River Yulong means meeting a dragon.
In the time of the Ming Dynasty
a water-dragon came to Yangshou –
was awestruck by its raw beauty
and stayed forever. It wakes at dawn.
Early morning I watched the apricot
ball of sun rise in the far east where
it was born. Gold beams dance
between the sheer rock peaks of the
Guilin Mountains that reach up
like the outstretched fingers of two
giant hands cradling the valley.
Late autumn in Yangshou – the perfume
of white chrysanthemums in full flower
grace the infant day. Water lilies open
lilac umbrella leaves. In orchards
by the river the remnants of peach blossoms
swirl in the light breeze.
The sun climbs higher. In Yangshou Park
mountain-singers in traditional silk dress
release their gifts of words to the air.
In English they explain to foreigners
like me that four lines of song capture
two hundred years of history. Nearby a
watercolorist paints peony roses – the
national flower of China on rice paper fans.
In the far corner an old master practices
tai chi. The sun is high now –
equidistant between east and west –
balanced perfectly like the yin and the yang.
In West Street the tourists jostle and
hustle – haggling over the best price for
silk, jade, yak-bone, tiger-balm and tea.
I move through the crowds. At a tiny
wooden stall I buy propaganda art – a poster
of the Gang of Four – vanguard of the Cultural
Revolution under the late Chairman Mao
– a huge red cross cuts through their faces.
Decisively Throw Out The Wang-Zhang-
Jiang-Yao Party Clique! The caption reads.
There’ll be no mountain-songs for them.
The sun moves west. I make my way
through the bustle to an unsealed path
that leads to a village on the outskirts of
town – home of my hosts.
A blue kingfisher darts through the
persimmon trees that line the river banks
hanging heavy with ripe tangerine fruit.
I walk on into the soft shadows of the
abdicating day past fields of pink cosmos
bobbing in the evening breeze.
The sun sinks west below the horizon
in a purple and magenta haze. A fresh fish
caught especially for me is cooked in
traditional Yangshou style. We eat under
an arbor that droops with the weight of
scarlet roses – almost spent their velvet
petals fall around us on the ground.
A full-faced moon hangs in the vacant
night sky. Its light floats out over
the Yulong River. The dragon sleeps.