My China Adventure by Bill Reed
I made my first trip to China in the late 1980’s as a retail buyer. In 2004 I started my own company with a Taiwanese partner named Archie, who I had a relationship with as a buyer from previous business dealings. He owned a furniture factory in China. We developed a business with some major U.S. retailers, with Walmart being our largest customer. Because of Walmart, I made many trips to China, including 9 trips in one year. It gave me the opportunity to travel all over China and experience a lot of their culture.
In 2014 I had the opportunity to travel to Chengdu, China and visit a 150 year old Monastery, which was a training school for Buddhist’s monks. The leader of the monastery was Archie’s Buddah “Master” who would visit our factory in Donguan, China once every year. While at the factory the Master would stay in a small room for two days and meditate and pray for the factory’s success. Over the years the Master got to know me and invited me to visit the monastery. It was a 30 hour drive to cover the 1100 mile journey, with 2 drivers trading off and on.
We arrived early one afternoon into Chengdu. In 2008 Chengdu had experienced an 8.0 earthquake and the roads had still not all been repaired, which made for a wild ride. We even had to stop and wait for water buffalos to cross the road. At another point we needed to cross a blocked bridge that was damaged due to the earthquake. The driver instructed us to get out of the van, while he removed the fence and drove the van across, while the rest of us walked across the bridge. Evidently the weight was a big concern and just walking across it was scary enough for me!
After crossing the river, we headed up a gravel and dirt road that would lead us to the Monastery. That was a 40 minute ride to go 2 miles up this winding, rutted road. The altitude was 10,500 feet! Archie and the factory manager began suffering from altitude sickness. The monastery had no electricity or running water. Two of us shared a room where we slept in sleeping bags on a wood floor.
After a 3 hour rest, we drove back down the mountain to a local village where the Master was hosting the dinner. There were 6 of us from the factory plus 8 other Chinese guests. During the dinner Archie and his Master were having a long discussion and although I don’t speak any Chinese, I knew the conversation was about me. Archie explained to me that the Master had planned a tour and a party for all of the guests to be held the next day. Archie explained to him that I needed to leave that next day to fly home, since I had already been in China for 12 days. The Master was disappointed, but said he understood.
After our meal, each guest went up and bowed to the Master to receive their individual blessing. I stood to the side, not knowing what to do and wanting to be respectful. As we were leaving, to the surprise of EVERYONE, the Master came up to me and gave me a big hug. Archie said he had NEVER seen the Master give anyone a hug before. It was very awkward to me, but I guess it was his way of blessing me Western style! I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all around the world, and this much I know…..people are just people no matter where you live or what your culture may be.