although most Americans don't understand that 'winning' at any cost is really 'losing!' I cite Iraq as example!
Al Pacino played the beleaguered coach, who deals with the stress by drinking and indulging in pretty whores (ah, I remember those days!--Bonnie St. Laurent for one!). But, Pacino is good in this role (believable)--an 'Oscar' performance.
Cameron Diaz plays 'the bitch,' the owner of the team--a less than 'Oscar' performance (one dimensional). But, her character not afraid to walk right into the locker room full of naked men!
Gosh, for me, watching this movie about professional football was 'déjà vu,' as I was there at the beginning of 'Monday Night Football' (1969: the days when no women would dare breach the locker room). I recognized Lawrence Taylor (prominent earring) as one of the 'actor-players.' The script, however, disjointed with a less-than-satisfying ending. But, the movie certainly exposes pro football as it really is: violent, drug infested, and 'gladiator like.' I thought inter-cutting the 'Ten Commandment's' chariot race sequence (with Charlton Heston) was heavy-handed, however! But, this is how 'Hollywood' works… You have trouble getting the rights to the footage, you cast an important 'player' in your movie. Suddenly, getting 'rights' is easier!
By the way, 'Any Given Sunday,' comes from an old saying in pro-football… That 'on any given Sunday' you can lose!
In total black and white contrast is Lars Von Trier's 'The Elements of Crime!' I had been looking forward to seeing one of Trier's film (preferably 'Dogville'), having never seen any. But, I couldn't get through more than forty minutes of 'The Elements of Crime,' as reminding me of Ingmar Bergman's earlier work. It's ironic that they live so close together in adjacent countries (Denmark and Sweden)!
I haven't remembered to mention in recent entries an American film I should, 'Premonition' starring Sandra Bullock. It's a mystery a la Hitchcock and worth seeing.
It's bicycle season in Qinghai, and the 5th Stage of the 'Tour de Qinghai' Race finished in XiNing on Saturday, with an American, Alan Davies the winner of the Stage (I think two Italians leading the overall? Difficult to get good information in China, at least for me). While waiting for the racers to come I met and chatted with an American woman, Marion, who is the official translator for the race. She lives on Hainan Island, a 'Hawaiian-type' island off the coast of southeast China.
On Sunday, we cycled to a resort with Mr. Zhou's group, some 40KM north of XiNing. We were to meet at 0800 on Sunday morning, this at Xining West Square (where we hold 'Haaqi's English Club'). We didn't depart until 0930! 'Judy' and Zhayi'er were supposed to come along, but weren't yet there when we headed out, a total of seven of us, including two middle-aged women. One of the women could ride a little, the other, barely able. I felt sorry for them so stayed back at the end with one of them.
The group stopped to rest at a RR bridge, some 12 KM north of XiNing. Here is where Zhayi'er and 'Judy' caught up with us much to my surprise! I hadn't expected for them to come (still in bed when I departed). But, was glad to see them as I'd be able to get some information about where we were going. 'Judy' is learning English and can translate for me!
We headed north toward DaTong, a town some 30KM distance. But, I'd been shown another route (to this 'temple'), so was confused as usual (always confused in China). Departing 90 minutes after given a time (0800) and heading in the wrong direction, but so typical of living in China!
It was slow going with the Chinese woman, however. Agonizingly slow! The people in the group not really cyclists, just out on a summer excursion hoping for the best. I thought later the woman had come because bored and wanted some company (social stimulation). At one point going up a hill we put the woman on the geared Giant bicycle 'Judy' rides, but she didn't get the 'hang of it,' and almost fell. Also, Zhayi'er tried pushing her along. I videotaped as much as possible, as I know people like to see themselves, and rarely having the chance!
10 KM short of Da Tong we turned off the main highway and headed east on a paved road. It wasn't long, however, before they stopped for lunch. I, along with Zhayi'er, and 'Judy' were directed to proceed another 1 KM so I could get mi fan (rice). Although I prefer to eat rice and vegetables, it's difficult to explain I don't want the people to make me a special case and go out of their way for such, but they always do! So, we went on what ended up being 10KM (people don't know two things wherever they live: distance and elevation). Of course, when we got to the restaurant where we were directed it had none of the above! Ah, living in China, what a challenge for a westerner, the culture so different!
After lunch it was just the three of us, and all with geared bikes. I had no idea where I was going, but 'Judy' knew and she found the road. Soon we were going up on dirt. My tires are not really the best for such, but we managed. When we got to where we were going (six kilometers distance) it became evident it is a tourist site (ancient temples) and we had to pay 3RMB each, plus 1RMB for each bicycle! Seems to me if you ride a bicycle that far, they should be exempt, but since money is God (everywhere now), forget that!
The last 100 meters, up to the 'picnic grounds,' were the hardest, but we, Zhayi'er and I, managed to go all the way without stopping! 'Judy' pushed.
Here at the base of the 'mountain' they had table sites, and some shelters (in case it rained). We pushed our bicycles up to the first one, and went to the kitchen 'tent' to order ba bao cha. When they found out we were with Mr. Zhou, we were ushered to one of the better outdoor tables (they know him). This was next to a group drinking beer and playing dominoes. They Chinese love to play games. One in their group, a woman, came and spoke some English with me.
Judy called Mr. Zhou on her mobnile and she found out they'd be there in another 30 minutes. I was surprised that they would make it all that way. But, they didn't ride, however, had left their bicycle at the base of the hill, and walked the last few kilometers.
After lunch we climbed a thousand stairs and partook of the ancient temples. I was never quite sure if they are Taoist, Chinese, or Buddhist. But, in one was 'Kuan Yin,' the Goddess of Benevolence--that 'sound in your head!' She's one of mine, one of my deities, and so I bowed and lit incense for all to be more benevolent!
Here courtesy of a WEB site all about the concept of 'Kuan Yin,' this merciful deity: BUT, SKIP OVER THE NEXT 3.5 PAGES IF NOT INTERESTED!
"There is still much scholarly debate regarding the origin of devotion to the female Bodhisattva Kuan Yin (also know as Quan Shi Yin and Kwan Yin). Quan means to inquire or look deeply into, Shi means the world of people, or generations, Yin means cries. The Boddhisatva of Compassion was inquiring into the suffering (cries) that has come down the generations. Kuan Yin is considered to be the feminine form of Avalokitesvara (Sanskrit), the bodhisattva of compassion of Indian Buddhism whose worship was introduced into China in the third century.
Scholars believe that the Buddhist monk and translator Kumarajiva was the first to refer to the female form of Kuan Yin in his Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra in 406 A.D. Of the thirty-three appearances of the bodhisattva referred to in his translation, seven are female. (Devoted Chinese and Japanese Buddhists have since come to associate the number thirty-three with Kuan Yin.)
Although Kuan Yin was still being portrayed as a male as late as the tenth century, with the introduction of Tantric Buddhism into China in the eighth century during the T'ang Dynasty, the image of the celestial bodhisattva as a beautiful white-robed goddess was predominant and the devotional cult surrounding her became increasingly popular. By the ninth century there was a statue of Kuan Yin in every Buddhist monastery in China.
Despite the controversy over the origins of Kuan Yin as a feminine being, the depiction of a bodhisattva as both 'god' and 'goddess' is not inconsistent with Buddhist doctrine. The scriptures explain that a bodhisattva has the power to embody in any form--male, female, child, even animal depending on the type of being he is seeking to save. As the Lotus Sutra relates, the bodhisattva Kuan Shih Yin, "by resort to a variety of shapes, travels in the world, conveying the beings to salvation."
The twelfth-century legend of the Buddhist saint Miao Shan, the Chinese princess who lived in about 700 B.C. and is widely believed to have been Kuan Yin, reinforced the image of the bodhisattva as a female. During the twelfth century Buddhist monks settled on P'u-t'o Shan--the sacred island-mountain in the Chusan Archipelago off the coast of Chekiang where Miao Shan is said to have lived for nine years, healing and saving sailors from shipwreck--and devotion to Kuan Yin spread throughout northern China.
This picturesque island became the chief center of worship of the compassionate Saviouress; crowds of pilgrims would journey from the remotest places in China and even from Manchuria, Mongolia and Tibet to attend stately services there. At one time there were more than a hundred temples on the island and over one thousand monks. The lore surrounding P'u-t'o island recounts numerous appearances and miracles performed by Kuan Yin, who, it is believed, reveals herself to the faithful in a certain cave on the island.
In the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, Kuan Yin forms part of a ruling triad that is often depicted in temples and is a popular theme in Buddhist art. In the center is the Buddha of Boundless Light, Amitabha (Chinese, A-mi-t'o Fo; Japanese, Amida). To his right is the bodhisattva of strength or power, Mahasthamaprapta, and to his left is Kuan Yin, personifying his endless mercy.
In Buddhist theology Kuan Yin is sometimes depicted as the captain of the "Bark of Salvation," guiding souls to Amitabha's Western Paradise, or Pure Land--the land of bliss where souls may be reborn to receive continued instruction toward the goal of enlightenment and perfection. The journey to Pure Land is frequently represented in woodcuts showing boats full of Amitabha's followers under Kuan Yin's captainship.
Amitabha, a beloved figure in the eyes of Buddhists desiring to be reborn in his Western Paradise and to obtain freedom from the wheel of rebirth, is said to be, in a mystical or spiritual sense, the father of Kuan Yin. Legends of the Mahayana School recount that Avalokitesvara was 'born' from a ray of white light which Amitabha emitted from his right eye as he was lost in ecstasy.
Thus Avalokitesvara, or Kuan Yin, is regarded as the "reflex" of Amitabha a further emanation or embodiment of Karuna (compassion), the quality which Amitabha himself embodies in the highest sense. Many figures of Kuan Yin can be identified by the presence of a small image of Amitabha in her crown. It is believed that as the merciful redemptress Kuan Yin expresses Amitabha's compassion in a more direct and personal way and prayers to her are answered more quickly.
The iconography of Kuan Yin depicts her in many forms, each one revealing a unique aspect of her merciful presence. As the sublime Goddess of Mercy whose beauty, grace and compassion have come to represent the ideal of womanhood in the East, she is frequently portrayed as a slender woman in flowing white robes who carries in her left hand a white lotus, symbol of purity. Ornaments may adorn her form, symbolizing her attainment as a bodhisattva, or she may be pictured without them as a sign of her great virtue.
Kuan Yin's presence is widespread through her images as the "bestower of children" which are found in homes and temples. A great white veil covers her entire form and she may be seated on a lotus. She is often portrayed with a child in her arms, near her feet, or on her knees, or with several children about her. In this role, she is also referred to as the "white-robed honored one." Sometimes to her right and left are her two attendants, Shan-tsai Tung-tsi, the "young man of excellent capacities," and Lung-wang Nu, the "daughter of the Dragon-king."
Kuan Yin is also known as patron bodhisattva of P'u-t'o Shan, mistress of the Southern Sea and patroness of fishermen. As such she is shown crossing the sea seated or standing on a lotus or with her feet on the head of a dragon.
Like Avalokitesvara she is also depicted with a thousand arms and varying numbers of eyes, hands and heads, sometimes with an eye in the palm of each hand, and is commonly called "the thousand-arms, thousand-eyes" bodhisattva. In this form she represents the omnipresent mother, looking in all directions simultaneously, sensing the afflictions of humanity and extending her many arms to alleviate them with infinite expressions of her mercy.
Symbols characteristically associated with Kuan Yin are a willow branch, with which she sprinkles the divine nectar of life; a precious vase symbolizing the nectar of compassion and wisdom, the hallmarks of a bodhisattva; a dove, representing fecundity; a book or scroll of prayers which she holds in her hand, representing the dharma (teaching) of the Buddha or the sutra (Buddhist text) which Miao Shan is said to have constantly recited; and a rosary adorning her neck with which she calls upon the Buddhas for succor.
Images of Avalokitesvara, thus then Kuan Yin, is often shown holding a rosary; describing being born with a rosary in one hand --- not unlike a similar story oft repeated regarding the contemporary Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi --- and a white lotus in the other. It is taught that the beads represent all living beings and the turning of the beads symbolizes that Avalokitesvara is leading them out of their state of misery and repeated rounds of rebirth into Nirvana.
Today Kuan Yin is worshipped by Taoists as well as Mahayana Buddhists--especially in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and once again in her homeland of China, where the practice of Buddhism had been suppressed by the Communists during the Cultural Revolution (1966-69). She is the protectress of women, sailors, merchants, craftsmen, and those under criminal prosecution, and is invoked particularly by those desiring progeny. Beloved as a mother figure and divine mediatrix who is very close to the daily affairs of her devotees, Kuan Yin's role as Buddhist Madonna has been compared to that of Mary the mother of Jesus in the West.
There is an implicit trust in Kuan Yin's saving grace and healing powers. Many believe that even the simple recitation of her name will bring her instantly to the scene. One of the most famous texts associated with the bodhisattva, the ancient Lotus Sutra whose twenty-fifth chapter, dedicated to Kuan Yin, is known as the "Kuan Yin sutra," describes thirteen cases of impending disaster--from shipwreck to fire, imprisonment, robbers, demons, fatal poisons and karmic woes--in which the devotee will be rescued if his thoughts dwell on the power of Kuan Yin. The text is recited many times daily by those who wish to receive the benefits it promises.
Devotees also invoke the bodhisattva's power and merciful intercession with the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM-- "Hail to the jewel in the lotus!" or, as it has also been interpreted, "Hail to Avalokitesvara, who is the jewel in the heart of the lotus of the devotee's heart!" Throughout Tibet and Ladakh, Buddhists have inscribed OM MANI PADME HUM on flat prayer stones called "mani-stones" as votive offerings in praise of Avalokitesvara. Thousands of these stones have been used to build mani-walls that line the roads entering villages and monasteries.
It is believed that Kuan Yin frequently appears in the sky or on the waves to save those who call upon her when in danger. Personal stories can be heard in Taiwan, for instance, from those who report that during World War II when the United States bombed the Japanese-occupied Taiwan, she appeared in the sky as a young maiden, catching the bombs and covering them with her white garments so they would not explode.
Thus altars dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy are found everywhere--shops, restaurants, even taxicab dashboards. In the home she is worshipped with the traditional "pai pai," a prayer ritual using incense, as well as the use of prayer charts--sheets of paper designed with pictures of Kuan Yin, lotus flowers, or pagodas and outlined with hundreds of little circles. With each set of prayers recited or sutras read in a novena for a relative, friend, or oneself, another circle is filled in. This chart has been described as a "Ship of Salvation" whereby departed souls are saved from the dangers of hell and the faithful safely conveyed to Amitabha's heaven not unlike the Cumeaean Sibyl and her golden bough in Greek mythology.
In addition to elaborate services with litanies and prayers, devotion to Kuan Yin is expressed in the popular literature of the people in poems and hymns of praise.
Devout followers of Kuan Yin may frequent local temples and make pilgrimages to larger temples on important occasions or when they are burdened with a special problem. The three yearly festivals held in her honor are on the nineteenth day of the second month (celebrated as her birthday), of the sixth month, and of the ninth month based on the Chinese lunar calendar.
In the tradition of the Great White Brotherhood Kuan Yin is known as the Ascended Lady Master who bears the office and title of "Goddess of Mercy" because she en-souls the God qualities of the law of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. She had numerous embodiments prior to her ascension thousands of years ago and has taken the vow of the bodhisattva to teach the un-ascended children of God how to balance their karma and fulfill their divine plan by loving service to life and the application of the violet flame through the science of the spoken Word.
Kuan Yin preceded the Ascended Master Saint Germain as Chohan (Lord) of the Seventh Ray of Freedom, Transmutation, Mercy and Justice and she is one of seven Ascended Masters who serve on the Karmic Board, a council of justice that mediates the karma of earth's evolutions--dispensing opportunity, mercy and the true and righteous judgments of the Lord to each life stream on earth. She is hierarch of the etheric Temple of Mercy over Peking, China, where she focuses the light of the Divine Mother on behalf of the children of the ancient land of China, the souls of humanity, and the sons and daughters of God."
Wow! The preceding is probably more than you wanted to know about Kuan Yin! But, maybe valuable! I felt her divine presence on this Qinghai mountain. In fact, I am one of her reincarnations, 'Ahya!'
After descending, we had more to eat, and then were on our way back to XiNing much refreshed. Ironically, the man with the most mechanic experience of all, Zhayi'er, had his second flat tire (with me). And again I have brought an extra tube which saved the day.
Without the others, who no doubt took a bus back to XiNing, we made fast time as it's downhill and with additional help from the wind.
On the outskirts of XiNing we came across the overweight woman in black, who was pushing her bicycle back to XiNing. We found out she'd eaten alone, not able to continue with the others. Worse, she became ill vomited. A sure sign of high blood pressure to me. We escorted her back, a painful time going so slowly, listening to her and 'Judy's' endless Chinese babble. I told Zhayi'er to go on ahead so he wouldn't have to suffer.
The following day, Sunday was the finish of the 'Sixth Stage' of the 'Tour de Qinghai' Bicycle race (a total of 1,400KM / 850 miles).
In the morning, XTRicha informed me Li Hui was coming to interview me. She, a woman reporter from the 'Qinghai Radio-TV Weekly.' I was surprised as I thought she wasn't interested (hadn't heard from her in weeks). Funny how things happen… If you're patient enough… Or, maybe the Earth has to transmigrate through the proper 'void' before the right 'energy.' Who knows, as I'd written this woman off, after our previous experience.
This day, however, she came and spent the entire morning discussing what XTRicha had written (answers to her questions about me). Then when no proper image could be located of me riding Ms. Fiets we went off to XiNing West Park to capture one. We spent almost an hour getting what she wanted, me waving 'Hi,' with the right building in the background.
After lunch we were supposed to go to the finish of the 'TdQH' Race together, but she disappeared after dropping XTRicha and Zhayi'er off. I was there waiting with my bicycle when they arrived.
When Zhayi'er, tried to get on the right side of the start-finish line to 'shoot,' he was asked to leave (without the proper credential). When we confronted the police they said I could go, so I took the camcorder and 'shot' the finish with XTRicha (he just bullied his way through the police). Poor Zhayi'er was relegated to watching Ms. Fiets.
Afterwards, XTRicha 'shot' the awards presentation while Zhayi'er and I watched beyond the fence.
A Qinghai TV reporter spied me and came over asking for an interview. However, when he determined I couldn't speak Chinese well enough they decided to make a story another way: They 'shot' me watching the proceedings, and then riding my bicycle.
By then a crowd had formed and I was asked to sign autographs. It's hard for me to describe the feeling of being made an ersatz celebrity (in China). I was surrounded and almost 'mobbed,' people just wanting to say 'hello,' and shake hands. It was if I was the winner of the race. I remember the reporter saying (he could speak a little English) that, 'These people really love you!' My only 'defense!' The more I'm loved (without reason) the more humble I become! It's a strange situation.
The crowd around me grew so large we were blocking traffic making the police angry. I tried to move but couldn't for people! Again, a strange feeling of almost 'panic' wanting to escape. The TV reporter tried to get me to reproduce, 'I love this Bicycle Race!' in Chinese, which I did, although not every well. Then it was to escape, and I pedaled home to peace and quiet.
August 20, 2007, the story was aired on the local Qinghai TV 10:00 O'Clock news! My five minutes of fame!
So, 'Every dog has his day! Mine, I guess, has come!
P.S. Regarding the 'TdQB Race'… I'm not exactly sure who's in the lead. The Discovery Team/U.S.A. ends up winning the stages, but I'm told Italy has the 'overall' (Yellow Jersey). I guess I won't know until Sunday and the conclusion of the Race!
Labels: My life in Xining, Qinghai Province, China