An Afternoon with Mr. Cho
February 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment
As I strolled along the limestone path that has been bathed by sun and rain for 1,000 years, I felt I entered a world like fantasy that came to life, that took me back in time a thousand years.
Daxu Ancient Town is one of four old towns in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The staggering architecture reflects the eras of its inception, the Ming and Quig dynasties.
I was utterly charmed by the many hundreds of small dwellings that also function as shops and stalls. Grey brick, red brick, stone, traditionally carved wood in filigree patterns that speak of a time and place when Emperors ruled and armies might have trod this path I traverse.
Through the open street-level entryways interiors are visible--courtyards full of flowers and grass spurred to life by the sunlight. Beyond that, a tall and roomy space where the master of the house can receive visitors, a wing room on either side. At the rear, a backyard.
I was lucky to meet the personable Mr. Cho, who invited me into his home and allowed me to photograph him in his every-day life.
Mr. Cho carves millstone in his spare time, surrounded by tools and other possessions in his private space.
Everywhere I looked I discovered interesting items, some old, some new, familiar and unfamiliar objects (like the little softshell turtle skeletons), many collectables gathered over a long lifetime that must have meant a lot to him. Intrigued, I imagined a story to each.
Bamboo stalks stood next to drying plants and vegetables hanging from the walls, creating a unique decor.
Mr. Cho played the sanxian (san=three; xian=strings), a fretless Chinese lute, strumming out simple and pleasant tunes on an instrument that sounds much like a banjo.
This traditional sanxian, or xianzi, had been passed down over many generations in Mr. Cho's family. When the instrument was first exported to Japan, it became wildly popular and led to the creation of the Japanese shamisen.
I was surprised! Mr. Cho's wall displayed a prominent picture of Mao Zedong, founder and chairman of the People's Republic of China. The well-known Mao was a Marxist-Leninist with controversial ideas about bring China into the 20th century. His 'Great Leap Forward' campaign attempted to rapidly move the economy from agrarian to industrial, resulting in famine and the deaths of roughly 45 million people. Besides starvation, forced labor and executions led to the deaths of another 70 million Chinese over a 27 year reign.
Today, in mainland China Mao is revered as having been a fair and just leader, respected by the majority of citizens for laying the foundation of China becoming a world power. The status of women rose, education and health care improved, and life expectancy increased. Once I remembered that many of Mao's portraits show him looking out over Tiananmen Square, and his face still adorns banknotes, it made sense that Mr. Cho would hang the image on his wall.
Relaxing at the end of my visit, we talked about the beauty of old, even ancient things, and memories that fade like smoke.
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