Cultural Connections

Musings about my experiences, art, and life in Mongolia and beyond.

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Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Beijing In July

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!"
- Mark Twain

Beijing - Noon time, July 16, 2007

I’m sitting on an ancient stone slab bench, under an ancient cypress tree, in the ancient stone courtyard of the Confucius Temple, on the grounds of the Imperial College, built by the Grandson of the great Khublai Khan. I've just realized, it's been 25 years since I entered Indiana University to begin my own scholarly studies in Art, Archaeology and Central Asian History. Across from me, in front of the Confucian Temple, is an ancient, living Cyprus tree that is rumoured to be at least 700 years old! Imagine the history it has seen.

It's nearly one year before the Olympic Games in Beijing and everything is under construction and being refurbished for the “Grand Show” - for all the world to see!
Outside the Imperial College “campus”, down the old
narrow street lined with Buddhist souvenir shops
and the walls of an old Hutong, I discovered an 18th century courtyard house. It has been converted into a lovely teahouse – Yisheng Teahouse. There’s nothing like this in Mongolia, much less the U.S. I wish I could take this place with me. I’ve seen a few old courtyard houses that have been converted into something quite similar. This one is off the beaten path and quite tranquil compared to the hustle, bustle and haggling that goes on just down the street.
The courtyard is full of potted flowers and plants, a few trees and birds. The rooms are lined with old bookcases and decorated with various antiques, old carved wooden chairs and tables, silk and brocade pillows, artwork, musical instruments and books. There are many kinds of exotic teas to try. I had a lovely Jasmine tea. There is classical Chinese string music playing in the background. All the natural elements rolled into one. It’s all very peaceful.
What a treat – this is vacation for me!


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