Chinese Religions

Trip Start Aug 05, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of China  , Zhejiang Sheng,
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Been working all week and since all the fall activities and sporting events are over,  ZTSU is now back on schedule.   It is now time to get to know the students better.   I didn't see any students until late September due to the fact that all Freshmen are doing Army training at that time. All my students are Freshmen.    But after nearly 5 class meetings with each class (I only see them one day per week for 90 minutes),  I am starting to get to know who the serious students are.  Many of the non-serious English students are excellent Math or Science students,  but understandably care little about English.   I really don't blame them, but knowing English does give them an edge for employment opportunities.   For the foreseeable future I will be on a regular schedule which gives me plenty of time to do extracurricular work such as "English Corner",  where I can meet other academic classes of students, most who crave English and want to learn as much as possible.   There is a trade off:   I need more activities to fill my free time,  so we are going on a bike ride up the Qaintang River levee,  and see more villages and unexplored territory.   Plus I scheduled a "Mah Jong" training seminar for next week, so students can teach me to play the game of Mah jong and get to have free conversational experience with an American for free.   This is all voluntary on my part but I do have a lot of free time,  and I do like to have company every now and then.   


Today at English Corner we met in the great park on the north side of our campus and discussed issues like "online shopping" and "Steve Jobs" (a Buddhist),   many of these students were quite informed.  Somehow the convo got steered to the subject of "Religion" and I admitted that I was most comfortable and in agreement with the Buddhist faith.   Most of them were atheists but a few Buddhists understood my side of the picture.   When asked If I believed in a supreme being I told them that yes,  but the being isn't an old man in the sky,  but more like "the force" in the Star Wars movies... the "force of creation",  and that it was natural as the plants coming alive during the springtime.  I have always believed in the Hindu/Buddhist concept of "Reincarnation",  I used to ponder this back when I was a little child.   I also let them know that it doesn't matter to me what others believe,  and that eventually, though successive life-times,  that they will figure things out and achieve "Nirvana" (heaven) one day.  The Hindu/Buddhists believe that one must experience many lives and perfect themselves before they can achieve "Nirvana".   I completely agree with this,  and I realize I have many life times to go.


   Then we discussed Christianity and most Chinese were sick of the salesman like practices that the Christians often employ in order to convert people.   I did take up for the religion stating that the teachings of Christ are much like those of the Buddha,  but no one seemed to care.  My main student aide said that she just believes in "the party" so the convo got steered to the Communist Party of China.  Turns out that 30 percent (more or less) of my students are members of the "party".   All I could understand about joining "The Party" is that they invite the brighter students and Party member get to vote.  I'm sure some of the members have other duties as well.    As usual I do not have an opinion about things like that,  especially since I see how fast the "Party" here can get things done. Our two "parties" in the states are stymied at every decision they attempt to make.   I don't understand politics but I do feel quite free here.   Glad "The Party" manages to censor pornography, nasty tv shows,  recordings talking about pimps, hoes,  and killing cops..   China is wise not to let their children's minds go into the gutter.   Did I mention that cops here don't harrass honest people,  nor do they carry any weapons?    China is a very free country  compared to the Western world.   I won't proclaim it as "more free" or "less free",  but I do feel very safe here.   I no longer have to sleep within reach of a loaded gun as I often did back in Texas.   


Returned home after a late lunch with friends (dumplings...starting to crave them),  then hit the fruit stand for another sugar cane and some tangerines.   I love hitting the fruit stand on my way home instead of having to go to a giant grocery store with pretty but old fruit back in the states. The fruit in China is the bomb!   And no you can't buy stuff which is out of season so you pick your fruit with the seasons.  Fortunately southern China has citrus all year round,  but the cane season will end at some point.  


  I finally went home with my loot and did over an hours worth of music practice on the guitar and saxophone. I try to keep the music down and before 9 PM.  The sax playing is really improving.  I want to practice more but until I can soundproof the practice room or find a place to play,  I try to keep the practice down to 8 or 9 songs.

Got plenty of sleep then hit my "Hell day" (also known as Thursday),   I got up at 6:30 hit the school by 8:00 with a good cuppa java from the Casa in my hand,  and was ready to take on the day.   First class was uninspiring,  no one would participate unless I called on them.   Most understand little English since they are electronic majors,  many were half asleep.  All were well-behaved.   I doubt more than 5 in this class will make an "A" since most are clearly going through the motions.   They can't drop the class since they are Freshmen and Freshman don't have the power to drop classes.   Half of them really should.   I do like the people,  just that they aren't interested in English,  I bet many are electronics wizards!    Second class at 10:00 AM were English Majors and could understand me completely.   I am here to improve their speech and I think I am doing this effectively.   95 percent of this class will make "A"s.. They are very motivated.   Then I have 4 hours to kill before my class at 3:15  (most teachers hate this type of gap,  but as I said many times,  I like the snooze time after lunch).   Had lunch with Steve and one of his students,  nice conversations as usual.   Got home around 1 PM and slept till 2:30,  then headed back to school.  "Hell Day",  is a very nice time really.   "Hell Day part 2" is on Friday when I have to ride in a car for nearly an hour,  teach 3 hours of class,  then ride another hour back.   I am home by 1 PM and my three day weekend will begin!!!   Life is good here.

Returned from the XiCheng Campus and headed to my new favorite restaurant which specializes in steamed dumplings (饺子) which I remember the word (Jiaozi) to place the order.  No more pointing to the pictures like a dumbass!   of course I also need to know the word for fried, steamed,  and floating in liquid.   This restaurant makes excellent steamed dumplings which I prefer.   I plan to learn a few new words per week from now on,  it is totally worth it.  But I am old and forgetful and things don't stick.   I can't believe the word for "dumplings" came out on it's own,  hopefully I will learn more Chinese through osmosis because when I study it, nothing really sticks.   I do know the hand signals from one to ten,  but I can't really say many of the numbers.   For some reason the Chinese use hand gestures for numbers,  which is very intriguing to me.  I thing that knowing the word is a break through and I am going to employ different methods in order to learn a few words each week.  Up till now,  I have focused on pronunciation of geographical place like "Qaintang River" is pronounced "Chien-tong".   I think I will start up formal Chinese lessons next semester once I'm fully settled in.   I also want to learn a bit of writing.  I did learn to write my first name in Chinese:艾伦
 Which is  "Ai Lun" and I am beginning to use it as my signature.   

We discussed the death penalty all week in my classes,  with the students giving the positives and negatives of the subject.   Most of the students agreed that the death penalty prevents a criminal from having a chance to redeem Him/herself.   The students are strong believers in redemption and turning the other cheek.   Most of atheists but are strong believers in the values that many of our right-wing religious nuts have forgotten.   The concepts of "redemption" and "turning the other cheek" must be Confucianist because China is not influenced by Christianity very much.  

  The Chinese seem to adhere to Confucianist ideas more than other philosophies and have many temples dedicated to him.   I met a Chinese Scholar yesterday who is proud of having Confucius as an ancestor like 78 generations back or something.  I like Confucianism and agree with much of it,  but Taoism is easier to understand.   Taoism is pure mystic observation,  whereas Confucianism,  is more concerned with wise conduct and social interaction (never been a strong suit for me) .  The good part is that the book of Tao can be read in 2 hours,   and will blow ones mind with it's brilliant observations about life.   Its very easy to read:

Here is an example of one of my favorite Taoist writings: 

Better to stop short than fill to the 
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge 
will soon blunt. 
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no 
one can protect it. 
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster 
will follow. 
Retire when the work is done. 
This is the way of heaven

Taoism and Confucianism are  philosophies as Buddhism is supposed to be.  What makes these schools of philosophy "religions" is that the ignorant need to have some one to pray to.  Buddha addressed this problem when he was alive and admonished the people who carved images of him and prayed to them. He told them he was just a man near his last life time.   Lao Tzu didn't have this problem since he was personally sick of the wickedness of his society.   He headed out west and a gate keeper (of one of the western forts of the great wall???? I think.) implored him to write his ideas down,  so he wrote the Tao Te Ching in a very short time, before disappearing into the deserts of Western China,  never to be seen again.   

I have also read the "I-Ching" which is an ancient fortune telling book,  but delves deep into ancient Chinese wisdom and thought. I have used it much in the past mainly to decide what course of action was the wisest in each situation I would encounter.  Jung was fascinated by how many times the book would totally answer his fortune.   I notice this as well,  but I have to take it all with a grain of salt.  Jung creates an entire theory of bullshit in order to explain this phenomena I refuse to do this.      Confucius himself wrote his take on each of the 64 hexagrams,  which were ancient history when he first read them over 2500 years ago.  The wisdom in that book makes perfect sense to me--it has always been crystal clear. 

   I have always thought in terms of Chinese philosophies and treated day to day situations which these ideas in the background of most of the decisions that I have made.  I studied all this during my college years,  and I remember it like it was yesterday.  Each of the 64 hexigrams in the I-Ching are worth reading,  because they describe the different states of one's universe... There is a proper time for everything.   I understand the Chinese far better than I understand my fellow countrymen.    Living here is like coming home to the familiar... 

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JoAnne on

I like the Taoism wisdom: "Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt."
I need to remember this advice and not over-train for my upcoming San Antonio
marathon. I think I'm borderline right now as my left ankle hurt this morning.

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