Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I had to go and pick up more herbs from Dr. Zhou's house today. Didn't snoop around and came straight back to the clinic. She has taken to talking to me when we wait for a scheduled appointment. Her moon fluctuates, like today, after a call she got from her daughter, who married an American guy and moved to Florida.

"You think there is such a thing as 'Tao Hua Yuan'?" Dr. Zhou asked, while reorganizing the bottles of herbs she has on the shelf.

My mind was on the incredibly cheap mixed nuts here and was thinking about sending some back to my friends at home and took a while to reply. "Yes, but if there was, then nobody has found it again."

Tao Hua Yuan is a mythical place, translated literally, it means "Peach Flower Garden." Legend has it a fisherman happened upon a dense cluster of peach flower trees while fishing in a mountain valley, he followed the fragrant orchard until eventually the trees thinned and he discovered a narrow crack in the mountain itself. He squeezed past the opening and saw a peaceful village of people of all ages living just beyond. The villagers were very amazed to see him and treated him to elaborate banquet meals. They asked him about his life and the dynasty era he came from, as they all escaped here from a past war and never ventured out again. The fisherman loved the tranquil lifestyle there but missed his family. Upon returning, his hosts warned him about never speaking of this place to anyone. Of course, the minute he got back to his own world, he told the local governor. The governor immediately commissioned a group of searchers to find this place, yet, despite the markers the fisherman left, they could never find Tao Hua Yuan again.

I always thought this was more about being loyal to your word than an utopia being hidden somewhere, just waiting to be found.

Dr. Zhou said, "Would you ever come back, if you saw it?"

"Yes, but I would leave better markers, like strings tied to trees, and not rice, which had probably gotten scattered by the wind."

She made some comment about my being young and opportunistic. If I wasn't, would I be here?

Dr. Zhou was likely reminiscing on the life she left behind in China. I gathered from tidbits here and there that she married an old American guy she met on campus, who was visiting China on an academic tour, while she was a grad student in traditional medicine.
Lots of women did similar things; losers and social misfits who were unable to get a wife in their own country had gotten Chinese brides this way. Some divorced after the years of required marriage to get a green card of her own, and some stayed, for various reasons. What was her reason?


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