I was really struck by this place, trying to imagine what school was like there about 900 years ago. Getting lost, trying to find a class, seeing a drinking buddy in the crowded hallway, getting scolded for talking about girls during writing class. As different as it is from my own school, separated by great span of centuries and distance, I know that some parts of adolescence will never change...
I snuck up the steps to a part of the school no longer open to tourists. The many guards live on campus, apparently in the old dorms. I sat in a straw chair on the hill, overlooking the school, and shared a silent tea and cigarette with an accommodating guard, who seemed to want some company, even if I could only give him my presence.
From my notebook, written by the beautiful little waterfall in the garden in the center of the academy:
"Feeling the history of Changsha's Yuelu Academy, specifically the pictures and ideas of its millenia-old lecturers, I was swept up into thoughts of learning, education, and purpose. What is the purpose of working hard to harness and master the subtle tools of mind if not to create a great work of expression with those tools?A fine sculpture of ideas and culture that will move others to think or feel something deeply. The appreciation of such works is an act of empathy, as the artist, himself, must genuinely feel before he can wrestle that subject up into form. But what a master learns, too, is the proper maintenance of his tools -- keeping his chisel sharp and taking care to preserve it from the elements he knows will rust or degrade it. The level of his ability is kept masterful only with daily disciplined practice, exercise, and continued learning.
The faces of those renowned teachers, posing stoic and refined, were arranged chronologically and spanned over 1,000 years. This reminded me of the short insignificance of me and my century"
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