The last temple in the shop

大慈寺 (Dàcí Sì) is a large Buddhist temple east of Tianfu Square, and the only major temple in Chengdu which, until lunchtime today, I hadn’t previously visited. It’s not hidden away, but it’s a little off my radar. In fact, the LP China guide doesn’t even mention it. To get there, take 总府路 (Zǒngfǔ Lù; north side of Tianfu Square) east; keeping going past the Foreign Languages Bookshop (other side of the road, so you probably won’t see it) and the intersection with 红星路 (Hóng Xīng Lù), and soon after you’ll stumble across this wall and gate.
Daci Temple, Chengdu: screen wall  Daci Temple, Chengdu: rear gate
This is actually the back gate, and some woman directed me to park back round the corner to the left (as you head back towards Tianfu Square). I parked my bike in a small bike park next to a teashop on 北纱帽街 (Běi Shāmào Jiē; 纱帽 can mean “gauze hat worn by an official in dynastic times” or “public office”), but I was probably meant to go round to the main gate which is on the south side of the temple. That’s east off 北纱帽街; there are signs, but it’s much more straightforward to go in the back gate.
Daci Temple, Chengdu; main gate  Daci Temple, Chengdu: main gate
The only problem with going in the back gate is that you’ll miss out on the site map and the info about the temple that are just inside the main gate.
Daci Temple, Chengdu: site map  Daci Temple, Chengdu: introduction
Xuanzang is, of course, the whining, petulant monk from Journey to the West. Just inside the gate is a picture of how the monastery would have looked during the Tang Dynasty.
Daci Temple, Chengdu: inside the main gate  Daci Temple, Changdu: as it was in the Tang Dynasty
The place is still a working Buddhist monastery with monks and worshippers. As was the case with the Lantern Festival parade in Fuzhou last year, the faithful are either the elderly or the young and almost no one in between. These are pictures of the Tripitaka Pavilion.
Daci Temple, Chengdu: Tripitaka Pavilion  Dacin Temple, Chengdu: Tripitaka Pavilion
As you can see, the Veda Bodhisattva had one devoted disciple.
Daci Temple, Chengdu: the Veda Bodhisattva  Daci Temple, Chengdu: the Veda Bodhisattva's devoted disciple
Obviously, the plan was to develop the area in the same way it’s been developed around Wenshu Temple, but it appears that the money has run out and the olde Cathay chic was looking rather dilapidated.
dcs013  dcs014
There’s a lot of waste ground around that area where there would once have been a thriving community. From what I could tell, it’s probably the haunt of local homeless people. It’s clear that no one’s bothered with the land around the temple for quite some time and if there were plans to develop the whole area, they’ve been abandoned for some time.
I’ve uploaded a selection of full-sized pictures of Daci to my Pictures of Chengdu folder on SkyDrive.

Today in history

One year ago.
It’s a year ago today since I arrived in Chengdu, and for the first time in three years, I’m staying right where I am, a prospect which I don’t find disagreeable. Admittedly, I’m not looking forward to another year of dealing with academically below average school children, but I like Chengdu, which is definitely one of the better places to be in China in my experience. I have no desire to return to some small, provincial town like Changzhou.

Didn’t we do well?
nmet Linda told me that a couple of kids at the school got top marks at provincial level in the College Entrance Exam. They put this banner up at the gate on Friday and a couple of notices appeared yesterday with names and details.
I’m sure the headmaster’s head has been just that little bit more swollen this weekend.
In unrelated news, there were quite a few more kids signing up for the A-level programme at school this weekend. From what my source (all right, Linda) tells me, the kids in this programme are not going to be a lot different from ours – rich and a bit thick. But considering how much the teachers on the A-level programme are being paid (a great deal more than I was originally led to believe and much more than I earn), I shan’t have much sympathy should they complain about the (lack of) quality of their pupils.
When I got back from tea this evening, I found that the banner on the left had been hung up on the outside of the International Building, which is at the intersection where it can be seen by everyone passing by. If I understand this correctly, then our school had the top two science students, and the top and third arts students in the NMET in the province. Obviously, the headmaster’s head is much more swollen than I thought.

30.06.08. When I went over to school this morning, I found that there was another copy of the banner hanging on the side of the school lecture theatre. I really did underestimate just how swollen their Lordships’ heads have become.

More High Fly.
As I was sitting at High Fly Pizza last night, I noticed a poster up beside the door which said that there’s now a second branch in Chengdu round the back of the Shang-ri La. It’s on 水井坊, but I saw no sign of it the other day. Then again, that páilou was at the end of a street north of the Shang-ri La.
I note, coincidentally, that the High Fly Cafe mentioned in the Lonely Planet China guide is no longer operating. I assume that it was the predecessor to High Fly Pizza, which is not far away on the north side of the river.


the chic.
The weather this week has been amazingly good, not just being fine and sunny but also clear. When it’s sunny in Chengdu, the air can often been quite hazy. I decided to take a trip to the north-east where I found that 古蓉城 hasn’t quite completely disappeared, even although it’s hidden away in corners.
 chengdu013 chengdu014
This particular alley, 大同巷 (Dà Tóng Xiàng), is beneath the shadow of the Shang-ri La Hotel.
chengdu015  chengdu016
This street, with its dilapidated shops, is just nearby. In the right-hand picture, going off to the left, is 青龙正街 (Qīng Lóng Zhèngjiē; Green Dragon Street).
chengdu017  chengdu018
At the end of the street is this páilou, which has 水井坊 (Shuǐjǐng Fāng; Shuijing Lane) on it. Beside it, to my surprise, was this old cinema, the 星桥 (Xīng Qiáo; Star Bridge), although it’s being demolished.
As I was going down 三友路 (Sān Yóu Lù) some time later, I spotted these two shops.
chengdu019  chengdu020
Call me the Lord Mayor of Cynicton, but why do I doubt that a shop on some obscure street in Chengdu is going to be an authorised supplier of England football kit? Perhaps it really is, and my scepticism comes from having lived in China for too long.
The final picture is slightly ironic. I took a picture of a red dragonfly the other day, and now I find there’s a chain of shops called Red Dragonfly. Never heard of them myself, but there were two in roughly the same area in the north of the city. Their main sales line appears to be handbags.

Don’t let’s be beastly to our alphabet

Don’t let’s be beastly to Eszett.
(With apologies to Noel Coward.)
The letter ß (= ss), which is found in the German alphabet, has been given official recognition by the ISO. (‘More than just a pumped up B’: Germany celebrates recognition of the letter ß.) I didn’t know that German spelling reformers had been trying to get rid of it, and I don’t blame them. ß isn’t historically a letter, but rather a ligature from the days when ‘s’ was written in its modern form finally, but as long-s (ſ) initially and medially. ſ + s > ß.
I realised this not so long ago from an 18th century English text which employed this particular ligature, although the font made the ligature look like two s’s joined together. In other words, Eszett isn’t some mutant B. I must admit when I write ß (which I’m sure I did when I did German in my second year at university), I’m really writing β.
I know that the Unicode character set includes the ligatures fi and fl. I’m pretty certain that I’ve seen them in my lifetime in modern texts, but wonder whether they’re used at all today.

Chengdu Chinglish

It’s probably a word.
chinglish001 chinglish002
Here are a couple of instances of Chinglish which I spotted a couple of days ago. The first one says, "Take care. Pool water is electrified. Playing in the water is strictly prohibited." Strange. According to my dictionary, 嬉 () "play; have fun" is literary.
The Chinglish in the second one is a mystery. "Without a conscious viewing waterfront" means, er, what? Not quite sure of the exact translation, but the Chinese appears to say, "Beside the water, watch your footing." An odd notice because there wasn’t any water in the pool.

Right up your alley

That ol’ Cathay chic.

I took a trip over to 宽巷子 (Kuān Xiàngzi) and 井巷子 (Jǐng Xiàngzi) to take some pictures of the current state of the place. There’s still quite a bit of work to be done before it’s really complete, but it’s in a much more advanced state than it was nearly two months ago.

kxz001 kxz002

The first shot is the square at the eastern entrance to the area, and the second shot 宽巷子 itself. Last night, there was a group of people dancing in the square. At the near end, there’s a sequence of columns with outline maps of old Chengdu from different dynasties on them.

kxz003 kxz004

These are pictures of 德门仁里 (Démén Rénlǐ), which is a reconstructed 四合院 (sìhéyuán). There’s a museum-style display in the left-hand wing as you go in, which includes the statistic that back in the days when the city had a population of 600,000, it had 120,000 teashops.

kxz006  kxz007

Some instances of original architecture survive. The place on the left is called 恺庐 (Kǎi Lú; Happy House); the sign above the gate on the right says 养云 (Yǎng Yún), though I’m not sure what it’s meant to mean.

kxz008 kxz009

On the left, representing European architecture, is this former French church dating from 1938, which was established to do charity work in the district. And not far away is, yes, Starbucks, a common sight in 古蓉城. There was the Governor often to be seen ordering a mocha latte and waiting for financial encouragement from well-known local businessmen.

The area is more extensive than Jinli, and probably about the same size as Wenshu. The old Cathay chic of the area is, like the latter, artificial, dotted with modern embellishments such as back-lit silvery signs and fonts which would make the ancient calligraphers mistime their strokes.

Recent pictures

The scarlet dragonfly.
dragonfly I managed to snap this shot of a scarlet-coloured dragonfly which obligingly sat still long enough a couple of days ago. I’ve uploaded the full-sized image here to SkyDrive.
Coincidentally, when I was living just outside Beijing, it was at this time of the year when hordes of dragonflies would suddenly appear followed shortly after by squadrons of swallows. I don’t recall any of them being as colourful as the dragonfly in the picture.
As Chris says of himself in this brief post, so I’m just about done myself. I finished off most of the reports last night and heard from Linda that a few more report books from Class 6 had turned up. I’m going to go over to school and sort out my part of the results sheet. My job isn’t quite done, but to all intents and purposes, school’s out for the summer.


Batteries and boxes.
Because my original mobile battery has been showing signs of age, I bought a new one today. It came in a metal box with a circular plastic window in the lid. Volume of the battery: 8.25cm³; volume of box (external dimensions): 194.656cm³, which makes the latter nearly 24 times the volume of the former. The only thing in the box apart from the actual thing you want is a plastic insert to hold the battery in place so that it doesn’t rattle around.
I hate to sound like some Green Crusader, but it seems rather wasteful. Perhaps with the price of oil being so high we’re going to revert to the days when things came in metal or cardboard. I can’t remember when I last saw a toothpaste tube made of metal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if no one under thirty can remember such things. Perhaps supermarkets will start dishing out paper bags again. I haven’t seen one of those in a long time as well.

That’s a word?

Last used in 1784.
A recently acquired T-shirt came with care instructions in English and Chinese. The English had a slight garnish of Chinglish about it, but nothing really worth mentioning for the most part apart from the fourth instruction – "Insolate is prohibited". My first thought was that this was a typo for "insulation", but that made no sense at all. "Immolation" was my next stop (sounds a little sacrificial), but when I thought about "insolate", I thought of solus "only" and sol "sun", with the latter edging out the former. I had a look at the Chinese, which mentions 阳光 (yángguāng) "sunlight" and found my hunch was probably correct.
The English should say something like "Don’t dry in direct sunlight"; but this is Chengdu, where there’s little risk of that. The Chinese itself says 请勿在阳光下暴晒 (qǐngwù zài yángguāng xià bàoshài) "Please don’t expose to sunlight".
I looked up "insolate" on and found that the word means "expose to direct sunlight". You know that no one’s used it since Dr Johnson included it in his dictionary when a Google search yields a mere 23,000 instances and most of those are links to online dictionaries.

Those below-average averages

In full.
Finished the marking this afternoon. Most of the writing was strictly pedestrian. Crippled pedestrian, that is. That also sums up the average for my three halves of the classes – (drum roll) IELTS 4.5. Although a proficiency exam is a neutral assessment of someone’s level in a language, this is a fairly dire result. As I wrote the results in the report books for Class 5, I occasionally glanced at their results from the end of the 1st term. As they say in local body elections, "No overall change".
A couple of years ago, I had thought the improvement in my little darlings at the time was really due to their Chinese English classes rather than ours. But on the basis of the indolence of my little dears this term, I’m now inclined to think that James and I really did make a difference. The pitiful average this term can’t be attributed to the quake or any other interruptions, but rather to the utter laziness of the Senior 2s.
If last year was a waste of time one way; this was a waste of time in another. Last year’s students were congenital morons; that was their excuse. Only some of this year’s students could hide behind the skirts of Cretinism, but the skirts of Sloth were much more inviting, voluminous, and accommodating.
Hopefully on Monday I’ll be in the mood to write a few scathing comments in the report books, but like sarcastic remarks I make in class, it’ll be a waste of quality material.

And the name of the movie in Chinese is…
I see I had a visitor looking for the name of Kung Fu Hustle in Chinese. I whipped out my authentic pirated copy to find the name of the film is 功夫 (gōngfu). No hustling required. The word means "skill; workmanship; art". A 功夫片 (~piàn) is a kung fu film.