A quick post to recap yesterday’s activities:
In the morning, we visited the Quanzhou Public Library. Usually closed on Mondays, it was opened just for us, guided by the director, Xu Zhaokai, and assistant director, Chen Wenge. Both have visited Oregon, Mr. Chen just this past May. As with other libraries we have seen here, they actively collect materials on local culture. In addition, they have an active program to record in pictures and video (and post to their website) various aspects of the local culture, including songs, traditional music, tangible objects (such as lanterns) and the like. There is a danger of this heritage disappearing as traditional crafts and skills are lost if they are not passed along to the next generation – especially in this day and age of modernization. The library has created many databases with top quality video, all done by their own staff learning the video skills and putting in time after hours. We were very impressed! Amongst other interesting things was the worm killing machine, used to kill book worms in old tomes. If I understood the explanation, it does this by creating a vacuum. I imagine the worms explode. At least the machine prevents further damage to the books.
After our customary stuffing with the finest food at lunchtime, we proceeded to visit two branch libraries. The second one, in Shishi City (which comes out as shi-shi-shi in Chinese, although the tones on each syllable are different – meaning stone-lion-city) is built in a traditional Minnan architectural style. The result is a remarkably beautiful building, with commanding views of the city and harbor.
Between the two branch library visits, we climbed to the top of the highest point in Shishi City to view the Gusaota tower. The tower served as a lighthouse, warning sailors of the presence of land, and was built in 1131.
Lastly, a brief note on street traffic. In Quanzhou, as in other cities we have visited in China, traffic laws are strictly observed. When I say that, I mean “observed” as in “seen,” as I am sure the drivers and pedestrians have seen the traffic laws written out at some point in their lives. Beyond that, it would appear that the laws are more like general guidelines. I have not yet seen a car driving on the sidewalk, although I have seen motorbikes there. Cars and trucks either stay within the lines on the streets or straddle them, usually on the right-hand side, although it is permissible to wander into opposing traffic if you need to – especially if you are in a hurry, as most people seem to be. As the cars, trucks and buses swerve from lane to lane down the street, the other vehicles (motorcycles, motorized bikes, and human-powered bikes) weave in and out, creating a pleasant, fractal kind of beauty out of what would ordinarily be termed chaos. Pedestrians enjoy getting into the act as well at crosswalks – those imaginary lines drawn across streets wherever the pedestrians choose to imagine them. Incredibly, I have not seen a single accident. I would not drive here for all the tea in China. Our hosts are evidently quite skilled at this kind of transportation and I am very glad to leave the driving to them. — Richard