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China, humour

China 10: Buddha on the bus

Copyright Elaine Canham 2015

Copyright Elaine Canham 2015

Continuing my 1985 diary of a trip to China: here we have tea with a monk

Today we caught a bus to Chang’an and then another one to Xiang Ji to see a Tang monastery.

The bus ride was fun. The old man standing next to me was amazed by our height and yellow hair. This was all translated by a diffident lad who had studied English for three years at night school. Elspeth was informed that she had yellow eyes.

‘I do not!’ she said indignantly, in Chinese. Much to the amusement of the rest of the bus.

We got off the bus in a hamlet. You could just see the monastery pagoda far away in the distance. We started walking towards it.

“Hey! Hey!” A whole horde of Chinese peasants were coming after us. We waited for them to catch up.

They gathered closely round us, feeling our clothes and talking about our hair. They wanted to know where we came from, and how old we were. Nothing sinister, just typical noisy Chinese curiosity.

“Where are you going?’

“To the monastery.”

“It’s over there.”

“Yes, we know that.”

“We’ll draw you a map.”

So we waited patiently while the man who seemed to be the leader, looked carefully through our Berlitz phrase book, and breathing heavily, drew two parallel lines on the fly-leaf. ‘Just go up here,’ he said, tapping the lines helpfully. ‘Turn right, and there it is.’

We walked off and they stood and watched us for a while, waving cheerfully if we turned round.

The monastery was built in 706AD and was beautifully peaceful. The garden all around it was lovingly tended. The entrance was a circular hole in the wall, just like you see in the movies. And the monk who let us in looked as if he’d walked straight out of the American Kung Fu TV series. There was an enormous Buddha in the main hall with great swathes of material hanging from the ceiling and a couple of the monks’ bikes parked in the corner.

As we were leaving an old monk with a seamed face asked us in to tea. He smiled and nodded at us as he pottered about getting the tea things, warming our cups and then pouring out the hot, clear, tea. Conversation itself was severely limited, on account of the fact that neither party could understand what the other was on about. Still, it was very soothing.

Went back to the hamlet and waited for an age for the bus back. But it was worth it. Two kids were playing marbles. The local mechanic had his shop behind us and was busy mending a bike and when the villagers spotted Elspeth’s camera they all came out and demanded to have their pictures taken. But it was getting colder and colder and we were glad when the bus came.

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


11 thoughts on “China 10: Buddha on the bus

  1. I am soooooooo rottenly jealous of this trip you took. I really didn’t travel during my college years, although there was more than enough opportunity. NYU did exchanges with Cambridge, somewhere or another in Australia, and somewhere or another in Germany, just to name a few, you know, specifically. Unfortunately college and the immediate years afterwards left me with a severe case of CRS.
    Anyways, I believe where I was going with this comment was:
    I wanna have tea with a monk.

    Posted by naptimethoughts | February 24, 2015, 4:18 pm
    • CRS? Yes, we liked having tea with him. He was just such a nice old cove. Frustrating not to be able to talk to him properly, but it was good to feel we were paying our respects.

      Posted by elainecanham | February 24, 2015, 6:28 pm
  2. When I went end of last March, we Canadians were in tee shirts and shorts and the locals wore quilted coats. We thought that odd: everyone bundled up when we found the weather pleasant. As well, young people wanted their pictures taken with us. So that hasn’t gone out of style. 🙂

    Posted by Let's CUT the Crap! | February 23, 2015, 5:56 pm
  3. I love this. Tourists viewing the local curiosities are in fact the local curiosities. Mind you, as we haven’t yet met in person, I probably shouldn’t comment. It’s quite possible that if you were in Dublin, I might feel the need to circle you in fascination, peering at your strange hair colour and pressing you with unsolicited advice. Do you get it much at home?

    Posted by Tara Sparling | February 23, 2015, 3:39 pm
    • Ha ha! So long as you don’t want to keep saying hello to me over and over again, Tara, you can give me as much advice as you like. (Not sure about you feeling my hair, though. (Although, if you really felt you had to, in the interests of cross-cultural understanding, I might make an exception…)
      I met a granny scientist later on, who kept feeling my trousers and asking why I wasn’t cold. I didn’t know whether she was being kindly or scientific.

      Posted by elainecanham | February 23, 2015, 4:48 pm
    • Perhaps she expected you to have some sort of superthermal chemical in your skin. You know, like Superman. All westerners do, you know.

      Posted by Tara Sparling | February 23, 2015, 7:51 pm
    • All us westerners, as far as the Chinese were concerned, were utterly weird, clumsily big and not very bright. But annoyingly fascinating.

      Posted by elainecanham | February 23, 2015, 7:59 pm
  4. thank you for sharing this, it took me to an unknown place

    Posted by Luke Otley | February 23, 2015, 11:21 am

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