I have been holidaying at home for the last two weeks, in sunny Queensland. Today is Australia Day, so we headed to Little Cove at Noosa for an early morning swim (compulsory Australia Day activity). Other Australia Day must-dos include drinking beer, putting Australian flag tattoos on your face, having a BBQ with sausages in bread with tomato sauce, and apparently, thong throwing. The kind you wear on your feet, that is.
Kite flying is a very popular past-time all over China, and especially so in Fuxing Park. This is not a hobby for mere kids, however, and those under 50 should practice elsewhere. Space on the big square grass lawn is hotly contested and turf wars play out constantly between the fighter kite guys, the bird kite guys and the air cell kite guys. Don’t even try turning up with your Hello Kitty kite. If the wind drops out suddenly though, all bets are off because all types of kites can end up in the giant kite graveyard tree at the southern end of the park. Try and get your torn and mangled kite out of this one, and you might end up with a hip replacement you weren’t banking on.
Every now and again some random impromptu shop sets up in my lane. So this morning, directly outside my front door there is now a shop selling gas cooktops and extractor fans. It is attracting quiet a lot of attention as you can see, but it must be semi-official because the lane is normally policed by a small woman wielding a broom, and she seems unperturbed. Perhaps chinese cooking puts such a toll on your gas burners you need to purchase new ones each year. Or perhaps some people are as excited by extractor fans as I am by shoes. I guess that is possible.
At the base of Moganshan mountain is a small village where my attention was drawn to a tiny shop, an old gentleman visible through the window working a treadle sewing machine. He was making shoes by hand. Only two kinds – canvas, for summer, in black, and corduroy for winter, in black, or red. The plain black shoes had jazzy blue-striped innersoles, and were the only concession to decoration. I bought a canvas pair, and I bet they last longer than my Converse sneakers.
Moganshan is a mountain village some way from Shanghai. It’s a place to get away from Shanghai’s hustle and bustle and just relax. In Chinese it means ‘Mo and Gan’s mountain’ (see the Legend of Mo Ye and Gan Jiang, below), although it is also, if said with a slightly different tone, the ‘mountain of doing nothing’. Perfect.
The mountain has been described as possessing extraordinary qualities, namely The Three Wonderfulnesses, and The Four Excellences.
And The Four Excellences……….
Personally, I’d like to add The Four Challenges………..
Some 2500 years ago, as legend goes, a pair of master swordsmiths (and lovers) Gan Jiang and Mo Ye , travelled to Moganshan mountain to complete an important commission – a sword for the King of Wu, a sword to surpass any sword previously made. The couple knew that the making of such a powerful sword would necessitate their deaths at its completion to prevent the King’s enemies from commissioning an equal. The lovers managed to delay the sword’s completion by three years, during which time their son Mo Gan was born. Gan Jiang finally took this extraordinary sword to the King and was immediately beheaded.
Unbeknown to the King, however, Gan Jiang and Mo Ye had actually fashioned not one, but a pair of swords, Yin and Yang. The feminine yin essence of the swords had come from Mo Ye’s flowing black hair, which she cut off and cast into the furnace. Gan Jiang gave the first sword (Yin) to the King, but the second sword (Yang) he had kept for his wife. Years later his son, now a young man, used the sword to kill the King and avenge his father’s death, but was himself killed in the process.
A little walk down the valley from Moganshan village is a beautiful bronze statue of Mo Ye and Gan Jiang, overlooking the Sword Casting Pool.