I could hear the drums and fireworks again this morning and went upstairs to see what I could see on the river. There was a single dragon boat which seemed to be being rowed around in circles. I thought there might be races, but this was a single vessel. It appears that everything is centred on the temple on the other side of the river which, in straight line, isn’t all that far away, but I’d have to go via Jiefang Bridge to get there. Actually, I’m curious to know whose temple it is. I think it’s a fairly new one, too, because I don’t recall it being here when I first came to Fuzhou. Mind you, it might’ve been under green gauze until recently.
I managed to get copies of Tuesday’s and Thursday’s SCMP last night. The former had the story about the Skyrail accident. It also had a brief story about a 39-year-old teacher in Chongqing who seems to have died from apoplexy when she was scolding her pupils for playing cards in class. Probably the woman was at the end of her tether with this particular class. I see from Thursday’s paper that drivers in Beijing are going to be fined if they don’t move their cars out of the way after accidents. The expressway between Tongzhou and Beijing could get very badly clogged when there were accidents because they usually constricted the traffic to one lane and Chinese drivers, having no common sense, would jockey for position where we’d interweave with each other. I assumed that the cars were left in situ either because the police demanded it, or it was an insurance thing. Meanwhile, a single peach reached ¥138K at an auction in Guangdong. The money was for a good cause, but this is a good instance of conspicuous consumption.
The recent bad weather has resulted in floods here in southern China. The river level remains high and seems to be not so much mud suspended in water as water suspended in mud.
As I’m heading along the lane this evening, I notice that there are clouds of winged ants buzzing around the lights. I say “winged ants” for want of the correct name for these things. They don’t actually look very ant-like. Once they’ve flown about a bit, their wings fall off to reveal a long-bodied insect that bears no particular resemblance to an ant. When I got down to Yiyuan I found that there were no winged ants down there, although I did carry one with me after it landed in my hair. There goes the ecosystem.
By the time I got back from XXKX, the clouds had largely dispersed, but you could see a carpet of discarded wings on the stone walls and the former owners wriggling their way across it.
Yesterday when I was coming back from Metro, I noticed an establishment called the Haixin Quick Hotel (see photo below). That immediately piqued my curiosity because “quick” seemed to be seriously out of place. However, I went back this afternoon to get a picture and found that it did indeed say “quick” (快捷 kuàijié). As you can see, it’s still under construction.
But as I’m heading along that link between one part of Machang Lu and the other round the back of the high school affiliated with Fujian Normal University, I spotted some very new graffiti on what is probably the back wall of the school grounds. I can only assume that this is one or more of the pupils of this particular school expressing their pleasure at the realisation that they’re at a Chinese high school. I feel pleasure of a similar sort myself. It’s also pleasing to see an instance of the English language in active use in the community.
Ironically, there’s police guard post just nearby, although most of the time it’s never manned.
Things that go jump in the night. I was passing by the wall with the graffiti this evening and happened to see a small frog hopping towards it.
Although we aren’t formally charged with teaching our pupils grammar, the nature of the tests that we give them means that we have to deal with whatever grammatical structure the textbook covers in each theme. It’s stuff that they should already know, but their grasp of grammar, in spite of their allegedly extensive knowledge, is often weak.
Today we were doing the perfect continuous (have been Ving). One of the questions for speaking practice was “How long have you been learning English?” After a few moments of counting on her fingers, one girl said she’d been learning English for nine years. Her score on the occasion of the last exam was equivalent to IELTS 3 (actually just short of 3.5). IELTS 8 or 9 is native speaker level. Although I might not expect someone to be as proficient as a native speaker of English after nine years (interspersed with other subjects, of course), I might expect such a person’s English to be better than IELTS 3.5.
[20.08.13. At the end of last term, Fred Voelkel and I interviewed some prospective students. I asked one how long he’d been learning English and got the same answer. Once again I thought Nine years and not much to show for it.]
All right, the joke’s over.
I went to the DVD shop opposite the gates of the university on Monday evening only to find that, Chinese films aside, it was very, very bare. I went again this evening, hoping that things might be back to normal. Wrong.
How many of them are there?
We went to the Macao/Portuguese restaurant last night to celebrate Glen’s birthday. But having hailed a taxi on Cang Qian Lu, we wondered where on earth we were going. I thought that he was taking a circuitous route because the route the driver had decided to take was blocked at one point. (I watched a car with military reg plates squeeze through a barrier only to note that the off ramp from the roundabout was completely blocked beyond that.) It turned out that Barby, who’d spoken to the taxi driver on the phone, had sent him to another branch of the same restaurant, this one being on the corner of 华林路 (Huálín Lù) and 鼓屏路 (Gǔpíng Lù), while the one we’ve been to twice before is on 八一七北路 (Bāyīqī Běilù), which is what Guping Lu becomes south of 天桥 (Tiān Qiáo).
If that’s not enough, there are three other branches, all with different names, on 湖东路 (Hú Dōng Lù), two of which are almost opposite each other.
Anyway, the food was very nice, and I noted as we left that there was a large half-node of amethyst, probably about 30cm tall and about 15+ cm wide at the base sitting on the counter. I’ve seen the price of these things somewhere in Fuzhou, and even the small ones are prohibitively expensive.
[10.08.14. Added a gallery to the post. The pictures should be in the same order in which they’re described below.]
I happened to go to the Yonghui Supermarket early this evening to do some shopping which had been delayed by blogging. When I got back to the flats, I could hear music and fireworks in one of the narrow alleys down below us and spotted a group of people celebrating the Lantern Festival (元宵节 yuánxiāo jié; 上元节 shàngyuán jié; 灯节 dēng jié). I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures as they made their way through the local area. In fact, even as I’m typing, they seem to be determined to blow up those parts of China which they didn’t blow up when they were celebrating the New Year.
According to one sources, the Jade Emperor was angry at a town for killing his favourite goose. A fairy warned the people to light lanterns throughout the town so that when the Emperor looked down from heaven, he thought the town was already on fire, and that the goose had been avenged. The Lantern Festival celebrates this every year. Another source says that it has its origins in a rite honouring Buddha during the Han Dynasty.
Picture 001 is a shot looking down from under the block flats just across from ours. Actually, this is the same place where I got the picture of the bird that I posted earlier this week. You can see a table with food on it and the people in the parade with their banners on the right. Picture 002 is a shot looking down along the alley along which they came. The parade stopped outside various houses where monster-sized sticks of incense were being burnt, and people set off fireworks. You can see a close up of one of the tables with offerings on it in picture 003. I can’t quite make out what the banner says in picture 004, but I know it says something about the King of Heaven Temple. In picture 005, you can see a local shrine, again with some offerings in front of it. This is just across the street from the previous picture. Picture 006 is one of those huge incense sticks. This is at the other end of the alley that you can see in picture 002. Picture 007 is some fire crackers being let off. I snapped this one rather hastily, hence the crackers aren’t centred. For some reason the parade go to the end of the alley and started marching into the house there. You can see this in pictures 008 and 009. I thought the latter was quite good because the blurring gives the image a dynamic feel. Picture 010 shows the rest of the marchers coming along the alley. Picture 011 is the people in the march who waited around at the intersection for a while. Actually, the picture was fortuitous, because I didn’t notice the girl in the lavender-coloured outfit in the midst of the sea of yellow. She had a pair of cymbals. The marchers then set off some skyrockets which you can see in picture 012, before some of them started to move on (picture 013), but in picture 014, you can see a group who remained, playing instruments, dancing and singing.
I’m quite pleased with the pictures I got. They came out much better than I was expecting, even although I had nothing to steady me and used the camera’s low light setting to compensate for the conditions. I think flash photography would’ve destroyed the atmosphere, and the images such as 008 and 009 would lack a sense of movement.
I’ve never seen anything like this in China before. The celebrations seem largely restricted to local areas, and possibly where there’s a higher density of older people as there is around this part of the island. There were a few children and quite a number of the marchers would’ve been in their twenties, but I’d say that that particular age group was underrepresented as onlookers in all this.
I took a little trip up Student Street this afternoon and have added some pictures to this post (10.08.14). The street is just next to the Teacher Training University and always seems to be packed full of students and, from the looks of them, quite a few school children as well. I was told when I arrived in Fuzhou that Student Street was being moved, although I’m not quite sure where. I think the aim might be to relocate it to a street off Shoushan Lu. It’d kind of be a pity because Student Street, as you can see from the pictures is really vibrant.
I then walked back along Shang San Lu and up into the area south of where Sanxian Bridge meets the island. I ran into King Min Temple where everything is geared up for the Lantern Festival which officially marks the end of the holiday. I also found Changyu Temple. This was a surprise, because I’m going up some anonymous back street when I see the temple which I thought was going to be little more than a small shrine but was quite an extensive affair with a biggish seated Buddha just beyond the main door.
I found that there are quite a number of art schools in the area, and also a lot of graffiti (by Chinese standards). I walked to the end of the street and found myself at another temple where a group of people were dressed in brightly coloured costumes, preparing for the Lantern Festival celebrations. (See the picture below.) I’m sure they were as surprised to see me as I was to see them. Actually, that was a dead end as far as I could tell. If my bearings weren’t too far out, I’d got somewhere near-ish to Shoushan Lu.
Remember how I thought the sign with the ten don’ts had been vandalised? I was wrong. It was a different sign altogether near the ten don’ts, but in the same style. It’s a civil behaviour agreement which starts with “Love the country, love the Party, love your home town” and no doubt continues in a similar vein. I saw a hand-painted version of the same notice on my adventures this afternoon.
[10.08.14. Added a few pictures from my collection to illustrate the post.]
I went for another long walk this afternoon over Minjiang Bridge to the north side of the river and then along that bank towards Aofeng Bridge. As I walked along the river front towards Minjiang Bridge, I took quite a few pictures of the derelict buildings. On the inside wall of the remains of one place some characters had been painted. I took a picture of them (see below), but only found out when I got home that it’s a saying of Chairman Mao. I’m guessing it dates from the Cultural Revolution.
What caught my eye was the fifth character (针; zhēn “needle”; the word is actually 方针 fāngzhēn “policy”) which has the traditional form of the metal radical (left-hand side). When I checked the character in the dictionary, I found the right-hand part is simplified, the traditional form being 鍼.
Where I ended up isn’t exactly the most interesting part of Fuzhou. There are some blocks of flats out that way that wouldn’t look out of place in Hong Kong. Makes me feel a little jealous when I look at these places and then consider my delightful, salubrious accommodation. Nonetheless, the tower blocks out there look rather bleak (see other picture) because they stick out of the landscape like sore thumbs.
I see that my most recent hit resulted from a search for Sanxian Bridge. I had a look through my pictures, but find only a couple, neither of which is particularly good because the bridge is in the background. If the weather behaves tomorrow, I’ll see if I can get something better, although I might wait until the sun reappears.
Here are a few pictures from the local area which I took at lunchtime as I was roaming around.
The blanket is actually from a couple of months ago, but I never got round to uploading it.
I only noticed the extra ‘p’ in the sign outside Wankeyuan Supermarket a couple of days ago. And yes, the first part of the name would sound like “wanker” to speakers of English. Please giggle foolishly now.
I heard a whole bunch of fireworks this morning, but I believe that I happened to pass a wedding in the street that’s roughly below the block of flats. As I arrived, the cooks were removing the ring of bricks around the glowing blocks which had been used for cooking. There was also another death in Yiyuan because the rosettes were outside one of the buildings down there.
The ten don’ts come from Machang Lu. As far as I’m able to translate them, they say
Don’t dump rubbish.
Don’t destroy public property.
Don’t damage the plants.
Don’t violate law and discipline.
Don’t set up stalls.
No graffiti; post no bills.
Don’t smoke in public venues.
To be honest, I’m not sure what the tenth one is meant to mean so I’m kind of guessing.
Chris says (14.02.07): WTF?! Is that minbeihua or some even more obscure dialect? 忌语 isn’t in any of my dictionaries.
lzh translates it as “Don’t say service taboo”, and I’m trying to find out what that is supposed to mean. She says “Maybe there are some taboo in service field. Not sure” She seems to think I should understand that just fine.
Mr Bamboo: The phrase 忌语 gets 120K hits on Google and 服务忌语 gets 30,300. I wonder whether it means something like “Be polite in your official dealings” or it’s an injunction against saying things which are rude and surly.
In rooster news, the cock seems to have disappeared. I haven’t heard it or seen it. Perhaps it got to star at the wedding as the main course.
As you can also see, I’ve been struck by the curse of the double upload, hence two pictures of the shppping sign where one would do.
[29.07.14. If it was worth the bother, I’d redo the whole post to fix the dismal formatting and the issue with the images. Can’t be bothered.]
For quite some time now I’ve been meaning to go to 草亭里 (Cǎo Tíng Lǐ) which is a narrow alley not far from the Yonghui Supermarket and take a photo or two. I thought I’d recharged my camera batteries recently enough for them still to be viable, but as I was passing by the PLA rest home, I checked the camera and found that it was barely alive. I went to Cao Ting Li anyway, but pictures taken on a mobile phone are too low res. for my taste and the blasted thing is impossible to keep steady.
On the way back home, I took a trip back to 崇圣庵巷 (Chóngshèng’ān Xiàng), which is the alley that runs down beside the PLA rest home. I’d been wondering what was down there and checked it our a couple of days ago, but this time I took a note of the name which means (literally) “high holy Buddhist convent alley”. I suspect that the convent has mostly gone, but there’s a standalone wall which might be the last remnant of the place.
I also took a wander up 佛寺巷 (Fó Sì Xiàng) which turns out to mean “Buddhist Temple Alley”). That was another dead end. It led to a local primary school. I also passed a wedding party which was sitting outside one of the houses up there. I thought they might be one of the innumerable small groups of people who sit around playing mah jongg or cards during the day, but they were sitting opposite a place with the double happiness character (喜喜; is the actual character not included in the Unicode character set?) glued to the door.
It all gets me wondering how it is that an atheist like me even gets onto this temple- and church-infested island. The gods have no shame. Or they need to start charging admission.
As for the pictures, I think it really might be time for me to buy a new digital camera. When I got home, I switched the camera on again. This time it worked properly and the battery was allegedly half-charged. The camera has never been well-behaved in all the time I’ve had it. The battery function is erratic; the screen view is erratic; the battery life is erratic.