Xiahe & The Labrang (or Labuleng) Monastery (part 2)

Labrang (or Labuleng) Monastery

Labrang Monastery

Part 2

Click here for part one

Despite many of the changes taking place in Xiahe,  mentioned in the previous article, don’t be put you off from visiting. Xiahe, and in particular its monastery, is still a fascinating place; though you might want to get there quick!

Labrang Monastery
Labrang Monastery

The Labrang Monastery

Temple in the Labrang Monastery

Start your first visit with the obligatory guided tour around some of the main temples and halls. These days, there are English-speaking guides and our 2011 guide was truly excellent; a great improvement on the 2004 one. He tells us, among other things, that he learnt all his English in Xining and that he is a second-year philosophy student. Apparently, the monks studying philosophy have to pass 13 levels of knowledge, the equivalent of 13 years’ of study.

Xiahe Monks

He says that many of the younger monks find it quite difficult to be Continue reading “Xiahe & The Labrang (or Labuleng) Monastery (part 2)”

A Few Days in Zhangye (Gansu Province) 张掖

Stage 6: Zhangye and around (see stages 1  2  3  4  5  of our 2011 trip) & Danxia Landforms Geology Park 张掖丹霞地貌 & Mati Si / 马蹄寺

Dafo Si 大佛寺

Getting there from Alashan Yuoqi

The attractive city of Zhangye is only a three to four hour bus ride away from the Inner Mongolian town of Alshan Youqi, the gateway to the Badan Jarain Desert. And, as the friendly ticket lady at Youqi’s bus station had assured Adam two days ago, there are no problems getting tickets. So we swap the tickets for the 15.00 bus which the Badain Jaran travel agency had erroneously bought us, and hop on the 8.30 one instead.

Zhangye Stupa

The bus starts out half-empty, but doesn’t stay that way for long. This is still peasant country, where local people prefer to line up by the road side with their sacks and bundles, waiting for the bus to pick them up, rather than make their way to the bus station. The main difference with 20 years ago is that most of the transactions, involving pick- ups and drop- offs, are arranged on mobile phones these days.

Zhangye Guildhall

The other thing that takes us back into time is the speed of the ride; or rather, the lack of it. In fact, we have seldom come across a driver less in a hurry. Though we normally want our buses to go slowly and carefully, ever fearful of accidents, even we think that this guy could speed up a bit. Continue reading “A Few Days in Zhangye (Gansu Province) 张掖”

One Day in Hohhot / 呼和浩特

The Route of 2011:

Stage 1: Hohhot
Stage 2: Zhongwei
Stage 3: Yinchuan (银川) and around
Stage 4: Yinchuan to Bayan Khot
Stage 5: Bayan Khot to Alashan Youqi and the Badain Jaran Desert
Stage 6: Zhangye and around
Stage 7: Xiahe and around

Stage 1: by Adam

One Day in Hohhot 呼和浩特

Wuta 五塔寺 Hohhot

Our train from Ulan Bator arrived at midnight, much later than expected due to problems changing the bogeys at the Mongolian / Chinese border. We stumbled onto the concourse of Hohhot station and made our way into the city, only to find that none of our preferred hotels had any rooms. Our two Singaporean fellow travellers from the train (an IT specialist and an engineer) who had tagged along with us found to their dismay that there was nowhere to change money, nobody accepted dollars, and their credit cards didn’t work in the ATM’s. In other words, China is not quite on a par with Singapore (or even Mongolia) yet.

Changing the bogeys

Eventually, some friendly locals pointed us towards a rather seedy street near the train station where we managed to find a cheap room in an equally seedy hotel. Our room came with a fag- stained carpet, an electric poker table and various phone calls from ladies offering their massage services (anmo xiaojie).  We had to lend our Singaporean friends the money for their room and went almost straight to bed, feeling quite despondent. Fortunately, at least the breakfast the next morning was decent.

What to do in Hohhot in one day

First, get your ticket out Continue reading “One Day in Hohhot / 呼和浩特”

The Opium War:How far was it reasonable for the British at Canton to be surprised at the policy pursued by Commissioner Lin from 1839?

Introduction and Background

This Essay was written as part of the course Opium and Empire at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS): I submitted it on 1/3/1999. The objective of the essay was to analyse if and how the polices of the Imperial commissioner Lin Zexu, sent by the Qing court to put an end to the Opium trade, caught the  British at Canton unprepared.

The Result of Lin’s actions led directly to the first Opium War. The War was won by the British and led to the opening of China to the outside world and the subsequent collapse of the Qing dynasty and China’s imperial system.

The Question:

How far was it reasonable for the British at Canton to be surprised at the policy pursued by Commissioner Lin from 1839?

“Errors of Judgement by the Merchant community towards what Lin planned to do ..”, stemmed from the fact that “Lin was a type of official unknown to their experience.” (Sargent, p.77).


This paper will argue that the British at Canton had every reason to be surprised at the policy pursued by commissioner Lin in 1839. Firstly, by looking at the policies the Chinese authorities adopted towards foreign merchants at Canton over the issue of opium, it will be shown that there didn’t exist any precedent for Lin’s actions. Secondly, by taking a close look at the personal and political motives that were driving Lin’s policies, it will be demonstrated that the British had little or no idea of the kind of man they were dealing with. The final part of the essay will examine how Lin’s policies when implemented caught the British unaware. Continue reading “The Opium War:How far was it reasonable for the British at Canton to be surprised at the policy pursued by Commissioner Lin from 1839?”

Lijiang Today

Lijiang Today

When the Lijiang Express (a far cry from the old rust bucket that hauled us there from Panzhihua in 1991)- large leather armchairs, seatbelts, hostesses and blaring TV – pulled into modern Lijiang we feared the worst: we had arrived in what seemed to be a vast expanse of empty roads, half-finished concrete buildings, monstrous new hotels and souvenir shops… Was this going to be the Dali nightmare all over again? Adam most eloquently expresses his feelings on the over-exploitation of that once lovely village on our blog Holachina.blog » The Death of Dali / Shangri-La Tourism What happens when all of China and the world want to visit a small town? .

A friendly Naxi taxi driver drove us to the area near the waterwheels, which marks the entrance to the Old City. Immediately, we were shocked by the mayhem: we saw scores of Chinese girls dressed in fake Naxi costumes, tourist ponies, photographers, touts and, of course, hundreds of tourists milling about, or trailing after their megaphone-toting, flag-waving guides!

We quickly turned into one of the narrow, cobbled streets, these days lined with souvenir shops, and went in search of affordable accommodation, which we eventually found at the fairly atmospheric Old Town Inn.

When we emerged again in the evening, Continue reading “Lijiang Today”

The Garlic Ballads /天堂蒜薹之歌 by Mo Yan莫言 (A Book Review)

The Garlic Ballads/天堂蒜薹之歌

Mo Yan/莫言


Shit!’, I thought and my heart sank as the Chinese border police picked up the book and looked at it. Having just rigorously gone through all the photos on my digital camera, he was now holding a book that was still banned in China, as far as I knew. In normal times I wouldn’t have cared too much; the book would have been confiscated, the officers would have smiled apologetically, and we would have been allowed to continue… But these were not normal times: it was July 2008 and the Beijing Olympics were still in full swing.  Immigration Officers were under strict orders to give any stray foreigner entering China during that time a real grilling, looking out for undercover journalists, or just anybody who might disturb those perfectly orchestrated Games. We were neither, but we were the only foreigners on the boat from Thailand to Jinghong.

The young but diligent border guard stared at the book’s black cover: the picture of the garlic bulb seemed to be throbbing and Mo Yan’s name to be glowing. I waited. Was our trip to China about to end right here in the docks of Guanlei, without even setting foot on dry land?

The Garlic Ballads is a Hobbesian tale of rural China, where life does indeed seem short, violent and brutal. Set in the 1980s in Northern China, in the aftermath of Deng Xiaoping’s famous statement, ‘Getting Rich is glorious’, the Garlic Ballads highlights the breakdown in the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the peasants. The latter, still clinging to the ideals of the revolution and age- old Chinese concepts of fair and honest leadership from officials, find themselves cheated, betrayed and even murdered by a new class of CCP leaders who scandalously grab every opportunity available to enrich themselves. Mo Yan spares no niceties in his Continue reading “The Garlic Ballads /天堂蒜薹之歌 by Mo Yan莫言 (A Book Review)”

Novedades en la parte española de Hola China

Gracias a Alfredo, nuestro corrector infatigable, hemos podido colgar bastante material nuevo en la parte española de Hola China. Para empezar, en la sección de Gemas Ocultas hay dos nuevos textos, uno sobre la ciudad antigua de Lanzhong, y otro sobre el pueblo de Xizhou.


Esta pequeña ciudad con una gran historia está situada al lado del río Lialing, a unos 225 kilómetros de Chengdu. Es, a la vez, última morada del famoso y infame general Zhang Fei de la época de los Tres Reinados, lugar de nacimiento de Luo Xiahong, inventor del calendario chino, y guardián de muchos tesoros de la arquitectura tradicional de Sichuan …

No te detengas en Dali, el antiguo pueblo mítico y paraíso de mochilleros, hoy convertido en parque temático, atestado de turistas. Sigue en tu camino y, a solo 33 kilómetros, llegarás al pueblo encantador de Xizhou, con unos ejemplos impresionantes de la arquitectura Bai, cuyas calles apacibles recuerdan el Dali de antaño …

También hemos abierto la sección de Grandes Mercados en español. De momento cuenta con 3 textos sobre los mercados de Wase, Anshun y Laomeng.

Una excursión al Mercado de Wase:

Llegar al Mercado del pueblo Bai de Wase, que se celebra cada sábado, no fue tan fácil como habíamos pensado. Para empezar, la mayoría de la gente en Xizhou, la ciudad al otro lado del Lago Erhai donde nos alojamos, nos dijo que el ferry ya no existía, y que deberíamos ir en autobús, utilizando cualquier de los numerosos autobuses que dan la vuelta al Lago. Para complicar las cosas aún más …

…Wase esta situado en el lado este del Lago Erhai, unos 350 kilómetros al norte de Kunming, la capital de Yunnan. … Aparte del atractivo del mercado, el pueblo está lleno de bellas casas y mansiones Bai, caracterizadas por sus paredes de adobe y sus portales pintadas…

El mercado dominical de Anshun:

La recepcionista nos miró con cara sorprendida y preguntó: “¿Mercado? ¿Qué mercado?” “El mercado dominical”, respondí desesperado, y en un chino cada vez menos coherente. Desgraciadamente es lo que suele pasar con mi dominio de dicho idioma, sobre todo cuando la respuesta a una pregunta no es del todo lo que uno esperaba …

… La ciudad de Anshun, que se encuentra a solo dos horas de autobús desde Guiyang, la capital de la provincia de Guizhou, es una ciudad moderna, normal y corriente … No obstante, nos habían dicho que el mercado dominical de Anshun merecía una visita y, de hecho, no nos defraudó …

El mercado de Laomeng

El propietario de nuestro hotel en Yuanyang nos había dicho que deberíamos ir pronto, ya que mucha gente de los tribus tiene que volver andando a sus cabañas en lo alto de la montaña y que, por lo tanto, el mercado empieza a vaciarse alrededor de las doce …

… Habían traído una mezcla caleidoscópica de colores, en forma de muchas señoras y señoritas Hani, Yao, Yi, Miao y Thai Negra, todas vestidas en sus mejores galas, y dispuestas a pasarlo bien. ¡Y hacer sus compras y negocios al mismos tiempo, claro! …
Durante las siguientes tres horas disfrutamos de toda una fiesta visual que nos dejó sin aliento, y sin carretes …

Para saber más tendréis que ir a Hola China.

Laomeng Market (Jinping, Yunnan Province)

For an updated and complete version of Laomeng Market with new photos please click here:


The hotel owner in Yuanyang had told us to get there early, as many of the hill tribe people have to walk all the way back and the market starts breaking up at around noon.

So we got to Laomeng at about 8:30, where we were among the first to arrive. We walked once round the town and had a look at the few stalls already set up by a small number of colourfully dressed Miao ladies and some older Yi women. Most of them seemed as curious about us, as we were about them. By the time we got back to our starting point, dozens of vans, carts and other vehicles had already arrived, unloading hundreds of passengers and all kinds of goods. They brought with them a kaleidoscopic mix of colours, as ladies from the Hani, Yao, Yi, Miao and Black Thai ethnic groups spilled out from the back and descended upon the market for a few hours of frenzied buying and selling.

For the next 3 hours we were treated to a visual feast that left us drained and out of film. Our driver had filled us in on some of the intricacies of the local costumes, so we were more or less able to distinguish between the women from the different ethnic groups…
For more go to:

Miao Fruit Sellers
Miao Fruit Sellers

Detian Pubu (Waterfall): Photo of the Week

Detian Waterwall The border between China and Vietnam

The thunderous Detian Waterfall doesn’t respect borders. It spans the Chinese and Vietnamese frontier making life hell for border guards trying to keep nosy travellers from going where they shouldn’t.


For more info click here: https://holachina.com/?p=1268