Tag Archives: pictures of Chengdu

It’s that week again

Stepping up to the microphone.

It’s been that week again when in 1949, Chairman Mao addressed the ex­cited crowds in Tiananmen Square, welcomed them to the People’s Re­public of China, and warned them about how deadly PTSD could be.

“But PTSD isn’t generally life-threatening,” said someone in the crowd.
“It is in my case.”
“Say it isn’t so, Son of Heaven.”
“Ah, I meant life-threatening for you. I’ll be fine. No, no. I’ll live to a ripe old age and traumatise the Empire… Sorry, nation, for generations to come.”
“Can I vote for someone else?” asked the man.

It’s the 65th anniversary of the founding of the current dynasty, although apart from a few posters proclaiming this, it doesn’t seem to have been treated as one of those landmark anniversaries.

I went to Chengdu to see Linda, but since the trip was largely domestic, I’ll confine most of the rest of this post to pictures.

Apart from a couple of occasions when it was grey and damp, the weather in Chengdu was warm and pleasant to the point of being summery, and the air quality was generally very good by the city’s usually dubious standards.

“We keep it out the back.”

The remnants of Old Chengdu.

For some time now, I’ve been meaning to go up to 羊市街 (Yáng Shì Jiē; Sheep Market Street) to see what the sign says. It adds a little information, although the name of the street is already transparent.

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Actually, I started the morning with this shot of the monument on nearby 君平街 (Jūnpíng Jiē). The disc is a star chart which was revolving and seems to be weighted or something. If you try to get the Chinese text on the other side the right way up, the disc starts spinning again. The text, which is unreadable in the resized shot above, says

This street is where Hermit Yan Zun performed augury. Mr Yan Zun, whose literary name was Junping, was a renowned literary giant during the West Han Dynasty. He was a man of integrity and nobility, devoted to academic learning and unwilling to accept any official positions. The street was named in honour of him for his great contributions to propagating feudalist morals and educating people in Sichuan.

“Feudalist morals”, at least for me, has negative connotations and perhaps should be something like “Confucian philosophy”, perhaps, or maybe just “morality/moral probity”.

This next shot is the shop at the end of 平安巷 (Píng’ān Xiàng). I’ve noticed it a few times as I’ve been passing by. It’s not that far from the main road and reminds me a little of the back streets of Kowloon where the modern world is busy rushing past while the old world sits looking on, drinking tea, smoking, and playing mah jong.

pinganxiang pinganxiang2

As the second image (this is down the narrow lane heading right from the first shot) shows, Old Chengdu may be down but it’s not quite out.

My subsequent travels took me back to the area around 井巷子 (Jǐng Xiàng Zǐ), the alley which is being refurbished as a tourist trap. As I discovered, 支矶石路 (Zhījīshí Lù), which I mentioned the other day, is actually the street north of 井巷子 and is, as you can see, the street which Jung Chang calls Meteorite Street in Wild Swans.

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The final monument was at the end of 实业街 (Shíyè Jiē; Industry Street). The old name, 甘棠胡同 (Gāntáng Hútòng), means “Sweet Birchleaf Pear Lane”.

The green sheep of the family

That’s the Way it is.

I thought I’d take a trip to 青羊宫 (Qīngyáng Gōng; Qingyang Palace) this afternoon. It was a fairly brief trip partly because the grounds are small; partly because I’ve seen all that sort of thing before; and partly because the batteries of my camera were dying as I’ve been expecting them to for about three days now.

Qingyang Palace is a Daoist temple and, like Wenshu, a working temple. There were plenty of people lighting candles and praying (“Please don’t let me get put on Double Regulations.”). The original temple dates from the Zhou Dynasty, which means that it might be between 2200 and 3100 years old. During the Tang Dynasty, one emperor retreated there during an insurrection, after which he had the place renovated. It seems to have taken a battering during the Ming Dynasty before Kangxi reconstructed it.

This is a shot from the gate with Hunyuan Hall in the background. That was rebuilt in the late 19th century by Emperor Guangxu.

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Beyond Hunyuan Hall is the Eight Trigram Pavilion. This was rebuilt by on two occasions, once by Tongzhi and once by Guangxu.

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Behind the Eight Trigram Pavilion is the Hall of Three Purities which was rebuilt during Kangxi’s reign about 30 years before he got round to Wenshu in 1697. Every time someone donated money to the temple, one of the monks would hit the bell with a hammer. I assume that the bell was the Bell of the World of Darkness which is one of several Ming Dynasty relics in the hall.

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The Hall of the Goddess Doumu is the only Ming Dynasty style building in the complex.

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This is the Hall of the Jade Emperor which was built in the early to mid 19th century. The girl in the dark blue-green outfit was shaking a container full of sticks as she knelt before the shrine.

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Past the Hall of the Jade Emperor is the Hall of the Tang Emperor, although Kangxi was behind this one. The hall includes an effigy of the first Tang emperor

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After this point you then swing right and pass the Hall of the Two Immortals (another of Kangxi’s dating from 1695; I did say he was behind the building in the previous picture), the Hall of Patriarch Lü Dongbin, and this gate – reverse (slightly wonky shot; oops!)

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and obverse from 文化公园 which is just next door.

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I also took a brief turn around the park which included another monument to a group of martyrs, this time the No. 12 Bridge Martyrs from 1949. The park itself is dominated by tearooms which are absolutely everywhere you go. There’s also an amusement park and a boating lake.

Well, that’s the last post from me until,er, whenever.

When the sun shines in Chengdu

Gentlemen of leisure visit Dufu’s Thatched Cottage.

Yes, it’s true. Another sunny day in Chengdu accompanied by your actual blue sky. I decided to take a trip to 杜甫草堂 (Dùfǔ Cǎo Táng). Dufu (712-770) is one of China’s greatest poets and lived during the Tang Dynasty. He came to Chengdu to escape from conflict in another part of the country. As seems to be typical, he tried to get an official position, but when he did, it was only at a low level because of the machinations of some despicable bureaucrat. He got bored with the job which was, no doubt, unworthy of someone with Dufu’s talents.

Here’s the man himself.

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Those are my legs reflected in the bronze. Steady, ladies. I know they’re sexy, but try to calm yourselves. You’ll notice that the beard is a slightly different colour from the rest of him because of the Chinese mania for touching bits of statues for good luck.

This is the replica of Dufu’s cottage. From what I could tell from various exhibits (with limited info in English), the complex became more and more extensive, although I’m not sure whether this was in Dufu’s time or, as seems more likely, after it.

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Actually, there’s a museum near the North Gate which displays a dig from which Tang Dynasty artifacts were unexpectedly uncovered in the course of building work. The find was quite important because there are apparently not a lot of remains from the Tang Dynasty (apart from the Politburo; sorry, couldn’t resist).

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One of the things they unearthed in the course of the dig was this stone tablet, the inscription on which includes a date of 687AD. Well, the Chinese equivalent of such a date.

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In the south-east corner of the grounds is 万佛楼 (Wàn Fó Lóu; Ten Thousand Buddha Building). It’s built on the site of an earlier pagoda, but it’s been shifted slightly so that you can see the base of the original columns which have been preserved under glass at the bottom of the building.

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While I was in the building, I managed to snap this bird sitting on one of the roof ridges a moment before it flitted away.

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Overall, Dufu’s Cottage is a very picturesque garden with features such as a red-walled path overarched with green bamboo.

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Or this pleasant waterside pavilion.

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Or this pavilion with a stele with an inscription from a Tang Dynasty noble called Prince Guo (which features on a mouse mat I believe I bought in Changzhou).

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Or ponds full of lilies.

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There are quite a few displays in the place including one building with pictures of various Chinese leaders from Mao to Jiang Zemin who had visited Dufu’s Cottage. Deng Xiaoping said that if you visited Chengdu without visiting Dufu’s Cottage, then you weren’t visiting the place at all. Curiously, there were examples of calligraphy by various Party boys on display, only some of which were clearly identified. Either the staff don’t know who produced the calligraphy, or they don’t want to say for some reason, but I noted that the ill-fated Liu Shaoqi was among those who dropped by. So was French president Jacques Chirac.

I tried to do a circuit of the place, but got slightly lost in the middle. Nonetheless, I managed, somehow, to see most of the grounds. I note that once again, like the map they hand out at Wuhou, the map of Dufu’s Thatched Cottage is in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In fact on this map, there’s not a scrap of English.

So, if you’re ever in Chengdu and have 2½ to 3 hours to spare, then this place is worth a visit. (Now if the Sichuan Tourist Board would pay me an advertising fee…)

Wenshu Yuan

The things I do when it’s fine and sunny.

It was fine and sunny today. Here’s a picture to prove it. The camera never lies. Much.

Sunshine and blue sky in Chengdu

I went to 文殊院 (Wénshū Yuán; Wenshu Monastery). Here’s a picture to prove that. Entrance fee, ¥5. Nope, I’m not exaggerating.

Wenshu Yuan, Hall of Three Saints

The Hall of Three Saints is on the left, while on the right in the background is a place where you could get fresh flowers, presumably for offerings. The Hall was first built in 1697 during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, and renovated in 1815. This is a working temple complete with monks and a vegetarian restaurant.

Behind the Hall of Three Saints is Sakyamuni Hall. The original building was also erected in 1697, but was renovated in 1741 during the reign of Qianlong, and expanded in the early 19th century. The gate to the hall was shut, but everybody was touching the rounded 福 character on the boss. The old woman and her granddaughter were kind of typical of the people there. Old or young, but not so many in between.

Wenshu Yuan, Sakyamuni Hall

Behind Sakyamuni Hall was the Dharma Preaching Hall. It also dates from 1697 and was, like the others, renovated early in the 19th century.

Wenshu Yuan, Dharma Preaching Hall

The Tripitaka Pavilion is at the back of the complex. Again, it dates from 1697 and was renovated in the early 19th century. In the courtyard before it, a man was busy consulting Buddha – loudly on his mobile.

Wenshu Yuan, Tripitaka Pavilion

To the west of these buildings is a garden with a Long Life Pond, which is full of terrapins either lazing around in the limpid green waters or sunning themselves on rocks or each other.

Terrapins in Long Life Pool

Beyond the garden to the north of the halls is the monastery library which is of far more recent date than the rest of the complex.

Wenshu Yuan, the monastery library

To the east of the main complex of buildings is the Thousand Buddha Peace Pagoda where, as you can see in the picture, people were making offerings, and also circling the pagoda. If the guy who was doing the praying before the pagoda was hoping for a girl in short shorts, he was in luck. She’d just walked up behind him.

Wenshu Yuan, Thousand Buddha Peace Pagoda

It’s not an especially big monastery, but it’s in the middle of an urban development area (i.e., tourist trap). I ran into an American who said that he’s been there six months earlier when they were still building the shops on the other side of the road from the monastery.

There were a number of foreigners strolling around the place, which reminds me. As I was heading up the road past 人民西路, I saw this hugely fat foreigner. I know I’ve seen a fair few lard-arsed foreigners in this city, but this guy was massive sideways. I just hope that the über漂亮 Chinese girl behind him was merely embarking on the long trek to get by Mr Tun-Belly, because if there was some sort of close personal association between them, it’d turn a Christian normal in a moment.

I’m back in business

What? So soon?

I know I said I’d be back in business next week, but Internet access was just rearing to go from the flat.

Let’s start with this morning. As I was sorting out the last of the mess, I noticed my boots, which were sitting under the table. I stuffed them into my rucksack and squeezed the remaining items into one suitcase or another. Jane was kind enough to help me take my suitcases down to Cang Qian Lu where they were setting up a stage, probably for the opera troupe. I needed the help. The three cases together were one too many for one person. A taxi arrived almost immediately and the driver helped me with my suitcases when we got to the Apollo.

I got the e-ticket at the airport without any fuss and bother and paid the ¥500 fee for excess baggage. I still had 40kg of stuff even although I’d tried to box up as much as possible. Went through security where they seemed to be passing the whisk over everyone. The girl who dealt with me seemed to be enjoying it. Really. I don’t think I’m imagining things.

I ended up with a window seat for the flight, but patchy to dense cloud obscured the view for most of the route. I did a couple of sudoku puzzles to keep me amused.

James and Linda, who is the co-ordinator at the school, met me at the airport, where my bags appeared on the carousel in double quick time.

I was brought to the flat which seems to be in the same building as a hotel. I wonder whether the whole building was meant to be a hotel, but part of it was turned into flats. Altogether, the place is nice. Big sitting room with a small dining area to one side, decent kitchen, although the bathroom is a larger-sized version of Fuzhou. But, the quality is vastly better overall. And I can flush loo paper down the loo (which is why I think this was all meant to be part of a hotel).

A view from my first flat in Chengdu, 2007The downside is the view which looks out on, well, see the pict­ure.

The alternative is on the 11th, but smaller.

I’ll need to buy a couple of bookcases, because there’s really nowhere to put books or DVDs. I could also do with a desk with drawers. There’s a kind of work station, but I want drawers rather than awkwardly placed shelves.

Overall, this is much better than where I’ve been for the past year.

James, Katie and I had lunch at a lamian restaurant where I had to read the menus for them. We then went to Carrefour, but I’m told there’s a Metro Supermarket here in Chengdu. I wonder whether my card is transferable.

Linda took me to the police station to register me until I can get the foreign resident’s permit done properly in September. After that, I tried the Internet connection from the flat. Might not be 100Mbps for real, but it seems faster than the connection in Fuzhou. No messing around either, and the school is paying for it.

I’ve only seen a little of central Chengdu, but it seems to have more going for it than Fuzhou. But I’m in the heart of the city and not some decaying district on the outskirts. I’ve already seen a bunch of foreigners, although they mostly look like tourists, including one group who must’ve come here on the Fat Pallid Foreigner Package Tour Scheme. James says that there are a lot of foreigners in Chengdu, although a lot of them are meant to be a bit crazy.

My first impression of this place is that it’s much better than where I’ve been. Hopefully, the rest of the year won’t spoil that view.