Thursday, April 17, 2014

Member John Marienthal Writes From Shanghai

John Marienthal writes from Shanghai:
Hello from the second biggest city in world--now 24 million people—where I am doing some volunteer lecturing.  The weather has just broken 70 degrees here. 
I recently went to Zhejiang, to visit a family I know in Wuyi county.  It is something I’ve done almost every year for the past ten years, and is a real joy. I have watched their children grow up. I sit down with them at a meal and become "invisible" no fretting or fawning over the wai guo ren (foreigner).  I am treated as just part of the family.  
Wuyi Xian (county) is located halfway between Hangzhou and Wenzhou (the shoe capital of China).  The town's claim to fame is a 700-year-old wooden bridge that crosses a river in the middle of the town.  The landscape is like Guilin only prettier because they get rain year round.  There are karst-like hills, volcanic lava flows, mountains to 2000 to 3000 feet.  In some ways many of the things that you can see in Wuyi mirror positive things for China's future. 
When I first went to Wuyi County in 2002 it had about 35000 people and six taxis.  Now it has 50,000 people and they are even building  a Walmart. They still have the KFC there from ten years ago,  but still no McDonald's or Starbucks. In 2002 it was a farming center. Now, like many other small Chinese cities, it is a specialized industrial center. The town is the hub for the steel door, safety door and security door capital of China.  High growth has forced up housing prices. In 2002 prices were about 1000 rmb per square meter. Now they are reaching 12000 rmb per sq. meter. 
I sat in on a ninth-grade English class. As part of their lesson they read a passage about credit cards, ATM's, and a cashless future via virtual money online.  In 2002 all those things would have seemed like science fiction. Yet today ALL three are now available in Wuyi. 
It used to take seven hours on the slow train to reach this town. Now it takes 1 1/2 hours to get to nearby Jinhua by fast train. The high speed train to Jinhua can travel at 175 miles per hour, but because of the 2011 accident on this same track it is restricted to 130 mph.
There are high speed rail connections to most of the highly-populated cities in eastern China . There is even a new connection that runs between Hong Kong/Canton  to Beijing. Here in Shanghai the trains are formidable competition to airplane travel to Beijing. You can get on the fastest train and go from the subway in  Shanghai  to downtown Beijing in five hours. No long airport security lines, waiting for baggage, trying to find transport at the other end.
I hope to do more traveling while I am here.   
Good health to you all,


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Upcoming Brush Painting Demonstration

Shirley Lin Kinoshita will be demonstrating sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) Sat. April 26th ,10 am-4 pm at the Annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival at Quinlan Community Center. The Festival is free and open to the public. Parking is available at Quinlan lot or DeAnza college.

Re-Cap of April Meeting with Artist Shirley Lin Kinoshita

According to artist Shirley Lin Kinoshita, Chinese Ink Painting is not only the oldest art form in the world, dating back 2-4,000 years, but is one of the highest art forms in China. Despite this, she joked, no Asian parent wants his/her child to be an artist. “Study to be a doctor. Or lawyer!”
Kinoshita studied library science on full scholarship at UC Berkeley. For years she was a full-time Medical Library Manager at Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital. It was only when she cut back on her hours as she neared retirement that she decided to explore something different. A Chinese brush painting class was on offer, so she gave that a try. She was immediately hooked, not only painting for profit but also teaching others the form.
Ink Painting consists of Four Treasures:
Ink (pine soot mixed with glue molded into sticks),
Brush (made with animal hair and invented around 250B.C),
and paper (invented by Chinese court official Ts’ai Lun around 105AD).
There are also Six Canons of Chinese painting that every student learns, rules that were created in 500AD by the painter Hsieh Ho.
1.      Chi’I sheng-tung: Create spirit/life/vitality in art
2.      Ku-fa Yung-Pi: Use the brush to create structure
3.      Ying-wu hsiang-hsing: Draw its likeness
4.      Sui-lei fu-ts’ai: Apply color in accordance with nature ( purple sunflowers)
5.      Ching-ying wei-chi: Plan the design with each element in its proper place
6.      Ch’uan-I mo-hseih: Study by copying the old masters
Of these six rules, Kinoshita said, the first—qi/spirit-- is the most important. In fact, “Asian brush painting is more spiritual than physical. It is believed that the best painters are pure of spirit.” Underlying the philosophy of ink painting is the unifying pattern of life in all its natural forms. She pointed out, “Man is a humble, insignificant part in this scheme.”

Kinoshita held up paintings she had done of bunnies representing life, and a rooster, hen and chicks representing family, and three goldfish representing abundant wealth. She explained that there were four plants most typically depicted, also known as “the four gentlemen.” 

She drew each one of the Four Gentlemen for us:
Bamboo (representing strength and resilience.),
Chrysanthemum (representing fidelity and friendship),
Plum Blossoms (representing endurance)
and the Orchid (representing humility.).  
As she said, “Chinese painting is much more than meets the eye. The composition can easily be read, but unless its inner and symbolic meanings are recognized, the whole painting will only be partially enjoyed.”
While Kinoshita still paints, it is mostly for herself and to teach her grandchildren. These days her days are filled as President of the Silicon Valley United Nations Association. However, for those interested in pursuing their artistic side, Kinoshita recommended two artists in the area. Ming Lee at the Cupertino Senior Center and Judy Chu at the Sunnyvale Community Center.

(Photos courtesy of Billy Lee)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Acupuncturists Needled By Language Issues in British Columbia

An old buddy of mine from Japan days is a doctor of Chinese Medicine in British Columbia. In fact, Dr. Louise Demorest helped pave the way for the profession to be recognized. Back when she started 15 years ago, she said that the therapy was viewed about on par with Voodoo. Today, apparently over one in ten residents seek out acupuncture therapy for a range of needs--from curing a sore knee to help with fertility issues. One would think that all is smooth sailing.
"Not so," said Dr. Demorest in a recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
Up until now doctors have been able to study and take licensing exams in Chinese. Now the argument is that since the official languages of the country are English/French, the tests should be taken in English. The downside is that there are some amazing practitioners who do not speak English well enough to pass a test. The upside is, well, is there really one? What do you think?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Early USCPFA Member--John Marienthal--Looks Back

A young woman reporter at a recent National Convention asked how I became interested in China. Two things about China captured my interest. I had recently finished a degree in geography during which. China, being the biggest developing country in the world, was a major topic. How developing countries were to solve their problems was of interest to me.

Additionally, after spending a year and a half in the Air Force in the Philippines (’64-’66), I became interested in the Vietnam anti-war movement. While in the Philippines, I had observed SEA Countries and China first hand, and I knew none of these countries was strong enough to storm the beaches of Santa Monica and Los Angeles Calif. I knew we were wrong to be in Vietnam.

I did some reading, and visited China Books and Periodicals. (Later, in 1975 I worked for China Books) I was intrigued that while China was a Socialist country, some of their ideas might benefit the U.S. So, when in Sept of 1971, a friend approached me about forming a China Peoples Friendship Assn, I was only too willing.

In December of 1971, we had a small meeting of local activists. (We were lucky to have Grace and Manny Granich who had just returned from a visit to China in 1970. They had also been involved in running an anti-Japanese newspaper in Shanghai from 1935-1937. They left just before the Japanese occupied the International Settlement. Just before the Japanese warrant for their arrest.) We discussed reasons we should form a group to build friendship with China. We decided we wanted to have a public program before Nixon went to China. Thus began the Southbay Chapter, one of the first five in the country.

The SF chapter, which was the first chapter in America, started about the same time. In 1972 a chapter was started in Palo Alto. Within a year, Jack Edelman and others started a chapter in Marin County (North Bay).In 1974 we formed a chapter in Santa Cruz.

Chapters began popping up all over California and the west. There was a professor and some interested students in Fresno—a chapter was born. There were some people who had been involved in United Nations Assn. work in Sacramento—a chapter was born. Groups formed in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Orange County, West Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego.In 1972 Frank Pestana and others formed a regional network. From the west coast, USCPFA blossomed all over. Yoji Ariyoshi and family helped form a Hawaiian chapter. Chapters were formed in the Midwest and the East coast.

In those days, chapters showed Chinese films and foreign documentaries (i.e. Dr. Joshua Horn film) to add to the small number of speakers we could find. The number of people who had been to China was still very small. In 1973 that changed. Youxie offered each of the three areas of our national organization a six person leadership tour to China. That not only helped organize our group into three areas (west, east, Midwest) but was the beginning of many trips to China.

In 1974 Youxie offered a limited number of visas to tour groups. Potential travelers underwent interviews and had to promise to do outreach programs upon their return. As the visas were limited, couples were not allowed. As part of the newly-formed Western region, I went with this first commercial group of 30 from Hong Kong to Beijing and back.

As part of my outreach, In 1975 I moved to Chicago and worked for China Books, I became the Vice President of the Chicago chapter, and served on the Midwest region steering committee. In 1981 I returned to S.F., and returned to S.J. in 1984. I married Dianne Schloeder who became the San Jose chapter president. Dianne, Ann and Andie Sermersheim, and I did the newsletter together for many years. I also was on the Western Region board.

In 1986 I went to teach in Shihezi, Xinjiang for a year. After a year’s hiatus, I returned to live and work in Shanghai for six years. In 2004 I returned to America and again became active in the Western region board. Still, China tugged for me to return. I continued to visit almost every year, teaching English wherever I found myself.  In 2012 I worked as a volunteer in Yunnan.

Now I’m back in Shanghai volunteering to do teacher training in the Putuo district in Shanghai. Since the mid-60’s, when I became curious about this giant country, I’ve been lucky enough to visit every province except Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Maybe I’ll get there this year.

5/17, Saturday, The Walk of Remembrance: Celebrating Pacific Grove's Chinese Village & Pioneering Fishing Community