One Morning in Changchun

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The sun is barely awake when people in Changchun, China welcome the day by gathering in Culture Square, (also known as Changchun Cultural Square).  The clock has barely struck seven o’clock, and this large city park is already bursting with life and color.

Soothing music plays from a corner near the park entrance, where a small group engages in the ancient practice of Tai Chi. Both physically demanding and soul-quieting, this martial art is a common sight across China. Wearing t-shirts and track pants, the group transitions from one form to the next in total unison.

Tai Chi in Culture Square, Changchun, China, c.b.w.

Across the grass, soccer teams occupy several fields where drills and games send black and white balls flying in all directions.  Several basketball courts flank the fields, all of which are filled with dueling players.  Up in the sky, dozens of brightly colored kites dart and spin.  Laughing children hold tightly to strings with the same enthusiasm as the adults behind them.

Kite Flying in Culture Square, Changchun, China, c.b.w.

Wide sidewalks hold a steady stream of walkers plugged into headphones or chatting away with a friend.  Some groups of walkers like to make things interesting by walking backwards! They never look back, always trusting their path and believing people will move out of the way.  Yet, a third group of walkers, hold their arms above their heads or straight out to the side.  Sometimes they take it step further by rotating each arm in small circular motions.  Either way, it’s best to get out of the way when you see one coming!

The backdrop to all of this activity is quite striking.  An enormous television screen broadcasts the morning news just loud enough to be heard without being obnoxious.  Bright flower gardens surround elegant stone sculptures, while the Sun Bird Monument towers high above everything.

  

Sun Bird Monument, Culture Square, Changchun, China, c.b.w

A large fountain sits near the center at the base of the Sun Bird Monument.  It’s here that I meet a man who spends his mornings practicing calligraphy on the sidewalk.  In his hand, he holds a long stick with a wet sponge attached to the end.  He dips the sponge in the fountain water and then “paints” graceful Chinese characters on the pavement.  His artwork remains visible for only a few minutes, but each is a masterpiece.

The Calligrapher-Poet, Culture Square, Changchun, China, c.b.w.

He calls himself a “calligrapher-poet” and passes on a bit of wisdom that has remained with me, even years later.  In a low voice tinged with kindness he tells me, “The foundation of writing is art.” Whether it be in reference to flowing strokes or storytelling, this man knows a beautiful secret and I am honored he shared it with me.

That wise calligrapher, with his curious and open-minded nature gave yet another gift.  He reached out to a perfect stranger and embraced me as a friend before he even knew my name.  The same can be said of a little girl on roller skates.  She came right up to me and smiled with her wishes for peace. I’ve never experienced a more beautiful morning.

All Smiles in Culture Square, Changchun, China, c.b.w.

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c.b. 2012

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31 thoughts on “One Morning in Changchun

  1. So true, campfireshadows.

    What a wonderful memory of such a perfect moment in your past, C.B. The picture of that young girl is priceless and the calligraphy-poet imparted a universal truth. “The foundation of writing is art.” I love that! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    • It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of China and I’m starting to remember so many stories and people that deeply effected me. I’ll be sharing more as there are so many stories and pictures from a trip that took me all over the country.

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    • Thanks! 🙂

      I’m planning on sharing more. I was in China for three weeks, which means there are loads of memories and stories hiding in my journals. Plus, I can’t wait to share more pictures – I have a lot of them!

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    • The best experiences are the ones you never see coming. Who knew I’d meet a water calligrapher? China holds so many more memories and each one is so special – I can’t wait to share more of them.

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  2. This is absolutely breathtaking! What a fabulous trip, I love it!! Keep sharing your wonderful journeys, you are so blessed to have gone so many places and I am entranced by your stories of what you find at each place. Keep sharing so we can all travel beside you and share in your memories. My only China trip was to the Cultural Center!

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    • Thank you. 🙂

      I’ve only started to write about it. Every trip I take effects me in different ways and China impacted me greatly. I went seven years ago, but have only recently begun to open up about it. 🙂

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    • One thing I’ve realized through travel is that the people of a nation are quite different from their government. My experiences in China were overwhelmingly positive when interacting with people, but I did feel the oppressive nature of the government at every corner. It’s an odd contradiction that I have yet to piece together.

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      • If I had time I would write a book about people vs government. I would start with myself and my complicity in the political and economical system here in Britain, and work outwards from there…

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