Patricia and I took some time off on Tuesday to see some of Nanjing’s sights, namely the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum and the Linggu Temple on Zijin Mountain and the area around the city Confucian Temple. Zijin Mountain is very close to the city center, an oasis of green surrounded by the buildings of Nanjing. Sun Yatsen, acknowledged by both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China as the “father of the country,” is honored for his role in the development of the modern Chinese state. It’s striking to see the KMT symbols, though, within mainland China! While some buildings within the Linggu Temple complex date back to Ming times, most of them are newer constructions – but the grounds are still quite beautiful and serene.
Much of trying to understand contemporary China is analagous to the picture above of the lotus, and the Mahayana Buddhist metaphor of the lotus that is grounded in the mud. There are numerous directions that can be followed with that metaphor. Is the flower the elite wealth of postsocialist China that is nourished by the mud of everyday people’s labor? Could the flower be an emerging modern China that is sustained by the mud of tradition (or vice-versa)?
Or is it the flower of a modern Chinese culture that is fed by the mud of rampant consumer capitalism? When we visited the Confucian Temple, the temple itself and the area did not broadcast erudite study than it did shopping — if the statue of Confucius in the picture below could see through the gate to its immediate front, it would see a Kentucky Fried Chicken filled with customers. Like many other Chinese cities, Nanjing appears vibrant and alive — some would more critically say that Nanjing and other Chinese cities are one big construction site (or one big market), while others could point to the bustle of activity, the people mingling in the public spaces. Like the lotus flower, something is blossoming and it looks quite beautiful.