Years ago, a friend and I were traveling through China and stopped in Xining in the highlands of Qinghai province.
My friend had just taken a long, bumpy ride in a vintage-era Jiefang truck from the mountainous areas of neighboring Sichuan province. It was a brutally-cold winter.
The driver had loaded the truck’s open cargo area with dead yaks – their skins were headed to market. I never asked whether this was permissible. The goal, especially for my friend, was to stay warm.
And, as my friend recalled, a ride in a vehicle out of the mountains was so coveted that people sat on top of the dead yaks for a ride to Xining.
After we met up, my friend and I went to a market when a Tibetan trader looked at my REI Novara waterproof jacket – it was the type that bicyclists wore, red and similar to this one - felt the material and realized its strength.
Through a translator, he asked whether I wanted to swap – my waterproof REI jacket for his long, fur-lined coat.
I respectfully declined. As I recall, his jacket had yak blood on it – and I probably didn’t want to tackle that at that moment. But at least, he suggested a trade of one jacket for another.
That wasn’t really the case when I received an email on Tuesday from a U.S.-based food supply company to write a blog post about its Web site and its section devoted to supplies for an Asian restaurant.
Chinese lions are popping up with Lunar New Year celebrations in the United States. This is a LEGO model, made in 2008. While San Francisco police officers have their own lion dance group, this model is not related to their activities. Image source: "Big Daddy" Nelson's Chinese Lion Dance photostream on flickr
I was scanning the online photo gallery at SFGate of Saturday’s Lunar New Year parade in San Francisco when one caption caught my eye.
It sat under a San Francisco Chronicle photograph of a blue-and-gold Chinese dragon making its way down Kearney Street for the city’s annual event.
The caption referred to the “San Francisco Police Department Lion Troupe.”
This rubbing of a clay tomb tile from Sichuan province dates to the Second Century AD. The inscription in the circle refers to long life. Image credit: Copyright The Field Museum, fieldmuseum.org
These characters "sui han" refer to the coldest time of the year. The rubbing is from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD). Image credit: Copyright The Field Museum, fieldmuseum.org
This rubbing is from a Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) tile inscription and has the meaning of "lasting happiness." Tofu also was created during the Han Dynasty. Image credit: Copyright The Field Museum, fieldmuseum.org
As a teenager, I once bought a white T-shirt from Honolulu’s Chinatown that had black letters noting the location and a red curving dragon representing Chinese culture.
Its mouth was agape, its teeth were sharp, its pointed toes jutting out and its spiny body swirled on the white cotton. For some reason, I liked it.
Since then, I’ve tried to keep my eyes open for Chinese-style dragons in the United States, China or other parts of Asia. I like seeing designs, learning the history behind them and noting where they pop up.