Tianshui: Melons and Myths
(pop 3.5 million)
People’s Republic of China
The aroma of fresh baked bread draws my attention as I wander through the noisy food market here in Tianshui, the second largest city in Gansu Province. My eyes bulge as I encounter a pile of huge watermelons – the largest I think I have ever seen.
The bakers smile and also the lady who slices chunks of tofu and the man who sells noodles. An elderly lady ignores me as she makes her selection from a truckload of pears.
Nothing comes in a package. Everything is prepared fresh daily. Bins of produce and spices and herbs and tea share the sidewalk with dried tobacco leaves.
Cement trucks force their way down the narrow tomato-melon-walnut-lined street. Construction sites of apartment blocks loom on both sides of the marketplace. I wonder if this traditional market is doomed by modernization. Is Tesco-Lotus also part of the plan?
From the market and across this bustling city, I manage to find some quiet time at the spacious Tianshui temple. The temple is dedicated to Fuxi, a cultural hero in Chinese legend and mythology who is credited (along with his sister Nu Wa) with creating humanity and inventing hunting, fishing and cooking as well as a system of writing Chinese characters.
The temple grounds contain a tree that is purportedly one thousand years old. The age of the tree seems reasonable enough and even young enough since Fu Xi, we are told, lived about 28,000 years ago.
I admire the stories. But I love the melons.