During the Tang Dynasty, China’s arguably most famous poet, Du Fu (712-770) found himself behind enemy lines at the onset of the An Lushan Rebellion. He was forced to leave his family for what seemed like an eternity for him and his loved ones, as proved by his numerous melancholy poems describing the desolation and defeat he felt during this time period. If anyone knows about leaving it’s Du Fu, so it’s only fitting that on our last full (and very hot!) day in China before leaving we visited the site of his beloved thatched hut– the site for his greatest literary inspiration, now greatly revered in Chinese culture several hundred years after his death. I’ll get to our own leaving later, but for right now Du Fu is well deserving of a descriptive recap of our tour of his home.
As someone who has learned about Du Fu before coming to China, I found this visit enjoyable, not to mention educational. Since he was not famous or that respected as a writer during his lifetime, his original thatched hut was destroyed. Fortunately, it was rebuilt on what is thought to be the spot it once used to stand in all its quietude, now for tourists and Chinese enthusiasts to admire. Tucked casually behind a wall on a main road in the dynamic city of Chengdu, Du Fu’s thatched hut would be very easy to miss for those passing by– kind of like he was when he was alive. However fast paced Chinese culture, though maybe not Sichuan culture may be, once we entered this historical site, we slowed down considerably. His home is unlike that of the majority of the places we visited over the last four weeks: it was simple.
Surrounded by large coy ponds and tall trees, amid massive smarms of mosquitoes that were not shy, but actually rather aggressive, Du Fu’s remodeled home just sort of sits there waiting to be looked at. Made of wood and very few other materials, it is quite small, consisting of only a few tiny rooms in a row. If there was ever a question of where his poetic imagination comes from, it quite clearly comes from the simplicity he called home. He was a man to realize not much in life was needed– a loving family and the beauty of nature were all a man could truly wish for in the end. We saw Tang ruins, we got bug bites, we practiced tai chi on a pagoda, we spent a decent amount of time in the gift shop and together as a group we had a fun last day in Chengdu, which up to this point had been a whirlwind tour.
It was nice to realize the hidden secrets of happiness the day before leaving, the day we all dreaded with every fiber of our beings. I think I speak for the whole group when I say that this China Maymester was one of the single greatest experiences if not just our college careers, then our entire lives. This month has not been real life, but rather a jam-packed schedule of excitement and endless enjoyment, causing me to always question if it was really happening. But it was happening. We actually did this. We boarded a plane with ten other relatively new faces, not knowing what to expect fourteen hours later on the opposite side of the globe. Four weeks later we’re boarding another plane, the closest knit group of eleven miscellaneous Holy Cross students who ever studied abroad together and we’re leaving the country we’ve called home for the past month– and which has honestly felt like home since our arrival.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change one thing about our stay here, except maybe that it wasn’t longer. I don’t want to leave. I don’t think any of us do. Du Fu didn’t want to either, but that was a long time ago. Since it’s time to say goodbye for now, it’s time to say a few thank yous. A special shout out to BZ and Luo laoshi for putting up with our antics for the past month and without whom we would not have made it to China. We could not thank you two enough. Thank you to our teachers from CNU (especially Gao laoshi). To the people who made our countless tuna sandwiches. To Rebecca for her excellent tour guide skills. To the bus driver for showing us what Chinese road rage is really all about.To the pandas for being so loveable in all their laziness. To those who asked to take pictures with us making us feel like celebrities. To everyone we met and befriended during our short time. To my ten extraordinary classmates. And to China. Thank you. Thank you again and again.
Du Fu may need his family and nature to be happy. I realized Alison, Zoe, Andrew, Paula, Anna, Johnny, Ian, Reggie, Stella, Pater, Luo laoshi, BZ, and China are all small shortcuts to instant happiness.
Kendra Mikami June 13, 2013 :)