Chu Shi: In Praise of Stone

Nicholas Quirke was intrigued by what day 10 of the Spring Festival on 21 February 2021 had in store. It is officially known as Stone Festival (石头节 / shí tou jié) as Ten (十 / shí) has the same pronunciation as rock (石). Therefore, this day is the birthday of the Rock. The most important activity to honour the stone was of course connected with food and eating baked bread (馍饼 / mó bǐng) was imperative as is believed that after eating, the road to wealth will be open and smooth for that year. To ensure the celebration was in consideration of the ‘man of the hour’ it is forbidden to use stone tools, such as rollers and millstones and thus this solid mass or aggregate of various minerals is given a rest. There was no rest through for Nicholas who was once again heading to south Beijing, the Livat Mall and Ikea, though not until Peng had been to the logical clinic for his Covid vaccination. Their mission was to get a shelf and some more lanterns in preparation of the upcoming finale to the Chinese New Year, The Lantern Festival on the lunar calendars15 January. It was not that intention to eat there but Peng had discovered that Jing Bin Xuan had a franchise restaurant there and wanted to check it out. so they headed straight to Ikea where having completed the tasks they treated themselves to a vegan strawberry ice cream. They stuck to the original plan and settled for a couple of hours at InWe where both worked while enjoying the tea. On the way to the restaurant he discovered that the rat display he was so fond of had finally been removed and replaced by some cute representations of the Ox which he and many infants enjoyed looking at. Their lunch was delicious particularly the dry noodle dish he had. The mall also boasted a branch of Meet fresh where they served exquisite iced deserts which had originated in Taiwan and consisted of chewy taro balls, herbal jelly or Tofu pudding. It was an eccentric mix of crushed ice, brown sugar syrup, peanuts, red beans and other toppings and reminded him of ‘grandads special’, a creative ‘knickerbocker glory’. Though they had already eaten a Chinese burger at lunch they ordered a couple to consume at home to honour the stone and have their own little ritual to remember the stone and hopefully welcome abundance for the spring. ‘The Sound of Metal’, a profound study of acceptance and letting go in which, a drummer loses his hearing provided another challenging story of isolation to close the day and send him off to the land of nod.

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