The morning after Chinese New Year, January 26th, Andy and I woke up bright and early to meet Leo and his family for a visit to a nearby community temple – an absolute must during the New Year holiday.
Not surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones in China with such an idea.
It was, um, peaceful? 😆
As we made our rounds and paid respect at each of the various alters, leaving a stick of incense or two at each, Leo and his wife chatted about the one remaining surprise I still had in store: a visit with one of their close personal friends, Zhang Ji Hai (张济海).
Zhang Ji Hai just happens to be one of China’s particularly famous and respected calligraphers. He’s written characters that’ve been engraved on the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and featured in countless mainstream media outlets. They’re sold by the square inch, commanding outrageously impressive prices. He’s also a high-ranking officer in the Chinese Army – a man of great wealth, power, and influence. And a damn nice guy.
“So, what characters would you like Zhang Ji Hai to write for you?”
For an offer this generous, I had to think of something good – but since my knowledge of Chinese sayings is virtually nonexistent, I asked my hosts for some guidance. We brainstormed. And wouldn’t you know it? Leo’s wife just happened to’ve noticed a phrase that perfectly fit my request, written on a temple wall we’d walked past not ten minutes earlier!
The proverb is 海纳百川, which directly translates to “The Sea Accepts a Hundred Rivers” (as best as I can tell from my knowledge of Chinese characters). The meaning, I’m told, uses water as a metaphor for people – leading to something like “There are many different peoples in this world, but in the end, they are all the same.” It’s also been interpreted to mean “Only after you’ve gone out into the world and gained knowledge and insight from hundreds can you truly consider yourself whole.”
It was perfect.
And here it is, the custom-made final product. Value: approximately $10,000.
I’m waiting to frame it until after I finish renovating my bedroom here in LA (another of my many current works-in-progress).
After hanging out in Zhang’s house for a bit, finishing off a few cups of tea and a plate of Mandarin Oranges (and of course several boxes of firecrackers), Andy and I finally returned home for some much needed rest.
Thank you so much again, to everyone who made my first Chinese New Year an event I won’t soon forget.