HENAN AND XIAN CULTURAL TOUR DAY 2
Early Confederacy Dynasty began with Xia (470 BC) in Xian (later Qin Imperial Dynasty (206 BC); then Shang (571 BC) and Zhou (256 BC) in Henan – all in the alluvial Central Plains of China, along the Yellow River. Kaifeng was once the capital city of seven (Song, Guan, Ming Qing) ancient dynasties; the old cities were buried by each successive flood cause by the Mother River. Until 1954, it was still the capital of Henan (now Zhengzhou), and currently had a population of five million people. As wars and battles were fought, the empire expanded to its maximum geological size in late Qing Dynasty, and reduced in size during the long civil wars and foreign invasion. China has a population of 1.4 billion, with 56 ethnicities, 93% are Hans (the northern and southern Hans have slight variation in genetic make-up, depending on paternal or maternal linkages.) Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of china, unified the country and instituted a common language and administration, and, most importantly, a common Han identity. The word, China, was a Pali/Sanskrit misquotation of Qin Dynasty, and was also related to the porcelain old Silk Road trade. China or Zhongguo (literally meaning Middle Kingdom) implied Middle Path (Zhongyong) of Confucianism, rather than a mischievous geopolitical interpretation by the West.
Lunch was priced at RMB 60 each, RMB 10 more than last dinner; it was a satiating and satisfying meal for all. (The average Travel agency paid only RMB 40 each). With our energy regained, we continued our journey to Bao Gong Temple, in memory of historical figure of Baozheng, an upright prefect of Song Dynasty. The movie series increased his popularity, but was distorted and sensationalised to increase his image. The tour has helped to clarify differences between creative fiction and historical facts. The same distortion occurred in the movie about the Three Kingdoms.
We then visited the Iron Pagoda of Youguo Temple, named because the colour of the dark porcelain appeared similar to iron. It was built in 1049, and stood its ground despite earthquake and Japanese bombing. The day’s tour ended with a visit to the Millennium Song City, and Qingming Lake Garden, a theme park built from a painting by Song’s artist on a one to one scale. I saw that painting when it was exhibited in Singapore.
The best part of the Pao was the soup within; nipped off the central pout, in a spoon or bowl; add vinegar and ginger, sucked or swallowed as whole.
Baozheng was never blacked face as portrayed in the movie, no birth mark in mid forehead. The beheading of criminals was movie sensation. Events in different historical periods by different characters were combined into one. During Song Dynasty, the judiciary and punitive functions were separate; he was rarely a magistrate. During Song Dynasty, boats were very advanced, Compared with Columbus, and even then, they defeated the Spanish.
As we entered the city gate, we passed this blank looking “beggar”. I stopped and asked him, “Zhang Lao, where are your pockets?” (The torn pockets wore by beggar-gang indicated rank; he had none). He gave a blank comic look. I asked whether he knew the 18 Dragon Suppression Marshall Fist. He played around with his beggar sticks. I demonstrated the First Fist to him; he hit the ground 18 times. I gave him RMB 1; he accepted. Later in the evening, I saw his face in local TV. He was a popular national comedian. Later we encountered a poet; on the scene composing a poem, using payee’s name in Chinese. I like his spontaneity and creativity, and paid him RMB 60 for his poetry, calligraphy and frame. I could not perform better than him.