Coming Soon

The Yin Yang Bridge in Cixi, Wuyuan.

In the next week two new new articles will be posted on:
HolaChina: Your Gateway to China
The first will be about the town of Zhenyuan in Eastern Guizhou.

View over Zhenyuan

zy1.jpg

The second will be about the area of Wuyuan in Jiangxi Province.

The Yin Yang covered bridge in Cixi, Wuyuan

wyn11.jpg

Pidan / Songhua Dan or 1000 Year Old Eggs

songhua-dan.jpg

Just the name is usually enough for most people to distort their faces in a display of disgust and exclaim: “YUCK”, “URGH” or “revolting”! Quite often this reaction is repeated when they are seen and smelt for the first time, lying on a plate, dark, slimy and odorous. However, if this initial repulse barrier can be overcome and the diner is persuaded to try them, then the reaction is usually, “ah delicious”, “yum”! And a new convert has been won.

The Chinese translation for what we in the West call “thousand-year-old-eggs” is “pine-flower-eggs” (Songhua Dan), due to the flowery patterns resembling pine needles that…….. For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

tofu-with-thousand-year-old-eggs.jpg

Gansu Travel Insurance “Mafan” 2002

Kafka Comes to China

Mafan 麻烦 meaning:  hassle / bother/ inconvenience
Pingliang Bus Ticket
The Holy Grail: Bus ticket to Pingliang 平凉

Getting to Pingliang 平凉 to Visit Kongtong Shan 崆峒山

甘肃保险 Gansu Bus Insurance

It wasn’t as easy as we had thought. Having paid 200 yuan for the Gansu Travel Insurance, a worthless piece of paper that does nothing for the hapless traveller, but protects the bus company in case you are injured or killed on one of their buses, a possibility that cannot be excluded, given some of the driving and conditions on the roads, we expected to be sold a ticket and board the bus to Pingliang.

甘肃保险 Gansu Bus Insurance

Adam had seen on the departures board that a bus was leaving at 11.20, so he strolled over to the window, insurance paper in hand, to purchase two tickets. To our amazement, he was told by the rude attendant that there were meiyou (no) buses to Pingliang, ever, and that we had to take the train. Disbelieving, we went outside, to the departures area where we identified the actual bus and checked with the driver and conductor, who both confirmed that this was indeed the bus to Pingliang and that it was leaving at 11.20, but that we had to buy a ticket at the ticket office.

Kongtong Shan 崆峒山 the reason for visiting Pingliang

Round two: we returned to the office, choosing a different window, and asked for 2 tickets again. The second attendant just waved her hand at us in a dismissive manner and said meiyou baoxian (no insurance). So that was the problem? Triumphantly, Adam pulled out the insurance paper and placed it in front of her. Without even looking at it she just repeated meiyou and turned to the customers behind us. Though Adam insisted that our insurance was in order, she just blanked us, as if we didn’t exist. And here began one of those episodes that occasionally can drive China travellers to despair: we refused to budge, she refused to look at us, or our insurance. After a stand-off of 2 or 3 minutes, she pulled down the shutter and moved away. We tried two more ticket sellers, but met with the same response.

Kongtong Shan 崆峒山 the reason for visiting Pingliang

Eventually, we decided to just board the bus. We took two seats and waited. The conductor wanted to take us and was willing to purchase two tickets on our behalf. Unfortunately, an inspector prevented her from doing so. By now it was 11.20 and the driver was anxious to leave. However, knowing that we were in the right, we refused to get off. It was an uncomfortable situation for all, but we held our ground, locked in a ridiculous battle of wills.

Kongtong Shan 崆峒山 the reason for visiting Pingliang

As a last resort, Adam decided to appeal to the PSB, the security police. Leaving me on the bus, he went to the PSB desk inside the bus station. A friendly officer told him that he needed insurance to travel in Gansu province. Patiently, he again produced our insurance papers. Again, without looking at the papers, the officer told Adam to follow him to a travel agent’s next to the bus station. The agent pulled out some forms for us to fill in and said the insurance would cost 200 Yuan. Totally exasperated Adam showed our papers again and, at long last, someone actually bothered to look at them! ‘But you already have travel insurance!’ the surprised travel agent exclaimed, comparing the two forms. Back to the station Adam went, victoriously, accompanied by the PSB officer. He marched up to the same ticket seller, who had previously spurned his insurance papers. This time she merely smiled sheepishly and quickly sold him two tickets. Then we were off!

The Holy Grail: Bus ticket to Pingliang 平凉

Kongtong Shan 崆峒山 the reason for visiting Pingliang
Kongtong Shan 崆峒山 the reason for visiting Pingliang

Huanglongxi China’s Little Hollywood

Huanglongxi: Where Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon was Film

Huanglongxi: China’s Little Hollywood: Close to Chengdu is the town of Huanglongxi. Though not on the foreign tourist map, it is definitely a must for domestic tourists. Huanglongxi has been the stage set for many of China’s most famous soap operas, TV series and historical dramas, as well as some of Hong Kong’s biggest Kung Fu blockbusters. More recently, the box office hit ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ was partly film in Huanglongxi.

Huanglongxi: China's Little Hollywood sweet-maker
Huanglongxi: China’s Little Hollywood sweet-maker huanglongxi

Huanglongxi: China’s Little Hollywood

Huanglongxi Old Street
Huanglongxi Old Street

It is a small town with a number of perfectly preserved streets and traditional Qing dynasty houses. Unfortunately, some of the streets have become slightly tacky, due to the proliferation of souvenir stalls.

Playing Board Games Huanglongxi
Playing Board Games Huanglongxi

Nonetheless, if you stroll a few hundred meters away from the main tourist drags, you will find yourself in equally beautiful, but quiet, back streets that even now preserve their artisan shops.

Quite Streets Huanglongxi
Quite Streets Huanglongxi

You’ll find places where they build paper spirit-houses, make bamboo fans, crush chillies and braid rope from straw. If you’re lucky, you may catch an opera performance in a side-street teahouse, or musicians rehearsing with traditional instruments in a back room.

Huanglongxi Impromptu Music and Tea
Huanglongxi Impromptu Music and Tea

While at weekends and lunchtimes the village can be a bit overrun, we found our afternoon visit rather relaxing. Next to the river are a host of teahouses, where snacking on spicy shrimps and fried fish and slurping gallons of tea are the order of the day.

Restaurant by the River: Huanglongxi
Restaurant by the River: Huanglongxi

Huanglongxi: A good place to Chill Out

A cold beer by the river Huanglongxi
A cold beer by the river Huanglongxi

Most of these places will also do a good cold beer, if you fancy a change. Besides the teahouses, traditional architecture and flagstone streets, Huanglongxi also has a few interesting temples that are definitely worth a visit.

The Temple Where they Filmed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Temple Where they Filmed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

In fact, one of these temples boasts a real theatre in its courtyard, where you can partake of tea on the stage. This is also where they shot some scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The Temple Where they Filmed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Temple Where they Filmed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Return to Sichuan Province

The Injustice to Dou E

Dou E in Madrid,

or how to enjoy classical Chinese theatre

dou-e.jpg

The Play

The Spanish theatre group Tragaleguas, which means ‘quick or great walker’ and who are based in Castilla – La Mancha, recently put on an innovative and fascinating version of the play ‘La Injusticia Contra Dou E Que Conmovio el Cielo Y La Tierra’, or in English ‘The Injustice to Dou E’, at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid.

This play, also known as ‘Snow in Midsummer’, was written by the Yuan dynasty Chinese playwright Guan Hanqing. Brilliantly performed in Spanish, by Spanish actors, ‘Dou E’ transported the audience back to ancient China and was enthralling from beginning to end. Tragaleguas need to be applauded for this imaginative and ground-breaking production, in the best tradition of early-Shakespearian theatre.

The play cleverly combined comic elements with fight scenes, acrobatics and high drama. Costumes, background and music were minimalist, yet evocative of ancient China, while the scenes of Dou E’s death and resurrection lent the production a distinctively modern flavour.

Best of all, Tragaleguas treatment of the play made the characters and their psychological make-up and motivation, which can be fairly hermetic in a Chinese play or novel, easily accessible to Western audiences.

The Story

Dou E is a motherless girl from an impoverished family, whose father sells her as a future bride into another household, so that he can travel to the capital Beijing and take the imperial exams.

More misfortune befalls Dou E when her husband dies shortly after the wedding and she and her mother-in-law are left all alone. A couple of local hoodlums, father and son, try to force the two women into marrying them. Dou E stubbornly refuses, faithful to the memory of her husband.

Eventually, a sequence of tragic events leads to the death of the elder of the two men. Dou E is falsely accused, tortured and found guilty of murder. At her execution, she staunchly defends her innocence and issues a warning to the people of the town, claiming that Heaven will surely avenge her.

Three years later, her father returns to the region as a judge. On finding it was his daughter who was executed for murder, he re-opens the case and conducts a re-trail which clears Dou E of the false charge.

The Playwright :

Guan Hanqing

Guan Hanqing, the playwright who is known as China’s Shakespeare, wrote during the Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368, when China was ruled by Mongol emperors. Of the 64 plays credited to him, only 15 complete works remain today. ‘The Injustice to Dou E’ is his most famous work.

Guan Hanqing is credited for having started the Zaju dramatic art form. This form, which concentrated more on the problems and injustice faced by the common people, rather than on the lives of the elites, probably developed as a result of the Chinese literati themselves becoming second-class citizens under the foreign, Mongol emperors.

Guan Hanqing’s plays exposed the contradiction between the long- held assumption that the Emperors were to be regarded as the Sons of Heaven and the reality of the injustice many common people suffered under their reign. The last words Dou E spoke before her death probably sum up Guan Hanqing’s own bitterness towards the Yuan emperors: “Those who are kind are poor and die young, while evil-doers enjoy wealth and longevity. Heaven and earth both bully the weak and fear the strong, not daring to go against the flow. Earth, you make no distinction between right and wrong; and Heaven, you mistake the wise for the foolish.”

Recommendation

If you happen to live in Spain, you should check out ‘Tragaleguas’ programme, to see if you can catch another performance, it’s definitely worth it (www.tragaleguas.es).

Other readers should look out for any of Guan Hanqing’s plays being performed anywhere near them.

de2.jpg

All is not well in Paradise (Wutai Shan)

wutai-shan1.jpg

Wutai Shan, the stunningly beautiful area of Buddhist monasteries in China’s Shanxi Province, is under going radical changes. The local authorities are attempting to evict hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been living off the tourist trade. While Some of them recent arrivals, others have lived under the mountains for generations and helped the Communists fight the Japanese. The reason for their eviction? So that Wutai Shan can claim UNESCO World Heritage status and thus attract even more tourists.

wt3.jpg

Government presence in Wutai Shan even in 2001

This information was published in the Guardian but the URL has been lost. A cyber attack maybe?

Keep on trying: Compulsory resettlement in Wutai Shan | World news | guardian.co.uk

A more peaceful Wutai Shan

wt2.jpg

The Hakka Earth Buildings (Tulou)

The Hakka Regions and the Earth-buildings

tl2.jpg

The bus ride from Chaozhou back into Fujian through the Hakka areas is beautiful. You pass through green mountains, rolling hills and rich farming land. What is more, there are several stunning villages along the way, great places for a quick stop and a bit of exploring, if you had your own car. Of course, there is also the occasional ugly industrial town to remind you that you are still in the 21st Century.

tl11.jpg

There is a marked difference between the Han villages you see on the early part of the journey and the Hakka villages near the Fujianese border. The Han villages are compact, houses are made of stone and white-washed, a number of them are two-storied with traditional eaved roofs, quite similar to the famous Huizhou architecture, near Huangshan. As you approach the Fujian border, the ordered Han villages give way to more spread-out farming settlements, characterised by the traditional Hakka earth buildings. The ones you see along the way are absolutely authentic and family clans still live in……….

tl4.jpg

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

tl3.jpg

Don’t go to Dali….

roofs.jpg

Avoid Dali, the once mythical city and haven of back-packers, now not much more than a vulgar theme park. Only 33 kilometres away is the lovely village of Xizhou, with its impressive Bai architecture, which can give you a taste of what Dali once was like. If you wish to explore the beautiful area around Erhai Lake, you could do a lot worse than base yourself in this friendly and laid-back village.

Xizhou has played an important role in the history of this region of Yunnan, as it once served as an important military base and……

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

baiwomengood.jpg

Zigong / Salt and Dinosaour City

Zigong: A Gem.

zg1.jpg
As you approach Zigong, sculptures and posters of dinosaurs announce that you’re arriving in “Dinosaur City”, as the city is known by the Chinese. Zigong is a pleasant modern city, built along the banks of the Fuxi River that has so far managed to maintain large areas of traditional and interesting architecture, despite its recent development and prosperity.

Besides Dinosaurs, Zigong has an abundance of sites, and is definitely worth spending a couple of days. The city owes its prosperity not so much to dinosaurs, as to salt and, in particular, the important role this product played during Imperial times. The salt mining techniques developed at Zigong were among the most sophisticated in the ancient world. They included building precision drills,…….

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

zg4.jpg