Beijing: "Mountains, Markets And Music"


August 7, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

From Bangkok, en route to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, I decided to stop over in Beijing.  I wanted to see my friends and to visit one or two sights I had missed two years ago.

Actually, my first stop was a return to the small village of Chuandixia.  My friend Diego, his friend Miland, and I rode the Beijing Red Line subway for almost an hour to the last stop.  Diego then negotiated with a driver and we took off for the 90km ride through the hilly green countryside west of the city.

Diego climbed the hills above Chuandixia to try out his new camera and lenses.  Miland and I wandered around the village.  It looked just as I remembered it when I was there in the winter.  But now in the summer the shops and small restaurants are open.  Miland and I walked out of the village to an area called Yixiantian (The Sky in the Shape of a Thread) - a picturesque rock formation. 

On the way back to Beijing we paused at a lake for more photography.  Diego, the professional, and Jan, the amateur, and Miland, our model had a lovely photo shoot. *

On her day off, my friend Jasmine (she now prefers to be called April) and I spent the better part of the day at the Beijing Weekend Antiques Market.   Are the items really antiques?  Who knows? 

At the used book section of the spacious outdoor market, I asked for “piano music.”  (April translated.)  After several unsuccessful attempts, one book dealer dug down into a cabinet and produced quite a large pile of dusty, musty sheet music.  I chose a small pile and asked the price.  After a short bit of back and forth drama (my strategy is to stick to one price, smile, open my wallet, smile again, and threaten to leave), the (happy) book seller relinquished the music for a third of his original price.   April observed, “Jan, you are a good bargainer.”

I probably paid too much.  But, most of the music is Russian and was published in MOCKBa sixty years ago.

The musical notation is universal: five lines and four spaces on the staff.  Tempo and dynamics markings are, as usual, in Italian.  I will only need help with the translation of the titles of the pieces and the composers.  But I did figure out a few.  For example: COHATИHA and ПPOKOФьEB.  Oh yes, I will also need help playing this stuff.

On another day off, actually she has lots of days off since she just graduated from university, Miland and I wove our way around the streets and alleys of the 798 Art Zone.  Once a factory area in the northeast of Beijing, 798 is now a renovated, upgraded, upscale and gentrified multi-street warren of galleries, boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. 

My favorite was the group show called REM(A)INDERS at the Galleria Continua.  How is it possible to be so creative and artistic using old electronics parts, film canisters, empty plastic bags, shoe tongues and shoe laces!?

Miland, a much younger and more delightful version of yours truly, chats with anyone and everyone who crosses her path.   At the Coffee on the Roof coffee house we met Gao Zhen.  Our new friend designed the multi-tiered outdoor cafe.  He invited us to his gallery where we met his brother Gao Qiang and had a tour of their studio. **

The Gao Brothers are internationally recognized artists and photographers.  In the fall, they will exhibit in Kansas City and New York.  Perhaps we will cross paths again.  In the fall.  In New York!

Always wandering and crossing paths,





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