Category Archives: China A to Z

China A to Z: F is for Food-Farms and Fishing

F is for Food.

Which is very important in China, perhaps because of a collective memory of hard times.

People more often than not will greet you with “ni chi fan le ma”, which means “have you eaten?”. When visiting people it is polite to bring fruit or other foods. When Chinese people travel within China they will almost always bring back foods that are local to where they visited to share with family and co-workers.

More specifically fresh food. Freshness matters because there is not universal access to refrigeration. Both Farming and Fishing are part of the landscape in China, everywhere I’ve been.

Farms

China is a very agricultural nation. You really see this riding on trains. The high speed rail lines are raised above the road levels and give one a view of the vast expanses of farmland.

Even within cities you can see the green houses:

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These rows of green houses are just a block from several new high rise buildings.

Fishing

Fishing is very popular.

The even have several street vendors selling brightly colored equipment at the entrance to the park along the Mihe River in Shouguang.

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Along the Yangtze, and tributaries there were fish farms and many people in boats trying to catch and sell enough to make a living.

F

 

China from A to Z: E is for Eggs and Eaves

Eggs

I chose eggs as a topic for E because they are a good example of the greater variety of foods readily available in China. Even a corner convenience store will typically have more than one variety.

I wrote a post about eggs a few months ago: I marvel at how Chinese eggs are just put into a plastic bag to be carried home, they rarely crack or break, and American grocery store eggs, that are coddled in cardboard cartons, crack or break t least as often.

 

Eaves

The traditional temple architecture has elaborately decorated eaves. The attention to detail is amazing. There are works of art there, yet people rarely look up as they strain to see over the crowds to the alters and thrones.

I love the geometry and bright colors put there for those of us who look around and are less good at pushing to the front of the line.

E

 

 

China A to Z: D is for Doorways…and Dragons

Doorways

Sometimes mundane things catch my attention. One of these, something that struck me on my first visit to China and I have noticed every time since, was the importance of doorways from the elaborate to the humble.

Dragons

To quote wikipedia:

Chinese dragons or East Asian dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythologyChinese folklore, and East Asian culture at large. East Asian dragons have many animal-like forms such as turtles and fish, but are most commonly depicted as snake-like with four legs. They traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, typhoons, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it in East Asian culture. During the days of Imperial China, the Emperor of China usually used the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power and strength.

Dragons are everywhere.

Two notes:

  • Chinese dragons do not fly.
  • The bixi (B is for…) is a son of the dragon in Chinese folklore.

D is also for Donkey

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Just one humble donkey. Traditional construction methods are still practical in many places. This donkey was helping with construction on the great wall. A smart, agile donkey is better for some tasks than big equipment.

D

China A to Z: C is for Crowds

It goes without saying that visiting China is not a mountain-top wilderness experience.

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At the top of Taishan (Mount Tai) waiting for the sun.

People will always be in the picture…and between you and the picture.

 

One saving grace I have found is that, often, crowds are localized. For example, at the forbidden city there are wide expanses and the people are primarily funneling through a central path so, if you go out of the central area, you are all but alone. Pulling out of the crush allows one to take a break, in my case a much needed one.

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Crowds heading toward the Hall of  Central Harmony. Taken while I was having a break from all the “harmony”.

In some cases, for me, some of the crowded feeling comes from the intense level of stimulation that Chinese people like. especially the flashing lights and loud noises. That can make the crowed feeling more intense.

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Food street in Weifang.

A couple of coping with crowd tips:

  • I try to give myself way more time than is advertised as necessary to see attractions, that way I don’t feel like I have to stay with and in the crowd to see everything. Sometimes this results in serendipitous exchanges, and sometimes the crowds thin out a bit and you can slip closer.
  • In composing photos I sometimes use a mass of people as a framing element, like one might use bushes to frame a mountain. That way the picture gives a sense of really being there in a way that a picture without people cannot.

C

China A to Z: B is for Bicycles…and Bixi

Bikes

Bicycles are, in many areas of China, an important part of the transportation system. It is fun to see the many ways people have modified or added on to bikes to get the most out of them.

Note: I include trikes as bikes. In Chinese the number of wheels isn’t part of the name: zi xing che means “self walking (moving) vehicle”.

Distances are huge, in many areas a block is half a kilometer, so walking can be impractical, both from the amount of time it takes and sore feet.

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There many racks of rental bikes around town, often near bus stops and malls. There are dedicated bike/scooter lanes often separated from traffic by barriers and medians. That doesn’t always stop cars from using the bike lanes but it does help.

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Rack of rental bikes.

This is a practical arrangement, combined with inexpensive cab fares it is possible to take a ride share bike to the grocery store (first half hour is free) then take a cab home with your shopping (the drop fare of ~$1 includes 3 kilometers).

Bixi

I think of bixi as very Chinese and have quite a liking for them.

Bixi is a mythical beast. A super tortoise. Stone bixi are used as a base for commemorative steles. They are common at Confucius related sites and places of the old imperial worship. I didn’t see any at the Forbidden City. The places I saw them were older: Qufu (Confucius’s home town), the Confucius Temple in Beijing, Dai Miao at the base of Taishan in Tai’an, and Yishan in Weifang prefecture.

B

China A to Z: A is for Air

A is for Air

Air is a big part of where you are. Is it dry or moist? What does it smell like? and so on.

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Much of China’s air pollution comes from industry that uses coal for power.

It’s sad that A is for Air, the very first letter, because it really isn’t China’s strongest suit, although, to give credit where due, they are working on it. Before my first trip my son told me that the air in Beijing smells like a smoking room at a hotel. That is a fairly accurate description…most of the time.

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Dusk on a clear day at Beijing Capital International Airport

It isn’t always so: A few times I have been lucky and the air has been clear and crisp. One time I even saw the great wall from the airplane as it headed for home. (Once in seven trips.)

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Weifang

These two images were taken from the same vantage point the first had more zoom. I needed it so that the photo wasn’t just vague haze. On that day the vase shaped tower on the right in the second picture wasn’t visible at all. It was about 1 km from the location where I took the picture.

A

China A to Z

China A to Z

Tomorrow is the start of the Blogging A to Z challenge. I thought I would give a little bit more information about the topic I chose, why I chose it, and my point of view/philosophy.

I have been traveling to China once or twice a year since my son got a job there in 2013. A total of 7 trips completed, with another to start during this challenge.

The name for this blog was taken from my first trip, that story is in this post: Happy Mama .

I haven’t traveled extensively throughout the whole nation, since I am going to visit my son I spend most of my time where he lives, Weifang prefecture in Shandong Province. I have traveled to many of the the usual sights for a western package tour of China, just not as a tour, but I have visited more places that are not on the usual western package tour itinerary. Places that are popular with Chinese people. When I travel my goal, aside from visiting my son, is to get a sense of China and Chinese culture. That sense of place is what I aim to share in this series of posts.

Mostly Pictures

My hobby in the last few years, is photography and I have been working on composition. When I say “composition” I am not talking about things like the famous “rule of thirds” (although I do study, and use, those kinds of rules). My goal is making pictures not photos: using “a picture is worth a thousand words” as my definition. Probably most of my photos aren’t up to a thousand words, but I strive to have them convey a sense of place: What makes the place unique? What makes it like other places in China? In the world? Is there a story behind the image?

I am not as good at wrapping words around ideas as I would like, so most of my posts are dominated by pictures, with a few explanatory words.

Mostly Shandong

As I mentioned I have spent most of the time I have been in China in Shandong. My son teaches in Weifang, for a few years in the city of Weifang and now in Shouguang city within Weifang prefecture. These are “regular”, not tourist places. I’ve also visited several places within the province where many Chinese tourists go.

Shandong Province is, in some ways the heart of China. Shandong is the fruit and vegetable basket of the country and there are vast amounts of farmland growing many types of fruits, vegetables and corn, lots and lots of corn. There is a good deal of other industry. It is also a cultural heart: the home of Confucius and many ancient empirical temples and shrines. It isn’t on the regular “western” tourist plan, but there are many sites, several of them World Heritage Sites, important to Chinese people located in Shandong.

Focusing on the Ordinary

While traveling in China beyond Shandong, I realized that many of the things I have seen and done there are representative of China, especially in how regular people live. Because I am visiting someone who lives and works in China (leaving me lots of time to explore on my own), I have had experiences (like being served crunchy, spicy, really big cockroaches in someone’s home) that don’t come as part of a package tour.

Welcome to China!
…at least the China I have experienced.
I hope you enjoy it.

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