Sunday, September 29, 2013

People's Daily's New HQ

You may remember that I posted some pictures of the Beijing skyline that included this picture. (See original post here --> Beijing Skyline). The building framed in the other is the headquarters of the People's Daily which is the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. In general, people recognize that there can be a gap between what their stories say and the reality of the situation if the facts don't align with the party position. On the other hand, announcements in the paper are considered authoritative positions of the government.

Well, the linked story below incredulously reports that the building will have a gold facade. As the story notes, the jokes write themselves.

Someone already beat me to the "Gold Member" reference.

You can read the story here --> The People's Daily HQ is A Giant ...

Here is the People's Daily Wikipedia entry --> Wikipedia

Here is their online version -->  English People's Daily

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dagang, Tianjin, PRC

I don't think I have ever posted any pictures from Dagang. Dagang is a small industrial city or district of Tianjin. Tianjin is actually quite large - about the size of South Carolina and Dagang is at the southern end.

Dagang is the location of the plant on which I am working. (Margot made me lose the dangling preposition.) Everyday after lunch I walk down to the local market to buy a Coke. I stopped to take pictures of a few of the street vendors one day.

The lady above is making some sort of rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed - sort of like sushi but without the fish.

This guy is making kaomianjin which is literally roasted gluten. I think it is some sort wheat based dish.

Here is a closeup. I'm not sure how he does the spiral cut.

You can have it as spicy as you want.

This is a picture of a lake and park on the north side of Dagang.

There is a small amusement park there. I didn't get a picture but there is mini-zoo there with some monkeys.

This is looking the other way. The large building is a university. I think it may be the Tianjin Foreign Language University.

This picture is looking south from the hill in the park toward the refinery and petrochemical complex where the plant will be built.

The two closest chimneys are at municipal heating plants. In China north of the Yellow and Huai Rivers, the government supplies heat to all urban houses via these power plants. They distribute the heat to the apartment buildings as steam. The heat comes on on November 15 and goes off on March 15 in this area. In Beijing the target is to keep the temperature inside at 64 Deg F. Our apartment (and many others) has supplemental heating.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Zhihua Temple

Tathagata Hall and Wanfo Pavilion at Zhihua Temple in Beijing

Last weekend we headed out on Sunday afternoon to visit the Zhihua Temple. Margot had visited the temple a few weeks earlier with a weekday tour group. This temple was built in 1444 and is one of the few wooden structures still around from that time period.
The Bell Tower at Zhihua Temple in Beijing

One interesting note. To see the ceiling of the hall in the top picture you have to go to the Nelson-Atkins museum in Kansas City. The monks sold it to raise cash in the 1930's.  See a picture and description here --->  Nelson-Atkins Exhibit

There is another ceiling from another hall in Philadelphia ---> Philadelphia Museum of Art

These  first two pictures are what we expected to find - a quiet temple with classic Chinese architecture.

Here is what we found. There was some sort of concert of temple music going on. There was a stage set up in the larger courtyard and a fair number of people around.

This was the first group to take the stage.

This was the second group. They are from Taiwan on a culture exchange visit.

We understood from a young woman there that this was traditional temple music.

I think this instrument is called an erhu. Erhu literally means two stings.
Mongolian instrument morin khuur or ma tou qin

We arrived before the concert and this group was warming up/practicing. These are Mongolian instruments and are called morin khuur or ma tou qin. The name means horse head as seen by the top of the instrument. There is a lot of info in Wikipedia --> morin khuur

One of the other musicians was interested enough to take a picture of the group. They sounded pretty good. Here is a video excerpt.

I can't explain the logic here. Someone ordered a new sign/map to show the handicap accessible facilities - probably before the Olympics. Rather than replace the old one they just added the new one.

This is in a new park near Jianguomen subway station. The tables are made of steel and the surface is that terrazzo stuff you see on the floor of schools and public buildings.

The guy in the middle looks pretty intense. Click to enlarge.

This is how one of the tables looked earlier in the afternoon. Looks like someone had to improvise after they forgot their net.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Beijing Skyline - Beautiful Clear Day

Saturday was an extraordinarily clear day in Beijing. Again, here is a shot from our apartment balcony. I guess most people in the U.S. will not find this unusual but trust me, in Beijing clear skies are to be remembered.

I was surprised that we can actually see mountains from our apartment. I hadn't been able to see them for the previous 2 weeks and figured our apartment wasn't high enough. But low and behold, they are there if the air is clean enough.

This view is to the west from our bedroom balcony. The mountains are a lot closer to town on the west but I had still never seen them from the apartment. I took this shot just as the sun was going down.

As you can see the mountains are fairly rugged.

This shot is just a few minutes after the sun has set.

A couple of hours later it looks like this. Notice the strands of lights in the center of the picture.

These must be lights attached to kite strings. Flying kites in a very popular pastime for kids and older men.

The long string must be about 1000 ft long.

Take a look at the dark building to the left of the CCTV building. It is to the right of the building with the white antenna on top. This is part of the CCTV complex that burned in 2009.

The building caught fire in a fireworks accident during the Chinese New Year celebration that year. Here is what it looked like in 2009.

As it turns out, it was still structurally sound so they gutted it and rebuilt it. I'm not sure if it is open already or not.

Not sure what happened to the guys who took the rap.

Here is my original blog posting on it.  Original post

I didn't know where else to put this picture.

The other day we opened the window and heard a guy on a loudspeaker. It took a few minutes to figure where it was coming from. It was a wedding ceremony in the small garden behind the Trader's hotel. I'm not sure of all the details but it seems pretty common to have a ceremony at hotels. Compared to the U.S. there aren't that many churches and most people aren't that religious, anyway. A marriage is mostly a civil process but it does seem common to do the white dress, tuxes, bridesmaids and groomsmen thing. If  I have it right, the groom and henchmen will go to the brides location, usually a hotel, and have a ritualized struggle to drag her away (followed by the bridesmaids) to the ceremony/reception which involves a dinner and gifts. There is a traditional Chinese ceremony of the family giving the bride away and acceptance in the grooms family (I think tea is involved) but I don't know if that normally happens or not. I'll ask around on this subject and update the posting. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wuzhen - An Ancient Water Town

Canal scene in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

During our stay in Shanghai we visited an ancient water town called Wuzhen. Wuzhen is about 135 km from Shanghai. We chose to take a tour bus from the Shanghai Tour Bus center. Figuring all that out was an experience in itself but, all-in-all, it went smoothly.
A bridge over a canal scene in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

Wuzhen is one of the best examples of the old water towns in northern Zhejiang province. The town is about 1300  years old. It is located on the Grand Canal that takes water to Beijing and still serves as a transport artery in East China.

Notice the umbrellas on the bridge. It was pretty hot.

A narrow street scene in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

There are actually 2 sections of Wuzhen. These pictures are from the east section. In this section, residents still go about their business as thousands of tourists visit every day.

The west section is said to be quieter.
Laundry along a canal in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

As you can see from the laundry, people live here. Walking along the street you can peer into the front rooms and see people watching TV, resting, etc. Many also have a cooler or cooking area for serving snacks or drinks to people as they walk by.
Single oar boats of the water in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

This part of Zhejiang is very flat and crisscrossed by canals.

The singled paddle boats cruise up and down the canal.
Ancient bed museum in Wuzhen, China

There are a number of museums in town. This is a picture from the Ancient Bed Museum. As the name suggests it contains a collection of Chinese beds. A lot of these beds are more like bed chambers.

The sleeping surface is either woven rope or wooden slats.

I'm not sure what the hanging fish is all about but it represents good luck.

This room is set up to celebrate a significant birthday. Probably a 60th birthday or 5th cycle of 12 zodiac years.

The purple banners are well known poems or couplets. There is a certain symmetry in the couplets.

There are a number of traditional workshops. This is a bucket shop. You can buy the hand made items if you desire.
Sanbaijiu or sanbai wine factory in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

In years past there were about 20 wine distilleries in Wuzhen. This is the last one. It is still operating and producing product. It dates to the 1360s.

The wine is called Sanbai or "three whites" wine. The 3 white ingredients are rice, wheat and "white" or pure water.

These are jars used to store the materials as they ferment.
Fermentation jars at sanbai distillery in Wuzhen

Here are more of the fermentation jars. They produce products of 55%, 12% and 4% alcohol content.

This is the still.
Indigo fabric drying in the wind in Wuzhen

Another traditional product is indigo dyed fabric. We didn't actually see the process area but this area is used for drying the fabric.

We did find the gift shop, though.

There is a wood carving museum, also. There were many fine examples of this ancient art.

Here Margot poses along one of the canals.
Artisan making horn combs in Wuzhen, Zhejiang, China

This women is making combs from cattle horns. You can see some of the raw material at her feet.

This woman is opening up silk cocoons to remove the worm before sending the silk on form processing.

Click to enlarge to get a look at the silk worms.

We had dinner at a restaurant about half way through the visit. Margot was asked if she would hold this child for a picture.

I should mention that Wuzhen is a very popular tourist destination but almost all the visitors are Chinese. We were among the very few westerners there. Living in a large international city like Beijing we forget that for many of the 1.35 billion people in China we are still a bit of a curiosity.

Those yellow items in the dish are ginko nuts, by the way.

The town is very interesting and pretty. I'd recommend it as a day trip from Shanghai.

I took this picture out the bus window. It looks like they are cubes of compressed scrap metal on the way to the recycle shop.

I thought it was interesting, anyway.