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Give me steam

Several days before I arrived in Vancouver, I noticed that it was tough to get accommodation, and when I arrived and the receptionist said “Oh good, you'll be here for Canada Day”, all was explained. A friend from postgraduate days, Kristian, is working for TRIUMF, the main Canadian physics laboratory, and so we went down and watched the fireworks and generally had a yarn. They also had the Olympic flame lit up; for those of you who missed it (such as, um, me), the Winter Olympics were on this year and were in Vancouver. It was a big deal, apparently.

The next day, I took a pleasant trip on a paddle wheel around the bay, went down town to see a steam powered clock (and sadly, reminiscent of steam punk it was not), and then headed over to check out the Ming Dynasty scholar's garden in Chinatown. This was built in the mid-1980s by both Vancouver and the PRC (probably as a way for both to indulge in annoying the US of A) using all the techniques and traditions of the 1300s, with all materials except plants being shipped from China. There were many interesting details - relayed expertly by the passionate volunteer guide who has made Ming China her adoptive culture - too many details to tell here.

One that stood out to me was that the concept of a Man Cave is universal: the scholars of 14th century China had a study and courtyard only for dudes. These gardens had 4 elements: water, stone, plants and buildings, and the Man Cave had none of the female element of water. Note to ladies: the garden shed is universal and essential. Give your dude his own retreat and your relationship will be better.

Another nice part was the 'Ting' pavilion, built on top of faux mountain, and with sweeping roofs (like the other buildings) so evil spirits could not land. Under the faux mountain was a faux cave, where the scholar would wait for hours for a dragon to visit him, or for an Immortal to come by. For you see, at this time in China it was believed that there were immortals who moved through society, people who had been born normally but learnt the secrets of eternal life. The scholar hoped a visiting Immortal would tell him how to cheat death.

Something else fun was the usual enmity between China and Japan leaking out all over the place. The guide had been well taught in how the later stole from the former the art-of-wasting-time-making-little-trees and changed its name from Penjing to Bonsai.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
Monsieur Robert
Tres bon, tres bon.

Je ne comprend pas l'Francais.
paulfraser
Jul. 21st, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
Re: Monsieur Robert
Well, you can fix that by reading this endearing comic:
http://www.menagea3.net/d/20090321.html
Ah, my mum's going to love me posting that.

Considering French is like badly-spelt Spanish meshed with English, it's my day-to-day life with some weird accents added.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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