In the remote western area of Hexi, a new urban district in the west of Nanjing, runs a narrow branch of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River. Ships and boats, big or small, are moored alongside the river. On one boat, we see Mr. and Mrs. Yu, who welcome us aboard.
Mr. Yu, 65 years old, has been a fisherman for the last forty years. Compared to the earlier days, he is catching fewer and fewer fish these days. According to him, the heavy contamination in the Yangtze River is to blame for the decrease of fish. With the Qinhuai River, which flows through the downtown area of Nanjing, flowing into the Yangtze a few hundred meters north, the Yangtze river has to receive tons of polluted water each day. Besides, he complains, the newly established residential area, which is half a mile away from the river, has aggravated the situation.
Mr. Gong, a friend of Mr. Yu, is the owner of the boat. He was born in 1958 in Xinyi, a county in the northern area of Jiangsu and moved to Nanjing in the 1970s. His parent’s generation made a living by fishing, whereas he left the fishing business and started work at a chemical plant, which gave him a better job security. After his retirement in 2006, he bought this 24 meters long boat for 30, 000 RMB to pick up fishing again.
The fishing boat is not his home, but his working and leisure place. Usually, Mr. Gong and his fellow fishermen fish in the morning and sell their spoils on the market in the afternoon. He likes to invite his friends to the boat to drink, play cards or to “chew the fat” now and then.
Also according to Mr. Gong, fish catches are not predictable anymore these days. However, fish of big sizes is still not rare. In a large container on the boat next to his, we see a big fish, which is almost one meter in length and weighs around 4 kilograms. Mr. Gong tells that one kilogram is worth at least 160 RMB on the market. He also shows some smaller fish which were caught in the morning. They will earn him 30 RMB per kilo. If they are lucky, they can catch wild carps, which can be sold at 200 RMB per kilo or more.
Apart from the fishing, Mr. Fong is an amateur craftsman who makes ship models from wood. For the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he spent over two months to make two large models. Unfortunately, he did not finish his work before May and missed the deadline to denote the models to the IOC. Today, one ship is on the display in the hall of Nanjing Sports Bureau; the other is preserved in his private collection at home.
Since the ships were specially designed for the Beijing Olympics, they carried numerous meaningful symbols. They are both 2.08 meters in length, indicating the year of the event. They both have five masts, standing for the five continents that take part in the event. He engraved the Chinese Character “京” on the first mast, the Olympics flag on the second one and the map of China of the third; also the main one. On the roof of the three-story cabin in the middle of each ship, he carved four dragons, the well-known totem of China. On the rear deck, he placed a miniature bird’s nest which was also made by him.
Mr. Gong says he did everything he could do to donate his works. He asked the Nanjing Sports Bureau to negotiate with the IOC for many times, but the IOC declined him in the end. Only official donations rather than folk artworks were accepted after the month of May. Realizing that it was unlikely to donate the models to the IOC, he decided to present one of them to the Nanjing Sports Bureau.
Now, he has a bigger plan: to make a 2.14-meter-long model for the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics. He admitted that he was less passionate this time, because making a model in such size consumes both time and money. For example, to make the two models for the Beijing Olympics, he worked more than ten hours each day for two whole months. Since he pursued every detail of his works, he selected premium timber as material, which did cost him nearly 8,000 RMB.
Mr. Gong tells that he once cherished a dream of becoming a real craftsman. However, he soon found the dream to be a fantasy. Right after retirement, he decided to rent a room in the downtown area of Nanjing to sell his ship models. With only a handful of models sold, he quit after one year. He knew that the reason of failure were the high prices. For example, a simple model of 70 cm long was sold at 500 to 600 RMB. Considering time and money he had to spend, he believes such a price was reasonable. He shows us a model with a few decorations on it. “Even such a small model takes me a week,” he says, “I could spend the week fishing, which guarantees an income of at least six hundred. That’s why I now rather fish than making these models.”
Instead, Mr. Gong now takes making wooden ship models only as a hobby. He says he dares not to dream of someone buying his models at a considerable price any longer. That was the reason that he chose to donate, rather sell, his works to Nanjing Sports Bureau. He expected only the official recognition of his efforts. He felt sorry not being able to show us the photo of him and Xu Guoping, who was the managing director of Nanjing Museum and the child of the renowned Chinese painter Xu Beihong. “Now the simple wish of me is to win the recognition of people like him”, he says.
In the end, Mr. Gong says: “In the early years, I loved photographing, but I could not afford a car which could take me everywhere. Such was the same in my childhood; I loved school, but my family could not afford to pay for the tuition fee.”
Mr. Yin is the pastor at the Christianity Jiangsu Road Church.
He tells us that, though not in large scale, this church already has a history of over 60 years. It started in 1941 by some local Christians and changed its locations for three times from 1947 to 1999. During the period of Cultural Revolution (1966-1981) it was closed and occupied by the government for other uses. In 1999 it moved to the current location.
Mr. Yin was born in a small city in Jilin, a province in the northeastern part of China. He has been in Nanjing for 15 years and now has become a local here. He entered the Nanjing Union Seminary in 1996 and continued his graduate study to get his master’s degree in 2003. Asked why he came to such a faraway city to study theology, he explained that in China only the seminaries in Nanjing are recognized throughout the nation. According to him, seminaries in China can be classified into three levels, namely the national, provincial and municipal level. Comparatively, the nationwide seminaries enjoy more abundant teaching resources and more authoritative status.
Since priesthood is still a rare job in China, we are curious why he decided to study theology and chose it as his lifelong career. He tells us it was decided by his family and his experience of understanding Christianity. Because his parents are both pastors, he was exposed to religious culture at young age. During his teens, he felt that his life has been elevated by his belief and therefore he confirmed his willingness to believe in God. At the decisive crossroad of life where he had to choose his future career, he heard Jesus’ calling from inside and was determined to dedicate his life to God.
Last year, after being a preacher for six years, he was promoted to pastor. His main duties include preaching, giving services, dealing with the everyday affairs of the church, teaching religious knowledge to pastors of other churches and acting as the host of weddings and funerals. In the past, he says, some people taking part in the Christian funerals would mind abandoning the Chinese traditions like the burning of paper money. However, with more and more people beginning to respect the Christian rituals, these conflicts do not exist any longer.
Mr. Yin is also responsible for hosting the annual baptism ceremony. Usually, there is only one big open ceremony in July. For people with special needs, such as the elderly and the disabled, they go their homes for the baptism. Next to all these tasks, Mr. Yin acts as a consultant in the church. People come to him for various reasons. Some of them come to relieve their confusion in belief before deciding to become a Christian or convert to Christianity. Others come to solve their questions in reading and understanding the Bible. There are also people who come to ease their mental stresses caused by family, social relations or work. “It is estimated that in China 60% to 70% of the population have psychological problems to different extents,” he tells us, “so it is important for us to be their listeners and help them to live with love, hope and belief.
Talking of his family, the pastor shows a wide smile on his face. He got married in Nanjing and now has two daughters. The older is 7 years old, while the younger is a baby born in May 2012. They live a typical Christian life, praying before dinners and reading the bible before sleeping. “I am happy,” he says, “ to see my children grow in the blessing of the Lord.”
Mr. Yin is also excited to tell us about the development of Christianity in Nanjing. Twenty years ago, there were only 2,000 to 3,000 Christians in Nanjing, whereas the number has increased to 150,000 today. Most Christians here are protestant. He gives us two reasons to explain why the development of Christianity is going so fast in the past 20 years. The first is that everyone has a need for belief. In the Chinese society where dramatic reforms and changes are taking place, numerous values spring up. When exposed to the voices advocating individuality, profits, efficiency or any other values, many people gradually lose the sense of belonging. In such cases, they need a spiritual support, a voice that can firmly tell them what is the truth. The second reason is that the development towards a more liberal society in China allows for the existence of religions. In the Cultural Revolution period, religion was regarded as superstition and strictly forbidden. People had craving for belief, but where deprived of the right to exercise their belief. However, now the society begins to recognize religions and to respect people’s freedom of choosing a religion.
Mr. Yin denies the thought that the Chinese churches are simulating the traditional Western churches. Though Christianity originated from, and has had a two thousand years of history in, the Western countries, the values it has been advocating transcend the boundary of nations. The mission of Chinese churches is to practice and spread these values in the most acceptable and effective ways. He highlights that they do not rigidly exercise the rituals of Christianity, but focus on the essence. “We often play anthems with erhu and guzheng, build churches in Chinese traditional style and preach with Chinese examples, and so forth”, he says. “Chinese elements can be found almost everywhere in our churches; such as music, poems, books, rituals and buildings.”
In the end, Mr. Yin discusses with us the relationship between Chinese churches and the Chinese government. First, there is not an official organization that leads all the churches, nor a leader like a cardinal or a bishop. Churches of different types disperse all around the country, including some family-run ones and even illegal ones. Second, Chinese churches do not have to pay any tax to the government. Third, the attitude of Chinese government toward Christianity has changed from inhibition to respect and support. One example is that the Nanjing government is investing in building a large church which can accommodate 5000 people in a suburban area (near the Olympic Sports Center). According to Mr. Yin, churches need the support of the government, because the government is able to provide sufficient financial security to help them.
At the end of autumn, in the middle of a residential area, a handful of people gather around several sheep carcasses, hanging upside down with their head removed. Blood is dripping from their broken necks and tails.
The man who sells the mutton is boasting to consumers the high quality and freshness of his sheep. According to him, all the sheep were transported from Inner Mongolia, constantly in frozen condition.
The mutton is sold for 22 RMB per “jin” (half a kilo) with skin and 21 RMB without the skin. Some costumers doubt the freshness of the meat, for the price is quite cheap.
This year, the man has purchased 50 tons of Mongolian sheep. He estimates that they can be sold out before the Spring Festival.
He is from Anhui, but speaks with a pure Nanjing accent. He explains that he has moved here more than a decade ago. He started the sheep trade a couple of years ago.
Mr. Qian is sitting along the road, on both sides of which houses are being demolished.
“All these houses will be removed, except for that yellow building.” “Because it is the gathering place of an underground organization”, he adds while lowering his voice.
Mr. Qian used to own three properties in the neighborhood area, but now two of them have been demolished. When asked about government’s compensation for the properties, he repeats that he knows nothing now and everything is still in negotiation.
After the destruction of his last property, Mr. Qian will move and live with his only child.
Ms. Tao, 42 years old, is the manager of Jiyinian Psychological Counseling Center in Nanjing. Although she majored in literature rather than psychology in university, she developed an interest in psychological analysis, especially the theory of psychodynamics. She became the student of a Norwegian psychologist to systematically study psychoanalysis in 2003 and started her counseling career in 2004.
Jiyinian Psychological Counseling Center was established by Ms. Tao and her friends, Ms. Yang and Mr. Chen, in 2006. In its infancy stage, it was rather difficult to run the center. Therefore, in the next year, both Yang and Chen left the center for better careers. Ms. Tao remained till now but did not enlarge the scale of the center. There are two full-time counselors in the center and several part-time psychologists who come at times for academic exchanges. She explained that she neither has ambition or time to manage a center on a larger scale.
According to Ms. Tao, the history of psychoanalysis in China is rather short; it can be traced to the years before the Cultural Revolution. At that time, some Western psychoanalytical theories were introduced. The development was suspended during the Cultural Revolution Period and slowly restored when medical colleges re-introduced Psychiatry as a subject. The first generation of students majoring in Psychiatry after the Cultural Revolution, have become the backbone of the psychoanalytical profession. Many of them, she says, are her teachers.
Ms. Tao tells that in China counselors mainly utilize Western approaches, such the psychodynamics of Freud or the TA methodology (Transactional Analysis) in their counseling. However, many of them are making endeavors to adjust these traditional Western methods to better serve Chinese people. Their major attempt is to introduce Chinese ancient philosophies into psychoanalysis, such as the thoughts of Zen, Confucius and Tao. In the last few years, she herself has pursued the wisdom in Zen and tries to practice her findings in counseling.
She believes this attempt is necessary in China. First, the disasters China has weathered in the past one and a half century, namely 150 years of war and 10 years of Cultural Revolution, have torn a huge trauma on people’s sub-consciousness. Second, Chinese people show little concern on children’s mental health both in the traditional and modern education. This ignorance distorts the personalities of many children. Therefore, Chinese people have their own psychic wounds that cannot be cured merely through imported psychoanalytical methods.
“In psychodynamic treatment, counselors take respecting their clients as the primary principle”, said Ms. Tao, “so we call clients ‘visitors’ or ‘cases’ instead of ‘patients’.” Ms. Tao cannot give an average age, education level or social background of her visitors, because they are from all walks of life. Yet she is sure that all her visitors can afford the consulting fees and young people at the age of 20 to 30 account for the majority. In the exam season, many adolescents who are going to take the entrance examination for college or high school come to her to relieve their pressures.
In the psychoanalytical theories, mental illnesses can be classified into three kinds based on the severity; namely schizophrenia, personality disorders and neurosis conflicts. In European countries such as France, psychological counseling centers provide psychotherapies to all the three illnesses, whereas those in China are currently lacking the conditions to treat schizophrenia. Therefore, visitors coming to Ms. Tao usually suffer from personality disorders or neurosis conflicts.
In most cases, visitors are unaware of their personality disorders or neurosis conflicts. Visitors come to Ms. Tao to solve various types of common problems, for example, their difficulty in dealing with colleagues, friends, lover or pressures from their job or study. These problems are in effect only the symptoms of certain mental illness. Ms. Tao needs to utilize complex techniques and skills in psychoanalysis, which are mainly based on Freud’s theory of defense mechanisms and Bowlby’s theory of attachment patterns, to trace the root causes beneath these symptoms.
It is crucial to distinguish whether the visitor suffers from personality disorders or merely neurosis conflicts. For an experienced counselor, it takes only one or two sessions of talking to resolve the neurosis conflicts. Nevertheless, the treatment called “personality integration process” can last up to several years if the visitor has been assessed to have personality disorders.
Ms. Tao told that both personality disorders and neurosis conflicts find their roots in the childhood experience of visitors. People with such illnesses did not have a good connection with their “mother”, a metaphor of guardians like parents, grandparents, other family members or nannies. Any hurt feelings related to their “mother” could be deeply embedded in the sub-consciousness of them. Personality disorders are more severe than neurosis conflicts because they originate from the early stages in life, when people did not know how to deal with them.
Personality disorders can be caused by a variety of psychic shocks occurring to the visitors before they were three years old. The psychic shocks include the early death of parents, early divorce, domestic violence, abandoning or disregarding girls. Ms. Tao added that parents with psychic traumas, for instance, thanatophobia (a specific fear of death) or fear of being abandoned, tend to transmit their illnesses to their children. For instance, during the “Three Years of Natural Disasters” (1958 to 1961), people had to face the death of many family members. In some families, only one or two children survived out of ten. These miseries were ascribed to the thanatophobia of that generation and exerted a far-reaching effect on their next generation.
Most of the people with neurosis conflicts have an Oedipus Complex, which means, they have failed to establish a healthy relationship between father, mother and themselves. They were exposed to severe external shocks at the age older than 6 years old.
Ms. Tao tells that the charges of the psychological counseling service in her center are 300 RMB for a 50-minute talk for regular visitors, while new visitors need to pay 400 RMB. Visitors’ medical insurance does not reimburse the counseling fees. She said it is lower than the average level in Nanjing. Some counselors with less experience of counseling, ask 500 RMB. Visitors with severe symptoms, come twice per week, whereas others come once every week.
In China, it is now easier to get a license to work as a psychological counselor. Ms. Tao has such a certificate for her qualification. In the opinion of Ms. Tao, having a license is not equivalent to having the certification to be a good counselor. Many people who memorize book knowledge to obtain the license are short of clinical knowledge, which is critical in the practice of counseling. She accumulated experience through a 3-year clinical study following her Norwegian teacher in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
She stresses the importance of experience. She developed a set of methodology in counseling by reflecting upon every case she ever took. However, she avoids applying her experience to her new visitors. “It is necessary for us to keep curiosity for a new visitor, even if he has symptoms I am already familiar with,” says Ms. Tao, “for individuals are distinct, and their psychology changes all the time.”
Starting a week or two before the Chinese New Year and lasting until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the new lunar year, Nanjing is hosting a lantern market. It is said to be the largest of its kind in China.
We meet two tourists beneath the Yangtze River Bridge. They are travelling on mountain bikes and stop at times to take photos; in this case the famous bridge.
When asked, they answer that they started travelling one month ago in Beijing (around 1200 km north of Nanjing) and are halfway now on their route to the their final destination, Guangzhou.
Mr. Wang Jianfa and Mr. Sun Yong run a business in recycling household appliances. They collect old televisions, air conditioners, computers, fridges, electronic bikes, etc. They purchase the old equipment at low prices and sell the parts that can be recycled and reused in production processes, such as the parts made of plastic, iron and aluminum.
The prices of these materials depend on ever changing market prices. Currently aluminum can be sold at 8 to 10 RMB per kilo, while iron sells at less than 2 RMB per kilo currently.
Mr. Wang and Mr. Sun claim the monthly income of their business is between 2,000 and 3,000 RMB per person.
We visit a wholesale market for meat at BaoTaqiao Street, located on the east side of the Yangtze River. The place is deserted on the Sunday afternoon, except for the chaotic howling of livestock coming from one of the large, warehouse-like, buildings.
We enter the building. Once we get adjusted to the darkness, we see dozens of pigs crowded in iron cages.
We meet Mr. Wu, the owner of the pigs, and a colleague. Mr. Wu bought the pigs from Anhui Province and will sell them to butchers and supermarkets for 2,000 RMB each. Every day, he purchases and sells out 40 to 50 pigs, he says.
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