My friend Sam visited me from Japan for the week. On the first night we went to a Tibetan restaurant for a welcoming feast (yum!). The next day, I showed him around town: the Yuantong Buddhist Temple, dumpling restaurant (best in town!), and then we decided to go to Kunming’s Confucian Temple, which I had never been to and had no idea where it was. I asked random passerbys on the street, rode two buses, and walked close to the city center. A kind, old Chinese man, who we met on the second bus, showed us the way. We followed him as he hobbled through the busy bird and flower district alleyways. Birds chirped, bunnies rattled cages, maggots squirmed in large woven baskets, and the old man gruffly talked to me with a strong Kunming accent: “Ne suo han hua suo de hen hoe, hen hoe (you speak very well, very well.)” He was over 80, graduated from Yunnan University in the 1950s, and was a teacher at Kunming Xiamen University. We arrived at the front entrance to the district. He points us into the general direction and says farewell.
On the way to the temple, I played with puppies that were being sold on the street. We also stopped at a memorial that commemorated the forces who fought against Japan during World War II. We then passed the cross between Old Kunming and “New” Old Kunming.
Which side is the “real” Old Kunming?
The development of “Ancient Cities (gucheng)” has become quite widespread in China for tourism incentives. This “ancient city” (on the left) is an example. The architecture is traditional, or at least what most people think “traditional” Chinese architecture looks like. I would guess this is based off centuries old buildings. The side on the right is one of the few existing old parts of the city (the bird and flower district is basically Old Kunming). When I say old, maybe over 100-200 years old. This is because most architecture in the past was made out of wood, hence most of it wears and rots away within many centuries. The Great Wall survived with its thick layers of stone and bones. I found the dichotomy within this photo to be evident and interesting. The battle versus old and “Old.”
In front of “Old” Kunming was the Confucian temple.
The Confucian Temple: Now an Open Park and Garden
The door was open for the community. We entered to find crowds of retired men and women playing cards, chess, and music. Beneath the pictured pavilion (seen above) was a horde of older men playing mahjong. Table after table had men flicking their tiles into the middle and picking up a new tile, hoping for the lucky one. Sam and I found a bench overlooking this lively environment. I think I found a new reading spot.
Cannons Crossing the River: Playing Chinese Chess
When exiting the park, we found a crowd circling around something. I always get tricked into thinking there’s a fight. But every single time, it’s two men actually playing Chess. I’m hoping to learn how to play and join in one of these epic board game events.