There is a saying in China that “Beijing is for politics,“ and it’s true that trips to Beijing, even for monks, often involve formal lunches with dignitaries and lengthy speeches by honored guests. But sometimes monks get out for fun. What sort of fun do monks have in Beijing? If you guessed the fun included seeing old friends, taking walks in the park, playing guqin music and drinking fine tea, you would be correct. (Above: Mr. Han Song, Prof. Ron Epstein, Madalena Tam, Heng Sure, Jin Yong, Mr. Lin Zhiping.)
We had a free day at the end of this trip and our friends Han Song and Lin Zhiping took us out to a municipal park built for the Beijing Olympics but little known to any but the locals. Mr. Han calls it "the lasting contribution of the Olympics to the City of Beijing.“ The park is just across the lake from the Bird's Nest; in another two decades the trees planted to create this green space will grow tall and Beijing will have a fine green space in the center of a still-expanding city.
On the last day, Prof. Zhou Yu brought over her Wang Peng guqin, for us to admire. Prof. Zhou, who admits that she is crazy about guqin music in general and her wonderful guqin in particular, talks fondly of her instrument and its creator. Wang Peng is a young guqin craftsman in Beijing, who has rapidly risen to prominence as one of the top guqin luthiers in China. Indeed his instrument was used in the famous guqin segment of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Prof. Zhou uses silk strings on her qin and loves its subtle and evocative voice. She has written extensively about the guqin. I look forward to future exchanges on this most ancient of musical instruments still in current use.