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.
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.
Fujian opera is one of many forms of Chinese opera, a classic art form with codified and ritual postures, facial expressions, and makeup. I went backstage and stepped directly into the dramatic storm: last-minute preparations for an opera in honor of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
For a generation raised on MTV rather than Mao Zedong Thought, Buddhism, along with other traditional Chinese ideologies such as Confucianism and Taoism, offers young people a way to reconnect with their Chinese identity in the face of increasing globalization.