Archive for July, 2013

China trip – Southern Anhui Province – Nanping

Posted in Chinese culture, photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2013/07/26 by greenteadoodles
rustic charm

rustic charm

Our intention was to head back to Tunxi and then catch a bus to some interesting villages slightly to the east. However, we just missed a bus and would have had to wait 3 hours for the next one so… quick change of plans and we were off (without delay) to Nanping instead. Far fewer tourists and generally more rustic, the village has been the backdrop for many a Chinese period film.

alley of Nanping

alley of Nanping

Even narrow alleys had interesting patterns in the stone.

elaborate roof lines

elaborate roof lines

There were three main family names in this village and each had a large ancestral hall for – family reunions?

mossy formal ancestral hall courtyard

mossy formal ancestral hall courtyard

These ancestral halls were quite elaborate and the courtyards and interior halls were grand and spacious.

tiny alley with signs of modern life

tiny alley with signs of modern life

Fire hydrants and electrical cables are fairly well tucked out or sight. Like the other villages, Nanping seemed to have most modern conveniences.

hall used for the filming of  the Zhang Yimou directed "Ju Dou"

hall used for the filming of the Zhang Yimou directed “Ju Dou”

The colourful fabric still left from the filming of Ju Dou animates the courtyard and gives a small glimpse into the imagined past.

feng shui rules applied...

feng shui rules applied…

The doorways are deliberately staggered so that bad energy can’t rush into the house.

Ming dynasty kitchen!

Ming dynasty kitchen!

Now this kitchen that is really out of date! The house actually had four different eras of kitchens intact – above just the Ming dynasty part. Nanping was the only village we had a guide for and this was one of the interesting tidbits gleaned from her commentary .

winding alley in Nanping

winding alley in Nanping

Another alley curves off to somewhere…

looking back at Nanping

looking back at Nanping

Time to go. While heading out to the main road to catch the bus back to Tunxi, the view back shows Nanping’s beautiful setting with rice paddies and mountains.

water buffalo

water buffalo

Further along the road towards the slightly larger road… a water buffalo and her calf watch somewhat warily from the rice paddy as we pass by.

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer

China trip – Southern Anhui Province – Hongcun

Posted in Chinese culture, photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2013/07/23 by greenteadoodles
first view of Hongcun across the lake

first view of Hongcun across the lake

After lunch we hopped on a bus and went to another world heritage site village called Hongcun. The first view of the village across the small lake was stunning even in the rain!

view from home-stay

view from home-stay

We had booked a home stay for the night so first thing to do was find it and stow our packs. Much more enjoyable visiting the town with less on our backs. The room was simple but the setting just amazing.

in the alleys of Hongcun - the water flows towards the village centre

in the alleys of Hongcun – the water flows towards the village centre

At first the village seemed a confusing maze but it was true that the flow of the water was a constant reference to find the way.

entry court

entry court

This extensive house had a series of courtyards and interesting interiors.

larger courtyard

larger courtyard

What a pleasure to step from a small dark interior into a large courtyard… bright and open while still feeling private and intimate.

courtyard with elaborate carving

courtyard with elaborate carving

The intricate carving in the structural members would have been indicative that the family was particularly wealthy at the time the home was built.

romantic bridge

romantic bridge

This bridge was the backdrop for the opening scene of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon… so beautiful.

about to cross the bridge

about to cross the bridge

So I had to cross it too!

from the top of the bridge

from the top of the bridge

And over the top of the tiny bridge… lotus blossoms ahead!

lovely lotus

lovely lotus

The lotus is not just a beautiful flower but also a cultural and Buddhist symbol – while it grows out of the mud, it floats above it untouched and undisturbed…

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer

China trip – Southern Anhui Province – Xidi

Posted in Chinese culture, photographs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 2013/07/20 by greenteadoodles
Beautiful town gate with lake and mountain

Beautiful town gate with lake and mountain

The ancient villages of Southern Anhui province are considered a world heritage site. Among them, Xidi’s Ming dynasty charms along with the stunning setting were enough to make me promise myself another visit one day. These villages are living museums (you pay a fee to enter) with on the one hand ancient infrastructure and architecture and on the other, people going on about their daily lives in a perfectly modern way (in amongst all the tourists).
Xidi’s beautiful gate is the first monument you see when you enter the village and the last when you leave…

Courtyard, water vessel and view to lake through entry

Courtyard, water vessel and view to lake through entry

Courtyards…

View through village wall to water garden

View through village wall to water garden

A charming gate leads back out of the village to a water garden and, across a narrow neck of land, vegetable plots.

Water garden and view back to village

Water garden and view back to village

Classic Ming dynasty roof top profiles… and communications towers.

Alley of Xidi

Alley of Xidi

Narrow curving lanes wander between the ancient buildings – there’s just enough space for scooters!

Typical residential entry courtyard - looking up

Typical residential entry courtyard – looking up

The residences still have traditional woodwork at the front courtyard. Often, the family still lives in the building. Tourists come and go freely but respecting that access is only if the gate is open and only to the front courtyard unless invited further.

Beautiful residential entry court - mossy garden

Beautiful residential entry court – mossy garden

Love these mossy gardens!

enjoying another lush entry garden

enjoying another lush entry garden

Caught on camera  by my friend as I soaked up the ambience.

Roof top view

Roof top view

Many of the people living in the village clearly make their living in one way or another from the tourists. There are small shops selling handicrafts and local tea etc. Others will prepare a home cooked meal for your lunch at a reasonable price. The view above is from the roof top of such a home. After selecting what we wanted from the fresh local produce in her kitchen, our hostess encouraged us to enjoy the view from the roof while we waited for lunch to be ready.

Art students everywhere!

Art students everywhere!

These villages are great beauty spots in China and as such attract art students from all over the country. School was just over for the year so there were many taking advantage of the break or on group trips.

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer except #8 (c) 2013 Merlyn Foo

China trip – Southern Anhui province – Tunxi

Posted in Chinese culture, photographs with tags , , , , , , , on 2013/07/17 by greenteadoodles
the alley to the hotel!

the alley to the hotel!

Southern Anhui province was love at almost first sight… it took a couple of tries to find this alley in Tunxi (also know as Huangshan Shi or Yellow Mountain City) where the hotel was located… The pedicab driver from the train station got lost!

garden with puppy!

garden with puppy!

The hotel was converted from two old homes so entering meant going through a series of courtyards complete with beautiful mossy planting, cat and puppy. Sorry, cat not caught on camera.

beautiful reception area

beautiful reception area

The hotel reception was all traditional wood detailing and art work… a pleasant place to wait in the rain…

another courtyard

another courtyard

Across from the reception another courtyard…

courtyard and stairs

courtyard and stairs

…and then stairs led to the room. I would have stayed here longer if I could have – it was lovely!

Laojie "Old Street"

Laojie “Old Street”

Caught here slightly off hours, Laojie was usually crowded with shoppers and shopkeepers. The most charming part of Tunxi.

view from second floor teashop window

view from second floor teashop window

Found a lovely two storey teashop the last day in Tunxi. Drank delicious green tea and nibbled on cookies prepared on site. An interesting confection filled with dried fruit and so strangely reminiscent of my mother’s mincemeat tarts.

mmmmmm... so good!

mmmmmm… so good!

And other fabulous food in Tunxi… we managed to order up some vegetarian feasts!

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer

China trip – Beijing to Xi’an

Posted in Chinese culture, photographs with tags , , , , , , , , on 2013/07/15 by greenteadoodles
Beijing Drum Tower

Beijing Drum Tower

I just got back from my vacation last week. It’s the first time in quite a while that I have gone very far afield so I decided to share a few photos here.
I arrived in Beijing but just stayed long enough to enjoy one evening in a busy hutong and then meet some friends the next morning as they were finishing their China trip before I headed off by train to Zhengzhou.

Zhengzhou - park with haze

Zhengzhou – park with haze

Zhengzhou is not my favourite place in China. It is a useful travel hub with lot of high speed trains coming and going to various destinations. However even this less than lovely city manages to have a large and leafy park serving as much needed lungs for the populace. It was very well used anytime I visited it from very early morning to late evening.

Shaolin Temple view

Shaolin Temple view

From Zhengzhou it is a short bus ride to Shaolin Temple – famous both for kung fu and for being the site where Buddhism entered China. Although crawling with tourists even more than when I was there 15 years ago, one can still get glimpses back in time… blinkers required!

Shaolin Temple detail

Shaolin Temple detail

If you’re in the mood, you can try out some exercises as illustrated right on the architecture!

Xi'an - terracotta warriors and horses

Xi’an – terracotta warriors and horses

After doubling back to that hub Zhengzhou, we went to Xi’an. Last time I was in China it seemed too far but now the high speed train takes you there in just 3 hours – 300 km per hour!! The terracotta warriors were fascinating, impressive and also appalling when you consider the megalomaniacal mind behind the whole thing.

Xi'an - beautifully sculpted terracotta horses

Xi’an – beautifully sculpted terracotta horses

And for the end of this segment one of my favourite shots… perfect horses ready for parade in any era – very life-like!

I will continue with the next leg of the trip soon!

photos (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer