"Along the River During
Festival" is the work of the renowned court artist, Zhang Zeduan
(1085-1145), in the Song Dynasty of China. The painting captures the
daily life of one thousand six hundred and fifty-nine people during a
Qingming Festival in the capital city Kaifeng and its suburbs. Its
electronic duplicate, 30 times the size of its original, is the most
attractive exhibit of the China Pavilion in the Shanghai Expo. All the
people and animals are in motion as if those ancient souls have been
brought back to life.
I visited the rebuilt park based on the painting in Kaifeng three years
ago. There were carefully selected activities and entertainments in the
park. All the staff members were in the dress of the Song Dynasty. I
followed the schedule, and watched a series of shows—acrobatic
performance, Chinese traditional concert, farmer markets, court life,
customs, and parts of stories showing the history of the Song Dynasty.
All were vivid, matching the surrounding buildings, bridges and boats
in the style of the Song Dynasty, creating a world of fantasy. I
witnessed the lifestyle of all stratums of the society in the Song
Dynasty, just like traveling in the painting.
The most incredible acrobatics show was called “bullet needle.”
“Go!” With a sudden effort, a strong man, with the upper body naked,
threw a needle to a piece of normal window glass three meters away. The
needle, like a bullet, pierced through the glass, and then it broke a
balloon behind the glass. Is it magic? No. It is the magical power of
Wushu that has existed since ancient times in China.
With the influence of Confucianism, young ladies of noble or rich
families in the Song Dynasty (and also most of other dynasties in
ancient China) were not allowed to socialize. I watched a match-making
show in the park. A very accomplished young girl used a unique method
to select her future husband. She deliberately created difficulties to
test all candidates, and finally threw a red cloth ball to her
favorite. The wedding show that followed was traditional and humorous.
I found out in the park that some traditional Chinese foods --
dumplings, moon cakes, clay oven rolls, and steamed buns with stuffing
-- were handed down from the Song Dynasty. I tasted two kinds of Song
Dynasty foods, original and delicious; then, I felt quite full and
could not afford to taste others although I really wanted to.
The performance in the evening was dreamlike. I followed the romantic
poet, Liu Yong, with my eyes as he went away by boat, leaving his lover
alone on the riverside; I was entranced with the soul-stirring music
performed by the court musicians with traditional Chinese instruments;
I sympathized with those young girls as they yearned to catch a view of
a larger world beyond their courtyards; I appreciated the female
general, Mu Guiying, riding a white horse, using a long spear, bright
and brave. I felt as if I were in a dream world.
I always imagine that if I had a time traveling machine that could take
me back to the Song Dynasty, to the capital city Kaifeng, and I would
like to travel in the ancient times, to meet the real poets and heroes,
to participate in their activities, and to enjoy the luxury and
prosperity of the Song Dynasty.