Datong: "The Year of the Dragon"

Shanxi Province

January 24, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

The documents of the Polatschek Family record that I was born on a Wednesday morning, the 18th of September. According to the twelve-year Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of The Dragon.

The Dragon is magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, zealous, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, generous and loyal. The Dragon can be arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, eccentric, grandiloquent, bombastic, prejudiced, dogmatic, over-bearing, violent, impetuous and brash.

My Zodiac element is metal (gold or silver). Metal personalities are tough and loves to take risks. They like to help others but have to be careful not to become hard-hearted! *
Am I a Dragon? Am I a Golden Dragon? Silver?

Is it not understandable that I am drawn to the images of dragons, especially the dragon walls in China?

Dragon walls or screens are a frequent sight since the purpose of the wall is to inhibit evil spirits from crossing the threshold and entering the home. The dragons are threatening and frightening, violent and imperious. They are vigorous and passionate.

The Nine Dragon Screen in Datong was placed in front of the entrance to a Ming dynasty palace. The colorful glazed-tile wall depicts nine fiery dragons. It is an ambitious and powerful structure: 8m (26ft) high, 45m (147ft) long and 2m (6.5ft) thick - a decisive and self-assured artistic display. I am proud to be a “dragon,” even if I do lean toward the grandiloquent from time to time,

Guarded by two stone-cold lions, another stately sight in Datong is the nine hundred year old Shanhua Temple - a heavenly retreat from the busy business district. On display in the main hall are five noble Buddhist statues flanked by twenty-five divine generals. I managed to capture three of the generals before the imperious guard out-flanked me. But my strong spirit prevailed when I found a 20m long (65ft) brash, glazed-tile, five dragon wall in the temple courtyard.

My afternoon tour of Datong ended on a pioneering note when I chanced upon one more Five Dragon Screen. Neither fiery nor passionate, this simple gray stone wall is dignified and direct, and a calming close to another superior day.

The Year of the Dragon returns in four years. Will I still be here? Maybe, even one more after that? I hope so. There’s more walls around.

Cheers from your fiery friend,


* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Zodiac


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