Mrs. Chan

XINJIANG: Life Is Sweet

In Wandering Chans on August 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

I was completely charmed.

Standing at the wooden box, his left hand steadily churning, while his right, holding a long, skinny bamboo stick, deftly picking up the nearly invisible ‘wool’ riding the hot air from a little cavity, and twirl it into a delicate cotton candy.

I have always thought  the cotton candy is a ‘modern’ invention, made by pushing a red button on a machine placed in amusement parks.



This artisan of sugar, like most Xinjiangers we have met on this trip, lives a life so basic he needs to work only 6 months in a year. “In the winter, I relax, and sip my baijiu,” he said.


It doesn’t matter how you eat it for that is secondary to the joy of seeing how it was made, literally out of thin air.


Margaux is so young she probably wouldn’t remember this artisanal cotton candy for too long. But that’s her privilege.


At 65, he has been doing this for the last 30 yrs. “I drink baijiu every day,” said the cotton-candy man, “it keeps me healthy, maybe you too, should do it.” I could only laugh, it was late, and I didn’t want to burden him with the long sad stories of my drinking problems.


I have a habit of imagining elderly persons as young boys or girls. I find it way too easy to forget that the olds were once young, and perhaps spunky, or perhaps naughty, or perhaps hungry.

But tonight, we met an old man who has no doubt that his life is beautiful, that his life is sweet.

STORY by Stevie Chan

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