Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: photo
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 14:13

A Portrait of China Emerging

The narrative of China's emergence that has predominated in the Western press over the last decade is one of a racially homogenous economic superpower in ascendance; the West seems to characterize China simply in terms of its potential as a huge untapped market to be exploited or as a threat to Western cultural and economic hegemony. This month, eRenlai hopes to offer an alternative perspective on China's emergence, wherein the reality of China's racial and spiritual heterogeneity and multicultural legacy can be borne witness to on a level more fundamental than that of Nationalism. Away from the rhetoric and scare-mongering of politics and economics is the space where one can experience China on a more personal and experiential plane. Here, eRenlai has picked a variety of stories that span the last decade which paint an alternative picture of China in its period of rapid development, focusing primarily on rural life.

First we get a snapshot into the lives of the nomadic people who now populate the birthplace of the legendary Tibetan King, King Gesar, and the remnants of the Barge Wall and the Funeral city which once stood in Shiqu. Then we  move on to Shangri-La to experience the growth of eco-tourism in the Tibetan village of Napa. In Chengdu we hear of the hardships experienced by Yi migrant workers, faced with discrimination and being taken advantage of by employers. We then arrive in Yongren County to bear witness to the more colourful side of the Yi people, with their annual fashion show. Then on to Yangjuan village to monitor the progress of the school built there in 2000, with two different perspectives on the village and the project, one from the Summer of 2006 by Liang Zhun and the second from Father Duraud in Winter 2010. We also take a look at China's Muslim Hui people as they celebrate the feast of the birth of the prophet Muhammad in Pi County and attend the rebuilding of the Tibetan Buddhist Kangwu Temple in Muli County. We also discover how the previously thought to be defunct Tibetan Buddhist school of Jonang, turns out to be very much alive in Dzamthang.

Photo by Liang Zhun


Wednesday, 28 December 2011 17:23

Muli, an ethnic frontier

Muli is a tiny multi-ethnic county at the southwest corner of Sichuan province, nearby Yunnan province. On its west, lies the Ganze Tibetan autonomous prefecture. Muli itself is officially called a “Tibetan autonomous county”, though it is located within the “Yi Prefecture” of Liangshan, the Yi being another important ethnic group of Southwest China.

In this multi ethnic county, and contrarily to their neighbors, the Tibetan population is little prone to migrations, as tourism prospects are opening up (although much more timidly than in adjacent Yunnan province) with the re-assertion of the Tibetan character and culture of the area. Overall, one third of Muli’s population is Tibetan, around 28 per cent is Yi, 22 per cent Han, with a number of other minorities completing the census. Tibetans in Muli take advantage of this cultural trend and of the investments that go with: rebuilding of the main three Tibetan temples of Muli County, stupas and other Tibetan artifacts constructed near the mountain lakes… Other minorities, especially Yi people, are prone to leave the area in search for job, especially since state industries have been closed. If the mountain landscape is stupendous indeed, Muli township looks to the passer-by as a sad little place, cut off from the outside world during the rainy season from mid July till end of September.

kangwu_temple_az_011

Before 1949, Muli’s Grand Lama was the main political power in the area, a fact attested by Western travelers such as J. Rock and A. David-Neel. Muli housed three major Tibetan temples. In late July 2007, I went to one of these temples, Kangwu (Kulu in Tibetan language), and discovered the ruins of an imposing building burned down during the Cultural Revolution. Before this period, up to 550 monks were staying there. In the eighties, a small temple was built nearby, and 16 monks were living there at the time of my visit. They were in charge of supervising the rebirth a new, imposing Kangwu temple… This was the beginning of the second year of this large-scale endeavor. Tibetan craftsmen from neighboring Daocheng county had recently arrived. The structural work having been completed, it was now the turn of sculptors and painters to enter into action.

On this particular afternoon, the current Grand Lama of Muli was supervising the work.  I had the feeling of being at a special moment in time, standing between past and future, taken between the shadow of a temple existing no more and the mirage of a new one slowly coming to existence… These pictures testify to this enlightenment, to my sudden grasp of the impermanence of things.

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All pictures taken in July 2007


Thursday, 30 June 2011 15:27

Nostalgia of a 21st Century Flâneuse

Wondering the streets of Shanghai is sentimental, whoever you are. If you are a tourist or passenger who has visited Shanghai several times, you might sigh that this attractive city is developing too fast, and every time you visit, you can’t recognize what it used to be. If you are a resident, you might be proud of this modern city, but also regard this city with other complex feelings concerning Shanghai’s tumultuous history. If you are a worker from other provinces of China, this huge city might bring you deep nostalgic feelings. The second and third conditions are my imagination, because I am only a tourist from Taipei who is neither resident nor worker. I am also a 21st century flâneuse tribute to Baudelaire. Loafing around in this city, surrounded by the parasol trees (梧桐樹wutong shu), I was under the impression 19th century French flâneur reincarnated in Shanghai. The French concession is mainly in Luwan and Xuhui Districts. I visited no.319 Yueyang Road (岳陽路), where the Former Consulate of France (法國領事館) (pic.1)(pic.2)is situated. On the same road, at no.145, is a French-style garden residence, which is the former residence of T. V. Soong (宋子文). Besides these European residences, there is also some modernist architecture. Most of these buildings were built by Hungarian architect L.E.Hudec.(pic.3) who lived in Shanghai for about 30 years.

This city is a melting pot for an enormous amount of different styles. It’s blissful, but also confusing. Strolling through different areas, it seems like travelling around in different countries. In The Bund, I can see a row of beautiful architecture from different cultures.  It’s an embodiment of different imperialist powers, which let Qing government cede some territory in order to pay off its indemnities. Yet, Shanghai’s ignominious history, just makes the city more glamorous.

ida_shanghai_flaneuse_2

 

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(Photos: Ida Yang)

 


 

[1] T.V.Soong was at a former Chinese Premier in 1930 and was in a highly influential position throughout the Nationalist era. His three sisters were married to presidents Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen and China’s former richest man H.H. Kung.

 


Tuesday, 08 March 2011 13:32

Remembering the Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan

We previously published an article by Liang Zhun who had volunteered to help the survivors of the Wenchuan Earthquake (aka the Great Sichuan Earthquake) get back on their feet. Here is an interview with her in which she explains her new book and the events that led her to compile it:


Wednesday, 23 February 2011 19:45

Spring blues

Lanterns can’t breathe in the night, they scout the darkness but the waves shake the boat and leave them trembling, not sure if they will make it this time, as if shackled to the ocean, holding their breath for the sky to appear.


Tuesday, 09 February 2010 19:48

The Jonangpas are still alive!

No more then 20 years ago the Jonang School was studied and described as "a now defunct Tibetan Buddhist school".

The lineage was born at the end of the 13th century, when Kun spangs Thugs rje Brtson ‘grus , a Kalacakra pratictioner, settled in the valley of Jomonang. Focusing on the Kalacakratantra teachings and with a particular vision of emptiness, this man and his further disciples were the first jonangpas.

The valley of Jomonang became their main centre, so that those who adhere to the practices that were preserved and transmitted in that place were later called Jonangpa.

The lineage continued in central Tibet until the second half of the 17th century, when the uler of central Tibet and of the Gelugpa school, the 5th Dalai Lama, substained by the Mongol Army began the reunification of the country. Taking control of the places under the Jonangpa influence, the 5Th Dalai Lama also converted their temples and monasteries into Gelugpa, sealing their texts and banning their teachings. However, since the end of the 14th century, the tradition began to spread into eastern Tibet: the areas of Kham and Amdo, corresponding today to big parts of Sichuan and Qinghai.

Thanks to the fact that Gelugpa political and military power did not reach also these places, too far from central Tibet, the Jonangpa temples and masters were safe, free to maintain the transmission of their teachings and tantric practices. Their tradition was strong enough to survive not only the 17th century persecution, but also the chinese cultural revolution. In that rough period the Jonangpa lineage was kept alive by masters and disciples gathering secretly and practicing as yogis in the countryside of Amdo and Kham.

Jonangpas_Filippo_Brambilla_010

This being the subject of my specialist degree, I spent the year in Chengdu doing some bibliographical research, then June and July travelling and interviewing in Sichuan and Qinghai, mainly around the areas of Ma’erkang, Rangtang, Aba, Banma and Jiuzhi. These places are wonderful, with a medium altitude of 3500 metres above the sea level the air is thin and the nature is stunning, the people are quite poor but friendly and happy to share with you what they have. However, travelling is not so easy, because the massive presence of Chinese police and the constant controls you are subject to. I came unprepared, unsure what I was going to do and how to reach them but as soon as I arrived in Dzamthang (壤塘), the biggest and most important Jonangpa monasteries are found today, I found the monks were interested in my presence as much as I was in their lives and traditions. Thus it wasn’t hard to find people willing to talk about themselves, especially when, chatting together, they became aware that I knew something about them and that this was the reason of my visit. Almost everywhere I’ve been, the monks have been happy to help with my research, always allowing me to visit their monasteries and meet their most relevant figures.

The Jonangpa areas in Sichuan are a little bit different, as are their inhabitants, from those in Qinghai. The people in this part of Sichuan generally live in houses built with rock and wood and grow barley. Although the area is quite poor, the government is actuating a Chinese-style modernisation: entering a town you can often see a sign illustrating the new urban plan, with huge white buildings mimicking the traditional Tibetan architecture. As you get nearer to Qinghai, the landscape changes, until you find yourself on the plateau, where there are more ‘black yak wool tents’ than mud houses and a big part of the population is still nomad, moving from a pasture to another with yak herds. Even if, with people mainly speaking Tibetan languages, my poor Chinese sometimes became useless, I’ve always found some milk tea, barely flour and an extreme quantity of butter ready to be mixed in my honour.

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Tuesday, 25 March 2008 23:08

Time and Numbers

In the dusk of early summer days, the ’Light of the Sun’ spreads its magical power upon the busy city during rush-hour time. The whole urban life is bathed in sun rays. Regardless of the human activities, the busy traffic or the senseless height of the skyscrapers, the sun light is travelling from one corner of the city to another.
Light, you always travel hand in hand with the sounds of the city: sounds of cars speeding up, rustling sounds of the branches, busy paces of people commuting to work...With a touch of light, you empower every creature amd object on your way

Day after day, night after night, you come and go, again and again. Your routinely constant visit, however, is neglected. The public has ignored you; the city has forgotten you. But this will never stop you from your coming back again and again. Your warm presence, witnesses everything, caresses everything.
You follow the tick-tack-tick-tack of Time. It is this senseless, at a first sight, tick tack which connects places, signs, symbols and people. Light, you lead time, and you aroused the awakening of my Soul, and your power is reflected in the depth of my eyes.

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