Thank you, Chengdu, for your gifts to the world: pandas, shui zhu yu (Sichuan boiled fish swimming in oil and chilies) and Wang He Di a.k.a. Dylan Wang (or Dao Ming Si 2018).
I love pandas. I had a panda phase as evidenced by some of the posts in this blog. It was my therapy after a ship sunk. For a time, it was all just pandas and Arashi. I learned more about them as if I were doing some research on their specie, watched panda videos and visited the pandas at Singapore Zoo. I also “adopted” San Diego’s newborn cub by sending in an annual donation. At one time, it even crossed my mind to give up my career and be a panda caretaker in Chengdu.
Why Chengdu? It is the capital of Sichuan province, one of three provinces aside from Shaanxi and Gansu, where pandas can be found. It is also where the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is located. The base used to offer a volunteer program, where visitors can be in close contact with pandas (including cleaning their poop) and taking photos with cubs, but it is currently suspended due to an epidemic.
But before pandas, I was already besotted with shui zhu yu. It’s a traditional Sichuan boiled fish dish which a Chinese friend introduced to me during a trip to Beijing. Sichuan is known for its cuisine, that uses a lot of chili and spice. So every time I’d visit China afterwards, I’d make sure to look for a Sichuan restaurant and have my fill. I found it strange and scary the first time I saw it being brought to our table. Strange because they served it in a stainless steel basin. Scary because aside from the pool of boiling oil and water, it was practically red because of all the dried chilies that I thought there was nothing else in it. But oh my, while it scalded my tongue, it also captured my stomach and heart.
Now, there’s one more reason to be thankful to Chengdu: Dylan Wang. Wang He Di was born on Dec. 20, 1998, which makes him 20 years old this year (and me his ah yi). He plays the iconic role of Dao Ming Si in Meteor Garden’s 2018 reboot and the youngest to do so (Jerry Yan was 24, and Matsumoto Jun and Lee Min Ho were both 22 at the time they took on the iconic role). Meteor Garden has been a very powerful vehicle to kick start the career of its cast (and even sparked what will be the start of Arashi’s slow burn success) so Dylan’s future already looks secured. I hope he takes a page from his predecessors in handling the challenges of fame and navigating the twists and turns of the entertainment industry.
Indeed, Chengdu has spread to the world its gifts in cuddly, bold and adorable forms. Pandas are no longer considered endangered species thanks to the hard work of breeders and caretakers (ad also China’s panda diplomacy). I just found a local Chinatown restaurant that has shui zhu yu on its menu. Meantime, I’d probably be rewatching Meteor Garden 2018 until I memorize all of Ah Si’s lines and until Dylan’s next drama work.
Someday, Chengdu, I’d go and visit you so I could thank you personally for these gifts to the world.
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