Archive for the ‘Travels with The Sage’ Category
|When you think of the history of cosmetic and perfumery, one of the oldest scents that comes to mind is rose. If you think about it, rose has been a classic for thousands of years. Even Cleopatra used rose! It is also a perfume that has been used by many cultures. Even here in China, rose was historically used by the wealthy or of noble blood!
One thing that I find fascinating here is that the Chinese drink a rose herbal tea. Now, I must admit, when first offered rose tea, I was filled with trepidation. All I could think of was the overwhelming Rose Otto I am familiar with. I could not have been farther off the mark!
While the Chinese do make rose tea, it is so mild in flavor, you can actually taste a naturally sweet note. It really makes for enjoyable drinking. The Chinese believe that drinking rose tea is very good for women, particularly for their skin. They believe it makes for smooth, soft skin; just like a rose petal! If you want to try your own hand at this mixture of Chinese cosmetics and Chinese medicine, let me give you a few tips.
When selecting rose buds for tea, make sure they are closed. Closed buds are believed to have more beneficial properties and they generally are in better shape. They are less likely to be broken or damaged. Heat your water until it comes to a steady simmer. If you are making a cup for one person, select 3-5 rose buds. Place them in the bottom of your cup. Pour the hot water over the rose buds. Wait for 30 seconds to one minute. The rose buds color will start to lighten and the water will be the palest of pinks. Remove the rose buds and enjoy your tea! You can see in the photo that the color change is barely noticeable. Don’t worry! The tea will have plenty of flavor! It will be sweet and gentle, not overpowering and bitter.
If rose herbal tea still does not appeal to you, not to worry! You can make a delightful toner using much a similar method. When making a toner, select 10-20 rosebuds and put them in the bottom of your cup. Heat your water until it comes to a steady simmer. Pour the hot water over the rose buds. Wait for three minutes or until the rosebuds are pale in color. The color will be much stronger than if you are making tea. Allow the toner to cool. Apply to face using a soft cloth or cotton ball.
I also find it amazing that roses are also used for romancing in China. A few weeks ago, I saw many men walking down the street with flowers in hand or women being presented with bouquets. The Chinese Valentine’s Day certainly had plenty of love in the air! What do you think about flowers being used for messages? Roses in particular?
|Today is August 13 and it is also Valentine’s Day in China. It is called QiXi （七夕）. While it is not like our holiday with little cupids aiming their little bows at our hearts, the Chinese have their own story of lovers. I have really enjoyed the learning of Chinese folklore. It is fascinating and rich with history and tradition. Would you like to hear it? I will do my best to translate it for you.
Long ago, there were seven daughters of the Queen of Heaven. The youngest was very beautiful but more importantly, she was diligent and hard working. She was exceptional at weaving. It had become her task to weave clouds and rainbows to make the world more beautiful.
On Earth, a poor cowherd was banished from his father’s house by his cruel brother and his evil wife. He had only been allowed an old cow, who was his only friend and companion. He wandered the roads in despair. However, it turned out that the old cow was a magical cow. The cow gave the poor cowherd some advice. “Find a good and beautiful wife as your companion for your life.”
One day, the youngest daughter and all of her sisters flew to Earth in their magical robes so that they might relax and bathe in one of the rivers. The poor cowherd happened upon the sisters while they were bathing. Remembering the old cows advice, he snuck down to the bank and stole the youngest sister’s clothes. One by one, the sisters finished their bathes, donned their robes and flew back to Heaven. The youngest sister finished last but she could not not find her robes! Her robes gave her the power to fly back to Heaven! Without them, she could do nothing.
The poor cowherd approached the youngest sister. He presented her with her robes and asked that she might stay on Earth and marry him. She agreed.
Seven years on Earth passed before the princesses absence was discovered. You see, time is very short in Heaven while time on Earth is very long. It had only been a few days in Heaven. But during that time on Earth the princess and the cowherd had been very happy. They had even had two children!
The Queen of Heaven was very angry and brought her daughter and her daughter’s children back to Heaven. The poor cowherd was terrified as he watched his wife and children fly through the sky towards Heaven. But he remembered the magical cow. Just before the magical cow had died, she had made the poor cowherd to promise to keep the hide for it would become useful in an emergency.
The poor cowherd ran to the family cottage to collect the cowhide. He wrapped it around shoulders and was able to pursue his wife and children on their way towards Heaven. The Queen of Heaven saw this and became enraged. She pulled a hairpin from her head and scratched a line in the sky creating the Silver River or what we call the Milky Way.
The young princess returned to her work of weaving clouds and rainbows for Earth but they lacked their former beauty and luster. She was so devastated by absence of her husband. Finally, the Queen of Heaven showed a small token of mercy. The young princess and the poor cowherd would be allowed to meet one day a year.
A bridge of magpies is formed over the Silver River so that the lovers may meet. During the rest of the year, they wait on the banks of the Silver River, each tending to their work and waiting for the one day that they may meet.
What do you think of the story? I find it romantic and sad. The Chinese believe that being able to be patient like that shows the true dedication and love for the other person. Do you agree?
WHEW! I’m home. I had a fantastic time at the Central Soapers Workshop in Overland Park, KS. Toto, I’ve never been to Kansas before, but I am definitely going back!
People who live near the mountains have a terrible time navigating prairies. We just keep looking for mountains so we know which direction we are going. Had it not been for great directions from the rental car personnel I would have landed in North Dakota. On the way back to the airport I took Crystal Decker on the scenic route, which means a 28 minute trip actually took over an hour because I
got lost took a right when I should have gone left. Thanks for putting up with me Crystal!
Do you know what impressed me the most about this trip to Kansas? Everyone was willing to learn. Kenna put up on the CentralSoapers.com site what to bring to a conference. If you have not read her post and the link to Little Miss Mocha’s blog about conferences, you MUST! Not only is Kenna’s blog and the Central Soapers site a great intro to this group, it is also really inspirational. When I arrived I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew I was going in my regular work shirts and my newly chewed shoe that I didn’t have time to replace before leaving (Thanks, Watson).
When I arrived I found people working hard, greeting with smiles, being beyond friendly, sharing their knowledge and being open to learning new techniques. The people there are brilliant! I learned about things I have never tried, never seen, and never used. WOW! This group was really ready to try anything to make awesome and unique soap. I was impressed beyond words. After I spoke about water replacement in soap making I put away my tutu, tiara and magic wand (my wand was correctly identified as a nostepinne – yarn ball winder – by Crystal Decker) and started a list of things I wanted to try when I got home. Colorful soaps like Amy Warden made at the workshop topped my list. Most of the time I am a utilitarian soap user. I figure it is for my own use so it doesn’t need to be colorful. Well, I decided to change my shower collection to be more colorful. These soaps were down right fun!
I brought home some Bath Fizzies made by Holly Port during the conference and they were a hit with the crew at MMS. I heard “my skin felt so good after that bath!” more than once. We even had a mistake. We have people on staff who English is not their primary spoken language. One staff member thought it was a room fragrance bomb and should be put in the toilet. After our good laugh we learned her bathroom did indeed smell nice after being bombed.
Column Swirling was demonstrated by Tanya Rasley. Ah! Gorgeous soaps! They really don’t take much more time than my basic soaps and the colors are incredible. Really incredible!
Cupcake Soaps done by Amanda Griffin were darling! I even saw the pair of cupcakes that looked more Dolly Parton-esque than cupcake-like. We giggled more and more!
By the time I got home I had laughed myself silly. I had a great time and it was worth every minute of lost sleep.
I WILL be there next year. I hope anyone that wants to learn more about soap will also attend. If you will check out the CentralSoapers.com site you can subscribe to the information feed so you can be sure to sign up and be there next year. I’ll be looking for a room mate and navigator. I know how to get lost, I’ll need someone to make sure my 28 minute trip is really 28 minutes.
See you next year in Kansas!
Our first stop was a small cosmetics shop that was stuffed to the ceiling! As my friends did their shopping, I browsed the shop and looked at the different products available. I saw bath gels with osmanthus petals, mud masks, nail polish, face creams and even foot masks. One product that caught my eye was a box that had “Snake Oil Cream” written in English! I grabbed the box and looked closely. I was convinced this had to be a bad translation. (Do you know what thoughts were racing through my head?)
One friend noticed the box I was examining and asked if I found it interesting. I told her that it was interesting and then asked if it really contained snake oil or if it was a bad translation. She chuckled and told me that it really contained snake oil. I took a picture of the box so I could share it with you.
I chuckled about the cream for the rest of the day because I couldn’t believe that a cream was labeled as a snake oil cream. In the USA, I’ve read many books that talked about “snake oil” salesmen who sold fake “medicines”. So the first association for me wasn’t the Chinese water snake that actually is the oil provider, but the salesmen of the books of my childhood.
When I returned home, I asked Jerry for more information and he told me more about snake oil being used in cosmetics here in China. Snake oil has been used to make skin softer and has been thought to help skin heal quickly and relieve pain. Generally snake oil is used in foot creams, hand creams or even face creams.
Jerry asked me if I would be interested in trying snake oil, so he helped me order snake oil from a Chinese online cosmetics ingredient supply shop. The snake oil arrived at the beginning of February and I got to play with it. (I’ll share that blog post with you on Monday!)
Recently I caught the worst cold ever. I have been miserable. I had this cold for several days with no improvement in sight. I mean, the box of tissues and my pillow have been my best friends. Andee wasn’t even been able to talk me into a movie. (I can always be talked into a movie.) I was grumpy, tired and ornery. Now that I am better, I can actually laugh about what happened. Put aside any food, swallow your drinks, and hold on. You are in for an adventure.
Because I have been sick during the Chinese New Year I’ve been out of sorts. Everything is closed! Dumpling shops where I pick up breakfast, shopping centers, schools, and even some pharmacies have shut down. In some ways it is like Beijing has turned into a ghost town. Talk about strange! My illness continued to get worse and white spots appeared on the back of my throat. This was now beyond what I could fight along. I had to go to a hospital. I needed to get help with what I thought was a really bad and stubborn case of the flu. The hospital is much like a medical center in the USA where doctors have offices but no beds for staying the night. I needed help and I was fortunate enough to have a very good friend take me. Sick people can’t think correctly.
After getting checked in, we were steered to the nurse’s station. After a little discussion with the nurse, my friend came back with a glass thermometer. “Here,” he said. “They need your temperature.” I took the thermometer and opened my mouth. Nanoseconds before I inserted the thermometer into my mouth my friend shrieked “What are you doing?!” I stopped and looked at him. What does he think I am doing? “I am taking my temperature.” Duh! Even well people can be weird.
He started to shake his head, wave his hands, pace and laugh. At this point we have attracted the attention of everyone of the floor. My friend managed to choke out, “We don’t put thermometers there!”
“Oh,” I said. Then I stared in horror at the thermometer. Where had this thermometer been before I had it? I then looked at my friend, leaned in close and whispered “Do I need to have my temperature taken in the hall?” He looked at me like I had grown a second head. “Of course.” I closed my eyes. I had filled with dread. “Why me? Why here? Why now? I almost stuck THAT THING in my mouth!” were thoughts that were racing through my head. Apparently being sick really meant being sick. All of a sudden I wished I was back at home, under the covers, hiding my head. I was so not ready for this. I had full blown dread. What now? How would I deal with this? Why could I not have some privacy? I want my mom!! Then my friend told me, “You have to put it under your arm. You know, in your arm pit.”
“Oh!” I finally understood! I had been saved! Suddenly I felt much better and I had not even been treated with medicine yet. My mood brightened and while I was still very sick I was now OK with being sick. Joy flooded through me making me feel like an overcooked noodle, I was limp with relief. Even the daunting task of worming a glass thermometer through a scarf, coat, winter sweater, and two shirts seemed easy compared to the danger I had imagined was looming in my near future.
The rest of my visit at the hospital wasn’t nearly so adventurous or exciting. I was told, “Yes, you are sick. Here are some medications that will make you feel better. Go home, rest, drink lots of fluids and don’t eat anything that is spicy or has sugar. If you don’t get better, come back.” I don’t know about you, but I am not prepared for another adventure at a Chinese hospital.
So now that I am feeling better, please join me for a toast. Whether you are drinking tea, coffee, water, or anything else you have on hand – please raise your glass. This is for all you readers. May you be safe, healthy and warm; and may all of your troubles be less than the imagined terror of a thermometer in a Chinese hospital.
|I would like to take a moment to introduce our readers to a popular and well enjoyed festival here in China. Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival. While that name is the English translation the Chinese call it, Zhōngqiū jié (中秋节). My first introduction to the festival was a tame 2 hour celebration last year in the USA and I was told that it was called the Moon Festival. This is true, but it isn’t the official name. The festival always occurs on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The Chinese may use the Gregorian calendar for official business and record keeping, but they use a lunar calendar for celebrations and determining when the best times are for a person to do things that cause life changes, like getting married, starting new projects, moving and even having children.
Anyway, back to the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival has a long history filled with traditions and stories. While the festival has been mentioned in ritual descriptions from 3,000 years ago, the festival became popular during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). While events vary from region to region of China, the people spend time with their families, eat moon cakes and watch the moon in appreciation while telling stories. There are two varieties of stories that are told particularly for the moon festival and I have found them to be fascinating.
The first story I heard was about Houyi (后羿, Hòu Yì) and his wife, Chang’e (嫦娥, Cháng’é). According to the story I was told, Houyi and Chang’e had been immortals who had angered the other gods and had been banished to live on earth as mortals. One day, the ten birds that were the alternating suns of the world, circled the world together scorching the earth. The Emperor of China, Emperor Yao commanded Houyi, a master archer, to shoot down nine of the suns to protect the earth. In payment for saving the earth, Emperor Yao gave Houyi a pill that gave eternal life, but only half was needed for one person. Houyi hid the pill in a box at his home. Some time later, Emperor Yao summoned Houyi to help with another event affecting the country.
While Houyi was away, Chang’e found herself suffering from boredom. She began examining her husband’s things and found the pill. Houyi returned at that moment and Chang’e was so startled, she swallowed the whole pill. She started to float into the sky because of the overdose. Although Houyi wanted to shoot her in order to prevent her from floating further, he could not bear to aim his bow at her. Chang’e kept on floating until she landed on the Moon. When Chang’e landed on the Moon, she coughed up half the pill. She asked the Jade Rabbit, the rabbit who lived on the moon, to compound another pill for her to return to earth and her husband. The Jade Rabbit consented if she would help him with making the elixirs for the gods while he tried to make a pill just like the one she had swallowed. Today, the Jade Rabbit is still trying to make a pill by mixing and grinding various herbs.
The second story I heard was about the overthrow of the Mongol rule. This story has not been supported by historical records, but it does make a good story. The Mongols had been ruling China during the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 AD). The Han people tried to rebel, but as group gatherings were banned, a rebellion was difficult to plan. When the leaders of the rebellion noted that the Mongols did not eat moon cakes, one of the advisers suggested they time the rebellion to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival. After seeking and receiving permission to distribute moon cakes to the Han Chinese residents as a blessing of longevity for the Mongol Emperor. Inside each moon cake was a piece of paper that said, “”Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month.” The night of the 15th day of the 8th month, the rebels attacked and overthrew the Mongol government. They were then able to establish the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).
No matter the stories and traditions, the Chinese government didn’t make the Mid-Autumn Festival a public and official holiday until 2008. The past month has been filled with hubbub as people send moon cakes to friends and family far away, bakeries and tea shops offer specials for moon cakes, and the parks are cleaned and decorated for the night of the festival.
I was able to visit a local branch of a cake store here in Beijing and take pictures of the moon cakes to share with you. While I can’t share the actual moon cakes, the pictures are pretty!
May your day be a good day and I hope you enjoy the moon tonight!
Jerry asked me if I wanted to step inside for a peek. Since it smelled so good outside, I just had to Go inside. We walked inside and it didn’t look like any doctor’s office that I had been to before. The inside of the building was bathed in warm golden light and smelled like a combination of teas, spices and wood. I watched as several people weighed out traditional medicines onto papers. I took a picture of one of the groups of medicines as they were waiting for the papers to be folded into bags.
The pharmacists didn’t actually weigh the individual ingredients, so much as accurately put pinches or handfuls on the papers. Now I understand why some people can recreate food recipes accurately without measuring cups or scales. They have done the recipe so many times, that they remember how much to add. Watching the hands fly over the papers depositing ingredients was amazing. I’ll try to go back to take a video.
I recognized Hibiscus in the ingredients, but I didn’t recognize anything else. Do you recognize anything on the papers?