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A Letter From China
The Praying Mantis
Jim Chenoweth
So this praying mantis shows up in my new apartment in Jingdezhen. Along with so many other a moth as big as my hand (and I have a big hand)...and a giant ant-like thing with wings like dragonfly.
So anyway, I like praying mantises (or is it manti)...they are graceful...seem curious...and accurate with their purpose. It's big...flies around like a large grasshopper. Maybe it will eat all the bugs around here...lot's of mosquitoes too. Me and my new buddy. For days he'd pop up in unexpected places (could be a she). On the bedroom wall, dinning room, next to the living room window...checking out his territory. No worries.... I want him to be happy.

Then the other night, I couldn't sleep. The humidity/heat ratio is off the chart. So I'm up at 2 am. Thought I'd do some surfing on the net. 'What's that crawling up my leg?''s my buddy...'Hey, good to see you....don't do's a little rattling on the nerves'. So I set him down on the floor and see him walk off.

Time for bed, again. Where did he go? Look...look. And look again. Can't find him. Need to be careful....

What's that...something stuck to the bottom of my slipper... It's a mangled praying mantis...aaaahhhhhhhhhh Not dead yet, but stops moving in my hand....aaaahhhhhh...shit!

Oh well, that whole thing was stupid anyway...

Not the end.

So I go to the studio. There are two students there, doing cheng hua (blue and white...painting cobalt on porcelain). I'm a student there as well. Learning cheng hua, and picking up whatever Chinese I can adsorb. Plus there is a production potter's wheel freely available.

One student's name is Wu Ming (26 yrs old) and the other, Wang Chang (18). So Wang Chang says to me, as I enter the studio, (in broken English): "I paint this for you". And I look over and see him point to a page in a book. A photo of an old painting...and it's a praying mantis with the whole page to it's self.....

And then he shows me a wonderful mantis painted on the inside of a tea cup....aaaahhhhhh......

Reproduced with express permission of the author, who retains all copyright to this work.
This work is Copyright of Jim Chenoweth and the photographs are copyright Jonno Morris (Unless stated otherwise), and may be reproduced for personal and private use under Collective Commons 3 Licence. An email would be appreciated in such circumstances, as would a reference.

You are not allowed to use this information to make money from this work - regardless of how fancy or well paid your lawyers may be.

Some artistic licence has been used arbitrarily in some of these Letters, and whilst most facts are in essence correct, some personal and literary interpretation may have been employed to greater or lesser degrees.
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