Where the “tourists” go

Saturday was a day full of touring the sites of Jingzhou. I wouldn’t exactly call Jingzhou a “tourist town,” though there are a few things to see, and it is one of the few remaining cities with an ancient wall surrounding it (a wall that is 3,000 years old). There are certainly few enough foreign tourists to merit non-stop attention from the locals. Heads turn so constantly that we just begin to ignore it. We were the ones staring on Saturday, however. China is largely Buddhist, so most towns will have a Buddhist temple where people can come to burn incense for their deceased loved ones. This is very different from where I come from, but it holds so much information about the local people around us, so I wanted to see a part of what they experience and how they live. I wanted to be a tourist for a day.
We turned down a narrow side alley. People stared as we walked by, and some even stopped to watch us examine the shops that lined the alley. These shops sold fake money and little model houses to be burned within the temple and “sent” to deceased relatives. We tried to ignore our spectators. We were busy trying to be tourists, after all.
The temple was beautiful and unkempt all at the same time. (When internet allows, I’ll include photos.) The roofs towered over us in ornamental peaks of blue and red. A tall Gingko tree flashed yellow leaves and red tassels that had been thrown into the trees for reasons I don’t know. I watched a man sling his weighted red ribbon into the tree and I wondered what this meant.
When the chanting songs began, I turned my attention to the main temple. There was something eerie about the song or perhaps about my complete lack of knowledge for what was going on. People tend to fear what they don’t understand, after all. I stayed outside of the doors and watched as people donned brown cloaks over their street clothes and took their place in a line of chanters. They faced a statue as they sang to the beat of a drum. The statue was not Buddha. Perhaps it was supposed to be a local god? I did not know. I stayed as a just spectator, and left when my head was too full of things I didn’t understand.

I thought of my Amish family back home and the spectators who come to see what their lives look like. I thought of their slow and chant-like songs and the warm, nostalgic connotations that come with them. I remember listening in awe as my relatives sang their chants within the dusty room of an old barn.

People are created as fascinating and beautiful beings, that much I know.

I also had the pleasure of going to a local friend’s house for a different kind of experience. She shared her house and also shared delicious Jingzhou food, much of which she and her husband cooked. There were noodles that our host called “bean-cake” made from green beans. There were round, thin, dough wrappings into which we put duck meat and shredded onions. There was boiled lotus and sweet, potato dumplings. The fellowship was beautiful and our host was flawlessly humble the whole evening.

There is so much more to add, but that will all come.


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