The Kunming Street Artist/Begger

The begger and his characters on the sidewalk

This picture was worth a thousand words, or Chinese characters, depending on how you look at it.

I happened upon this man, actually, a teenager, drawing Chinese characters on the sidewalk. They were very well written and organized.

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The "Laowai", Racism and Personal Space in China

"Laowai". That's pronounced "Lao-why." It means foreigner. To me, it means "dog." It means an individual who isn't really human. That's how it feels when the Chinese say it in reference to me. They never say it directly to me, always among themselves. You aren't privy to their conversation, but you can see the degree of entertainment that they enjoy when you're in their presence.

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Stray Images of Kunming, Part Three

Eat? Run? Eat? Run?

You're not supposed to eat on the job. And if you must eat on the job, you're not supposed to be photographed by a foreigner while eating on the job. But if you're really hungry while being photographed eating on the job, then you should get up and walk away. Though you shouldn't stop eating (and she didn't even as she scurried off the moment after this picture was taken.)

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Stray Images of Kunming, Part Deux

A few more stray observations and pictures that didn't require an entire article, but nice vignettes.

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Stray Images of Kunming, Part One

There's a street sweeping truck that comes out and sprays down the main thoroughfares when it hasn't rained for a while, to keep the dust down. It plays music much like the ice cream trucks back home. The song that it plays is "happy birthday to you." This tune is catchy like a flu. Not something you really want echoing in your head all day.

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Shi Lin, the Stone Forest

Shi Lin, the Stone Forest

Said to be "the Peerless Scenic Wonder under the sun" (by the travel books), Shi Lin is not a bad excursion for a day or two.

The remains of an ancient sea floor have long since given way to the uplifting of the continent, or perhaps the receding seas. In either case, what was left was a whole bunch of limestone that ultimately began to erode into some interesting columns to walk through. A likely theory considering the numerous sea shell fossils that are sold in the area's gift shops.

It is also said that way back when, the Gods decided to break up the stones to give lovers a place to be together without being watched by anybody. This is a good theory too, considering all the little Gods available in the area's gift shops.

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Yunnan Minorities Village

Yunnan Province is very proud of their minority population. There are something like 26 official indigenous minorities made up of everything from Tibetans to some of the tribes from Northern Thailand and Laos.

Not far from town, they've constructed a tourist attraction devoted to all of the minorities, their home life and of course, their crafts for sale.

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Chinese Celebrity Look-Alikes

It is said that if you're one-in-a-million, there are four of you in New York City. Well, Kunming's 3 million people (a mere "berg" by Chinese standards) provide an occasional surprise in the study of genetics. I've, thus far met a few people who bare a striking resemblance to celebrities found elsewhere in the world's great genetic pools. This page is devoted to Chinese celebrity look-alikes. Some of them really do undeniably look like celebrities while others are perhaps my own psyche's attempts to add order to an otherwise chaotic social experience.

Dr. Joyce Brothers: ironically, this is the staff psychologist at the Yunnan Province TCM hospital. That always kind of dumbfounded me.

Joyce Brothers

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The Chinese Top-Ten Western Hits of All Time

Note: This article was written in the Spring of 1998.
References to "nowadays" should be read with that in mind.

Among the things that I miss more than anything here is good music. Certainly, Chinese classical music is a treat for the ears, but just like Chinese food, there grows within you a need for the familiar taste of a veggie burger, fries from unsaturated fryers, and cola flavored mineral water.

With that in mind, I offer you this Top-Ten countdown of English language songs in China, along with observations regarding the Chinese approach to music that I've found in Kunming.

(insert Casey Kasem voice here)

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Jurassic Park, Chinese Style

Tucked away, in the center of the Yunnan Nationalities Village is a delightful slice of Americana which I like to call Jurassic Park.

It's a little island/park full of dinosaurs made of upholstery foam, under which are located tiny little outdoor speakers spewing out helplessly distorted Godzilla sounds. Most of the dinosaurs made the same sound. This park was a cross between Twilight Zone technology and The Simpsons amusement park clichés. Now this is no Itchy and Scratchy Land, but it does contain all the joy and wonder that you'd expect from a hastily thrown together and severely under maintained theme park.

I couldn't stop laughing once we got here. If you're in Kunming, and you really want to find some old-fashioned fun like you haven't had since the last time you saw a Godzilla movie. This is definitely the place to go.

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A New Year in China

Dear Mom and Dad,

On New Year's Day in China I happened to notice three, count 'em, three pregnant woman. I've seen a few here already, but after I saw the second in one day, I thought that it was kind of an interesting metaphor for the first day of the year. When I saw the third, I was really getting kick out of it. A new year, new life, new possibilities. The optimism was short lived, though.

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Its a Kunming Christmas!

Dear Mom and Dad,

They've got a word for Christmas, here.


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The Reflexology Girls

In our never-ending quest for a real-live Asian style massage we happened upon this little storefront not far from our home in Kunming. Inside, I saw a couple of women working on the feet of a couple of Chinese businessmen who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience.

I asked how much it cost to have a reflexology massage. I was told that it was 60 Yuan, about $7.50. Works for me. Linda and I returned that night around nine for our foot massage.

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Back in the Saddle Again, Kunming Radio

Kunming has four radio stations. Through a kind of fluke, I was invited to one of them that features an English language program twice a week called "Let's Learn English Together."

The pictures on this page represent the second of two, programs that I co-hosted. In the first show, we played some alternative/electronic music that was provided by a friend who was supposed to be on the show that night, but he got sick, and since he knew of my professional history in radio, invited me to fill in for him.

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Jia Tang Jia (Home Sweet Home)

One Sunday morning, Linda and I decided to just go for a little walk around our neighborhood. We talked to our neighbors, or at least gestured wildly with our neighbors and everyone seemed to have a good time misunderstanding each other.

Linda and Locals

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Cancer Treatments with Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Yunnan Province Hospital of TCM has a "sister city" relationship with one of the major TCM hospitals in Shanghai. For one month, a number of distinguished doctors from Shanghai come to Kunming to share with our doctors their unique perspective on a variety of specialties including cancer.

A child with a brain tumorA seven year old boy has been suffering from slow growth and frequent bouts of nausea. With Western testing procedures, it was determined that he has a small brain tumor.

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Western Food That'll Curl Your Hair

Dear Mom and Dad,

The halfway point in my adventure has come. It's been two months. To me it feels like about a year.

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The Kunming Opera

The Beijing Opera (formally known as the Peking Opera) is a world-renown expression of all things Chinese. It's a mixture of singing, dancing, drama and martial arts. I've seen it a bit on television and I really like it. The music is accessible in a way that makes you want to hum along once you get it. The way in which people move on stage, their gestures and staging is quite different from the way in which Western actors use the stage. The set design rivals the finest Italian operas. The make-up reminds me a bit of kabuki theater in Japan. The musical instruments used are classically Chinese and the songs are as familiar to them as the best works of Rogers and Hammerstein are to us.

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The Jin Dian (Golden Temple) Taoist Monastery

We finally got to visit a real live Taoist Monastery. I was actually a little saddened by the reality of this monastery. It was just another tourist trap. Sure, there's lots of pretty buildings with colorful paintings and more than enough really big statues of Taoist deities, but the spirit of the temple is lost in the glamor of it all. Perhaps the spirit was lost when they built the temple in the first place.

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The Huatingsi Monastery

If you're going to spend some time in the West Hills, outside of Kunming, and you really want to take in some ancient culture, fabulous artwork and just a hint of honest-to-goodness divinity, this is the place to go.

The Huatingsi Monastery isn't the highest location in the West Hills, in fact, I believe that it's the lowest, but from the depths of the mud comes forth the lotus and if it is the beauty of Chinese Buddhism that attracts you, you've come to the right place at Huatingsi.

Apparently, it all began in the year 1063. King Arthur was arguing with his carpenters regarding the shape of his kitchen table, the abacus was still high technology, and Vikings were discovering that America had already been discovered by the Indians who looked a little Chinese...

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The Dragon's Gate Monastery

Each step arduous and in danger,
Steadfastly you have to stand your ground;
Being high up in the firmament,
You had better set at ease your mind.

Those are the words you'll find outside one of the many caves at the Dragon's Gate monastery, which isn't exactly a monastery as much as it is a series of caves high in the West Hills near Kunming. Many of the caves feature a Buddhist deity and a plethora of vendors providing you with enough incense to choke an ancestor.

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Acupuncture Anesthesia

Acupuncture Anesthesia has been dreadfully under-utilized in the West, however, at the Yunnan Province TCM Hospital, in Kunming, its a common occurrence. Its a safe and effective means of inducing anesthesia without the dangerous side effects of Western drugs.

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Wang Dai Fu, Man About Town.

Wang Dai Fu's Gang. From left to right; Dr. Wen, our translator and the hospital's anesthesiologist, Al, with his head finally not cut off at the top during a group shot, Wang Dai Fu, without a smile, he doesn't have to, and Linda with a smile, she doesn't have to either.

Wang Dai Fu. That means Dr. Wang. Dr. Wang is the man in charge of the Bell's Palsy ward at the Yunnan Province Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Linda and I are spending a couple of months with him.

Nobody is as cool as Wang Dai Fu. Dr. Wang wears black shirts with lightly colored floral ties. He's got this Mafia thing going on that looks great on him.

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How to Speak Chinese, With Your Hands

Dear Mom and Dad,

At the five week mark of my journey into the mysteries of the Orient, it seems that I've figured out how to get what I need, even if that includes various gestures and mimed movements. Whoever said that funding for public schools' drama departments is a waste of money never had to go overseas and try to communicate without the luxury of words...

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The Kunming Street Artist/Begger

The begger and his characters on the sidewalk

This picture was worth a thousand words, or Chinese characters, depending on how you look at it.

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The Taihuasi Monastery

The Taihuasi Monastery

Here's yet another monastery at the West Hills near Kunming. Mostly, the warmth of this location comes from its trees and park-like setting. Its comfortable, and there's a sense here of a lack of boundaries.

Throughout much of the day we spent in the West Hills, I kept looking off the road for a small trail to follow to a mineral deposit or hidden mine, as I'm accustomed to doing while hiking in the San Bernardino Forest of Southern California. However, at each of the tourist destinations in the West Hills, it is difficult to get past the fence or get off the trail. This monastery doesn't have much of a fence in its back and so it isn't difficult to quietly walk out into the neighboring hillside. Someday I'll return to do that, taking these tours with others who don't share your love of the "outback" makes it difficult to get off the beaten trail.

This monastery was originally built in 1306. Yadda yadda yadda. It was a warm year as I remember. Really good apples that fall. Navy beat Army. That stands out, too.

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100 Herbs, 50 Kids

Being the "laowai" (foreigner) is often times a problem. However, sometimes even problems enjoy their own special brand of absurdity.

When I got to the Kunming Botanical Institutes's Chinese Herbal Medicine garden, I found myself alone for the first time in the week I'd been in China. I sat down in a beautiful pavilion overlooking a pond full of lilies and rested for a few minutes, enjoying my dried mangoes, a Pepsi, and a bag of potato chips described on the package as "the flavor of pungency".

Mmmmm - pungency.

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The Holiday Inn Massage Parlor

In the USA, Holiday Inn is a name as squeaky clean as Sears. It may not be the center of luxury, but its a reasonable place to stay if you need somewhere to spend the night.

The Holiday Inn in Kunming is, for us, a wonderful diversion. It has been cold and rainy, and after a day out and about on our bikes, we like to stop in to the Holiday Inn and sip some coffee in their quiet warm, dry dining room.

They have a massage service that operates out of the top floor of their hotel there. The space isn't actually a Holiday Inn business, but a concession rented out and owned by some other company. In fact, the hotel isn't really even a Holiday Inn, but they have been given permission to use the name.

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The Blind Tui Na Massage

There are quite a few public places in Kunming where Chinese congregate. One is in front of the park devoted to the numerous ethnic nationalities that all share the province of Yunnan.

A couple of (likely Moslem) Tui Na massage therapistsTwo Tui Na massage therapists doing what they do, there in the park in Kunming.

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Welcome to the Holy Land

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I'm finally in the holy land! That's because the shower has a hole in the bottom that doubles as their toilet...

After two weeks of less than perfect circumstances, things are finally beginning to settle down and look up! The weather was unseasonably cold and wet when we arrived and we had to scramble to get the necessary warm clothing and raincoats for bike riding around the city of Kunming. However, in my already weakened state of getting used to a whole new viral culture, I got sick and was kind of out of it for about a week and a half. I'm still sneezing and blowing my nose a lot due to either an allergen, or the dust in the air from the construction near our apartment.

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Chinese Workers' Day 1997

October first is a Chinese National holiday called "worker's day". It begins a five day weekend. Actually, because of the fact that October First falls on a Wednesday, and workers are only allowed to have a maximum of four days off, they all have to go back to work on Sunday.

I asked my host what workers do on "Workers Day".

"They rest." He answered. File that under "duh." :)

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One Night in Bangkok

Al posing with Colonial Sanders. Al posing with an old friend, long removed from the current KFC chain, Colonial Sanders, at the Bangkok airport.

With a name like Bangkok, this Thailand city has received a lot of press regarding its liberal attitudes toward sex and the industry that surrounds that understanding. Our flight brought us into the Bangkok airport at ten o'clock local time. We rented a room within the airport for the night as we had until ten o clock the next morning before our flight into Kunming. It was a cold but clean room with a shower and toilet. We didn't know at the time what a luxury that would soon be considered.

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About Kunming

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Beyond Beyond Well Being in the Kunming category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Ikebana is the previous category.

Nature Notes is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.