"Finding Myself in China" Dr. Ben-Shahar made a statement to the effect that people need to understand that it is from the journey itself that we derive pleasure, not the destination. In order to find balance in life, people must stop and take time out to look at the day's events, and see the joy that was in it. Far too often we only reflect on flaws and failures, rather than on joys and successes. True happiness is found in the many small moments in our lives, and we have to remind ourselves daily of all the things we are grateful for and appreciate.
Shan Tang Sheng Ji - Suzhou City China
by R.P. BenDedek (11:37 AM 2/21/2015 Beijing Time)
This article was originally published at Magic City Morning Star on Aug 26, 2007. In preparation for publication of my book "Finding Myself in China," I have been transferring to my kingscalendar website, articles originally only filed at Magic City. This was one of them. The photographs are the same although larger.
In June of this year I posted an article at Magic City entitled: Staying Sane in China. In that article I wrote that recently a person in my family had written and asked why I was continuing to live in China. It was suggested that my life in China was nothing more than a form of escapism from my previous life in Australia. The fact is however, that I did not come to China to escape life in Australia. On the other hand, had I known what China was like a lot earlier, maybe I would have.
That article was filled with photographs of myself. Yes I know that that is narcissistic, but I wanted to be able to show you photographs of 'me' living my life in China. In this article, I want to show you some photographs of the area both in and around 'Shan Tang Sheng Ji,' which is a street in Suzhou City with a history of 1100 years. I can walk there in 30 minutes or ride my bicycle there in 10 minutes. As I present these photographs, I want to recount to you a little of the book that I am currently writing. Some book references however, although referring to the same things, are not as they appeared in the original article.
A Night time walk in this ancient street.
I would like to say that I am a brilliant photographer but that is far from the truth. I am not sure why these photographs turned out the way they did. They remind me of a painting I have in Australia which was done by the wife of a renowned Australian Artist. The close up look was nothing special but as you walked away from it, it took on a surreal velvety type of look.
For several years now people have been telling me to write a book about my life in China, but I always thought that it would be a rather redundant exercise, given how many articles I have published. After the trouble I caused my family back home when I told them that I did not want to go home again this year, I felt somewhat troubled by the fact that I really did not want to go home.
During my Summer Vacation I spent time in Macao, where for the first time in a long time I was able to watch English language programs on television. Throughout my nine day stay, I watched 'Oprah' everyday, and found myself fascinated by the endless stream of women being paraded before the audience, to recount their marvelous journeys of 'self-discovery.' The more I found myself identifying with what those women were saying, the more I began to glimpse the 'why' of why I love China, and the 'why' of why I don't want to return home.
By the time I got back to Suzhou, I knew that I wanted to sit down and 'express' my insights into my emotional and mental state, and that's what I did. I wrote the first 11 chapters in 14 days, and in this article, I want to present a little of that.
This area in Suzhou is 'famous,' not just historically but also for the wonderful photo opportunities. One can take different types of boat rides through the various canals in this area. And of course there are eateries and bars in which to congregate. This area is one in which one is certain to run into those godawful 'foreigners.'
In Chapter 14 of my book (as it is at the moment) entitled: "Political Correctness and the Joy of Living," I introduced three jokes and explained why I had presented them. As I explained my reasoning, I pointed out several 'morals' to be found in those jokes. 'Moral No.1.' was that sometimes there is discordance between how people perceive us and/or interpret our words and actions, and how we meant our words and actions to be received.
It's very easy for us to accuse others of saying, thinking or meaning something that they never intended to be taken 'that way,' because we filter what we hear and read through our own worldview. We can I think, throughout our lives, waste a lot of valuable time by being unnecessarily offended with people. That we remain offended for a long time is indicative of the fact that we never confront a person or our issue so as to clarify the matter. Unfortunately however, because the word 'confront' is synonymous with 'accuse angrily,' when we do 'confront' people, we often find ourselves getting more angry.
Moral No.2 and No.3 came from the second joke about a transcription error involving the word 'celebRate' and I pointed out that there were two lessons to be learned from the joke. The first is that you don't have to change too much, to find that the inner 'joy of life' is replaced with 'inner struggle.' The second is that no matter how faithful to the cause you think you might be, and no matter how dedicated you are to 'promoting that cause,' sometimes it transpires that you are misguided and have missed the most important aspect of it.
Morals No 4 and No 5 came from the third joke which demonstrated that whilst we may think we can trust people to lead us where we want to go, often times our trust is misplaced. And although we may have mastered some type of learning in our lives, what we have mastered may not only have limited appeal in the broader context of life, but we may not realize that what we mastered was not what we intended to.
I (originally) titled the Chapter "Time Out" and pointed out that one of the reasons for this title why I entitled was because not only does everyone need to take time out to evaluate or re-evaluate their lives, but everyone needs to take time out to look at the details of life's journey, rather than constantly focusing on the end result. The common element within the jokes I related was that people often get so caught up in themselves and their cause, that they don't take the time to see life from any perspective other than their cause.
This tower is at some distance from the 'Shan Tang Sheng Ji' tourist area but is a site one can see on one of the different types of boat tours. This is of the South Water Gate Tower.
So many people are pushing their causes, mastering their craft, and letting no one get in their way, that they sometimes forget to be human. They forget that they too cause offense. They don't realize that they have left the joy of living behind. They are ignorant of the fact that what they are doing only enables them to communicate with a small percentage of the population. In short, they never take time out to examine or to enjoy the details of their journey.
Recently on a Chinese program called 'Dialogue' on CCTV 9, the presenter Yang Rui, interviewed Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar of Harvard University about his book: Six Tips for Happiness Advice. One of the things he said was that no matter what your philosophy in life (religious or secular), every human being has a need to have a purpose. He pointed out that many people who strive and struggle to 'arrive' at their destination, often do so, only to find that they are not happy. They failed to understand that happiness lies within a person, and comes from their daily living experiences. Happiness is not something that we import. Of course I always say that if you must be unhappy then at least be rich; it is easier to cope with.
Shilu - Shi Road is a small walking street just in front of the Shan Tang Sheng Ji and on the other side of the road there are alleyways. The alleyway in the top right photo is that in which the Muslim Restaurant is located. (Great food). The bottom left photo is of the old city gate which is located on the road right in front of the sign which was shown in the first photograph on this page. Bottom right corner photo is another section of the old wall and is just another street or so away.
Dr. Ben-Shahar made a statement to the effect that people need to understand that it is from the journey itself that we derive pleasure, not the destination. In order to find balance in life, people must stop and take time out to look at the day's events, and see the joy that was in it. Far too often we only reflect on flaws and failures, rather than on joys and successes. True happiness is found in the many small moments in our lives, and we have to remind ourselves daily of all the things we are grateful for and appreciate. Following his advice, I sat down and wrote out some of the things that I appreciate about my life; a life that has been transformed by living in China, and I want to share them with you.
I love the countryside in Hong Hu where I taught during my first two years. I love the country 'feel' to my current life in Suzhou. I love the area in which I live. I love being made welcome in the local neighborhood I love the scenery in China I love all the fabulous sights in China. I love being able to fill a need in Chinese Society I love my students I love my job I love the money they pay me
This photograph is taken on the road that runs in front of the Entrance to Shan Tang Sheng Ji. With the old city gate behind me, the photograph is looking West in the direct of Shilu Walking street and the Shan Tang tourist area. I was in fact standing with my back to the scene in the bottom left frame of the previous photograph - which is to say that I was standing here.
I love not having to bite my tongue all the time (as I do in the West) I love not being called a sexist just because I am a male I love not being called a racist just because I am white I love not feeling anxious around my children I love feeling that my current life has purpose I love the way the Chinese take pride in their culture I love the ordinary Chinese man's dedication to building a better society
This photograph was taken from the same footbridge but in the opposite direction to the daytime scene above.
I love the fact that most of the time I am smiling I love being able to write about my travels I love having people ask me for advice I love being greeted by people's smiles I love the little ones who get excited at talking to the foreigner I love it when ditch diggers grin from ear to ear when I greet them in Chinese
The previous photo was taken from a little footbridge. The photo on the left was taken from the same position and shows an alley by which we entered this tourist spot. At that time, one had to pay a hefty fee to enter the area (unless one was a local person with the required ID). My students simply skirted the entrance and entered mid way via a series of small laneways. The photo on the right was taken at a different location.
I love being noticed for who I am I love being seen, and seeing those who see me. I love walking carefree in the street on which I live I love having a peaceful life without the 'thought police' constantly carrying on. I love watching the news on TV without the 'bloody images.' I love listening to Discussions and debates on TV without all the name calling and accusations. I love being able to go anywhere at any time and feeling safe. I love being able to jump on my bike night or day and riding without headlights, helmet or other forms of protection. I love not hearing people whine and complain
I love not having to listen to people blaming everyone else for everything wrong in the world I love not having to bear the blame for every other person's unhappiness I love being loved by Chinese friends even when I have upset them I love my Chinese friends I love being accepted into the lives of their own Chinese families I love being loved for just being me! I love being me!
Top Left - City Gate (now a Tea House) Top Right - the building beside the footbridge previously mentioned Bottom Right - the footbridge itself Bottom Left - The site of a well we came across in our travels that day
Earlier in the day our students (Mine and Chiara's) had us walking all over the place and we came to this well located in a little back street. It is a big well. One can encounter wells all over the place but if you don't know what you are looking for you probably won't notice them. This one however was too big to miss.
The entertainment stage in the old famous street
The day the boys snuck us in, we were just walking past this stage area when one of the boys ran into his grandmother. She was with a host of other old ladies and all were dressed up in costumes. From memory they had done or were to do some little dance performance. One frequently finds little groups of performers in open areas practising their craft.
Before I came to China, I felt that I had lost both my past and my future. This was because in addition to the feeling of 'loss' that divorced men ultimately suffer, (sorry ladies - it's a 'male' thing), I had in the previous decade, lost my parents and eldest sister. After my mother's death, I fell into complete depression. I felt like I had gone to sleep one night when I was 18 years old and woken up 30 years later, to discover that I was 'out of sync' with the rest of the world. I lacked any real joy or happiness in my life. Moreover, in examining what life and the future had to offer, I found little in which I was interested. I originally only came to China to fill in one year of my life. Little did I expect to like it let alone love the place.
These last four and a half years have been for me, (quite without realizing it), a time of reflection, appreciation, and putting my own life in order. Whilst it was as hard for me to say as it was for my children to hear, I have realized something about my life in China. I love my life so much, that returning once a year just to spend an hour or two in polite conversation with whomever can get free from their busy schedules (they all live in different cities), is simply not what I want to do.
You know those times when you feel bored and you just want to get out of the house, and you can't think of anything particular to do, or any particular place to go? Well, when I feel that way, I just hop on my bike and run up the road and survey the living reality that you see presented in these still photographs. How nice it would be to have my kids visit 'ME,' so that I could share with them more than just polite conversation. Yeah! I suppose it is a bit much to hope for. After all, it is the parent who should run after the kids isn't it? Not vice versa. They obviously don't know what they are missing out on!
Night and Day
Taken from the bridge in front of the Old City Gate - looking West toward Shilu
The Old City Gate The photograph was taken from water level while on a boat tour.
Yes! I've learned to be grateful for quite a lot since I moved to China!
Every year in the USA cops shoot people. The same people who want to void the 2nd Amendment – and the First Amendment as well – are the same people who claim that Police are the problem and they will tell you just how many people (all of which must certainly be black folk killed by white folk) are shot to death every year. What they won’t tell you is something that is revealed in the most recent PragerU video which says that while 990 people were shot by police in 2014, a John Hopkins study revealed that a quarter of a million people died that year from medical errors. It kind of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?
Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) on April 9th 2018 published an article titled “The woman China wants you to ignore.” Reading this article it is very easy to get riled up about China, and your anger would be justified, BUT, I don’t want you to look at China’s actions, I want you to see that the same reprehensible totalitarianism exists in politically correct, progressive-liberal western society.
This world is losing its way through the insanity of leftist / progressive ideological idolatry. Unless people begin to start asking questions and researching to obtain demonstrable evidence, and until they test their theories through processes of falsification to ensure that their theories hold water, then society as a whole will become factionalized and collapse. People worry about trade wars with China and Nuclear War with Russia and North Korea, but if our democratic societies collapse under the weight of self-interested ideological factions, there will be no war with foreign countries because we will be inviting those armies to come and restore law and order in our streets.
Mao Wenwen reminded me that when she was my student I would often refer to her as Mao Zedong. I do that sometimes – calling students by the names of famous or infamous people. Paying honor to me as her English teacher Mao Wenwen provided me the coffee free of charge (courtesy of the management). She also invited Johnny and me to come inside and take a look around, and once I did, I decided that I wanted to come back to take photos. Receiving permission from the owner, all I needed was the chance to get back.
Toward the end of dinner, some children spotted the foreigner and began coming to the door to say 'hello' 'hello' 'hello,' as they do, and then one little girl entered the room and handed out candy to us all. That was a first, as too was the cappuccino that I drank at a coffee house after dinner. I could swear it was an espresso. Ah! What would a foreigner know! Next morning we headed off to our next destination, the major places of interest of which (according to the 100 rmb entry ticket) are, Little Lotus Villa, Home of Zhang Shiming, Jiaye Library, Qiushuli Place, Home of Liu Tiqing and Ancient Stone Bridges. Additional Photographs
Well to cut a long story short, I walked all the bloody way to Tiger Hill. With Sweat pouring off me I finally met up with Chen Rongmei who had telephoned 'Meimei' to come and help look for me. The two of them had apparently been driving all over the place looking for me. Hot and exhausted, the three of us sat down in a little cafe, under an air conditioner, and cooled off while we ate a very nice 'overpriced' lunch. After lunch the three of us did the tour of HuQiu, and while I really loved the place, the heat of the day combined with all that walking (before and during sightseeing) gave me an awful headache. All I wanted to do was rest. I even considered booking back into my hotel! See Also:Cycling Around Tiger Hill Area SuZhouandTiger Hill Additional Photographs
Hanshan Temple Suzhou by R.P. BenDedek Various Dates
This Stele is made of Shandong Jiaxiang Blue Stone, and composed of stele cap, stele body and stele pedestal. Its facade is engraved with Zhang Ji's (Tang Dynasty) poem To Moor at Night at the Maple Bridge inscribed by Yu Yue (Qing Dynasty); while the back is engraved with The Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra in Sanskrit) handwritted by Emperor Qianlong (Qing Dynasty).
Dr. Ben-Shahar made a statement to the effect that people need to understand that it is from the journey itself that we derive pleasure, not the destination. In order to find balance in life, people must stop and take time out to look at the day's events, and see the joy that was in it. Far too often we only reflect on flaws and failures, rather than on joys and successes. True happiness is found in the many small moments in our lives, and we have to remind ourselves daily of all the things we are grateful for and appreciate.
After following the pathway around the mountain we were faced with a choice of either a path downward or a trail upward. We chose the upward trail, and hoped to find something. After climbing over boulders and headed in the direction of some boys sitting atop one, we arrived at a spectacular viewpoint. We had an almost 360 degree view of Mudu. While we were marveling at the view before us, I heard a few voices off in the distance behind us. When I turned to look, I was surprised to find that there was a ridge there, completely jam packed with people taking in the 'better view.'
The Garden of Couple's Retreat. Located on the northeastern edge of the ancient city of SuZhou, the garden was first created in the early Qing period as a pleasure garden of Baoning Prefect Lu Jingzhi. In the 13th year of Tong ZhiReign (1874 AD), Shen Bingcheng, governor of Susongtai Region, acquired it and expanded it into the present scale.The park is located by one of the major canals on the North / East side of SuZhou. It is not far from the Old Water Gate, and right behind it is the SuZhou Zoo. I have been in YanCheng now for 6 months and no longer have a map of SuZhou from which to give precise directions. The entrance looks great from the overpass, but otherwise you wouldn't know it is there. I did take some photos of it at night when I was on the canal tour. That tour leaves from 'ShiLu' which is the 'small' walking street - not Guanqian Jie which is the big walking street.
Now I am not going to repeat the title here, but it showed a room in which plant roots are used to grow new plants. Unfortunately, whilst the caption may have been strictly correct in an Agricultural context, the words also constituted a very vulgar idiomatic expression in English. As the particular slide lit up on the big screen, there was an audible gasp from numerous people (including Chiara and I), followed by muted laughing and serious attempts by individuals not to break into hysterics.
Moving to Suzhou by R.P. BenDedek February 21, 2015 (2007 Magic City Article transferred to Kingscalendar)
I had been told many times that if I could be a successful teacher in Hubei, then I would find it so easy to teach elsewhere in China. I never understood what that meant, until I came here. These kids are a joy to teach, even though their English level is no better than the kids in Hubei. It really feels like I have been transported to a different country.
Traduzione di Chiara Braccagni: Nel 2005 mi sono trasferito a Wuhan da Hong Hu, in modo da poter insegnare inglese e allo stesso tempo imparare il cinese. Tuttavia, dopo due anni a Wuhan, avevo seguito solo un semestre di studio del cinese. Avevo accettato il lavoro di insegnante a Wuhan ad uno stipendio minore rispetto a quanto mi era stato offerto da altri istituti, in modo da mettere in pratica il cinese che impraravo in un dialetto che mi fosse familiare. Quando ho richiesto all'agenzia di trovarmi un nuovo lavoro per il 2007 ho messo in chiaro che lo stipendio era la mia priorita.' Sebbene il governo cinese avesse decretato che gli insegnanti stranieri potevano ritornare a casa in anticipo lo scorso semestre, cosi' da trascorrere il Natale con le loro famiglie (decisione resa possible dalle anticipate festivita' del capodanno cinese) la mia scuola non mi ha lasciato partire. Infatti, una clausola mi obbligava a rimanere a scuola fino all'ultimo giorno del mio contratto. E cosi' ho fatto (e sto ancora aspettando lo stipendio che mi devono).
I have to say it was a great honor to meet him, an honor that might have had more significance had I only known in which of the photo ops I actually did meet him. I'm guessing it was the guy who had both an English and Japanese translator trailing him.... Turning the camera on, I raised it and began to focus the lens. Just then a wave slapped against the side of the boat and my friends and I got drenched as water spurted up and in through the open window. By the time I recovered, wiped the lens dry, got the camera working, and focused, I had little time left to do a reasonable video, and no time at all to take any more still photographs.
I can say that the new computer cost me half of what I had expected to pay, and the money saved will almost pay for a special trip I'm planning to the other side of the country in October. We had our conversation on a Tuesday at about 11.45am at the end of March, and two days later on the Thursday, I picked up my brand new computer already loaded with all my programs. It also came with a gift of some high definition movies (Mr. Kang is able to provide 1500 HD Movies on an external hard drive.) If you are coming to Suzhou and you really NEED to buy a new computer, go talk to him. Maybe you just need some repairs - he'll fix you up. Maybe you want some High Definition Movies - he's the one to talk to. -and-Computer Repairs in SuZhou City Jiangsu Province Nov 7, 2011
I ran into Jian up at Shi Lu one night, just before the Americans left town. We had a long talk about the fact that he was wasting his life; that his parents really just wanted him to apply himself equally to Chinese and Math studies, as to his English Studies. When I left him, I thought that maybe he was finally going to go home. I spoke to him about the parable of the Prodigal Son and asked him to get the Americans to explain it
One of the things you often see in China, is people washing their clothes in the nearest body of water, and living by a canal makes it just so easy to wash your clothes. Whilst the location sounds ideal, given the rather 'shaky looking' foundations to the local domiciles, I'm not sure if I would feel particularly safe. And given our western concern to control every possible negative possibility in life, I doubt that anyone with kids would be allowed to live in such a place.I would take this opportunity to point out that if I actually lived in such a place, I doubt that I would be as friendly a resident as were these locals. Can you imagine people day in and day out looking in your back door; watching you wash your clothes; and constantly taking photos of you and waving? I'm pretty sure I know what type of gesture I would be returning.
They carefully explained that the ticket office is moved, and that I must 'go over there'! I looked at the guy, looked 'over there' and said: 'There's nothing @#$%^ over there!' He laughed and said: 'Come! I'll show you!' And he did. 'Over there' was a place a couple of hundred meters 'over there where they are digging' and you could get 'over there,' by a little walkway that they had prepared. Ah! I went back and got my bicycle and headed off to go 'over there,' but when I got 'over there,' I found myself on a main road, and had to ask a policemen where to go. Finally someone who could help me. He kindly pointed out that the ticket office was 'over there'!
It is uncertain what caused the following event, but something on the pylon hit one of the windows. The people in the immediate vicinity fled their seats, and as the ship continued reversing, the window buckled and smashed, sending shards of glass everywhere. One man received a cut to his arm, and while not bleeding profusely, nevertheless was bleeding. A young boy was covered in glass, and although unhurt, had to be deftly 'de-glassed.' I felt someone's hand on my back pocket. Always cautious, I was walking with my hands in my pockets, specifically to keep the cloth on the seat of my pants tight. I tightened my grip. When this did not seem to discourage the brazen (and inept) thief, I quickly sidestepped to the left, and left him both surprised and embarrassed. He dropped his head so I could not see his face, and quickly retracted the jacket that had covered his hand to conceal his actions. He disappeared quickly.
Since 2004 he has been writing academic articles, social commentaries and photographic 'Stories from China' both here at KingsCalendar, and formerly as a contributing columnist at Magic City Morning Star News (Maine USA) where from 2009 to 2015 he was Stand-in Editor. He currently has a column at iPatriot.com and teaches English to Business English and Flight Attendant College Students in Suzhou City Jiangsu Province People's Republic of China.)
BenDedek originally created the site to publicize his research results into the Chronology of Ancient Israel. Those results were published under the title: 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran.' Whilst there have been many attempts to solve the chronological riddle of the Bible's synchronisms of reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah and their synchronism with other Ancient Near Eastern Nations, no other research is based on a simple mathematical formula which could, if it is incorrect, be disproved easily. To date, no one has been able to dismiss the mathematical results of this research.
Free to air Academic articles set forth Apologetics for and results of his discovery of an "artificial chronological scheme" running through the Bible, Josephus, the Damascus Documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Seder Olam Rabbah. Check the Chapter Precis Page to see details of each chapter and to gain access to the Four Free to Air Chapters
(The Download book does not contain a section on Seder Olam)
Definition: King's Calendar Chronological Research
The Premise: Between the 5th and 3rd centuries BCE (but continuing down to at least 104 BCE), Sectarian redactors transcribed the legitimate 'solar year' chronological records of Israel and Judah, into an artificial form, with listed years as each comprised of 12 months of 4 weeks of 7 days, or 336 days per year, thus creating a 13th artificial year where 12 solar years existed.
When the Synchronous Chronological Data provided in the Books of Kings and Chronicles for the Divided Kingdom Period are measured in years of 336 days, the synchronisms actually align. [Refer to Appendix 5. to see how it synchronises the Divided Kingdom Period]