Old place, new trip

Seems like I’ll be posting every other day on this break. I realize that I put a phrase in the last post, 旧地重游.  It literally means old ground, travel again, and refers to a return trip to

Yesterday was yet another site I’ve been to before, 都江堰 Dujiangyan.  It’s an engineering project originally built over 2,200 years ago as a means of preventing the annual flooding of the Min River.  King Zhao of Qin, a predecessor to Qin Shi Huang who first unified China (again, the terra cotta warrior guy), tasked Li Bing, the governor of Sichuan, to deal with the issue.  He could have dammed the river, but he also had to keep the river open for troop movement, which a dam would obviously prevent.  He figured that he could do this by cutting a side channel through the adjacent mountain to divert the flow and create an irrigation system for the Sichuan plain.  Unfortunately for Li Bing, gunpowder had yet to be invented.  He devised the ingenious solution of heating and cooling the rocks until they cracked and could be removed by hand.  The rocks were then placed into wicker baskets held up with wooden frames to form the walls that would divert the water.  What’s coolest about it is that it’s still in use.  Of course there’ve been massive renovations over the years, including the addition of a water power plant, but some of the original technology is still in use.  Altogether, it irrigates over 33 counties in Sichuan province, and was critical in giving ancient Sichuan the agricultural infrastructure it needed to become the regional power it did.

I realize that I put a phrase in the last post, 旧地重游.  It literally means old ground, travel again, and refers to a return trip to a place you’ve been.  Oddly enough, I didn’t feel like this time at Dujiangyan was 旧地重游.

Two things stood out for me this time as well.  Our tour guide was kind enough to point out a statue of Ding Baozhen (seen below).  Who believe it or not is the inventor of kung pao chicken.  More precisely, he invented 宫保鸡丁 (gong bao ji ding) which inspired the kung pao chicken dish all you Americans out there are familiar with.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s diced chicken stir-fried in a thick spicy sauce with peanuts, peppers, and celery.  Local specialty, delicious, often imitated, rarely reproduced.  He was also a great minister, hence the statue, inventing a dish doesn’t usually get you a statue on its own.  I’m also always interested to see what other language are provided on tourist locations (other than English, there’s always English because Americans are lazy).  In China you’re likely to see Japanese, Korean if you’re lucky.  What struck me as odd is that Dujiangyan has German on all its signs, no idea why, but it was cool.

Today is a day we got to plan ourselves.  A lot of my classmates are currently at the Leshan (mount happiness) giant Buddha, which I’ve attached pictures of from the time I went in 2014.  It’s pretty impressive.  Those of use who have been ( a surprising amount) are chilling.  I’m taking the time to write this blog, run, do some yoga, then in the afternoon go get a massage and play ma jiang (mah jong) at one of these Chengdu tea houses I’ve heard so much about.

End of the day:  So I did indeed go to one of those tea houses we’ve heard so much about.  I absolutely love them.  50 kuai, about $8-9 American gets you and three friends four hours of ma jiang (mah jong) in a private room with tea. I only had two friends to split the cost with, but it was still wonderfully fun.  We only had the stamina to play for a bout three and a half hours, read for the last 30 minutes, wonderfully fun.  I won’t go into the rules of ma jiang, but it’s a bit like playing gin with dominoes.  And having a machine that shuffles the pieces and racks them for is magical (four little pieces of the table slide away, the assembled pieces rise up and then when you’re done you just push them into a hole in the middle of the table to get reshuffled.  Just like magic.  Topped it off with some delicious street food, one of my favorite things about China, and then off to Jiuzhaigou tomorrow.  Have a great day!

hen I went in 2014 the weather was pure and blue, compared to yesterday when it was cloudy and rainy.   Different scenery, still gorgeous. I’ve said before, Sichuan is what China should be in my eyes.  Misty mountains, lush green trees dripping with dew, a mystical setting worthy of Lord of the Rings. It’s now home to some Daoist temples as well that complete the picture perfectly.

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