Chapter 43: Going to John’s China Hometown

Mountains in the countryside of Zhejiang Province
John's ancestors come from the area near Huangshan -- one of China's most impressive mountains. But his family lives in a countryside ravaged by economic development, worlds away from what his ancestors knew. (pictured: me before the fields opposite John's home, Chinese New Year 2003)

“五岳归来不看山,黄山归来不看岳” — After China’s Five Sacred Mountains, you needn’t see another mountain; after Huangshan, you needn’t see China’s Five Sacred Mountains.

John loves this expression, and has told it to me many times in our relationship. There is truth to it. Huangshan is an impressive mountain, and has a greater scale than China’s Five Sacred Mountains — Songshan, Hengshan, Hengshan, Huashan, and Taishan. But many would argue that the Five Sacred Mountains have their own beauty, and a beauty worth seeing, even if you have visited Huangshan. I don’t mention this to John, because I know his words say more about him than Huangshan. He loves Huangshan, because his relatives lived in the shadow of its enormous spires. His people are mountain people, and come from a mountain that claims to overshadow the rest.

Though he didn’t grow up at the feet of Huangshan, he was born and raised in the mountains just southeast of Huangshan. On the top level of a double-decker bus, on a sultry summer evening in 2002, he turns to me and speaks of the beauty of the mountains in his hometown. “My hometown is a tourist destination,” he says proudly. He tells me it is Tonglu, but I have never heard of it. “We have mountains, rivers, and caves,” he says. And then he smiles gently and adds this: “You’re welcome to visit anytime.”

I don’t visit his village until six months after that — during Chinese New Year, 2003. Continue reading “Chapter 43: Going to John’s China Hometown”

How my Chinese mother-in-law cured a mentally ill chicken

At my inlaws’ home, I didn’t take much notice of the chicken habitually roosting in the corner of the room next to the kitchen. Chickens have free run of the first floor of the house (which means we have to watch where we walk) and even have their own sleeping corner.

But my Chinese mother-in-law did notice that chicken, and she didn’t like it one bit.

“It keeps sitting there in the corner, but it won’t lay eggs!” she exclaimed in her booming voice — a voice that is pretty normal out here in the countryside, but would border on argumentative if she were speaking in English.

A few days later, I discovered the cure. Continue reading “How my Chinese mother-in-law cured a mentally ill chicken”