Confucius said: Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

I spent a long weekend in Taichung with six fellow teachers. One of the places we visited was the Budokan Martial Arts Hall. 

The Japanese colonised Taiwan between 1895 and 1945. They left beautiful buildings and  many of these are restored and put to practical use again. The Japanese did not treat the Taiwanese well (that is an understatement) but Taiwanese have forgiven them (or so it seems to me) and the people I mix with in Taiwan have a great respect for the Japanese and anything Japanese. Many of them regularly visit Japan, they buy Japanese products and like this weekend, they take their foreign visitor to experience some Japanese culture without a single reference to the bad things they suffered at the hands of the Japanese. 

The Budokan Martial Arts Hall is where the Japanese soldiers trained and today everyone is welcome to come here and learn archery, kendo, Judo, to play the guqin (Japanese zither) also to enjoy Chinese tea and play the Game of Go. We stepped into this elegant and tranquil setting out of the pouring rain. Immediately I felt myself relaxing. You step on soft wooden floors with bare feet, guqin music fills the air, people speak softly and as we are led to our table we pass couples sitting on cushions on the floor enjoying their tea.

We, however, are seated at a normal height table of solid wood and stools. There is an ikebana floral display by a window, I ignored the huge flat screen tv. Its a very overcast day and raining outside so the windows create a blurry blue barrier between us and reality. Its very cosy and just the place to be on a Sunday afternoon and in my mind I can see my lover reading romantic poems to me while I sip my mountain oolong tea that is served on a wooden tray along with some delicate traditional Chinese snacks on an even smaller wooden tray to be eaten with a delicate little wooden “object” – something between a toothpick and miniature spoon. Such are my dreams.

Close on three hours later I look around our ‘room’ and I wonder what happened? There are backpacks spilling stuff onto the floor, an umbrella, mobile phones, cameras (mine), reading glasses (mine), the reading glasses case (mine again), and crumpled serviettes all over the table. The wooden trays have been pushed into piles to make place for the huge Game of Go board. I’m happy to say it was my first time at this oldest board game in the world that is still being regularly played and I won.

Its started all elegant and romantic but it ended being a memorable and very fun afternoon.



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