Tag Archives: pictures

Banner says

What?

To the north and west of the school a fragment of old Wuxi remains. The buildings to the north have been marked for 折. On a wall part way along the street, there’s a banner which says, 文明拆迁, 依法拆迁 (wénmíng chāiqiān, yīfǎ chāiqiān) “A civilised demolition and resettlement, a demolition and resettlement according to the rules”. I’d guess that some of the 拆迁 is neither civilised or in accordance with the rules if this is the sort of banner it’s felt necessary to display. [31.08.13. It took years before the buildings were finally demolished, and even now they land is empty, although a new wall has gone up, which presages the commencement of building work sometime.]

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I’ve been curious to know what’s down the narrow street which runs from the street west of the school and discovered this old but well-kept street, though the building on the corner has long since been abandoned. The street runs alongside a narrow branch of the canal, although whether it gets any traffic, I don’t know and doubt.

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The view in the first picture is down an alley off the street. It seemed rather picturesque, the sort of thing I’d want to paint rather than photograph. The second picture is historic Wuxi being manufactured. When I first arrived, there was some of the building in the centre of the picture and a little bit of the landing. I suppose someone has been commissioned to contrive a history of this ancient place – founded by the Emperor Qianlong during the Song Dynasty, visited by Marco Polo, the location of the first Wuxi Party Congress in 1871 etc. Can’t you just feel the genuine antiquity?

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Dawn by day

Haze by night.

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I took these pictures earlier this week. The first picture is my quest to get a decent shot of dawn. I think I used the evening setting on my camera to try to inhibit it’s innate tendency to produce over-bright pictures so that I could try to capture the colour of the sun. The resulting shot is, I think, better than the pictures from the other day and I also used the zoom function. Although the sun looks good to the naked eye, in an unadjusted picture it seems to shrink. Even in the picture above, it still doesn’t fill the view as much as it seems to in reality. 

The second picture was taken a couple of nights ago after we’d had a very wet day here. It took me eleven shots with various settings (often quite extreme; aperture way down; ev way down) to get one which was near the view I could actually see. I liked the glow given off by the building in the background. 

I ought to stop taking pictures of the view from my window. I’m sure you’ve seen enough of them. 

What happened this week? Not a lot. We did have some delegation from the King Edward Grammar School (somewhere) in Essex because they want to set up an exchange programme with the school here. Mr Zhang, who is the Chinese equivalent of our CP, seemed to be most eager to discuss the visit with Rob and me to make sure that Essex Man was cool. 

And there isn’t much else worth mentioning this week. The tests, which Caleb had left on my desk for me to give to his chemistry class, had mysteriously vanished. I can only think I might’ve picked them up with some other papers, but from his description, it seems that the bundle, though small, would’ve been noticeable.

I’ve also been putting together some ideas for the English course we’ll give the little darlings at the end of the second term. My underlying idea is a course in general English. In other words, we’d treat the pupils as if they’re native speakers and get away from EFL English. I’ve got rather a long list of things they might do, probably overly long, but I thought they could do some reading (a collectively read short story with each of them reading and reporting on a part of the story, and reviewing it), learn something about English lit. from its origins to the present day, and learn something about the history of the English language; some writing (a huge range of possibilities here, but I’m hoping for creative writing); and some speaking (again, a range of possibilities). 

I’ve been playing a lot of correspondence chess online, but it vacuums up a lot of my time (I’m embroiled in about ten games at the moment and think that one would be enough) and right now I’d say that most of the games are against me because I spent the early part of most of the games swatting away pointless sorties from my opponents who are now in a better position than me. I think one game at a time is about all I can handle. I should stick with writing, at which I’m moderately competent, and stick to games against the awful Chess Titans. 

Meanwhile, my flat has become infested with Chinese fluff demons (绒毛鬼 Róngmáo Guǐ). As I’ve explained in a previous entry, they eat dust and shit fluff. Their usual habitats are under chairs, tables and desks, but there’s also a kind which lives along skirting boards or around the edges of rooms. When you try to hit them with a broom, they explode in a shower of dust and then reconstitute themselves while you’re not looking.

The ancient vista on the other side of the bridge comes on apace. I assume it’s going to be a canal side pavilion and park which will be inhabited by old people doing tai chi or people sitting around staring vacantly and doing nothing productive. There’s almost no traffic on the canal and thus nothing of interest to see.

A few weeks ago, Danwei got blocked for no reason I could discern, but now that I find there are links to Danwei from The Guardian, I’m wondering whether that’s the reason – consorting with a foreign news source. I miss having access to Danwei, the absence of which pretty much just leaves ESWN to which I am, these days, only an occasional visitor. Perhaps I’ve been in China too long so that the news becomes uninteresting. There’s been another riot, I see, but so what? It won’t change anything and the flaws in the system will remain.

Here today

Gone tomorrow.

Having been inside all day yesterday, I needed to go and play outside. Wuxi is a new city, but much of the old still remains and isn’t hidden, as it often is elsewhere, behind all the new buildings. But today’s foray into old Wuxi led me to a world that’s marked for 拆. While Baoli is all very pretty from the front, the old city is being demolished behind it while in the adjacent alleyway, a ubiquitous worker dismantles old doors.

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The nearby streets are still inhabited for the most part, but some buildings have already been gutted. I assume that the archway in the second picture below would have been an entrance, the door and the windows being a more recent addition. Above the arch of the gateway, the name has been chiselled off, although that seems to be some recent “vandalism” since the characters don’t seem to have had time to be worn by the weather.

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Meanwhile, Mr Man, in his slightly short trousers, heads home. Will he get there before the wrecking ball does? Of course, his neighbour’s house, now merely a temporary shadow against the adjacent wall until that, too, becomes rubble in 拆国, is the future of Mr Man’s cosy domicile. Of course, he’s probably quite keen to live on the 21st floor where he can wax nostalgic about life in the slums and the balmy days of hot-and-cold-running vermin.

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Meanwhile, some places are likely to survive such as this antique chemist’s shop near 南禅. Just as I reached the intersection, some fire engines came screaming out of the exit on the opposite side of the road, their sirens blaring probably because that’s what American fire engines do in the movies. All the wailing in the world has little effect on the motoring public for whom sirens are yet another noise to be ignored rather than an alarum inviting respectful avoidance so that the emergency services can go about their business unimpeded. And for those who do notice, they can always go for a quiet walk beside the unused canal.

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Wuxi does have history, but it’s rapidly disappearing beneath the modern world, and in the absence of much real local history, it’s being manufactured. The park on the other side of the bridge outside progresses apace, but whether there ever was a pavilion there in the past, I don’t know and am inclined to doubt. Give it five years of neglect and it’ll look like a relic from the Tang Dynasty.

The school

And rather nouvelle at that.

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The first picture is the passage in the building where I work. It’s the same in both directions, hence I only need to show you what it looks like in this direction (although it might be that direction). In truth, I don’t know whether the PAL classes are left or right when I leave the office, but they’re in one direction and the AS/A2 classes are in the opposite direction. I have no idea whether I turn left or right. There’s a good chance that I’ll try to go into the conference room instead of our office when I try to find my way back. I’ve already done that a couple of times. [31.08.13. The building was subsequently refurbished, half being devoted to our programme, and half to the school museum which is opened when visitors come calling. Due to a lack of forethought, there isn’t actually enough proper office space.] 

The second picture is our building from the outside. I’m guessing it’s one of the older buildings, possibly an original, and probably an old main building since there’s an ugly stone on the other side. (As you can see from the third picture, which is from the opposite side to the second, some aesthetically minded person decided to try and hide the rock with some plants.)

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wuxi_school06The new school buildings, which are very new indeed as the left-hand picture attests, look like this, and probably bear an outward resemblance to the original school buildings. There are some older new buildings (newer old buildings?) if you go round the back and look for them and if you go far enough, you’ll find Mr McGregor’s nursery, where he cultivates mint, marigolds, and marijuana marjoram. 

wuxi_xihui01 But as the weary explorer rounded the corner, suddenly, there through the trees was a gap and framed in it, a scene from Old Cathay, the pagoda in 锡惠公园, constructed as long ago as 1985. Who knows how many lovers threw themselves from it in despair because China had no (well, privately owned) VCRs at the time and they’d missed the final episode of 红楼梦? Who knows what famous photographer (called Mr Bamboo) ascended its precarious steps and took pictures from it? Who knows what pious words have echoed up from the temple? (♫And the Chinese know – o-way-o – they walk the line like Egyptian♫)

A dull imitation of nature

Sunrise.

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When I looked out of the window this morning at obscenely early o’clock, the sun, a red disk, was rising over the buildings and subtly illuminating the ripples of cloud which was spread across the sky. The scene, a Kodak moment, came out on my camera as an insipid representation of what I had seen with the naked eye.

In the first picture, the sun was filtered through the haze, which gave it that red look. In the second picture, taken a little later, it was brightening up, giving more definition to the clouds. It’s a pity that the first picture failed to capture what I saw. It was also nice to see it, but why can’t we have sunrise at a respectable hour?

Nouveau 古老 Wuxi

Local travels.

Out of my window I can not only see 江尖公园, but also the last remnants of the dilapidated houses which must’ve filled the area until not so long ago. Out of curiosity I thought I’d go and have a look at these last surviving pockets and also have a look at the development on the island.

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The first picture looks across the canal to the south-east and apart from one building missing half a roof, the place doesn’t appear to be in any danger of being demolished – for the time being. In the second picture, the rubble in the foreground is new. When I had a look at one of the earlier pictures I took, I found that the building was still there. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone was actually living in the last surviving hovel. There was some guy snoozing on a sofa nearby and when I went to have a closer look from the other side, some dog barked at me in a proprietorial fashion.

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This, on the other hand, is nouveau 古老, but doing it’s best to look as dilapidated and worth for demolition as any of the aging and decrepit parts of the town. When I went in, there were two people having a quiet snog near the door and, unexpectedly, flute music. On the left-hand side of the second picture was an area which looked like it might’ve been a stage. Some guy was there practising playing the flute, his music being quite suitable to the setting, I thought. The building on the right has some historical significance because there were a couple of stones on the other side, one of which gave the details about the place.

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If I understand the sign on the left correctly, the building is the former site of some (state-owned?) paper company. It also gives a date of 2003, although the area doesn’t look neglected enough to have been abandoned six years ago. The other sign no doubt explains the significance of the place.

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On the other side is this small branch of the canal which was mostly the preserve of this purple water flower, probably a species of water lily. At the far end is a lock which probably hasn’t been used in some time. The fisher­men might also actually catch something because in the water near the lock, I could see bubbles in the water and a shoal of little fishes. There was also something larger there because I heard a loud splash and looked down to see that something had violently agitated the water, although I don’t know what. The fishes themselves seem to be clustered beneath some drain per­haps waiting, as Dryden said in MacFlecknoe, for the morning toast.

[22.08.13. Much has changed since I took these pictures. The ancient street was eventually opened, but that took some time (and I ought to go back to see what’s there); the old houses were eventually demolished, but that also took some time; they’ve been being replaced by a cluster of high-rise buildings, but that’s also taken some time. Five years after I arrived in Wuxi, the project, called 县前三号, still has a long way to go.

23.09.14. Another year has passed and, as it turns out, the ancient street on the island is almost entirely deserted apart from a couple of restaurants. The high-rise buildings have risen, but as far as I can tell, they’ve stopped rising and, it seems, no work is being done behind the green gauze in which they’re wrapped like concrete mummies. The hoardings alongside 县前街 were removed a few months ago as if the project was about to enter some new phase, but I think that may be no more than prolonged decay.]

The last temple in the shop

大慈寺.
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.
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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.

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.

Damage at school

Cracks in the classroom.

I went over to school this morning to check out our classrooms and see what the damage was. This is what greeted me when I opened the door of 514 where I’d been teaching on Monday.

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It looks like plaster came down where an electrical cable had been em­bed­ded in the wall. Fortunately, I was at the back of the room at the time, al­though potentially nowhere was safe as the pictures from 515 show.

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As you can see, the tiles which came down from the ceiling in 515 must’ve hit the edge of the desk with some force. Fortunately, a lot of kids were missing from class on Monday because, in spite of the edict to the con­trary, many were off practising for the Arts Festival, which has probably now been cancelled. By the time the tile came down, the kid sitting at the desk beside it had legged it.

Apart from the tiles, the only other damage to 515 was a couple of cracks on the left and right sides of the wall at the back of the room. 514 bore the brunt of the quake.

I grabbed this image from this article in The Guardian. I’m guessing that casualties in Chengdu probably mainly occurred in the surrounding district where construction standards and materials are probably less rigorously en­forced than they are inside the city. [15.08.14. The quality of the con­struc­t­ion of buildings became an issue afterwards, which was duly censored and, I believe, resulted in people being imprisoned.]

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I also donated some money at school this morning.

Veris flores

Spring flowers.

I thought I’d take a few pictures of some of the spring blooms and get some practice making my camera do stuff that I don’t normally do with it. In this case, it was messing about with aperture settings, macro and what the camera focuses on. My efforts were not all a great success, mainly because I haven’t got the hang of suitable minimum distances. Unfortunately, it’s only when I can see the pictures on my laptop that I can be certain whether they’ve come out as intended.

Most of the pictures are shots I took in 人民公园 apart from the first one, which is of one of the trees at school which must’ve blossomed over the weekend.

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But I really need to learn how to use the camera properly when it comes to shots beyond general scenes where point-and-shoot is adequate.