“I came up with this idea because I thought it would be both a fun and educational experience for the foreigners,” said Peggy.
Those who attended were students and teachers from America, Scotland, Zambia, China, Russia, Bangladesh, Belgium and many more countries. The beauty of this trip is that it brought together people from all over the world with one thing in common, a genuine interest to learn.
Besides tasting delicious traditional Taoist dishes at the retreat, different activities took place that allowed participants to truly immerse themselves in Tao culture. This even involved putting on Chinese costumes and learning how to greet others.
“If you are greeting someone of higher status than you, then you put your hands together and bow to them,” spoke the instructor at the front of the room.”
Other activities included learning how to copy Buddhist style text and being instructed on the process of the copying, which includes writing from top to bottom, right to left. As well as how to properly hold a fude pen, whose bodies are filled with ink, and whose “nibs” are stiff, but slightly flexible, brushes.
The foreigners also learned the craft of Chinese paper cutting, an ancient folk art. It turns out that Jintan was actually the birthplace of engraved paper. The history of Jintan engraved paper can be traced back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. At the time, in order to exorcise ghosts and dispel evil spirits and pray for good luck, every family on New Year’s Day would stick a kind of paper with hollowed-out patterns or hieroglyphics, and hang them on the lintel. This hollowed-out paper is the rudiment of Jintan engraved paper.
“I really enjoyed the copying of the buddhist scriptures and paper cutting activity, said Yan, a 32-year-old English teacher. Both activities were meditative and involved a high level of concentration and control of the hand movements.”
The final event of the evening was a show representing Tao culture. The show exemplified a Taoist culture audio-visual feast. This new audio-visual ceremony, through the combination of multimedia technology and the director’s ideas, presents the Tao culture on the stage. The performance features a 30 x 20 meter water curtain as a backdrop for the show. At one point there was even a snow machine behind the audience shooting fake snow into the air creating a winter atmosphere.
The team behind the show are completely dedicated to giving the audience a genuine feel of the Tao culture, as well as immersing into it themselves. The general director and editor in chief have a 7 year study of the culture. The performers themselves maintain 16 to 20 hours of work per day going deep into the Taoist rehearsal. This also consists of immersing themselves into the Taoist food, clothing and accommodation, to improve their performance skills.
The show itself uses the five elements (wood, fire, earth, gold, water) to tell different stories for all five acts. The different acts portray deep meaning themes of the Tao culture such as “new life” and “focusing on the simple things.”
“The Oriental Salt Lake trip has been filled with fun activities and excitement and the adventures have been memories made that I will keep. This experience has brought me one step closer to trying to understand more of the deep Chinese history and culture,” said Komana, a 21-year-old student from Zambia studying computer science.
Special thanks to TK for helping to spread the word about the event to foreigners and Peggy for organizing the event.
Written by Stacy Dahl
Photo by Yan Zyzo & Changzhou Radio and TV Station