Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beautiful things

When I had time to take a breath and go back through the museum at my own pace, I could start forming my own understanding of the place. I guessed that it must have been the home of an important person, probably a scholar. The "read-place" was clearly a kind of library, filled with comfortable couches for reading and studying, ink-stained tables and — behind glass — gorgeous calligraphy sets. 

Then a miraculous stranger approached with a bright "Hello!"

Of course, I'd heard "Hello!" before, but this young man followed up with a fair grasp of English. He was a college student visiting Shanhaiguan for the holiday, and he responded as the English-speaking Chinese youth always do when they encounter an American: he quizzed me about America, about myself, and about my experience, in exchange for leading me back through the museum and repeating whatever bits of the Chinese-language tour he could remember.

The museum, as it turns out, was indeed the residence of a prominent man in Shanhaiguan, whose name I attempted unsuccessfully to write down. He had something like five sons and four daughters, all of whom seem to have been housed in this complex. Hence, there are an awful lot of beds and bedrooms, most of which are lavishly carved.

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