Hangzhou China – NOV 2019

Hello My Friends,

Getting out of Hong Kong and flying to Hangzhou China was an adventure. By the time I arrived in Hong Kong, the protest had been going on for six months. By the end of the VMC Hong Kong Playshop the protest had gotten very ugly.

A young university student had fallen off of a car park balcony while being chased by the police. He died from his injuries and the University where he was studying erupted in violent protest. Kumi had received word that there would be a general strike and street protests on the day I was to fly to Hangzhou on the Chinese mainland. The protesters plan was to block all the feeder streets out of Hong Kong to the main tunnel that goes under the harbor, as well as the road to the airport. So Kumi got me up early in the morning and put me on the Airport Express train. I arrived at the airport as all the protests started around the city.

While watching the TV monitors in my airport terminal, I saw all the roads being blocked with bricks, barricades, and fire by protesters. Had I left at the usual time for the airport, I would have missed my flight out of Hong Kong. Thank you Kumi!

I stayed in central Hangzhou China on the first day and did a one-hour “Tithing” gig with sixty 15 year olds at the Cain Middle School, population 2,000 kids. The teenagers participating in the drum circle were from Yao’s music class (Yao is one of my China Level-3 students & Hawaii Mentor Graduate). The kids had all watched the VMC “The Art of Drum Circle Facilitation Video” so I had to be on my toes. There were also as many school teachers, music teachers, and administrators standing around the circle as there were kids in the circle. So I had to be doubly on my toes to make sure that I did not pull any Chinese social faux pas.

After the kids circle event, I sat down in a classroom for two hours with those same school teachers, music teachers, and administrators, as they probed me with a range of questions, ranging from technical drum circle questions to social significant questions. I did my rhythmical evangelistic best to show them a picture of how “Rhythm Care” can be used in many aspects of society. Mr. Zong Zhi Nang, a well-known Chinese professor in children’s mental health, was in attendance. He was very excited by what he saw at the drum circle event and had obviously become an advocate for interactive drumming as a regular activity for middle schools, for all kids, not just music students.

After the school program, we moved to a hotel in the outskirts of Hangzhou. It sat in the foothills of the mountains that surround the city. From my room I could see a section of the city peeking up between forested hills.

At our first evening dinner, we were entertained by a group of Mongolian throat singers. Their music was haunting and mesmerizing. After the performance, the musicians sat with us at our table for dinner. We discussed that, like different Indian tribes in America sang different songs, the same concept was applied to the song of different Mongolian tribes stretched across the Northren China plains and tundra. We also discussed how the rhythms that they were playing were based on the different “Gates-speeds” of the Mongolian horses.

Our hotel was situated next to a one-thousand year old Buddhist temple called “Da Ming Temple.” Built during the Song Dynasty, the temple sits on the crest of a hill which is surrounded by a beautiful green forest of Tree Bamboo. The bamboo tree trunks were as thick as my thighs. It takes over 200 steps to reach the top.

On the temple grounds is a one-thousand five-hundred year old tree that was there long before the temple existed. It is still alive and healthy today. Scattered all over the temple grounds are plum flower trees that have been continually cultivated since the temple was built. These trees bloom beautiful pink blossoms in the late winter and early spring.

Of course, since the temple is in China, it has been transformed into a museum and conference center. So far, I have found actual working Buddhist temples far and few between. Most of them have been converted into shops, museums, and hotels.

But it was an amazing place for the 80 of us to drum together for a 3-day Playshop. After walking up and down that hill for thee days in a row, I am a pound or two lighter and little bit healthier.

This is my second Playshop in Hangzhou, so we had a good representation of Level 2 Challenge Graduate participants. Nearly all my advanced core group of Level-3 people flew here from all over China, including, Chocolate, NuNu, Yao, Fox, Luna, Boom, etc. If you have been reading my China reports that I have been posting over the years, you are familiar with their exploits and shenanigans.

The Level-2s did the Drum Calls each morning with the Level-3s doing the public critiques.

The Level-2s also did five minute Mini-Drum Calls after each tea break, and lunch break, and then they received a quick private critique from a Level-3. We also did a series of “Free Form Jump Time” sessions where the Level-3s were waiting outside the isles to critique the jumpers when they finished their experimental turn inside the circle.

Every year, as the Level-3s in the Chinese Playshops have matured into big-radar group-leadership mode, they have helped educate me about this unique culture and how to adapt the VMC Playshop process to meet its needs. I am also integrating what I am learning into the other Playshops around the globe.

We did our closing community drum circle outside the main temple building, on a beautiful white fluffy cloud day, surrounded by the temple’s bamboo forest. Twice during the drum circle, a Playshop facilitator brought the drum circle to a complete stop, to listen to the amazing chorus song birds singing back to us in the bamboo forest.

Am I in heaven?

I am just an American on a rhythmical evangelism mission, but too many of my Chinese students think that I am a “She Foo,” an elder Master. I tell them to “Model the Teachings - NOT the Teacher.”

Still, they practice being overly honorific of me, not letting let me carry my luggage, grabbing both of my arms on either side as I walk down the temple steps. I had to stop them and protest, telling them I am 74 not 84, and carrying my bags is good exercise for me, and if I slip and fall down some steps, that is my lesson. Slipping and falling is a part of every drum circles facilitator’s learning moment. If you don’t slip and fall every once in a while, you haven’t learned anything.

I am off to Beijing for a few days rest and a “Culture Day” excursion. Then on to Xiamen for my last Playshop of the year. And then I will be finally home in time for Thanksgiving with my family.

I am so blessed to be able to help make the world a smaller place through rhythm connection.

Life is a dance when you sharing your spirit… Uncle Arthur