Laozi 老子 — also known as Lao-Tze or Lao-Tzu — is one of the most central and venerated writers in Daoism. He penned the Dao De Jing, which is a foundation text in Chinese and Asian thought. If you walk into a Daoist / Taoist temple, you are bound to find a statue of this guy somewhere. He is usually smiling. You also sometimes just find statues of him in seemingly random places.
Like some figures also found in Buddhism, he can be taken in two roles. Some look up on as a philosophical figure and appreciate his thinking; others view him as a religious figure in Taoism that can be worshiped and prayed to. Laozi is often considered a contemporary of Confucius, and the two belief systems contrast. Confucius tends to be a realist, and Laozi tends to be more ideal. Confucius writes about how to fit into the social world around you, and Laozi does not. He was more interested in the greater world within. Even though he seems to be speaking of internalizing things, his statues usually have him smiling. You also sometimes just find statues of him in seemingly random places.
I found him once in a semi-abandoned Tibetan Spring Garden 藏春园 in Louxi. This is a township out towards Changzhou’s airport in Xinbei Somebody who used to live in the area once told me a restaurant used to be a main attraction, but it packed up and moved. As for the statue itself, Laozi is sitting with a young student and expounding his considerable wisdom. It was hard to get a good picture since the statue was slightly overgrown.
Changzhou’s airport is located in a far flung part of western Xinbei. Today, I got it into my head to actually ride there on my bike — I have never been there before. All of my airline travel has been through Pudong International in Shanghai. Funny thing, though. I never made it to the airport. As always in life, I got sidetracked.
In this case, it was in Luoxi. Once you leave the downtown / Wanda area of Xinbei going west on Huanghe Road, you pass a number of factories. The first township you will pass through would Xuejia. A colleague of mine lives there. If you keep going, you will pass more factories and open space. Eventually, the next township would be Luoxi 罗溪镇, and that’s near Changzhou’s airport.
In trying to get there, I had been riding for an hour and half on low speed. Still, I was getting concerned about the state of my battery. I really don’t know my true limitations on this bike, yet. So, I resolved to stop at the first thing that looked interesting. In this case, “interesting” ended up being a little “desolate.”
It was a cluster of places, actually. One of them was called Tibetan Spring Garden 藏春园. It’s actually hard to figure out whether it’s abandoned or under construction. I did see construction workers smoothing out concrete as well as other development. But there were facilities here that looked older, and most of them were locked.
For example, there was an island park with a moat around it. These moats also came with gazebos with places to sit and gaze at the — well, frankly — murky water. Some of those gazebos were topped with slightly rusted sculptures of birds. Each bridge to the island remained locked. There were other places too, like a series of sculptures of important men. A long, winding concrete drainage-ditch looking canal had attracted the attention of one guy and his fishing pole. I had to wonder what he was fishing for. I imagined it had to be carp. They can live in very dirty water, after all.
The desolation carried on with other strange details. Here, I saw dismembered, chainsawed trees that had been uprooted and relocated from other parts of Changzhou. They were just trunks and truncated branches with no hint of green. I also saw lots of divots in the ground where trees used to be. These were filled with rainwater and floating brown leaves. Some trees were laying on their sides, with their roots bundled but exposed. They looked placed there for replanting, but nobody had gotten around to it yet.
Yet, you do see people here. Like me, people were riding bikes. Not many, but you did see locals walking around as if this were a public park. My colleague from Xuejia provided a bit of insight. She told me she originally came from this part of Changzhou, from Louxi. “There was a restaurant there. I don’t know if it moved away.” As for me, I didn’t know whether I saw deterioration or rejuvenation. Someday, I will go back and see.