DAY NINE and TEN—– The Dragon Jade, my most precious gift.

DAY NINE and TEN—– The Dragon Jade, my most precious gift.

Ninth Day: The traditional birthday of the Jade emperor is on this day and, from midnight of the eight day onwards, some communities like the Hokkiens hold prayers and offerings to their God.

Tenth Day: Certain other communities celebrate the Jade Emperor’s birthday on this day. Eating continues, More Noodles and Gatherings of friends.

JADE is the most important jewel in Hong Kong Chinese culture. I am not sure and have never researched the reason why, but when I first arrived in Chinese society I noted that every new born baby girl wore a green Chinese jade braclette on her arm.  And that women of all ages treasure their green braclettes, their prized procession. Older women only have changed the Jade braclette when the arm became too big to wear it. Otherwise, the braclette is never taken off.  And, therefore, the color eluminates with radiance of a deep, dark, rich, green.  Like the Emporer’s light, the darker and more illuminous the wealthier and more blessed the woman is said to be.

It is a fact I just have always understood—- , seemingly without explanation for right or wrong, this is my impression. Jade is the most precious of all stones to the Chinese . the stone synonomous to the race.  And, although I have not read otherwise, I believe the stone Jade reflects the importance in Chinese mythology of the Jade Emporers formidable and positive heavenly reign over his people.

For me, the foreigner, this stone Jade has been an important measure of my worth in Hong Kong ( and other Chinese societies).  People have thanked me by giving me pieces of  their Jade. Those pieces of Jade I hold special and dear to my heart because with each gift there is a special story of my life passage.

The story I am to tell now  reflects friendship build slowly and honestly over time with an man I always thought was old, who grew older with me.

Like the Chinese, who I have learned from, I love to bargain and search for “cheap expensive finds” amongst the rubbish. And, since the first day I entered Hong Kong I have never looked back. I have shopped with pleasure and thrilled in my excitement of finding the best deals in town. And, I have made friends along the way with Hong Kong merchants.

I was given a very special gift.

A old old old man who always sat by the doorway of his 2nd hand shop in lower Central area near the Jade Market, had watched me grow up from a young woman of twenty five  to a middle aged woman of fifty. I always smiled and joked with him. Between his broken English and my appallingly basic Chinese we had become friends. But, we never exchanged names, we just knew each other by sight and sound, smiles and laughter. And, I had always bought something , even the smallest of items every single time I entered his doorway. I found his shop a mirage of the most beautiful and most ghastly collection of trinkets to furniture. I always found items that either intriqued me to find out what they where or where they came from, or I found garbage I could not believe he was trying to make a dollar on. I would laugh at my findings with him and joke that he was the richest man made out of trash. And, he would just smile as he got richer building his pot of gold.

One day I showed up and saw a sign:GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. I thought this cant be happening, I love coming to see this man. This after more than two decades that I had known him. I was surprised and saddened because for me he was my source of pleasure when I needed a pick er upper from a hard day or an adventure when returning on furlough.  I always thought he would just die old in his chair and we would all celebrate his life. But, he of his own accord said it was time to close down and change his life. This said, I never found out where he was going, mostly because I was so surprised at what happened in his store on my last visit. Simply a comment of approval when I saw the most beautiful hand carved white Jade Dragon. I had never seen one so lovely, so intricate, so mesmerizing. It was like looking at an artist water colour rendition on paper of a dragon: I could look at it for an hour trying to find all the hidden messages carved into the crevaces of the stone ( when one looks at Chinese art, unlike western art, one scans with the eyes from top to bottom, left to right, down each imaginary line of the work, to see the little drawings , or in this case, the little carvings of other stories).  The old Chinese man looked at me softly and with his cain to support him, got up and walked over to me, touching my face with a deep look into my eyes. And, before I could say anything he handed me the sculpture and said… its yours… One Hundred Hong Kong.  Not a day to bargain for this was his way of giving me a gift. He could have sold this piece of art, this old piece of Jade for thousands of dollars. Today, you do not find this style of work in stores. The dragon a collectors item. With few words between us, I understood that this DRAGON was his gift for being his customer for over two decades, for growing older together. And, I understood we both knew that money was not the reason I got such a discount, friendship was. With this gift he wished me longevity and strength. And, in the year of the Dragon I find it befitting to write of this old old old Chinese Man and the Jade Dragon.



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