(Continued from the previous writing)
I was pleased to know that my mandarin was sounded like that with Beijing accent from the driver, who drove me to Suzhou on the third day of my visit. I was honest to tell him I was from Guangzhou. But he said he thought I was from Singapore because he had lousy impression of Cantonese speaking mandarin. So to speak, my mandarin has improved, hasn’t it? I guess I am an ancient water town fetishist. Probably this reason brought me to Suzhou the third time. I visited a famous historic and cultural town of China—Mudu which is sited southwest of Suzhou, on the shore of Taihu Lake. Mudu, the ancient town has the same age as Suzhou, which is 2500 years old. There are streams crisscrossing in the town. Richly endowed by nature and close to Suzhou geographically, Mudu has long been a good place for retired bureaucrats, rich merchants and men of letters to build their mansions, gardens for their retirement and life in leisure rest. By the end of Qing Dynasty, there had been over 30 mansions and gardens within the territory, and the place was reputed as a “Town of Gardens.” The emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty stayed temporarily in the town more than once. I had the chance to visit the dock which the emperors used to disembark and the garden which the emperors visited every time when they came to Mudu. I felt so close to the emperor, to the history dating back to Qing Dynasty. Again, the tour groups broke the peace of gardens. Roaming about the gardens in the drizzle or just sitting by the pond in the pavilion in the shower was a sort of indescribable pleasure. It was a classic moment to savor the richness of culture and the purity of nature in such tranquil surroundings. I understand how come this place became the reclusive haven in the ancient time. I tend to live in this kind of life in my cynical whimsy.
Before I got on board going home, I visited the renowned Ancient Canal. It’s a man-made waterway between Beijing and Hangzhou. Today many changes have taken place on both sides of the canal. I was told there used to be many bridges and waterways around Wuxi. However, modern architectures replaced most of the old buildings. The local driver was enthusiastic to tell me what the places used to be as our auto passed by some landmarks in the city. He was sad that the changes in recent years have made Wuxi become a city without characteristics; especially old buildings are seen fewer and fewer. He drove me to the ancient bridge crossing over the branch of the Ancient Canal. Qingming Bridge was built in Ming Dynasty which is four centuries ago. Standing on the aged ancient bridge, I saw the remaining old houses of Wuxi on both sides of the river. It’s not uncommon that many cities in China are facing the contradiction between preserving the old architectures and building the new ones. But the new architectures seem always win the position to stand up where the old ones used to be. In Wuxi, I could see different kinds of buses—the long one with two cabins and three doors (the 1980’s model); the modern ones with a/c; the ones without a/c and the double deckers. It was like seeing the transformation of bus from the late 20th century till now. As globalization concept is invading faster in the developing countries, western stuff finds its popularity in China. In the hustling and bustling downtown, I found the Starbuck coffee shop here. I guess it’s the only one in Wuxi. I walked inside and was astonished by the young people in the update outfits standing in line for a try of the western product. Yes, it’s the young generation that decides the fate of China. Since the strong adaptation of the western culture prevails in China, China can’t deny shaping an image of capitalism under the banner of a so-called Socialism Development with Chinese Characteristic.
The trip to Wuxi drew me close to Chinese history and literature. I had fond memories but moreover, my observation of the development in the Yangtze-River Delta put me into deeper thinking about the future—the future of my country and the future of myself. If it comes back to the question back in the beginning, I would use the word “thought-provoking” to describe my feeling about Wuxi. What do ya think?