Happy National Day! (国庆节,guo qing jie)  It’s essentially Chinese “Independence Day”, we’ll get to those quotes in a sec.  As a result we have no classes Monday, which is wonderful because that’s one of my two heaviest days, and our roommates are off for the entire week.  The other abroad students are off for the week as well, but CET preferred to put a fall break directly following midterms as opposed to right now, which I appreciate muchly actually.  Taking the time to attempt to find a place to live come December which is not going overly well, but that’s why I’m getting started now, and may even hire an agent.  Also studying for the GRE, homework’s done thankfully.

Speaking of which, I had a lovely morning yesterday (on actual National Day) reading poetry with tea on the couch in the lounge.  I think I’ve hit a turning point on this poetry class, finally got the hang of it and can actually enjoy putting work into it.

Here’s one of the pieces by Li Bai who I’ve shared before, China’s most prolific alcoholic poet, called 把酒问月 (ba jiu wen yue, ba jiou wun yue, lit. Holding Wine and Asking the Moon)

但见宵从海上来,宁知晓向云间没 。
When will Moon come to grace the Spring sky? I set down my cup to ask.
One cannot climb to the moon, and yet it follows us in our every step.
Bright like a mirror over red pavilions,  its silver shines as emerald mist clears.
At night it comes over the sea, who knows as it vanishes in to the clouds at dawn?
The rabbit makes medicine from Fall to Spring, Chang’E perches lonely with no one near.*
Today’s people see not the moon of old, yet today’s moon shone on those who came before.
If one of them were to live today, we would both see the moon same as always.
I just want to sing and drink, moonlight fills my golden cup.

Li Bai was an interesting guy.  He was actually Kazakh ethnically, most people think, but he lived in Tang China.  Spend his first 40-ish years roaming the whole empire as a sellsword, living with Daoists, writing poetry, and drinking.  One of his poems got him recommended to the emperor, and he enjoyed three years in the capital.  He was little more than a wall decoration though, and fed up he left to wander again.  A brief stint in jail resulted in him falling on hard times and he eventually passed away from sickness.  Thankfully, his uncle preserved his poems, and now he’s probably the face of Chinese poetry.

Related to both the above topic, I had the fun realization that practically every medium of art you can think of uses some sort of raw material.  With poetry, that material is language, which can be as malleable, inventive, and beautiful as you can make it.  Others have made the analogy before I’m sure, but I might work it into my writing some day.  And if not I think it’s a cool concept to keep in mind.

So National Day, October 1st, is the anniversary of Beijing’s “liberation” in 1949, the end of the Chinese Civil War, and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (which actually happened on September 21st a week and a half prior.  I use the quotes because only on the mainland is it referred to as “liberation”, the Taiwanese obviously say something else, but I’m not sure what it is.  Just goes to show how political language can be on occasion.

Chinese flags pop up everywhere in the weeks leading up to it, the government has a ceremony in Beijing, and everyone’s in a good patriotic mood.  Ironically, as with Labor Day in America, the service industry folks are generally denied a day off :(.  That’s about all that’s going on, we’ll be ramping up to midterms soon and the program will be already half over (holy shit) but feeling better about the start to Fulbright now.

We also celebrated by going out for Russian food (so patriotic, don’t’cha think?) on Central Street.  The restaurant was Hua Mei, fairly well know and cool location.  Great interior too.  The food was passable/enjoyable, no idea as to how authentic or not.  Had some fish, stewed lamb (which was really good, actually drew all the flavor out of the meat), and bread.  First time I’ve eaten a meal in five weeks that was automatically set with forks and knives.  Weird feeling that.  Anyway, pictures.


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