Last week I walked over with Li Manshan to the Lower Liangyuan temple to take another look at its old (and recent) murals. It’s one of the staging posts of the funky deity Hutu (Elder Hu), whose temples Willem Grootaers wrote about in the 1940s.
Since a few early run-ins with the constabulary in Hebei, I’ve never had any hassles at all in Yanggao, but as we’re walking home a passing police car stops us and the two cops, friendly enough, ask Li Manshan politely where I’m from and who I am. With great presence of mind (resembling Clifford Geertz’s wonderful story about fleeing from the police in a Bali village after a cock-fight) Li Manshan replies,
“He’s from England—he’s a professor of music.”
I chip in,
“Master Li is an international star!”
So I’m protected by the goddess of music—a Chinese Saint Cecilia. Easily satisfied, the cops drive off down the dusty track as Old Lord Li and I continue our walk home.