And on Tuesday I came to the realization that my biggest “R” is Remember.
Because the actions that our ancestors took directly led to our choices, and therefore, for better or worse, we’re invited to reconcile themselves with ourselves. In order to do that, I think we’re supposed to remember to perceive people as they were and are, remember their singular goodness as well as their bad. We’re taught to remember that we are not them even though they are, by nature, part of us.
But we could also remember that in the beginning there was only what was and eventually we wilt as much as climates change, our words are written down but then lost in time, and the gardens we tended for years on this Earth — both young and old like seasons — flourish and decompose and soon afterward only mushrooms and iridescent varieties of fungus remain.
what will be depends on how we choose to manifest our Remembering through our thoughts, words, and deeds. I want to honor our human capacity to Remember by just trying hard and giving my damnedest attempt to make the people who inexplicably love me proud. In memoriam, I’m going to keep hoping that my neighbors feel contented and well.
‘I had once been bidden, “Stand! Endure! Remember!” and that was what I determined to do.’
You tell me then that I must perish
like the flowers that I cherish.
Nothing remaining of my name,
nothing remembered of my fame?
But the gardens I planted still are young—
the songs I sang will still be sung!
HUEXOTZIN, Prince of Texcóco, ca. 1484
Suzhou is silk, gardens, and Green Snail Spring.
That is: Biluochun (碧螺春//bi4luo2chun1), which is yet another of China’s most famous teas. It’s so named because it’s a green tea, rolled into a spiral resembling snail meat, and harvested in early spring. This tea has a very light, sweet flavor with a delicate floral aftertaste. Many experts rank this tea just as highly as Hangzhou’s Longjing.¹
Suzhou is also renowned for fine silks and embroidery. The Suzhou-style (苏绣//Su1xiu4) has a history of over 2000 years and is noted for its pastel coloration and masterful depiction of environment scenes like flowers, birds, animals, and gardens.² The tiles were taken at a small gallery showcasing the silk embroidery.
The classical gardens of Suzhou are a UNESCO World Heritage site and flooded with tourists at all times. These gardens, built during the Northern Song Dynasty until the late Qing Dynasty (11th-19th century), have nearly a thousand years’ history. Mostly built by wealthy scholars, they mimic in microcosm natural scenes of mountains, hills, rivers, and forests.
Arguably the best and most prominent of the city’s classical gardens is the Humble Administrator’s Garden, which seamlessly melds natural scenes (eg. plots of flowers or trees) with human architecture (pagodas and stained glass windows). Once you’ve been here, all other gardens pale in comparison, really.
However, you won’t be able to enjoy the crafted beauty in peace or solitude — consider yourself extremely lucky if you can manage to take a photo of the scenery without masses of tourists in the shot. (They’ll also make sure to promptly point out in Chinese that you are, in fact, a laowai). The photos below I took while finding respite in the behind-the-scenes bonsai potting area.
Shanghai’s even got a TIME MACHINE.
It’s located specifically in one of Shanghai’s copious satellite towns: Nanxiang (南翔). Here, in this otherwise sleepy suburb, you’ll travel through time and space to the birthplace of xiaolongbao (also known as God’s gift to man). Here, where they celebrate the myriad genius of our ancestors by cooking dumplings in a bamboo steamer, you’ll be transported to the China of story.
Continue reading “Fly South to Nanxiang”