Saturday, March 14, 2009

Being Koi

If you saw the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, you already know that the Chinese walk on water, on air, on moons and spheres beyond the common imagination; you know they march to the beat of a very strong drummer in hearty 4-4 time.

What most of us do not know is that the same man who created the Opening Ceremonies (Zhang Yimou) got his scrim flowing in Hang Zhou, a city one hour (by fast train) south of Shanghai and were we've chosen to weekend. Truth be told, we came for the shopping. On examination, the shopping is fine and it's fun, but you come for the waters.

HZ as I will now call it is a famous resort town; its prime attraction is a lake in the center of town. Our hotel, The Sofitel Westlake, is located at the edge of that lake and you may promenade around the lake and in short order come upon Starbucks Westlake as well as young lovers, couples with their one child and a man on a bike who sells balloons that trail behind his bike.

This lake has assorted designated tourist areas, bridges, viewing spots, boat rides, islands, swans and moveable feasts. It also has a show called Impresion Westlake, which runs from March through December. It's held on the banks of the far side of the lake, across from General Yue's tomb (in case you were looking for him) and behind KFC, alongisde a shopping arcade of ugly tourist goods offered at high prices.

The viewing is from bleachers--all outdoors-- and you can rent a down jacket from a stall next to KFC. We were bundled up and still needed the jackets as blankets. We sat in our perch (tickets are priced by location-- the $ ones are on the rail to the water's edge, the $75 tickets are raised just above that and the $30 tickets are high up) and tried what would happen as we huddled under our pashminas and watched the mostly Chinese audience fill the arena.

A large, silent sphere calmly sat out there on the water of the lake. It reminded me of Cirque du Soleil and Le Reve at The Wynn in Vegas. Water, water everyone and not a drop to drink. I wondered if a thousand clowns would jump out of the sphere and roll

The show began will Chinese script illuminated across this sphere. Peter translated it for me roughly and explained that the show was a love story to be divided into five parts: meeting, falling in love, marriage, parting and memory. As the story progressed, I tried to remember the history of the blue and white dishes (Blue Willow) we see all over England, the love story of the Chinese couple who were forbidden to wed and somehow or another got turned into birds that soar over your dinner plate or coffee mug. They neverhave topart, even in your dishwasher.

I wont ruin this for you by giving you the stroke by stoke, I will just let you remember the Opening Ceremonies, and consider the love story and trust me to know when I have seen magic.

Know that I have seen a man in a white Chinese robe walk on water and pursue a girl in a pink gown with a green parasol as she sailed by in a tiny boat.
I have seen them skip across the water and watched a thousand colored lights shimmer from inside puppets that represented soaring koi, that danced as they courted.
Ihave seen lights become golden drums and seen the trees on the shoreline turn pink and then green and seen a hundred drummers beat water across a lake in the steady movement that would have powered Ben Hur through battle.

I have seen one of the wonders of the world and it is China.

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