Lijiashan Cave Dwellings 李家山 窑洞 (photo of the week)

Lijiashan 李家山

Amazing cave dwelling in Shanxi Province

Lijiashan Cave Dwellings  李家山窑洞

Hidden away up an eroded valley a few kilometers from a remote stretch of the Yellow River is Lijiashan 李家山. It is one of Shanxi Province’s hidden gems.  A village almost exclusively made up of traditional cave dwellings 窑洞.  It’s a place to spend a few days disconnected from the modern world, read a good book on one of the sunny terraces of the local home-stays and sip a cold (or lukewarm) beer. All the home-stays are cave dwellings built into the side of the mountain.  If the sky is clear, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular starry nights (full article coming soon).

Lijiashan Cave Dwellings 李家山窑洞

Changing Times in WutaiShan 五台山

Even Wutaishan is Changing 五台山

photo of the week

Twenty years ago Wutaishan was a remote and spiritual destination that felt a million miles away from the modern world. On our recent visit we could see that times had changed as the picture below shows.

Changing times in Wutaishan 五台山

Tianning Temple and Pagoda 天宁寺塔: A Beijing Hidden Gem

Tianning Temple and Pagoda

Tiannng Temple and Pagoda 天宁寺塔

Tianning Temple and Pagoda 天宁寺塔

天宁寺塔

Gazing out of the taxi window, stuck in one of those infernal Beijing traffic jams on our way to the cavernous Beijing West Train Station 北京西 for the umpteenth time, I always found my eyes fixing on a huge pagoda majestically rising above the sprawl of residential buildings. I can’t count the number of times I said to Margie, “we must find out what it is”.

Tianning Temple and Pagoda 天宁寺塔

However, once on the train and out of Beijing, our thoughts moved on to the new adventures that lay ahead and our curiosity in the pagoda waned until the next time we were yet again on our way to Beijing West 西站 and the pagoda again caught our attention.

Tianning Temple and Pagoda 天宁寺塔

Sometimes, we asked our friends living in Beijing if they knew the pagoda. Most just shrugged their shoulders and told us it was obviously the famous Bai Yun Si 白云寺 (White Cloud Temple). However, that just couldn’t be so.On the map, the Taoist White Cloud Temple is on your right as you drive west towards the station, this pagoda was on the left. It had to be something else.

Taoist Monks in BaiyunSi 白云寺

With a few days to spare in Beijing on our last trip, we decided to find out what this mysterious pagoda was. And what a find!

Tianning Temple and Pagoda 天宁寺塔

After visiting the White Cloud Temple we headed south west crossing under the six-lane elevated highway that heads towards Beijing West train station and entered Fengtai District. From there we basically followed [Read more →]

Cizhong 茨中 Yunnan: From our Diary

Cizhong 茨中

Village of Wine

 And is it still there?

Cizhong Church

Cizhong Church

Having just read a devastating  article about the future of Cizhong due to the Damming of the Mekong River (No Recourse: Upper Mekong Dam Spells End for Tibetan Village), we decided to publish this review from our diary that we had never previously put up on the blog.

The Journey

31/8/2007

The Road from Feilai Si near Deqin winds its way to the bottom of the Langcang Valley (Mekong River Valley) in a series of dramatic hairpin bends. On the right the mystical mountain of Meili Xueshan teases and torments the traveller with rare glimpses of its summit and glaciers in a game of hide and seek in the monsoon summer months.

Meili Shan hidding its peak

Meili Shan hidding its peak

For one second it’s there in all its majestic glory and then the next it’s gone, hidden behind swirling clouds or an impenetrable mist.

Road to Cizhong

Road to Cizhong

As the road reaches the river at the bottom of the valley, the barren rock faces on the left that threatened to come crashing down on our puny vehicle give way to fertile green fields dotted by white villages and prayer flags.

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Welcome to one of the most romantic places in China; the tiny village of Cizhong in China’s South West Yunnan province.

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The Village

While there are many other beautiful villages in the area, Cizhong stands out because of the lovely Catholic church that dominates the centre of the village and its surrounding vineyards.

Cizhong's amazing Tibetan style church

Cizhong’s amazing Tibetan style church

The church was built by French missionaries nearly [Read more →]

Faces of Xiding Market 西定市场 Yunnan

Faces of Xiding Market Yunnan

西定市场

Bulang Women Xiding Market

Bulang Women Xiding Market

Xiding Market 西定市场 in Yunnan`s Xishuangbanna Region is one of the best. In the previous post we put up we hadn’t got the photos ready. So here is a second post with the photos. Some things will have changed. But travellers still report that it continues to be an authentic rural market that attracts a number of different minorities including Bulang, Hani, and Dai.

Hani Women

Hani Women

              We abandoned our driver, his car buried deep in the mud, and mounted a motorbike. Ironically, the previously treacherous mud bath soon became a reasonably smooth, semi-asphalted road. The drive was stunning:

Our Taxi van being towed away

Our Taxi van being towed away

we passed Dai villages with their traditional raised wooden houses, thick jungle and vistas of mist-covered hills and valleys flashed by, and just when it seemed that the scenery couldn’t get better, we arrived in Xiding, looking like an island floating above the clouds. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, the town revealed itself as a bit of a dump.

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              The small, grubby market town of Xiding may seem a strange destination, especially if you have to spend so much time and effort trying to get there, but its Thursday market is one of the most authentic ethnic markets in Xishuangbanna.

Hani Women

Hani Women

A hive of activity from dawn to midday, the market attracts nearby Dai, Hani (Aini or Akha), and Bulang minorities. It is said that Lahu also drop in, but we didn’t see or recognize any. The only real sign of Han-Chinese presence are the huge military barracks overlooking the town, a reminder that the Myanmar border is only a few kilometres away.

Bulang women

Bulang women

                The market occupies a large square, just up the road from the bus station, as well as some of the adjacent streets. There is nothing touristy about this market, [Read more →]

Route and Map 2016: Beijing to Xian

2016 Beijing To Xian

2016-Map

This summer we travelled with a friend who had never been to China before. So to give him a good introduction we made a route from Beijing to Xian passing through the province of Shanxi. Its a route that took in some magnificent Buddhist cave art, wonderful old towns and castles, the Great Wall and included some of the most beautiful temples in China. Finally finishing up with the Terracotta Army in Xian.

 

Old Castle town near Jincheng

Old Castle town near Jincheng

Shanxi Province 山西省: A journey through the cradle of Chinese culture

Shanxi Province 山西省

Yungang Caves nearDatong

Yungang Caves 云冈石窟 near Datong大同

 

Our last two trips to China have taken us to the North-Western province of Shanxi. We’ll be posting a series of articles that look at some of the most spectacular sites Shanxi has to offer.

Temple  Land at Wutai Shan

Temple Land at Wutai Shan 五台山

We’ll be recommending what to see and do in places that range from the amazing cave art of the Yungang Grottoes云冈石窟 near Datong 大同 and the temple- studded mountains of Wutai Shan 五台山 to more remote places like Qikou 碛口, a Ming dynasty village on the Yellow river, the cave houses of Lijiashan 李家山, or the castles near the bustling city of Jincheng 晋城.

Grilled Squid at Taiyuan-s wonderful night market

Grilled Squid and lamb at Taiyuan-s wonderful night market

Pingyao 平遥 won’t be forgotten. We’ve now visited this wonderful city 3 times since 2001. There will be a comprehensive review of all the incredible things to see and do in and around this unique historical city.

Shanxi Opera in Pingyao

Shanxi Opera in Pingyao 平遥

For now, here are a few photos to whet you appetite. [Read more →]

Li Qun 力群 Wood Cuts 木刻绘画 in the Wang Jia Mansion

Li Qun 力群 Wood Cuts 木刻绘画

Li Qun Wood Cut

Li Qun Wood Cut

 

Here are just a few of the beautiful wood cuts we were able to enjoy when we visited the rambling and extraordinary Wang Family Home in Shanxi Province a few hours from Pingyao.

Wang Jia Mansion

Wang Jia Mansion

We had no idea that there was a Li Qun exhibition on when we visited. It was a fantastic surprise. Some of his wood cuts are really stunning works of art.

Li Qun Wood Cut

Li Qun Wood Cut

For more on Li Qun Click here: I hope you enjoy the photos we took. I am afraid there is some reflective glare on one or two of the photos due to the wood cuts being protected by glass.

Here is a summery of  his philosophy on art:

Art for Serving the Masses

 The following text comes from: http://en.cafa.com.cn/iconic-chinese-woodcuts-artist

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“Li strongly believes that art should serve the interests of the masses–the workers, peasants and soldiers. [Read more →]

Yuci Ancient City 榆次古城: Taiyuan Shanxi Province

Yuci 榆次古城Ancient Town

God Temple Yuci

God Temple Yuci

It’s a tedious ride on a local bus from Taiyuan passing through an endless sprawl of residential tower blocks that blur the distinction between the ending of one town and the beginning of another. The apartments are interspersed with companies, ranging from small and medium-sized to large, all set back from the road in their own compounds. The traffic is relentless and the ride seems to go on and on.

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Yuci 榆次

Then, suddenly, you are dropped in Yuci榆次Ancient Town and immediately the urban horrors of modern China recede and give way to striking temples, imposing ancestor halls and magnificent but austere Confucian buildings. Add to this some exquisite vernacular buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasty and you can enjoy a superb day trip from Taiyuan.

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Yuci Street

On a beautiful winter’s day in early January with temperatures below 10 and an azure sky, we were incredulous to find the town devoid of tourists, finding ourselves more often than not the only visitors at the various sights.

Yuci Blue Skys

Yuci Blue Skys

Visiting the Ancient Town

Start by paying 60 Yuan for a Tong Piao 通票 (through ticket), which allows you to visit all the numerous sights; you can wander around the town itself without a ticket.  The first on your list, and close to the entrance, should be the magnificent God Temple 隍庙, where you’ll find [Read more →]

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015

Harbin Ice Skyscrapers

Harbin Ice Skyscrapers

At last we made it to Harbin. We had wanted to go to Harbin for its Ice Festival for years and at last everything fell into place.

What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin's favorite brew?

What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin’s favorite brew?

Here is the rundown for this year’s Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Later we’ll be putting up a more personal account. In this post we’ll give you the info you need if you are planning to go this year 2015.

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The Festival has 3 parts:

  • Harbin Ice and Snow World
  • Harbin Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo
  • Harbin Ice Lantern Fair

 

The Harbin Ice and Snow World

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This is the big one. It’s out on Sun Island, and it’s where you’ll find the [Read more →]