Fujian Province

This oddly titled post actually serves as the wrap-up to our three-part “Visit to Qingyuan Mountain/Old Man Rock” series.

Obvious premise: Put a foreigner in China–and by foreigner we mean a non-Far-East-Asian person–and the person is going to be stared at. A lot. Known fact, no need to dwell on it.

But in my nearly 14-year relationship with China, I’ve passed now through three types of staring. And it’s that third one we’re going to highlight today. Disclaimer: This of course reflects my own experience. I’m not, say, a woman with one African and one Latino parent, so yeah, we’re talking just Dumb White Guy in China stuff.

OK, then.

First type of staring: You’re a single Dumb White Guy in China. People stare at you sometimes like you’re a circus freak.

Second type of staring: You have a Chinese girlfriend, fiancee or wife. The staring sometimes takes on a different dimension: He must be a predator of some sort, deceiving our sister there into some evil foreigner type of relationship, or She must be a Gold-digger, looking for that green card, or…You go, girl!…planning to cheat him out of his extensive Lao Wai fortune, all of which he’s probably carrying around in that faded green backpack.

Now on to the third type of staring. I touched on this in an earlier blog entry, “Gawking on Gulang Yu: The Revenge Photos,” but here we are again.

Third type of staring: People stare not so much at you, or your wife, but at your kids.

Now, it’s fine if they look at your children in a pleasant sort of way, but when they stare en masse, and for far too long, as Jimi Hendrix put it, “That ain’t too cool.”

So there we were, my daughters and I, enjoying ourselves in front of the Lao Zi statue at Qingyuan Mountain.

I took some pictures of the statue, and was then taking some pictures of my girls, like this one:

But when I was about to take a later shot, I noticed that an entire line of tourists, like crows on a telephone wire, had caught sight of my youngsters and were staring at them like they were witnessing some sort of optical illusion, and simply could not avert their eyes:

They look amiable enough in this shot, but this staring went on for several minutes. We went here and there, and this group of people just followed us with their eyes the whole way. Yes, tour bus people, my daughters are adorable. And smart–they do vector calculus just for fun. And they’re extraordinarily well behaved. But C’mon, don’t overdo it.

If you see them, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse, or I’ll lay your tour bus to waste.

Even the girls, who generally learned to shrug this stuff off quickly, were starting to feel a bit uncomfortable.

I know what you might be thinking, so Yes, we could have left, but why should we? We made quite the effort to get there. And Yes, I could have politely asked these people to stop, but prior experience suggests they would not have done so, and it would have required taking the girls even closer to these folks. And Yes, I could have said some abrupt things to them to make a point, but that’s not my style–or at least not the sort of thing I want to demonstrate in front of a 4-year old and a 2-year old–so I just tried to keep the kids active and focused on other things…which of course these people ended up finding even more stare-worthy.

Finally, this group got up to leave. But one woman in particular just wouldn’t friggin’ blink or stop staring at the girls even as they were on their way out. If there had been a stone wall in front of her, she would have bumped into it. And I admit, by this point, I would have broken out into evil, evil laughter when she did.

As they came by us, I tried to make the point by taking this woman’s picture–that has sometimes brought people to their senses, even garnered an apology or two–but not even that phased her.

So here she is, Ms. Orange Jacket, who could not mind her manners and instead STARED AT MY KIDS LIKE A STUNNED BUNNY FOR TEN MINUTES STRAIGHT. This has won her a spot here in this next Revenge Photo, where you can now pretend to stare at her unabashedly for as long as you’d like:

Have a nice day.

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated

Continuing on with photos from our visit to Old Man Rock, then, here are a few meant to show you some great views of the stone carving itself, but also what the typical scene around the statue looks like.

Which is to say, ol’ Lao Zi spends his days looking out on a steady stream of Chinese tourists and the occasional Lao Wai, and has probably has more photos snapped of him each day than Brad Pitt, Angela Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, and Vince Vaughn combined.

And I must say, for being over 1,000 years old, the old fellow is looking remarkably good–that Thick Face, Stone Heart approach to life is to thank, no doubt.

Make your way through the entryway and up the footpath, and here’s your first sight of the Old Stone Man:

If our visit is any indication, one tour group after another comes along to take their pictures in front of the effigy:

Just after I clicked this one off, the two ladies on the left lost their footing and had to head back down to base camp before gearing up rejoin their comrades on the summit:

If you wait long enough for crowds to thin, you can catch a decent shot:

Here’s a close-up for you; I didn’t even bother to PhotoShop out the moss and lichen:

Next time: A personal PostScript to our visit….

My favorite book on Taoism/Daoism:
The Tao of Pooh

Mount Qingyuan lies just north of Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China.

It is perhaps most famous for being the spot where “Old Man Rock,” often claimed to be Lao Zi (a.k.a. Lao Tzu), the founder of Taoism, has been sitting around now for well over a thousand years.

I first visited the spot in 1993. During our most recent visit back to China, I took my daughters there one afternoon.

The China.org.cn Web site spins Mount Qingyuan this way:

Located in the northern suburbs of Quanzhou, it is a beautiful rocky hill with clear streams and luxuriant woods. It has been a scenic attraction ever since the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and is known as the “first fairyland of Fujian.” The statue of Lao Zi- forefather and founder of Taoism-in sitting position on the hill is 5 meters tall, 7 meters deep, and 7 meters wide. It was made of a single piece of rock during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The smiling face and flying beard of the statue bring to life the kindly character of this legendary old man.

Mount Qingyuan’s surrounds, or my memory of the area, or both have changed in the past 13 years. I recall Old Man Rock being in a fairly remote area away from Quanzhou, but apparently the city has matured and developed to the point that Mount Qingyuan now qualifies as being in a Quanzhou “suburb.” The road in and parking area are a bit more hospitable as well.

Anyway, to start a three-post record of our visit to this attraction — “It’s not easy to pad these things out to 30 minutes, you know…” — here are a few photos remarking “the way in” to see the Old Man.

My daughters just outside the entrance to the park:

Here, you can read this for yourself, “General Description of Hill Qingyuan,” which calls the spot “a grotesquely charming and relaxing place.” And I just love those end-of-line hypenation rules:

You can read this for yourself too:

Next time: The Old Man himself….

A thousand years of Taoist thought all compacted into two easy volumes:
Daoism Handbook (2 volume set)

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