How I missed my Tempur-pedic (and no one is paying me to say that).
I got very sick with something respiratory on my last day in the mountains, (Kong Shan Ling Yu, indeed) and spent one full day back in Beijing in a very fine hotel, cuddled under two fluffy warm quilts, supported by a pile of pillows, on a rock hard lumpy mattress. This is the real mystery of China for me. What's with the mattresses?
But there was a remote control to a nice TV, so it was CCTV 11 (all-Chinese-opera, all-the-time) and CCTV 6 (martial arts movies and historical dramas, occasionally subtitled). Not a bad way to kick back and recover, supplemented with Chinese medicine, foot massages (which include somewhat more than feet), cupping/moxibustion (my back still looks like it was run over by a military vehicle) and tea and sympathy from my Chinese guide/interpreter who says I got sick because I didn't wear socks with my hiking sandals.
"I'm from Hawaii. What are these things called socks?" And she said I needed to go outside and get some fresh air. Visibility in Beijing was about a quarter mile. I had doubts about that advice. But I did it anyway, and survived.
So while the trip was all about serious qigong and meditation practice, and looking at a lot of Chinese paintings, I did have some interesting video moments. CCTV was fascinating, as usual; one evening there was a feature about Taoism, curiously about exactly the place we had just visited, Ge Hong's Temple in Hangzhou. And then there was the Pepsi ad that kept turning up on CCTV 6. I can't find this on YouTube (yet); Pepsi does some very amusing and innovative ads in China.
How to sell Pepsi in China: Open to a handsome Han Dynasty swordsman, top-knoted and decked out in military armour, just like the guys I like to watch in my dramas who project CGI-generated qi to overcome their enemies. Gege is calm and serious, seated crosslegged on a bridge with a bottle of Pepsi in his hand. An army gathers to attack from the other side. Gege flashes a sultry look (or maybe it just looked that way to me) to the opposing force, takes a long swig of his Pepsi, and then...burps...a really big one. The opposing army retreats as big waves of burped qi overwhelm them. He raises his bottle in triumph and his soldiers come forth to finish what the Pepsi energy didn't. (Terra cotta Pepsi bottles in Xian?)
Then there was the very fine video offering on Korean Airlines' A330-300. (I've never been a big Airbus fan, but this widebody was a nice plane. KA seems to be upgrading and replacing its 747s.) A host of films to choose, all individually digitally controlled with a touchscreen at the seat. I watched a Korean tearjerker (there's a redundancy there) outbound that I have since forgotten, then discovered Andy Lau's new Shaolin...I remained on board until everyone else exited the plane in Seoul to see the end. I was able to do that. I watched it a second time on the flight home and decided I liked it a lot, especially the part when Jackie Chan says, "I don't know kung fu."
Not limiting myself to the martial arts genre, I also used the KA DVD player to watch a romantic comedy/drama that featured not only an elaborate ceremony for a divorce, but also a pre-death funeral, If You are the One, Two, a sequel to If You are the One, One (which I have never seen, but expect my video vendor to press on me when I see her again.) It starred the very fine Ge You, who I know mostly from The Emperor's Shadow, but I was intrigued by Sun Honglei, very big in Chinese film right now. No wonder I recognized him. Another strong stunning Northerner like Zhao Wen Zhuo, from Harbin.
I saw his face (right) on a billboard passing through Shiyan (not to be confused with Xian), a gritty town where the only industry seems to be cars and trucks and parts for them. The Detroit of China. (Although judging from the everyday restaurants we stopped at there, Chinese auto workers really know how to eat.) I've never seen so much public signage for gears, distributors, axles, and assorted nuts and bolts. Sun Honglei's face was welcome relief. (Although Andy Lau was all over the place too.) "Who is that? I know him," I asked my interpreter about Mr. Sun. "An actor, he plays bad people...he has a bad face," she said. Actually, I think he is quite attractive, but Eastern and Western standards of beauty and handsomeness seem to be a little different.
I still dropped Zhao Wen Zhuo's name whenever I could, though I got a sense that he is a little over the hill now, not new, like a Tom Hanks or even Robert Redford. Still, a guy in Hangzhou, when I mentioned my muse's name, stroked his own face and smiled. "So handsome," he agreed.