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Not long ago I wrote a post about how I was missing real autumn and its delights. I officially take it back. Up till a few days ago we’d been enjoying weeks and weeks of perfect mild weather, with just that right amount of morning chill in the air, clear skies and dry yellow leaves slowly wafting down onto the pavements. In a word: the kind of weather that makes you happy just to be alive. I relinquish my right to complain about the Hangzhou autumn.

One day I cycled down to the Pottery Museum (of which I also wrote here) and on the way back decided to stop by the so-called Bagua Field (or the Field of The Eight Trigrams). As the name suggests, it’s a piece of land arranged in such a way as to resemble the Taoist trigrams schema (the Ba Gua, which represent eight principles belonging to either the yin or the yang. They and the relations between them constitute the whole reality. If you’re interested in reading a bit more, here’s the link to Wikipedia). I’m sure you’ll have seen them somewhere. If you look at the field from above, it has more or less this shape:

courtesy of nationsonline.org

I’ve seen it a few times during the hikes on the nearby hills and never thought it looked interesting enough to go and see it (especially as you can’t actually see the shape when you’re standing down there, of course).

How wrong I was.

Turns out the place was set up in the eleventh century as a place where the imperial family could perform their duty of symbolic farming (to guarantee good crops etc). After decades of neglect, a few years ago the city decided to revitalise the area (don’t you just hate the word ‘revitalise’? It’s always revitalise this, revitalise that… as if refurbishment, renovation, development and other more traditional concepts were not marketable enough anymore), planted some new species, set up a teahouse and opened it up for public. The plants grown there nowadays are organic. People can go there and buy them, just as they can suggest other types of vegetation or even grow them themselves. You must admit it’s a pretty nice idea. But apart from this utilitarian aspect, the place is simply very enjoyable, with plenty of flowers and no tourists (so far). When I went there, the day was slightly cloudy and it was already late afternoon, so everything was quiet and meditative (as befits a place with Taoist connotations). Here are some photographic highlights of the trip.

The paths and sides of the field were planted with flower borders and different kinds of trees and shrubberies.

Of course there was also a lake. In China a place is not fit to be called restful if there’s no water around. I can understand that.

Surrounded by hills, the place seemed as remote from the city bustle as can be. This fact alone, if nothing else, would make it worthwhile.

Rice seedlings. I think. Might be mixing it with something different. Isn’t rice supposed to be grown in paddies? Or maybe this is the way the paddies look at the end of the vegetation season? Or maybe it’s a different species of rice? Hmm. Now I’m confused…

A botanical-garden-ish sort of place in a corner.

Sugar cane. I didn’t know it was so decorative, with the purple-blue stems and light green leaves. The stems are edible after you peel the bark away. They sell them at every fruit stand. Will have to try it one day.

This kind of detail never fails to make me happy. The thought that someone actually spent time and effort to decorate something as prosaic as flagstones is very heart-warming in our disgustingly utilitarian times.

A water-mill. I’m pretty sure it’s purely decorative. Even so – a nice touch.

Old people go there to fish and relax. You can buy a cup of tea for 10 bucks (or rather a handful of tea leaves that you brew over and over again) and spend there a quiet afternoon with your little stool, bucket, fishing rod and other fishermen for company. At the end of the day you pay a sum of money depending on how successful your fishing was.

The day’s spoils: just a few small prawns this time. I was really sorry to see that the picture came out so blurry (couldn’t see it on the little camera screen at the time). I suppose it was already darker than I thought. But just look at this man’s hand: how leathery and hard it is. It’s a hand that’s done a lot of hard work throughout many years.

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