Chengdu, China (December 2005)

After Hanoi and the World Wushu Championships, it was time to relax. My family and I went to Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan province in China) to see pandas, mill around, and enjoy Sichuanese food.

Entrance to the Chengdu panda research center.







In one of the center's exhibits, we saw two pandas playing/fighting for the better part of 20 minutes.


It began peacefully...


Escalated with biting...


And awkward grapples


Soon they were on the wood beams...


Taking a nasty spill


``Hey, what are you looking at?''

We wandered around a bit more...


Perched Panda


A red panda from the rear...


And the front

Before we finally got the opportunity to take pictures alongside a one year-old Panda cub (I need to double-check the age). We crossed a small bridge to get to its enclosure. The fuzzball wasn't as cute as it was messy.


I tried to teach the panda the finer points of computer science


``See this book here?''


``It covers a lot of fascinating topics...''


``So what do you think?''


``HA HA HA!''


``Fine. Go back to stuffing your face, punk.''

After we exited the enclosure, the panda kept eating...


And eating...


And eating...


Hey, scraps!

After the panda visit we went for classic Sichuan hotpot and performance. Here's a Quicktime movie of a boiling hotpot.


Spicy and Medicinal hotpot in the same pan


Sichuan-style bacon


An array of uncooked foods for the hotpot


This used to be a small antelope-like creature


Fish, and fatty beef just behind


Hotpot in action

There were some interesting acts...


Modern interpretive dance?





Looks good now, but it got weird later

Like the wife scolding her husband while he balances a candle on his head...










And the classic Sichuan art of Bian Lian. It translates to ``Changing Face,'' and the artist rapidly changes face masks many times (8, 12, sometimes more) throughout the performance. The mechanics of Bian Lian are a closely-guarded secret, and there are roughly 150 (I'll have to check this) practitioners in modern times. Unfortunately, googling for ``Bian Lian'' only yields references to the movie English-titled ``King of Masks.''


Initial mask


First transformation


Second transformation


Third...


Monkey King mask... Then he performed several more in quick succession...


No mask now, but that wasn't the end of it...