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Chinese Gods

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I was a bit reluctant to read “Chinese Gods”.  I never had much of a taste for the mystical, and the rows of whiskered statues staring in the temples fail to arouse in me more than a cautious curiosity. But when I received the latest publications of Blacksmith, the promise of a book that “makes sense” of China’s religions caught my eye, and I thought perhaps this was my chance to jump into it and cover a gap in my education.

You might be familiar by now with Blacksmith books of Hong Kong -  the same Blacksmith that did the Asian edition of Apologies and other gems like King Hui and Business Republic. I am, and I have come to expect good surprises from them;  many things can be said of their books, but surely not “hackneyed” or “banal”. Pete Spurrier, the man behind the company, is not afraid to go with first-time authors, and he seems to have a knack to find intriguing writers with original points of view. Jonathan Chamberlain is perhaps his best find.

Indeed, in terms of surprises, this book delivers from the preface.  First, you discover it was actually written and self-published by Chamberlain 30 years ago, inspired by a series of painted glass figures he collected from local markets. It goes on to describe an unusual interview in Bangkok with British mystical writer John Blofeld, a reference in Asian religions, who agreed to give the book a prologue in articulo mortis. And then suddenly, before you realize it, you are swimming in the thick soup of China’s beliefs, following the author in his daring quest to make sense of  all the Gods. Click to continue »

Fujian in just 5 Words

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Here is the illustrated report of our Fujian trip. Today I present some clear symptoms of blogorrhea after my 5 day internet abstinence. So we’ll try to keep it ruly and live up to my Bull Year’s resolutions. I am applying the special astringent potion: Max 5 words per picture. The rest in your imagination: 一切尽在不言中.

Every village had a church

热闹 means Hot and Noisy!

The temples were 热闹

The faithful like burning stuff

The mosque was less 热闹

Love Church was not 热闹

Beach of the Grande Jatte

No! Muslims don’t eat porc

We met an electric fisherman

Administration + Participation = Administpation

Hate those noisy cracker vandals

Shooting and Bumpers: Safety first

Ming Walled Chongwu is Magnetic

Let’s get chicken at EFC’s!

No! my chicken at CBC’s!

Ah, finally: it’s a KFC’s!

Macdonalds + Kentucky’s = Mac-Ken-Ji’s !!

Mac-Ken-Ji’s: Children’s playground, Grandpa’s shrine

Fairy houses made of seashells

发展 wave engulfs the past

Model Street Award: Zero Imitations


My polos always at Coddle’s

Model Workers Instruction: Model Street

Yes, you can

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Last weekend, as I was browsing the net for some material to get over my post electoral withdrawal, I came across this iconic Obama.

I didn’t know exactly what it was, but something in it looked very familiar. Very Chinese. I saved it in my Obama bookmarks, and didn’t think of it again until Sunday evening.

That was the evening when I went to the barber’s to have my hair uncut.

I like the barber down the road, I’ve been going there every month since I came to Shanghai, and by now he knows exactly what I like. This is a great advantage, because I am always at a loss when giving instructions to a Chinese hairdresser. I feel even more embarrassed when they proceed to show me pictures of men supermodels, and rather optimistically ask me to point at one of them.

But Wu Shifu will do none of that. He is a no nonsense professional, and he delivers 20 kuai worth of real styling value. A true perfectionist, he takes care of every detail and will not give up until every single hair is at the right lenght.  Every now and then he stops cutting and reaches for the little mirror with which he shows me around my own head, asking eagerly if all sides are well shaped, and secretly hoping that I will request some virtuoso manoeuvre, perhaps a re-balancing of my temples.

Like usual, last Sunday the man was doing a great job. When it was almost finished and he came up with the little mirror for the 5th time, I thought I might as well give him some little bit of satisfaction for the trouble. And, since we are at it, why not test him for Chinese characteristics.

- Is it OK this side? And here? And the top?

- Um, no, no. Too short over the top, I will have it a bit longer this time.

- Uh, er… longer what, here?

- Yes, please, can you do that?

- Yes we can!-  Snap, snap, snap.

And there he goes snapping away with his scissors, cutting the air close to my head in his efficient fashion, and probably thinking that if he goes on for long enough, my hair will have actually grown longer by the time he is done with it. After 5 minutes of cutting the air thin, while I watched the ultra boring Shenhua-Tianjin  on his TV, I decided that my hair was long enough already, and informed him thus.

- Thank you, master Wu, it looks much better now.

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