- PuQi Adoptees -
My Visit to PuQi (Chibi City).
Background to my visit:
|Memorial Rock Carving at Chibi. If you have seen similiar photos then you will appreciate how high the water was at the time this photo was taken. Bottom photo is of a sign about Chibi.|
In November of 2003 I was on my second visit to Chibi town on the Banks of the Yangtze River, when I stumbled across a Christian Church, that turned out to be Catholic. Naturally I stuck my nose in and as a result was invited to attend their Christmas Day Mass.
I turned up at the wrong time, thanks to some error on the part of my interpreter, but was nevertheless taken to visit the visiting Priest. In that story posted at Kingscalendar.Com I called him 'Di Mao De', but it turns out that he is really Father Timothy. He gave me his telephone number and invited me to PuQi. On August 11th of this year, I finally made the trip.
I made the trip for three reasons, the first of which was that I needed a break after that horrendous Summer Camp teaching the teachers from the Hong Hu metropolitan area.
The second reason of course was that since I had an invitation, it provided me with incentive to explore wider a field.
The third reason however, derives from an internet search of 'PuQi'. I discovered that there were Chinese adoptees from PuQi living in the USA, and that an organization there was seeking information about the town from anyone who could provide it.
Because article titles are recorded on the internet for 'internet searches', I have chosen to name this article as I have, because it might make it easier for interested parties to find. I did try to contact the persons listed in the email address provided on the PuQi adoptees site, but the emails bounced, and as 'Lycos' is on the blocked link in China, I could not reach their message boards.
The Inscription on the Sign Above (with original spelling)
The Red Cliff (also called Chibi in Mandarin), an ancient battlefield in the period of the three Kingdoms period, is located 38 km northwest of the city of Chibi, Hubei Province, where the famous ancient battle took place in the history of China.
In 208 AD, the joined army ruled by Liu Bei and Sun Quan defeated Cao Cao here, which is one of the typical examples of the weak defeating the strong, the less defeating the more. After this battle, the three kingdoms -- Wei, Shu and Wu came into being. In this battle, the most famous story is Zhuge Liang borrowed the southeast wind and burning the cliffs. Now, Chibi is the only one of the ancient battlefields, which remains as its original appearance. It just lies at the Three Gorges. It is put down on the list of the important historical sites to be given special protection.
Chibi ancient battlefield contains the following scenic sports; Carvings on the Cliff, Stone Statue to Zhou Yu, Wind-praying Platform, the Museum of the Red Cliff Battle, the Young Phonetic Nunnery, Pang Tong's Well, as well as Yi Jiang Pavilion, Wang Pavilion and Stele Corridor, Etc.
With my long time friend Mr. Xie (Tobias) and new found friend Chen Yang, I set off for PuQi early on August 11th. The trip took about two and a half hours, with about 45 minutes of that sitting at the Chibi Barge crossing waiting for the barge.
|These photos are of the Hong Hu side of the barge crossing to Chibi Town. The water level is so high, and with more storms from the typhoon south of Shanghai, the river side of the levee will soon be flooded.|
Whilst Hong Hu is very flat land, Chibi is mountainous, which proved extremely comforting to us on this long hot trip, for once we reached the other side of the Chang Jiang river, the driver turned off the air conditioning, and we were able to open the windows and enjoy the cool fresh air and associated mountain scents.
Those of you who have followed my stories will have worked out by now that I really really really really love the Chinese countryside. It is so beautiful, and although quite different to the Australian countryside, it is every bit as beautiful. One stretch of tree lined road actually brought back a rush of memories of the French countryside in Provence.
|Some shots of the countryside around Chibi City|
PuQi (since 2000 it has officially be called Chibi City) lies to one side of the JingZhu expressway which is the new North-South expressway running passed Wuhan.
|The green lines are fence posts. This is part of a photo I took from the taxi and shows the new freeway and adjacent countryside.|
Not that WE traveled on the expressway. We found ourselves rushing along mountain roads with their fantastic views that left me wishing that the bus would stop so that I could take some decent photos. Unfortunately, on those few occasions that we did stop to either let people off or pick people up, it was always at some point where there were no views to be had.
Eventually we ceased passing farmhouses and little villages and entered a township. Doing a quick dip through an underpass, we snaked our way along into the town proper.
|Top: Signs of City civilisation. Bottom: More wonderful scenery.|
It was obviously a big place, reasonably modern, but nevertheless typically Chinese, with the new and glamorous shops sitting right alongside the dirty old ones. A few minutes later we arrived at the Bus Station.
As I said the trip took about two and a half hours, but in typical Chinese fashion, Tobias and Chen Yang just had to rush me from the Bus Station into a taxi.
They do this you know! They can never keep time or appointments, but are constantly rushing to go some place to do nothing special or important.
As we were leaving the terminal, I stopped to look at the time table and saw that there were buses at 08:00, 10:15, 12:30 and 15:00 each day to Hong Hu.
We needed this information as we were planning to leave early next day (or the day after) so that on our return trip Tobias and Chen Yang could visit the museum park in Chibi town.
Our next job was to find a hotel. There was one directly over the road from the bus station, but while trying to smoke 'just one' cigarette whilst discussing with Chen Yang the probable price, Tobias grabbed a taxi and asked to be taken to a hotel.
Well of course, you know what that meant don't you? The driver took us for a short drive and pulled up in this out of the way flash looking hotel, and ran inside ahead of us to speak to the receptionist. Gee! I wonder what he had to say? ($'s!!!!) Alighting from the cab I relit my half smoked cigarette only to hear Tobias saying, 'Come on, we must register! We must go in!'. 'Oh for heavens sake, what's the rush!' I defiantly replied, 'I'm going to smoke this bloody cigarette first!'
|Top photo: Golden Dragon Hotel (from Memory) with a shot from my hotel window. I just love roof top balconies.|
'This'll be expensive' I warned them. 'No No! It will only be 80 to 100 RMB.' they said. They nearly fell out of their trees when they saw the prices.
We settled on the cheapest one for 180 RMB. I did insist, of course, that we check out the room first. Yep! It would do. The poor taxi driver must have been disappointed - not to mention the staff!
Then of course there was the process of registering. Here were these two men trying to tell me what I must do. They both know that I frequently stay in hotels in China, but they felt it their duty to start explaining things to me.
Tobias started panicking about my passport. Once again he was in a rush. As I was getting it out I kept saying, "It won't do them any good, they need my resident's visa".
Naturally, as they were studying the passport, they couldn't work out which visa entry to record, and all the while I'm telling Tobias to inform them that they need to record the details in my Resident's visa, because my entry visa expired a month after I last arrived back in the country. It took them a while to figure it all out, but they did get there. Then I had to sign the form. Well wasn't that a shock. I grabbed the pen and signed it and handed it to the receptionist.
She went to compare signatures with my passport and to her shock, it was signed in Chinese characters. I picked up my residents visa and pointed to my Chinese Signature. 'Oh!' she giggled.
So off we headed to our twin room for three people. It was OK, but you should have seen the bath. Actually you can. I took a photo of it. Once we settled in, it was decided to go for a bite to eat, and then come back and rest, before trying to find the catholic church.
|Chen Yang slept on the other bed, while Tobias slept on the floor. Bottom photo: We were walking back to the hotel after lunch - not that they had any clue where the hotel was. For this they needed the foreigner.|
We walked out of the hotel and followed the road round to the right. Immediately Chen Yang started asking where I intended to eat. I told him that I wanted to get my bearings first, and continued up the street. Finally we came to a 'T' junction, and looking left I saw the education building and knew where I was in relation to the bus depot. The boys meanwhile were lost.
We entered a 'fast food' joint, the likes of which would have sent me very 'fast' on my way looking for KFC just 18 months ago. Lunch cost 5 RMB each and was served on a metal plate with heaps of food held in various sections. Very good value! Naturally no one had ever seen a foreigner before, or at least not in this joint, and I spent my time nodding, waving and smiling to every giggling 'Gerty' that I caught taking a squizz at me. I would love to have gone over to the servery and taken a few photos of the kitchen. It looked like a bombed out building that someone had taken over, and had just thrown around all manner of tables and gas cookers. There were about 30 staff in there. Yes! It really was a big fast food outlet.
Anyway, after lunch the boys wanted to take a taxi back to the hotel, if for no other reason than that they had no idea where they were. I walked them back.
|Opposite views of the street around the corner from the hotel. This is 'real' China.|
I can't remember now exactly what time we headed off to find the catholic church, but it must have been around 3pm. The boys thought I knew where it was, and were shocked to discover that I didn't. I on the other hand was shocked to discover that while Tobias had been told by the receptionist that it wasn't far, he had not bothered to ask where it was. 'Ah well! It doesn't matter! It is not important!'
|Three views of the bridge, with the middle photo being a close up of one of the many boys who were climbing up to the bridge from the river.|
I asked the boys to ask around in the street, and of course they were reluctant. One never speaks to strangers in China.
When they finally did ask, no one seemed to know. They had not believed me when I had told them that it would be the old people who would know. Finally we got some directions and headed off down the street to the bridge.
From the bridge one could see myriads of people swimming in the river. Since the 'viewing' section on my camera no longer works, I just zoomed up the camera, and took a photo. I captured 4 boys swimming.
It was only when I viewed the photo on my computer back in Hong Hu, that I realized that it would never do to display it here.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, sometimes you get a shock when you see what is in the background of a shot you are taking. In this photo, one boy was actually adding to the water level of the river, and he was the one actually wearing undies.
In order to take the bottom photograph in the photo on the left here, I was required to wait a little as one of the boys was also adding to the water level of the river.
These boys swam out to the bridge and climbed up the pylon, right up to the section underneath the roadway. We did not hang around to see how they got down. I couldn't imagine them jumping or diving, and I'm certain it would not have been an easy feat either to go down the way they came up, or climb up onto the roadway.
Crossing the bridge we sought further directions, which led us to turn right at the next intersection, and we located the church just a few hundred metres down the road.
We saw upon our arrival that the church doors were open, and as we prepared to enter, Father Timothy whom I met at Chibi town last Christmas, emerged.
|Father Joseph talking to Tobias in Chinese.|
I had not phoned to say that I was coming, and had not expected more than a simple courtesy visit, but such was the welcome we received, that we stayed until around 8:30 pm that evening. Not only were we taken to dinner in the restaurant next door, but sent on our way with gifts of Music CD's and Holy Pictures and Chinese religious newspapers.
|Father Joseph (left) and Father Timothy (right) on the steps of the Catholic Church, named Di Mao De.|
I did not recognize Father Timothy at first without his black priestly type clothes, but he recognized me, and took me to meet Father Joseph. Father Joseph came from a Catholic family, and was born in 1924 (if memory serves me right - I did not take notes). He became a priest when he was thirty-two, in 1956, and spent from '56 to '80 in Xian Xian in the north.
When the local PuQi priest died, he moved to PuQi, and admitted that there was a communication problem at first, for he is a natural speaker of Putonghua (Mandarin), whereas the local dialect is somewhat different. (So much so that Tobias and Chen Yang had difficulty with it).
When he arrived in PuQi, there were 100 parishioners. Today there are over 3,000, most of whom do not come from religious families of any variety. He finds that young people today are disillusioned with life and seeking an inner 'fulfillment' and peace which only Jesus can bring.
In 2001, Father Timothy (a local boy) was ordained and commenced work in the parish. The two serve the needs of the local metropolitan area, which does require some traveling about.
Within the Hubei Diocese there are a total of five priests, and within China, 1,300, of which some 300 or so (in the south at least) are reasonably new young priests like Father Timothy.
I guess most people could spot the difference between an orthodox and conservative Jew by their dress, but between Catholic and Evangelical the difference is most obvious in their speech. From how and what they spoke, I judge these two priests to be highly evangelical in character.
In accordance with the Vatican II changes, the church in China has reformed, and despite the bamboo curtain, it has remained abreast of events in the west and in particular, the Roman Catholic Church. They even receive regular English periodicals from Canada entitled 'Michael'.
|Top: Looking toward the altar. Bottom: Looking toward the entrance where a teaching session was in progress.|
Whilst they acknowledge the political realities for the church in China, and despite some Western religious perceptions that they are not truly 'Catholic', they maintain that they are 'one in Spirit' with their western brethren.
I raised the issue of the PuQi adoptees with them, and they informed me that while they were aware of the situation, they doubted that the records still existed concerning individuals and the identities of their parents. Nevertheless, as Father Timothy had a friend at the orphanage, he organized a meeting at the orphanage for us.
Unfortunately, once he mentioned that the photographs and information that I required, were to be published in an American newspaper, the orphanage director declined the meeting. As Tobias later explained, 'Even though we like all American things, in our deepest hearts we hate America and we all are waiting for China to grow strong so we can defeat America!' This was not news to me!
|I just can't get enough of the countryside.|
We did learn that all the records were destroyed years ago, and that there is no way to trace the families of the PuQi adoptees. Father Joseph did tell me however, that if any of the PuQi adoptees want to contact him, he will be glad to be of whatever assistance he can to them. (I have his contact details).
To compensate for the disappointment over not getting photographs or an interview, three of the staff of the Aged Men's home which occupies the same building as the orphanage, came to join us for dinner. They were wonderful people and very talkative. When you have been in China a while, it becomes easy to spot the difference between the 'polite' people and the actually 'friendly' ones. These were friendly.
Unbeknownst (is that a real word?) to me, Tobias agreed for us to go to mass at 6am the following morning. 'Oy Ve! Another early morning yet!' So after dinner we headed back to the hotel so that we could get up bright and early and walk to mass. There were around 70 people in attendance, many of whom stayed for breakfast in the grounds behind the church, where we were also introduced to one of the five Nuns in the parish.
The central officiating priest at mass that morning was Father Tian. He hails from Shandong province, and is a 30 year old big strong muscular man with lights in his eyes and a genuine smile that lights up the room. Unfortunately, although I had my camera with me, I forgot to take his photo.
We had a great time talking to each other over breakfast following which Tobias and I headed back to the hotel for a sleep before checking out in preparation for our trip to the Museum at Chibi town.
Although we could have walked to the Bus Station, the boys wanted to take a taxi, and just as we hit the main street, Chen Yang said something to the driver and suddenly instead of turning left toward the bus depot, we turned right.
When I inquired what was happening, I was informed that we were going to a different bus station. That, I figured, was Chinese logic. We knew where the bus station was and what times the buses ran, and what the fare was, but now we were going to a different bus station.
Eventually for some reason that trip proved fruitless and we headed back to the original bus depot, where the whole situation was made clear to me. There were apparently local buses leaving more frequently for Chibi Town than those going across the river to Hong Hu. Not a problem!
One thing that did arise out of that little detour, was the discovery that we could take a taxi to Chibi Town for only 60 yuan (RMB), so after dodging that taxi driver and his 'shock absorber deficient' taxi (by going for lunch in a local eatery), we caught another cab to Chibi Town.
|Top: A scene entering Chibi City (PuQi) and Bottom: A scene entering Chibi Town coming from Chibi City.|
The first time I went to the Museum park at Chibi Town, we spent 3 hours there and did not see everything. The next time in November when I took my boarders, we spent the best part of the day there. So the whole idea of taking a taxi, was to give us about three and a half hours to look around the place before the last bus to Hong Hu arrived to take us home.
Well Tobias and Chen Yang were like shoppers at a 90% off sale. We raced from place to place to place so that by the time we arrived at the third stop on the museum trail, we still had two and a half hours to kill before the bus to Hong Hu would arrive at the barge crossing.
Chen Yang explained that since I had said that on the last trip we took all day to explore the place, he thought we had to hurry to see everything in the limited time available to us. The truth was I think, more in keeping with the constraint refrain, "we can see these things all over China!". It really wasn't as special for them as for me and the younger boys who had never been out of Hong Hu.
|Top: Another view of Chibi Town. Botttom: A one hour wait for the bus gave the locals a lot of time to talk to the foreigners.|
After spending about 30 minutes or so sitting at the 1000 year old tree at the site of what was once a very large Buddhist Monastery, the remains of which consist of a small shrine and a living quarters in what was once a nunnery, we headed up the road toward the bus station, not knowing what we were going to do with the time left to us.
But there was nothing to worry about there, because there was a foreigner in town. After a short span sitting in the shade provided by the gates of a government hotel, we headed off to see if we could buy some ice creams, and that was when our time killing problem came to an end.
We spent a whole hour talking with the natives, which was not completely easy for the boys for two reasons. The first reason was that the dialect was somewhat different, and the second was that Chinese people do not talk to strangers - foreigners don't count.
If you see a foreigner you can ask as many questions as you like, but for the boys, that meant translating conversations, and that meant becoming involved in discussions with locals. It may sound strange, but it is a difficult cultural thing for them to do.
|Chibi Town citizens meeting with the foreigner.|
You have never seen two Chinese men so glad to see a bus arrive. It meant that they could sit for almost an entire hour without having to talk to anyone. I on the other hand became the center of attention until most of the people got off at the main road into Hong Hu.
|These shots were taken where the bus turns off the main road from Hong Hu, to head down to the crossing. The house on the left has its own swimming pool. Care for a dip?|
By the time we arrived in Xin Di (Hong Hu) I had a headache, and refusing to join the others for dinner, returned home to rest. We had had a short but eventful trip to Chibi City (PuQi) and Chibi town, and after my horrendous summer camp, I definitely needed the cheering up that this trip brought me.
Although it will be some weeks before I publish the relevant article, immediately after our trip to PuQi, Chen Yang and I went on to YiChang and the Three Gorges Dam project. As I took approximately 800 photographs, I intend to set up two files at Kingscalendar.Com so that when I do write about YiChang, you will have plenty of photos to see.
As for the PuQi Adoptees, I feel sorry that I cannot provide anything other than these few photographs, (and those at KingsCalendar.com), but I can say this; "You guys have received an opportunity that millions of Chinese people would like to have had, or for their own kids to have had. China may be your birthplace, but despite the beauty of China, it would be a backward step for you to want to return to China and become Chinese. Just ask the new Chinese American foreign teacher here in Hong Hu. She will tell you!
Count your blessings, and bless your parents!
PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHIBI MUSEUM PARK:
First in a Series of Articles about Chibi
|Top: Tobias and Chen Yang in the Museum Park. Bottom: Don't know but gee it turned out to be a great photo!|
|Two views of the ornamental tower beside the bridge.|
|Above and Below shots of the Bridge on the way to the Catholic Church.|
|Top: Furniture removal the Chinese way: Bottom: The bath in my hotel room. Those dark lines are mould.|
|Top: The building with the gold writing is the court house. Down the street to the left is the Golden Dragon Hotel. Bottom: One of the main streets in PuQi.|
|I took this photo of Father Joseph while waiting for Father Timothy to join him. It captures I think, the purpose of his life - to welcome in all who will come.|
Larger and/or Different Photographs at Kingscalendar
- In 2010 at Magic City Morning Star News I published 19 Chapters of my book 'Finding Myself in China'. They are listed at the above link.
R.P. BenDedek is the pseudonym of an Australian who has been teaching in China since 2003. In addition to contributing to Magic City Morning Star News as a columnist, he is also currently assisting the Editor of this Newspaper.
2004 Stories from China
Additionally, BenDedek is the author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' at www.kingscalendar.com