Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ritan Park

Men playing cards in Ritan Park in Beijing.

This past weekend Margot and I took a walk in Ritan Park on Sunday afternoon.

These men were playing cards in front of a mural in the center of the park.
Pavilion and lake in Ritan Park in Beijing

You can see that the trees are getting the first hint of green. Spring will be arriving in earnest soon.

I'm not sure what brought these photographers and their subjects to the park. I was thinking maybe engangement photos? On the other hand, who brings 3 photographers and an assistant for an engagement picture. The more I think about it maybe it is a camera club or something.
Young women in Ritan Park

These 5 young women were walking ahead of us. About the time I commented to Margot about how skinny they were they stopped in front of us to take a picture. I volunteered to use their camera to get all five of them then asked them to let me take their picture. Given how comfortable they were in front of the camera I'm thinking they were models. Margot detected a Eastern European accent of some sort.

These kids were singing Happy Birthday to one of their friends in English. They weren't shy about it, either. They were really belting it out.

Another group on girls were on an Easter egg hunt this Palm Sunday - no pictures.

There was a group of men flying kites in the park. It really isn't conducive to that because of all the trees but there is a small hill that they were using as a launching spot.

In China, flying kites isn't just for kids. These guys come well equipped with special reels and tools for extracting their kites if they become stuck in a tree.
Kite flying in Ritan Park.

Here you can get a little sense of the small hill that they were standing on.

He is reeling this one end.
Reel for kite string

They don't use a ball of string wrapped around a stick. Their reels are pretty high-tech.

The string looks special, too.

Click to enlarge.

These women were doing taichi. They had set up a little portable sound system to provide some music.

Here is another group of men playing cards.

The Temple of the Sun or Ritan was built in 1530. The area around the alter is now an eponymous public park. The emperors came here to pray and offer sacrifices to the sun. There is a complementary park on the west side of Beijing called Yuetan or Temple of the Moon.
Climbing wall in Ritan Park in Beijing

I'm pretty sure this wasn't around when the emperors came to pray. This is a climbing wall.

We didn't try it.

This little kid was working his way up.

I'm guessing he was 9 or 10.

Not sure who chose the brand name for this Chinese outdoor gear company. I guess Rocky Mountain, Sierra, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Alps, etc. were all taken. For some reason, the name Ozark doesn't conjure up an image to match the mountains on their logo. Maybe they figure most of their customers will never visit the real Ozarks.  http://www.ozarkgear.com/

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Liulichang and Dazhalan

Calligraphy brushes at Liulichang

A few weeks ago, I took a walk through an area called Liulichang and another called Dazhalan that are close to each other.

Liulichang is known for calligraphy, art and antiques.

These are calligraphy brushes.
Store fronts in Liulichang

The name Liulichang means colored tile factory and was known for the production of ceramic tile for palaces and temples.

The old man seems to be enjoying the sunshine.

Here is another street scene. The area has recently been rebuilt and all the main streets are pretty modern although they tried to keep the feel of the area.
Shadow puppets at Liulichang

These are shadow puppets.

You can learn more about them here.

Shadow Puppets

Lots of shouting as these two kids were wrestling in the street. There didn't seem to be any major hurt feelings when it was over. No idea what it was about.

This is a picture of one of the side streets.
Ruifuxiang store front in Dazhalan or Dashilan

I think this is the store front for Ruifuxiang Silk Store on Dazhalan. It was built in 1893. At the time it was the largest silk store in Beijing.

Here is another picture of the street. It is a very old commercial street.

Take a look at the store front on the left with the red lanterns hanging on either side of the door.

The picture below is of the same stores.
A 1928 picture of Dazhalan or Dashilan

One of the stores had this picture in the lobby. It was taken in 1928.

Notice the rickshaws on the street.

This is a diorama of a silk store in times past. I need to ask some of my Chinese friends to interpret the writing at the top of the shelves. I think one of them means don't ask about price - the quoted one is fair.

This store has a wrought iron front.

This is the paifang or gate at the entrance to Qianmen Street at the southern end of Tian'anmen Square.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Houhai Area - Beijing and Hairy Monkeys

Kaorouji restaurant on Qianhai near Houhai in Beijing

The other day after we left the Drum and Bell Towers we walked through the Houhai area on our way to the subway station.

Here is the earlier post about the Drum and Bell Towers.  Drum and Bell Towers
Yandaixie Jie near Houhai in Beijing

These next few pictures are of some back alleys or hutongs that lead to the Houhai area. They are a very popluar tourist area - lots of shops and cafes.

It was pretty busy on Sunday afternoon.

There are shops selling every sort of souvenir you can imagine.
Pedestrians on Yandaixie Jie near Houhai in Beijing

This street is Yandaixie if you are looking for it.

This is Houhai. It is connected to Qianhai under the bridge I am standing on.

OK, here is a little Chinese lesson. The Chinese characters for Houhai are 后海 which mean back (as in behind) lake or sea. 后=back, 海=big lake or sea. The romanization of these characters in the pinyin system is hòuhǎi - hence the name Houhai. Qianhai means front lake. The character 上 is pronounced shang and means "above". Can you think of a large Chinese city whose name means "above the sea"?
Pedicabs for hutong tours at Houhai in Beijing

A popular tourist activity in this area is the hutong tour. You can sit in the back of these 3 wheel bikes and they will drive you through the hutongs and along the lake. There were a bunch of them waiting. I guess it was a slow day.
A "hairy monkey" - traditional Beijing handicraft

We stumbled onto a shop selling a traditional Beijing handicraft known as "hairy monkeys". These hairy monkeys are made from cicada parts and magnolia flower buds and are typically shown in traditional daily life settings or activities. Most of the work is in creating the setting. The range of activities that are depicted is pretty amazing.

The artist was gracious enough to pose with us. I'll update the name when I can find his business card.

You can find more info about hairy monkeys here.  Hairy Monkeys

Click to enlarge.

The following weekend I went back to the area with a tripod to take some night pictures. I thought it might be fun. I was wrong. I didn't dress warmly enough and I was too early for the crowds.

This is Yandaixie street, also. Pretty empty compared to earlier.

If you look back a few pictures you may recognize this location in  the daytime pictures.

Same with this one.

I don't know what time the shops here close. I imagine 9:00 PM or so.

This is Houhai again. Both lakes are lined with bars and restaurants - mostly bars. It is supposedly a fun place in the evening when the weather is nice. Most of the bars will put tables out on the sidewalk.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Drum and Bell Towers

A couple of weeks ago Margot and I went out for a walk - mostly just for exercise but also to visit the Drum and Bell Towers.

This is the Drum Tower. It was built here in 1420 although there was an earlier version about 100 years earlier.

This is the Bell Tower. The two towers are separated by a small courtyard or square. The two towers were used to announce the time in Beijing until 1924 when this function was abandoned.

Here some men are playing Xiangqi or Chinese chess in the courtyard between the towers. It is definitely a spectator sport. You never see 2 people playing alone. They always attract onlookers.

Xiangqi on Wikipedia

We took the subway to Yonghegong station (Lama Temple) and then walked past the temple and over to the towers.

We passed by the north end of Nanluoguxiang. It was quite busy this day, also. I posted some pictures from Nanluoguxiang a few weeks ago. You can find them here if you missed them earlier. Nanluoguxiang

Here is a link to the Lama Temple if you missed it last fall. Yonghegong

Apparently this vampire/zombie mania has hit Beijing, also.

I'm so proud of our western cultural exports.

I didn't have a place for these Chinese New Year or Spring Festival decoration pictures so I will stick them here. This is at Oriental Plaza outside the Hyatt Hotel.

This is a closeup of the center decoration. A very popular spot to take pictures.

This is inside the Oriental Plaza shopping mall below our apartment. The little girl seems to be having fun posing for her parents.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Last Day in New Zealand - Christchurch

We spent our last day in Christchurch. We had a pleasant surprise we we checked in. Somehow we were upgraded to a suite. The Merivale Manor consists of a old house and then several newer motel structures. We were in the first floor of the original house.

This is the entryway. Two bedrooms on the right and a sitting area, dining room and kitchen on the left.

This is the dining, kitchen, sitting area.

This is the front bedroom. We actually used the back bedroom.

We wandered around downtown Christchurch for a few hours before heading to the airport.

This is a small park along the river.

Anyone know what this is? I thought the fruit/nut was interesting.
Damaged building in Christchurch

As you may recall Christchurch was hit with a couple of major earthquakes a couple of years ago. It has had a huge impact on downtown Christchurch.

This old building has been partly demolished. I don't know what they are going to do with the rest of it.
Large building being dismantled in Christchurch New Zealand

The first quake was on Sept 4, 2010 and measured 7.1 but was about 24 miles away. There was another big quake on Feb 22, 2011 that measured 6.3 but was directly under Christchurch. There was a 5.8 aftershock 13 minutes later.

This building was so badly damaged it is being torn down.

This building, a church I believe, is braced up. I suppose it will be restored at some point.

The death toll was 185 in the second quake including 115 killed in one building collapse.
Damaged cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand

This is the main Anglican Cathedral in downtown Christchurch. It isn't clear to me if they plan to repair it or not. I gather they are doing engineering studies to determine if the land is stable enough.
Shipping containers being used to support a building in Christchurch

Here they have stacked up containers to form a structure for support of this building.
Container mall in Christchurch with Chinese decorations

I thought this was an interesting concept  - they have built what they call a container mall. This is a shopping and dining area built out of shipping containers.

Notice the decorations for Chinese New Year. Tourists from China are very important to the NZ economy.
Container mall in Christchurch

Here is another look at part of the mall.

Much of the downtown area is still blocked off and merchants have moved here temporarily.
A display at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch

We stopped by the International Antarctic Centre in the afternoon. It is located right at the airport so it was very convenient. It covers the history of the exploration of Antarctica and the ecological and development challenges ahead. It is really quite interesting. It very interesting for kids but with enough technical and science stuff to keep me interested.
Little Blue Penguin at the International Antarctic Centre in New Zealand

They have a penguin habitat there. These are Little Blue Penguins from New Zealand that have been rescued for one reason or another. Some are blind, some have deformed beaks and some are partially paralyzed.

Here are a group hanging out after dinner.

You can learn more here. www.iceberg.co.nz/

Here are links to all the previous NZ posts if you missed one.
First Day in New Zealand
Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier
More Queenstown
Shotover River
Arrowtown and the Gold Rush
Milford Sound
The Drive to Wanaka
Franz Josef Glacier
Arthur's Pass