Christopher Sanchez's blog

A Shot of Sincerity

I find myself in this alley near Houhai everyday. There is a coffee shop where I drink milky tea and a small dive where I drink cheap shots at night. Further along, past the tea and pipe shops, the path curves to the left, over a small bridge that leads you into the bar district lining the shores of the lake.

But if you go straight into a crumbly alleyway instead of following the path over the bridge, you might come across Mrs. Xing, 51, selling incense outside the gate of Guanghua Temple.

Beijing Bebop

The backing band is playing Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," but it's clear this isn't the saxophonist's first time around the block. He takes the song's familiar form and makes it something all his own, like a cab driver who knows the destination but chooses to take the scenic route.

I'm in the audience of Beijing's CD Jazz Cafe with no voice recorder, notepad or even a pen. Being a reporter, that's like leaving home with no clothes on.

The Sounds of Heaven

In a small corner of one of China's most famous Taoist temples, Meng Zhi Lin tunes up his gu qin, a seven-stringed Chinese instrument.

“The tone is very low, so I’ll close the window,” Meng says through our interpreter.

The gu qin is not so much a musical instrument but a tool through which you practice and know the knowledge of heaven, he explains.

Ten years ago Meng Zhi Lin turned his back on modern life and sought isolation in the mountains, abandoning everything except his gu qin.

The Movement on Your Shoulders

I’m drinking a beer at a hip new bar downtown, live music flows from buildings up and down the street - a collage of sound set against neon lights on a windy cosmopolitan evening.

I lose myself, thinking for a moment that it’s just another night in Austin until a curious voice snaps me back to reality.

“Zhongwen?”

I look up and see a young Chinese man I noticed earlier, one of a group trying to draw customers into the bar. He wants to know if I speak Chinese.

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