Taiwanese dis' China

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where else would you get a travel story in the politics section of a paper?

A rant with a soft centre?

This piece from Taiwan, which you can read at http://www.chinapost.com.tw/commentary/the-china-post/special-to-the-china-post/2009/02/09/195260/Liberty-is.htm in its entirety.

But here's the soft centre, from near Lijiang:

I reflected on some of this as I traveled up the winding stone path to Yufeng Monastery. The temple is more than 300 years old and home to monks who practice Tibetan Buddhism. I was at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain of Lijiang, Yunnan province, over 2,000 meters above sea level.

It was a clear, crisp morning. As I walked, there was a gentle breeze. The only sound came from whispering ancient pine trees clustered around the monastery.

But, as I approached the northern courtyard, I could hear the lone sound of someone sweeping. Upon arrival, to my right, an old man was hunched over by a stone wall. I took a quick glance around. We were alone. The old man looked up and flashed a gentle smile. He set the broom aside and ritually sat by a famous Camellia tree, also known as the "Ten-thousand flower Camellia."

I had met Nadu Lama, now 91 years old, the protector of the amazing tree. It is estimated that the tree is more than 500 years old, having been planted during the Ming Dynasty. In fact, there were originally two separate trees, but in time they grew into one. Amongst the Naxi ethnic minority, this great Camellia is a symbol of love. As a result of arranged marriages, young Naxi sometimes wanted to die for their true love. Couples would come to Yufeng Monastery to see the tree. It was believed to have the power to persuade lovers to value life and enjoy it in the real world.

I observed its twisted trunk, standing strong, winding its way up to a fantastic canopy of branches. Here, as many as 20,000 flowers blossom every year in brilliant hues of red and pink. Nadu and his fellow monks protected the tree during the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards wanted to destroy the tree, but Nadu protected it with his life. He and other monks kept it alive by carrying water to it in their teacups.

I sat with Nadu and tried to talk with him. It was difficult due to partial loss of his hearing. But through gestures, pointing, and smiles, we shared a moment of understanding - Nadu had indeed protected the tree and I respected him for it. Undoubtedly, as now, the monks' protection was not loud or boisterous but it was determined and from the heart.
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