You Can't Take It With You寻找义乌

But You Can Leave Things Be­hind

That's China - - Contents -

Zhang Yan and I did even­tu­ally visit the labyrinthine Yiwu mar­kets, but I came away hav­ing bought noth­ing more than a warm sweet potato and spend­ing 5 min­utes on an in­flat­able dragon car. It’s a funny thing, re­ally; rather than buy­ing things at ‘China’s man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter’, what I found my­self do­ing was leav­ing things be­hind, or cre­at­ing mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences that couldn’t be neatly packed away in my suit­case.

When I told peo­ple I was go­ing to Yiwu, the first thing they said was “no mat­ter what you need, you can find it there.” Yiwu is pretty much China’s man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter – a pin­ball frenzy of mar­kets crammed to­gether to sell toys, trin­kets, jew­elry, kitchen ap­pli­ances, and even Christ­mas or­na­ments. But for me, Yiwu was home to some­thing else.

My first im­pres­sion of the famed com­mer­cial city was at my stu­dent, Zhang Yan’s, house. I had just got­ten into their home, watched her fa­ther mime be­ing choked to death by the city air, and had seen the cityscape fold away into lush green hills when I was pre­sented with an egg.

“It’s tra­di­tion for a guest to eat eggs,” Zhang Yan said as her brother (whom she and I called “Lit­tle Friend”) piled var­i­ous fruits onto my lap and re­turned with a paint­ing he made for me. “Sponge­bob Squarepants” jab­bered away in Chi­nese as I ate the egg to the sat­is­fied looks of the fam­ily I’d just met. It was as if in this sim­ple act, I was deemed an ac­cept­able

Soon af­ter, I was led to a feast that had been pre­pared for lunch. I had barely be­gun to eat when Zhang Yan’s fa­ther be­gan ask­ing “Does Amer­ica have this kind of fruit?” I swal­lowed my food and said “No, or at least not in places I’ve been.” “How about this one?” “Some places in the South maybe.” “This?” “No.” He turned to Zhang Yan and said, “So, China has some things that Amer­ica does not!”

They were a very an­i­mated fam­ily — Zhang Yan’s fa­ther al­ways smil­ing widely and mim­ing ac­tions as he spoke in Chi­nese. Lit­tle Friend smiled a lot and was prone to say­ing “deng yi xia!” be­fore dart­ing out of the room to grab some­thing for me to look at. In the even­ing, Lit­tle Friend and his fa­ther played badminton in the liv­ing room with a home-made birdie and his fa­ther would say “hao qiu!” when­ever the birdie suc­cess­fully flew in the air. In the midst of all of the light-hearted chaos, Zhang Yan asked me if I liked to climb moun­tains. In a daze I said yes, and she smiled and said “Wow!”

The next morn­ing, when Zhan Yan, Lit­tle Friend and I stood at the foot of a moun­tain, I re­al­ized that my words had been taken rather se­ri­ously. The sky was over­cast, which some­how made the climb­ing a lit­tle eas­ier, though there were enough stairs to ri­val Cirith Un­gol. Lit­tle Friend dragged a rock around on a piece of string, rac­ing up the steps, wait­ing un­til Zhang Yan and I caught up only to run even fur­ther. At the half­way point, we rested by a lake smoother than glass. The path was filled with the sound of huffed breaths and the soft mur­mur of feet go­ing by. It was

as though we were walk­ing into an old book, care­fully thread­ing through the faded print amidst the fog of pages flut­ter­ing in the wind. This is Yiwu? I thought.

We found an old tem­ple, which marked the half­way point to the top. Zhang Yan and Lit­tle Friend led me in­side of the tem­ple, handed me in­cense, and we bowed three times to the statue. A young monk greeted us and told Zhang Yan my for­tune, which she then trans­lated for me. I said “Sorry that I don’t know more Chi­nese” in Chi­nese, and he got re­ally ex­cited, ges­tur­ing for me to come in­side and drink some wa­ter. He re­turned with a gi­gan­tic green veg­etable. “Do you have this in Amer­ica?” he asked with a wide grin.

We had to con­tinue on our ways, and when we got to the top, the wind in­ncendse, had picked up. There were sev­eral rooms with stat­ues, cups with wooden sticks to shake, palm read­ers, and monks de­ci­pher­ing for­tunes. Zhang Yan gave an of­fer­ing so I could ring the gi­ant bell and hit a drum in the tem­ple. Our lit­tle party wan­dered through the rooms with me trans­fixed by all of the bow­ing, the smoke, and the stat­ues up above. Out­side, the tem­ple looked over the hills and moun­tains. By now, fog had crept in, so it felt as though we were walk­ing across clouds. All along the walls, strings with red strips of cloth tied around them floated in the wind; wishes, hopes and dreams, all cling­ing to­gether in the hope of be­ing read and re­al­ized some­day. Zhang Yan got me one, and I wrote my name (both Chi­nese and English) on it, ty­ing it off. I ac­tu­ally felt more in­clined to take it with me, but the whole point was to leave it there. I watched my own red rib­bon flut­ter in the wind for a mo­ment be­fore we had to head back down.

Zhang Yan and I did even­tu­ally visit the labyrinthine Yiwu mar­kets, but I came away hav­ing bought noth­ing more than a warm sweet potato and spend­ing 5 min­utes on an in­flat­able dragon car. It’s a funny thing, re­ally; rather than buy­ing things at ‘China’s man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter’, what I found my­self do­ing was leav­ing things be­hind, or cre­at­ing mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences that couldn’t be neatly packed away in my suit­case.

I guess it’s true: you can find just about any­thing in Yiwu, but the real ques­tion is what you do with it once you find it. Me? I tied it onto a string and left it on a moun­tain­top to flut­ter in the wind.

It’s a funny thing, re­ally; rather than buy­ing things at ‘China’s man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter’, what I found my­self do­ing was leav­ing things be­hind, or cre­at­ing mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences that couldn’t be neatly packed away in my suit­case.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.