Huanghua Cheng 黄花城 Walking the Wild Wall: 2001

 

From our Diary 

Monday 24 September, 2001.

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城


The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

We are picked up at 7.30 sharp by Sue Lin in his shiny black car and leave Beijing via a four-lane road, lined with old trees. The road looks innocent and pleasant enough, but apparently people get killed here everyday. Although Sue Lin is a good driver, we ourselves experience a couple of near misses, due to the crazy manoeuvres of other vehicles.


The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

It’s supposed to be only 60 kilometres to the village, but it takes us more than two hours. We have to stop and ask for directions a couple of times and once we even have to backtrack a bit. We don’t mind at all, because the scenery is absolutely gorgeous; we are surrounded by those dark, rolling mountains that I remember from my first visit to the Wall, so many years ago.


The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

In fact, our route takes us quite close to Mutianyu. From time to time we can actually see crumbly bits of the Wall, running along the tops of the hills. At the foot of the mountains there are fields of corn, wheat and beans, and small villages. There is a busy traffic of donkeys and carts because this is September and the harvest is in full swing. We are in the middle of the real, rural China, we have seen so little of on this trip, and so close to Beijing as well!

Our journey ends at the refreshment stall of an incredible old lady who whips out a copy of ‘Lonely Planet’ and explains all the pros and cons of the two possible routes. She proudly shows us her collection of photos, taken by and with foreign visitors.


The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

Apart from selling drinks, snacks and film, she also keeps the most amazing toilet: it’s a concrete box, open to the air and entirely without doors, so that you have to climb over the wall to get in, or out. Most importantly, it’s clean, airy and quite pleasant.


The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

The views from here are stunning: there is a very steep piece of Wall right in front of us, and a reservoir on the other side. Something that looks like a Continue reading “Huanghua Cheng 黄花城 Walking the Wild Wall: 2001”

Hakka Tulou / Earth Buildings / 土樓

Photo of the Week:  福建土樓 Fujian Tulou 2005

Tulou Fujian  福建土樓

Just a few of the magnificant Hakka Earth Buildings (Tulou) we were fortunate enough to visit before the arrival of mas tourism.

The Tulou are found in the province of Fujian. Other hakka earth buildings can be found in Guangdong and Jiangxi Provinces

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Hakka1b-708x1024.jpg

International Women’s Day in China

During the One Child Policy (一胎政策) which finished in 2015, the Chinese government tried to persuade the population not to discriminate against having female children.  Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful and has resulted in there being far more males than females in China. Traditional families, especially in the countryside chose to have a male child over a female child.

This is a government propaganda sign in Rural China (Bakai, Rongjiang, Guizhou Province) reminding the local population that males and females are equal.

Boys and Girls are the same.
生男生女都一样

However, due the gender imbalance, the government is now asking women to lower their aspirations and be less picky when choosing a male partner for life.

There is still a lot of work to do.

 

Maijishan: Haystack Mountain

Maijishan 麦积山

Haystack Mountain:

Tianshui 天水  Gansu Province 甘肃省

Maijishan 麦积山

There is nothing quite like Maijishan 麦积山 in China. The bizarre, haystack shaped mountain rises majestically up over a subtropical zone of greenery and rivers.  Other Buddhist sites might have enormous statues or high ceiling-ed painted caves, but the views they offer are often more restrictive and it may be difficult to get up close, due to barriers or hordes of visitors.

Maijishan 麦积山

At Maijishan 麦积山, the cave art and statues are right in your face and you can almost touch them, though you mustn’t, of course!  And, in addition, there is the mountain itself: a honeycomb of caves and statues reached by climbing up a snakes and ladder board of incredible staircases that cling precariously to the side of the mountain.

Maijishan 麦积山

The first Chinese character of Maijishan, “mai” (麦), means wheat or grain resulting in the mountain being called Haystack Mountain, because of its uncanny resemblance to the Continue reading “Maijishan: Haystack Mountain”

Lijiashan 李家山窑洞村

Lijiashan 李家山窑洞村

山西省

Lijiashan 李家山

Lijiashan 李家山 is probably one of the best examples of Northern China’s cave dwelling architecture 窑洞风格. Situated in a steep valley above the Yellow river 黄河, it exudes bucolic charm. However, if you are not going to stay the night or go off hiking, an hour or two is enough to see everything and have a cold beer.

Lijiashan 李家山

Lijiashan (from Margie’s diary 26/8/2016)

Qikou 碛口Guesthouse 13.00

The driver, who had taken us to Qikou 碛口 from Lüliang Lishi 吕梁离石, has convinced us that Lijiashan village is much too far too walk. For another 30 Yuan he’ll drive us, wait and take us back. But first we can have a beer and something to eat. As we fancy the home-made noodles which have to be ordered for three, our driver joins us for lunch. We have cucumber salad, aubergine with beans, plus the delicious noodles with a simple fresh tomato, coriander and chive sauce.

Lijiashan 李家山

The ride to Lijiashan is not far (5kms), but the road is windy and at times exceedingly steep. It’s also a scorching day and there’s little or no shade from the merciless sun, so we are pleased we took the lazy option.  The village is really tiny, much smaller than I’d expected. Our guidebook had written a whole column about it. The setting is nonetheless lovely: the village is surrounded by green hills, some of them terraced, and there are lots of fruit trees and plants.

Lijiashan 李家山

There are cave-dwellings, mostly abandoned, as well as more elaborate complexes, set around courtyards with cave-rooms at the back. Most buildings are dilapidated, though some Continue reading “Lijiashan 李家山窑洞村”

Chinese New Year 春节: The Nightmare of Going Home

Chinese New Year

The Nightmare of Going Home

By Train

The New Year Rush
The New Year Rush

Getting train tickets in China has always been a hit and miss operation, especially if you want sleeper berths for long distance trains. At Chinese New Year, getting a ticket becomes something akin to winning the lottery.

Train Mayhem
Train Mayhem

This BBC clip sums the situation up quite well, and shows the growing divide between the haves and have nots in modern China, where just having access to a computer is an advantage。

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25911127

We've got a seat!
We’ve got a seat!

Glad to be home
Glad to be home

Jianshui 建水Yunnan Province: Which Minority? Can you help?

Jianshui Yunnan Province

Do you recognise this minority?

Is she Yi / Hani / Miao or Yao?

Which Ethnic Minority?

Jianshui 建水  2006.  This photo was taken in 2006 in Jianshui, Yunnan province from the top of the city gate. I have been trying to work out which ethnic minority this lady belongs to for a while now. My guess is that she is from the Yi Minority 彝族, but there are also Miao苗族, Hani哈尼族 and Yao瑶族 minorities in the vicinity of Jianshui. If anyone else can be more precise I’d be grateful.

Adam

Which Minority?

La Guía esencial de la lengua china

La Guía esencial de la lengua china

Baoyan Zhao & Francisco Javier López Calvo

Guia Esencial de la Lengua China

La Guía esencial de la lengua china  has been written by my friend and colleague at the Centro Superior de Idiomas Modernas (CSIM) in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Baoyan Zhao and her co-author Francisco Javier López Calvo. As the book is mainly for Spanish learners of Chinese I have left the review in Spanish. However, many of  the tips and advice in the book can be useful for all learners of Chinese.

La Guía esencial de la lengua china es un libro de consulta que resuelve aquellas dudas que surgen durante el estudio del chino. Por medio de una accesible estructura de preguntas y respuestas los autores se acercan a los distintos aspectos de la lengua china, de manera detallada y precisa pero a la vez con un estilo fácilmente comprensible para el lector. Tanto si estáis pensando en empezar con el estudio del chino, si os encontráis en las primeras fases del aprendizaje o si lleváis cierto tiempo con ello, en este libro encontraréis una gran cantidad de información provechosa, interesante y curiosa. Dado que la lengua china a primera vista puede intimidar por su complejidad y por lo diferente, este libro pretende ser el mapa o la guía de viaje que os ayudará a comprender mejor el punto donde os encontráis, y que sin duda hará más fácil y eficaz vuestro estudio. Como apunta el propio libro en su portada, un buen comienzo es la mitad del éxito, y a través de sus páginas encontraréis la manera de que vuestro comienzo sea el mejor posible.

Kaiping Diaolou / Guangdong Province (Visiting the Diaolou)

Kaiping Diaolou

Guangdong Province: China

Diao Lou in Jinjiangli Village 锦江里的碉楼

The Diaolou

These amazing buildings sprout like giant mushrooms from the pretty paddy fields around Kaiping. Some structures are simple and plain affairs, others elaborate and ornate, the best are jaw droppingly beautiful.

Diao Lou near Kaiping

The Diaolou were mostly built by returning Chinese emigrants in the early years of the 20th Century, especially in the 1920s.  Many reflect the styles of the countries where the  émigrés went, like Malaysia, Indonesia, Europe or North America.  Some of the Diaolou are a mix of different styles.  Building a Dialou was a returning émigré’s way of showing the homeland that he had made it.  However, at the same time, one of the principal functions of a Diaolou was defensive. China in the 1920’s was in the midst of the Warlord era. Internal conflicts and instability were rife.

Dialou everywhere

Bandits and remnants of warlord armies roamed the countryside, pillaging and looting. The Diaolou were used primarily as night watch-towers and as a way of sealing off and protecting the family from potential intruders and kidnappers. This was done by providing the towers with heavily fortified entrance gates, as well as the means of closing off each floor separately.

The more elaborate Diaolou were also built to display their owners’ wealth and prestige. Some have commemorative plaques, documenting the family’s history.  There are stories of great patriotic heroism, others are of personal tragedies and incredible hardship. When the Japanese invaded China, many of the Diaolou owners fled abroad and never returned.

Abandoned Diaolou

After the Chinese Revolution in 1949, the Diaolou fell into disuse and were all but forgotten until the 1990s. However, after a long campaign by Chinese history scholars, the Diaolou of Kaiping were listed as UNESCO heritage in 2007. Slowly, the descendants of some of the emigrants have been returning to restore the buildings. There are still over 1,800 Diaolou in the Kaiping region.

To visit the Diaolou, you first have to get to Kaiping, which is  some two and a half hours by bus from Guangzhou.

Kaiping

Kaiping is Continue reading “Kaiping Diaolou / Guangdong Province (Visiting the Diaolou)”

Diao Lou: China’s hidden gems

Diao Lou: China’s hidden gems

Diao Lou Kaiping

These amazing buildings are called Diaolou. They are found exclusively in the vicinity of Kaiping in China’s Guangdong Province.

Diao Lou Kaiping

During the coming weeks and months we’ll be putting up information and photos of the various villages we visited around Kaiping. As well as plenty of other new China travel material.

Diao Lou Kaiping