The Middle Kingdom: China, The Mountains and How To Find Joy In Our Own Lives.


The mini-van that got us to the mountains on roads the width of golf paths.

The mini-van that got us to the mountains on roads the width of golf paths.

So we were somewhere in the mountains of China. China in Chinese means the Middle Kingdom and you could sense an other-worldly air to the place. I don’t know exactly where we were, and if I did know, I wouldn’t tell you. Why? Because last time that our tour company found a place and it became famous via some tour companies, the Chinese Government evicted the people out of their houses, and turned the houses into museums. There are now tours showing how people used to live in the houses.

At first I thought I would try to do a travel article, which is what I did when I went to Alaska. But I am happy that I just went and did not write anything. I did not even bring a book, which was a first for me. I wanted to just to be. There is great value in just being. (I will, however, write a blog soon about pitching a travel article.)

Bamboo forests holding up the mountain (really–to prevent mud slides) and subsistence farming. The people we stayed with picked the vegetables and then cooked them in a very large wok over a wood-burning stove. Or they bought them from traveling salesmen. They made their own honey; one woman had wooden bee hives right next to her front door. The honey tasted like flowers.

See the chicken feet in the back?

See the chicken feet in the back?

There are more than a billion people in China but each person has a story to tell.

Marking the bamboo trees.

Marking the bamboo trees with their names so that people know which ones they can cut.

When I think about how to change my life, I think about the little moments that make up life wherever we are. I think about being aware of existence. I think of the memorials for the ancestors set up in the mountains. (They follow a feng shui idea that graves should be in the mountain side with a view of the river.)

Ancestors' graves in the mountains of China

Ancestors’ graves in the mountains of China

Which reminds me that we are here for only a short time but our eternity is endless. So we have to live it up. The Talmud asks, “Who is the rich man? He who is happy with what he has.”

Inside the beekeeper's house.

Inside the beekeeper’s house.

How to change our lives? How do we transform ourselves and make this our best chapter? Bring awareness into each moment. Celebrate being alive. Feel grateful for all that we have. Do you see the little bamboo chair? That is about the extent of their sofa collection. Ikea has yet to conquer inner China.

Here is the thing: Gratitude makes us  aware of all we have. Awareness makes us aware of all we have to be grateful for.

Chairman Mao's pictures are everywhere.

Chairman Mao’s pictures are everywhere.

Grateful for all we have: laundry on the line.

Laundry on the line.  Gratitude makes us  aware of all we have. Awareness makes us aware of all we have to be grateful for.

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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9 Responses to The Middle Kingdom: China, The Mountains and How To Find Joy In Our Own Lives.

  1. juliabarrett says:

    Beautiful country and a beautiful philosophy.

  2. Interesting details and philosophy. The chicken feet picture would make a very creative writing prompt.

    • dianabletter says:

      Hi Marylin, I’m glad you liked the chicken feet picture. It would make a good writing prompt! Thanks for writing! Let me know if you use it!

  3. Rhonda Blender says:

    I’m afraid I’m not very good at living in the manner you often write about. I suppose that’s why when I see a post you’ve written I run towards it because I know that there will be an insight, a practice, a feeling that I can try to incorporate even if I struggle to hold on to it in my day-to-day world. I try with varying degrees of success and consistency. Thank you for capturing all that you do and writing about it. I’m glad you didn’t take a book with you. One thing that I somewhat held onto from my forays into Taoism and Buddhism many years ago is, “Be fully present where ever you are.” I ultimately came back to Judaism but I still value greatly my explorations with Taoism and Buddhism. Anyway, todah rabah for all you put out there via your writing. It’s meaningful.

    • dianabletter says:

      Thank you, Rhonda, for your kind words. I like reading about spiritual journeys and sharing what I have learned. I love that quote, “Be fully present wherever you are.” I will definitely use that. Thanks again!

  4. Pam Huggins says:

    I just love your photographs. It’s so rare to see cultures as they are without undue influence. How sad that people are ushered out of their homes for the tourist trade. But alas, that happens everywhere. The nature of humans, I suppose, is to figure out a way to make a buck.
    Your philosophy of gratitude is calming and beautiful. Awareness is a gift- one we can be too quick to dismiss.
    Thank you for another beautiful post.

  5. Diana, thank you for sharing your photos of China, and, of course, your insight. 🙂

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