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ric swenson in jingdezhen,china -july 26, 2006

updated wed 26 jul 06


Ric Swenson on tue 25 jul 06

Hey Y'all...

Cicadas beat their wings to some droning tune from the trees. It is a
constant melody here now. Can't see them but we sure hear them.

Traveling in rural China has been the highlight of my time for the past few
weeks. It involves renting a car and driver to get to some small village
20-50 KM from Jingdezhen. Most are also involved with mining clay or plaster
(CaCO3,) or copper or coal.

Yesterday spent the entire day in Yu Ma Chang, a mining town an hours drive
over one of the worst roads you can imagine. I've seen worse...Alaska's
Kenai Road in the early 60s...but it was a real ride. Went with a couple
school had taught there 10-15 years ago,so we had instant
friends. We were treated like royalty, fed, entertained and toured around
to see the mines for copper,plaster calcining, coal and clay. Hammer mills
driven by water beat the clay to powder.

We spent several hours hiking deep in the earth... hiking into the bowels
of the 'MANY GODS CAVES'. Cool refreshing and full of magnificent
stalactites and stalagmites...Miles of caves carved by water millions of
years ago.

Huge Water buffalo grazed in the fields,with goats around the grounds of the
park near the caves.

The food was terrific at the home of the village Chinese language teacher
and his parents. 12 dishes..each better than the last. Local
specialties..eels, vegetables I have never seen before. Pork that melted in
the mouth. Chicken soup...but different from US style. Light fluffy rice.
The 84year old matriarch played hostess and challenged us to EAT MORE!
Finally I said 'Che Bow le !' ( I am full! )

Their living room /dining room was piled high with bags and a stock of
drying rice. Cats and chickens ( they even were the same color! Tabby cats
and light brown chickens) wandered in and out looking for table scraps. The
day finally ended at midnight when we had driven back to Jingdezhen,other
joined us dancing at two of the local discos. A very full day. Everyone
loves to dance here.

A few days ago,friends treated me to trip to Gao Ling (Kaolin,as we know it
in the West) The first porcelain mines operated in 1000 AD to make the
first whitewares in the world. Hiking up the mountain there were mine pits
wafting cool air in several locations. Mne Tailings piled high. The
porcelain is naturally occuring, but they have learned to mix it with some
feldspar too. Fires pure white to cone 12-13 and is amazingly hard and
durable. They can throw and trim it VERY thin.

The landscape was magnificent. Beautiful forests of pine and bamboo.

730 days until the Bejing Olympics.

Monsoons and typhoons have been beating- up Taiwan and the South coastof
China in the past few weeks. Some flooding. We are too far inland to see
much effect.

Cyrus McCormick meets Bill Gates here in China now....

The clash of farm and urban life is more intense daily. 900 million farmers
here..more each day seek urban jobs and education in the cities. President
HU announced the goal of doing away with the ox /buffalo or man powered plow
in the next three years. Tractors will replace the ox,water buffalo and man
powered plows of old days. Good bye to John Deere's original steel-faced
plough. Alas, but hoorah! Rice harvest continues and the next crop is
being planted now. Rice dries along side the roads and in every driveway.

Gao-Ling village and the river there are beautiful. Important site of
transportation by river, of the clay and wood firing fuel at Gao-ling to
Jingdezhen starting a thousand years ago. Ruts in the stone cobbles attest
to the carts that carried thousands of tons of clay to market downstream in
Jingdezhen. Bought a pound of hot red peppers for a friend who loves hot
food. $1.25.

Became a banker for a short time last week. HUH? I was waiting in the long
line at Bankof China...a woman from Costa Rica a big hurry to
exchange $40 .USD for RMB Yuan..her tour bus was leaving soon. The line was
too long...I was the only one in the bank that spoke Spanish... No suprise
there I guess...We figured a way for me to exchange her money
the applause of the other folks in line...when they figured out what was
happening...Pretty funny. Maybe you "had to be there"?

During the storms here there can be a lot of thunder and lightening. Power
goes out...just like in Atlanta. Eh? Spectacular displays. Like the sudden
thunder of fireworks you hear here daily to celebrate someones birthday, the
opening of a new store, or apt. complex.

Minimum wage in Shanghai is now 4.66 Yuan per hour( 7.99 Yuan per USD) Half
that in Jingdezhen now. Only 1.5 million folks here...approaching 20
million, they Shanghai now.

Went to Jingdezhen Ancient folk kiln museum the other day. 13 sites of
ancient workshops, kilns and small factories dating back to 900 AD in the
Wudai dynasty...through Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties...relics of past and white porcelains of course but also Song Dynasty
Celadons ( my personal favorites) Famous Hutian Kiln site. Nice museum of

Heading for Hong Kong on August 3. Group going from Jingdezhen to Hong Kong
and Macao for a week. Tour is cheap.

My hat collection grows. Farmer's straw hat is the latest...joins Army hat
with ear flaps for this coming winter..6 baseball caps from Dartmouth (two)
, Princeton, Northeastern swimming, Alaska , golf cap, etc.

Learning more and more chinese phrases. I can eat out with no chinese
translator now....but still enjoy eating with students, fellow teachers and
friends. I can talk convincingly on my mobils (cell) phone now. I'm always
invited to dinner with teachers who want their young students to talk with a
foreigner who is native english accent...Iowa, Oreg, Alaska, pretty mild. I dont' have the Atlanta Twang yet..getting a
Chinglese (Chinese-English) tilt to my language. Hard to explain that
language...simplified English I guess.

Well. That's about it from here...for now. Let me know if you get this

Regards, and always remember to "keep your stick on the ice"


"...then fiery expedition be my wing, ..."

Wm. Shakespeare, RICHARD III, Act IV Scene III

Richard H. ("Ric") Swenson, Teacher,
Office of International Cooperation and Exchange of Jingdezhen Ceramic
Institute, TaoYang Road, Eastern Suburb, Jingdezhen City
JiangXi Province, P.R. of China
Postal code 333001
Mobile/cellular phone :13767818872
Tel. +86-0798-8494257 (res.)
+86-0798-8499600 (ofc.)
+86-0798-8499012 (fax)
E-Mail: or

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