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The Public Ineffectual

For entertainment purposes only.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Kung Fu Hucksters

Kung Fu Hucksters
Originally uploaded by Oblivia.

I went to buy tea with the parents in this complex dedicated to tea, somewhere near the hotel. Its all a bit vague when you're not on your own. The tea sellers were arranged around two paved over courtyards with open fronts like this. They sell all manner of chinese teas including the prizedbuoy-cha which is pressed into bricks and aged sometimes for decades. You always discard the first brew of this tea to kill the mould. It is, um, an acquired taste. My mom's favourite is "monkey tea". Named, not for the astrological sign or the symbolic value of the monkey but for the fact that it is hand-picked by trained monkeys.

You always taste before you buy so you sit down with the shopkeepers and drink tea out of these tiny little cups everywhere you go. Thinking on it now, people showed very little curiosity about us. Why do we look Chinese but require an interpreter? Where could we be from? Why would we be here? Nothing really.

At the first tea place we went to, my eyes were fairly riveted to the televsion. I was still in shock at the fact that China was nothing like I was expecting it to be except for, maybe, full of
Chinese people. I think I understand what the New China is all about in an abstract sense - economically capitalist/politically communist - but have no idea how its going to play out. Places like Guangzhou remind me of Seoul in the eighties. When I said this to a longtime Korean resident of Hong Kong - and lately, Shenzhen - he agreed. He added that fifteen years ago, Shenzhen looked like post-war Korea. Now it looks like Seoul in the eighties and in a couple of years time, its going to look like Seoul in the nineties, perhaps. There is an accelerated pace of change that Canadians/Australians just have no experience of.

These guys in grey came into one of the tea stores and were just sort of poking around. I thought they were monks at first but they didn't quite have the right garb on and I played with the notion that perhaps they were in their civvies. Then I saw them again in this tea shop. Just before this guy strikes this pose above, he does this series of kung fu moves with his arms to summon the healing power of ki and then puts his hands to the affected area. I encouraged my dad to undergo "treatment" (couldn't resist a photo op like that) but sadly, Kung Fu guys had left the vicinity.

If you look in the background, its all tea.


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