November 11, 2012 Sunday in Guangzhou

by valerielwang

It started to seem like old China – anything not apartment houses that housed each a division of people, and dozens of them, all anonymous, all alike; or neon imitations of vermillion arches, materialism gone so rampant it was all-enveloping – was gone, bulldozed under, buried. Then what you did see – a beggar playing a one-string viol in pentatonic melodies, plaintive – its upright support another crippled begging human; an old man squatting between two rattan paniers piled with fruit, suspended from a pole, as painted on silk screens: these things would break your heart. But China has been breaking the hearts of foreigners for thousands of years, and is unlikely to stop any time soon.

The Toaist temple reeks of disrepair and shabbiness, some odd cross of piety – a lovely Quanyin, impressively fierce stone lions with loose round spheres in their mouths holding down paper money offerings, superstition, and tourism. It’s fairly evident the place has undergone a hasty rehabilitation after years of abuse and neglect. Equipment and oddments litter corners, and a small staff of determined monks seem to be holding on to tradition by their fingernails.