Category Archives: Chengdu

Strange sudden interests

The trees in flower on Wenweng Lu Autumn has arrived in Chengdu. The trees along 文翁路 are flower­ing, as are a number of other plants. I’ve even seen some bushes outside the Jinjiang Hotel which appear to be showing new growth, their leaves being a rather vibrant green for this time of year. It still feels hot when the sun comes out, although that won’t be happening today. It was one of those mornings when it might’ve been any time for all I could tell. Fortunately, we’ve been spared the autumn storms which have been battering the UK and Haiti. So far.
And since it’s autumn, Teacher Appreciation Day is nigh. Fortunately, we’re not being asked to put on some performance this time. I always hope that the direness of our earlier efforts has their lordships saying, “We must ask the foreign teachers to perform again – on a really special occasion.” The Chinese teachers seem to like these music hall performances, but that’s just not us. Not all foreigners are guitar-playing hippies. I have no talents that are suited to the music hall and transcend the language barrier[1]: I play no musical instruments; I should never be asked to sing (which would be an abuse not of my human rights, but those of others); and I have no abilities which would leave a credulous, non-English-speaking audience making “Ooh!” and “Ah!” sounds.
1. I could read one of my short stories, but unlike last year, when one of the English teachers did a simulcast translation with our performance, I wouldn’t be satisfied with some off-the-cuff rendition of something I’d written. Besides, a simulcast would stumble and crash where my use of English exceeded the translator’s proficiency.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

How to use a pair of pliers

Chinglish style.

Once in a while I have need of a pair of pliers. In other places I’ve lived, a pair has come with the accommodation, but not here. Plenty of pairs of scissors; a lot of batteries; some poker chips; an unused syringe (no idea why there should be one); and various other things. No pliers. Today when I was in Carrefour, I remembered that I needed some glue to repair a decorative screen which got damaged as a consequence of the earthquake, and that, in turn, reminded me that I should buy a pair of pliers. 

On the back of the packaging there are the usual instructions written in Chinglish of a sort not worth mentioning until you come to come to the final section:

This product suits cuts each kind of colored tinsel or the tinsel, please do not have to use for the tinsel which cuts quenches goes too far, the tinsel or the components, and each kind gathers the gold thread or the alloy piece flinty.

I was not surprised to discover that 金属丝 (jīnshǔsī) means both “tinsel” and “wire” in Chinese. I assume “the tinsel”, which is the translation of 金属片 (~piàn), actually refers to sheet metal. According to my dictionary, 有色金属 (yǒusè jīnshǔ), which literally means “coloured metal”, means “non-ferrous metal”. The first part should say

These pliers are suitable for cutting all types of non-ferrous metal or metal pieces.

The next part is an injunction against cutting metal (pieces, wire or fragments) which has been tempered by quenching it.

Please don’t use [the pliers] for cutting sheet metal, wire or metal fragments tempered by quenching…

The final part continues the previous admonition, but is referring to anything hard like wire or sheet metal. “Flinty” is, I should think, the translation of 硬 (yìng) “hard; tough”

…and all types of hard substances like wire or sheet metal.

A picture from the past.


After my recent foray through the street names of Old Chengdu, I started wondering whether there might be any pictures of the place online. Since such images would have to have been scanned, I wasn’t expecting to find much, but I did find this picture of the gate of the school back in 1940. These days when you look through the gate, you can see the running track in the background. 

For those of you who can read Chinese, this article (apparently about some teacher training school) mentions some of the academic institutions which used to be in this area.


From east to west, 成都府文庙 (Chéngdu Fǔ Wén Miào) is probably roughly where my classroom is, and 府中学堂 (Fǔ Zhōng Xuétáng) would have been visible from the window. I guess that’s probably where the new building is under construction. 华阳文庙 (Huáyáng Wén Miào) and 昭忠祠 (Zhāo Zhōng Cí) have both long since gone, but the street, 汪家拐 (Wāng Jiā Guǎi; Wang Family Corner), is still there. On the other hand, 华美学堂 (Huáměi Xuétáng) and 高等学堂 (Gāoděng Xuétáng) have also vanished into history. 

It’d be interesting to find out more about these places and whether they were all part of the same institution, or whether this was merely another instance of All-shoe-shops-in-one-street Syndrome.


Do you have anything in a more obscure dialect?

shuhanjiayou Over on Barking at the Sun, Jane Voodikon mentions the Chengdu mini night market on Kehua Beilu. She mentions the suddenly rampant “IChina” T-shirts which first appeared when rumours about the French were causing such a spleen among the less objective members of Chinese Cyberia. The incidence of such T-shirts seems to have grown exponentially in the three weeks after the quake so that there are now people selling them about every 5m along the street – or so it seems.

I wouldn’t wear one of the “IChina” T-shirts myself, but I might wear one saying “ISichuan” or 四川加油 (Sìchuān jiāyóu “Come on, Sichuan”) because it’s local rather than national. But if you really wanted me to buy a T-shirt, then show me one with 蜀汉加油 (Shǔhàn jiāyóu) on it in seal script because it’d appeal to my antiquarian vanity. Come to think of it, I don’t know whether 加油 in the modern sense is also found in Classical Chinese. Yeah, I think I might put the T-shirt back until I can be certain.

Exams and lines

The Double Seven.

As I predicted, that evil old 魔鬼, the Dowager Empress, is insisting that we should do all seven pen-and-paper exams in three days. At least Linda has separated them so that we’ll do IELTS first and then FCE. Oh well, I suppose that during the latter, I can put the time to more valuable use by marking the former. The writing will be the biggest nuisance with the same dull and unimaginative answers repeated 70 times.

When I was out and about on my adventures a couple of days ago, I saw that work has been started on a second Metro line. That prompted me to check out the Chengdu Metro website (in Chinese) to see whether I could find a map of the network. There’s only one rather fuzzy map of the line that’s been under construction since I first arrived nearly a year ago. After a search through the site, I found a page which had a list of the lines and a basic description. There are going to be seven altogether contained within the bounds of (for want of an official designation for it) the 5th Ring Road.

  • Line 1 大丰站 (Dàfēng Zhàn) to 广都站 (Guǎngdu Zhàn). This is the line that’s been under construction and runs north-south through the centre of the city.
  • Line 2 龙泉东站 (Lóng Quán Dōng Zhàn) to 石牛站 (Shíniú Zhàn). This line will run from the south-east to the north-west. The north western terminus appears to be in 郫县 (Pí Xiàn).
  • Line 3 红星车站 (Hóng Xīng Chē Zhàn) to 板桥南站 (Bǎn Qiáo Nán Zhàn). This line run will from the north-east to the south-west, but I can’t track down these particular destinations.
  • Line 4 温江站 (Wén Jiāng Zhàn) to 西河站 (Xī Hé Zhàn). This line will run from west to east and is presumably the line on which preparations began recently.
  • Line 5 驷马桥站 (Sìmǎ Qiáo Zhàn) to 江河站 (Jiāng Hé Zhàn). If I understand the information correctly, this line will run north-south along the west side of the city, although I don’t know these particular destinations.
  • Line 6 (1) 沙湾站 (Shāwān Zhàn) to 四河站 (Sì Hé Zhàn). This appears to be the eastern counterpart of the former, although I’m also unfamiliar with these places. I’ve seen road signs for 沙湾, but thought it was in the north-west.
  • Line 6 (2) 琉璃场站 (Liúlíchǎng Zhàn) to 双流航空港站 (Shuāngliú Hángkōnggǎng Zhàn). This is the line that’ll take people to the airport. I think it links it to the centre of the city, but I forget where 琉璃场 is exactly. The name looks familiar, but I can’t remember where I’ve seen it around here.
  • Line 7 生态站 (Shēngtài Zhàn) to 龙潭东站 (Lóng Tán Dōng Zhàn). This line, it seems, will run across the north of the city. I can find a 龙潭 in the north-east near the 3rd Ring Road. I must admit the Chinese, which suggests something slightly different about the line, defeats me.

No doubt I’ll fill in the blanks in my knowledge in due course. I also don’t really know quite how the two Line 6s differ unless there’s some sort of gap between them.

I was going to post this a couple of days ago, but thought I’d see if I could get a more detailed map of the area around Chengdu. But now that I’ve got the time, I find I’m too hot, bothered and sleepy to put in that much effort after a second clear, sunny day in 蓉成.


The local tapas bar.

We had thought we were going to a Spanish restaurant last night, but the establishment turned out to be a tapas bar on 凉水井街 (Liáng Shuǐ Jǐng Jiē), which is that side street off 武侯祠大街. I’ve passed it many times, but never been down there. We ordered the food from the bar quite literally because there were examples sitting on the bar from which to choose, but no menu. The portions we were served weren’t as large as what we saw when we ordered it, but I thought it was tasty enough. 

The service was a little chaotic. We had to ask for extra napkins about three times, and the girl working there should’ve been the star of a training video as an illustration of how it’s not done. But I don’t think it was her obvious lack of experience alone that was the problem. Were more staff needed? Two to man the bar (and stay there) and perhaps three to work the tables, or something like that. 

I don’t know whether I’ll go back. It’s not really because of the service or the food that would deter me from returning, but rather because that area’s a tacky tourist trap and, therefore, somewhere I tend to avoid.

Yet another one

[20.08.14. The following extract is from an entry I posted on the 27th of May 2008, but because that was mostly about pinyin, I transferred this section to this post. The original entry is below.]

Some ill-informed observations with respect to Chengdu.

The current post-quake issue here is the risk posed by flooding when the lakes formed by landslides might rupture the earth damming them. It’s been reported that the army is trying to do something about this to prevent flooding from adding to a catastrophe that’s probably going to cost at least 80,000 lives.

I was having a look at my copy of 成都地图册 last night. There are a couple of maps at the front of the book which show the city and its surrounding districts, which include Dujiangyan. Although one’s a district map and the other’s a travel map, they both have detailed information about the river system. Basically, across this area, most of the waterways fan out from Dujiangyan. I don’t know whether any of the dams are up beyond the town, but if there are any and they were to burst, I suspect that the irrigation system across this part of Sichuan would absorb the water, and the risk of flooding here in Chengdu is fairly low. In other words, areas local to these bodies of water are in far greater danger.

Besides, the 锦江 would have to rise about three or four metres before it’d even start spilling over the banks locally, and the greater threat to Chengdu would be the loss of its water supply. At least here in town we’ve had none of the rain that was being forecast as a potential exacerbation, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been raining up in the hills.

Those earthquake rumours in full.

Class 6 banged on about the imminence of another quake this afternoon, to which I paid little attention. Anyway, we got out of class and heard that school was officially at an end because of some earthquake rumour. You’d think they might have the decency to close the school immediately after lunch, thus sparing me wasting my life on two classes who deserve not a minute of my time.

Anyway, the usual committee was sitting around at the gate to the compound when I got back here. I don’t have any details about the where or when of the quake. I wouldn’t be surprised if the answers were “some­where” and “some time”.

We did have a brief tremor yesterday, but the optimal word is “brevity”.

Meanwhile, I see Sharon Stone has annoyed the Chinese with some dumb remarks about the quake. From a rational perspective, she’s talking a bunch of bollocks. Earthquakes are just like other natural phenomena: they happen without the slightest regard for human affairs.

I was out at the time, I guess

The latest aftershock.

It wasn’t until I saw mail messages from my parents earlier this evening and checked the Beeb website (story) just before that I learnt there’d been another strong aftershock today. The article doesn’t say what time it hit, but if it happened this afternoon, I might’ve missed it because I was out and about. Not the first time that’s happened. Nor did I notice a sudden, inexplicable increase in the number of people outside.

Today’s trip took me back to the so-called European street (桐梓林北路 Tóngzǐlín Běilù). It may be posh and expensive, but the racket the tyres of cars make on the bricks that pave the road would be intolerable.

Once again, I saw several small clusters of tents remain set up on waste ground here and there. It’ll be two weeks tomorrow since the quake. It seems ages since it happened and yet when I think of the time – a mere two weeks – it seems all too recent, and perhaps I shouldn’t expect everyone to have returned home by now. Perhaps I should also not expect all the perceptible aftershocks to have decreased in strength or to have ceased altogether.

Time for trivia

It was a day much like any other.

I’ve been informed that we’ve had a couple more aftershocks in the past twenty-four hours, but I haven’t noticed a thing. There were some people outside the school gate today selling cuddly toys probably to make money to help the victims of the quake, and we’ve had the occasional convoy of ambulances passing by. Work is continuing in the affected area, but the more time that passes, the less likely it is for survivors to be found in the rubble. The official death toll has now passed 50,000, and could be up to 80,000 since nearly 30,000 are still missing.

For most of us, life seems to be back to normal. There are some, though, who are still camping out in tents. I wonder how long it’ll be before they pack them away and head home.

It was Quincy’s turn to take the IELTS class for their IELTS lesson today, which meant that I was saddled with the GE class. Class 6 were actually all right mainly because the biggest nuisances in the class were absent. The curious thing is that we’ve suddenly got kids who are applying to go overseas, although they’ve never said anything to us and most have never treated our classes as if they’re an opportunity to experience real, live native speaker English. One of the kids in Class 6 has disappeared, but I’m not sure it’s quake-related. It wouldn’t be the first time that no one’s informed us of the departure of one of our little darlings.

Class 5 was another matter. For some reason, they were late. Linda had come up to observe the classes and told them off in Chinese, after which they were reasonably well-behaved. Actually, I was very tempted to grab one of the dimmer bulbs in the class who was talking while Linda was talking, bang his head against the desk until one of them broke, and then claim it was earthquake damage. It makes a difference when you can admonish them in Chinese. I could do it in English, but you may as well breathe irately for all the good a verbal tongue lashing would achieve.

Quincy has just about had enough of the GE halves of our classes. As long-term readers will be aware, it gets to a point where enough is enough and you can no longer maintain the pretence that the little buggers are behaving and working satisfactorily. Compared with kids I’ve taught elsewhere in the programme, the ones here are slightly less stupid than they are lazy, although obviously there’s the usual range of inclinations. Or disinclinations.

We consoled ourselves afterwards with some DVD shopping, although there’s not really much worth getting at the moment. Quincy said he didn’t buy anything he had any great desire to watch, which is a milestone I passed long ago in China. I did grab a copy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which I haven’t seen since it finished. It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s still watchable or whether it no longer has the same resonance it did for me back in the day. I’m going to have to wade through a lot of crap, though, because it wasn’t until the Dominion reared its ugly head that the series got into its stride.

And then it was off to Zoe’s for lunch, where I had a chicken burger with feta cheese. It was a fat burger out of which everything kept slipping. Unlike the other night when I was almost the only customer, the place was quite busy.

sadpowder Let’s finish this trivial post with some Chinglish. I spotted this sign when I was on my adventures on Sunday. Linda tells me that it’s meant to mean the food is so spicy that it makes you cry or, at least, tears stream from your eyes.

Score update

Mr Bamboo 1 – TV earthquake prediction 0.

I eventually heard from Linda that some expert had dismissed the TV prediction as a bunch of old rubbish. But even although the locals probably now know this, people were still turning up on the running track with tents early this evening and setting them up. Perhaps they’re now there not in case of earthquakes, but in case of more ridiculous rumours.

The school went so far as to buy us tents. Glen and Row are using one to­night to spare themselves from being dragged out of bed on the basis of an­other rumour and spending a sleepless night outside. Brian’s decided to take up residence in the other tent. Not sure why. Perhaps just for fun.

As I expected, there is school as usual tomorrow.

In vaguely unrelated news, Chris is apparently unable to get onto Spaces from Beijing unless he uses a proxy. That might have something to do with the three days of mourning, although I’m having no issues from here, being able to access GB with both Firefox and IE.