Monday, October 31, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Smog and Blue Spirits in Shenyang

One the same day I photographed one of the many smoggy streets in Shenyang, a digital billboard also caught my attention. A weather forecast on it didn't offer any specifics but seemed a bit optimistic.

digital billboard displaying a weather forecast for sunny skies

If the contrast lowered people's spirits, perhaps what they needed were . . . some spirits. The digital billboard displayed one possible solution: Tianzhilan.

digital billboard displaying an advertisement for Tianzhilan (洋河蓝色经典天之蓝) baijiu

Yanghe Distillery, whose ads I have seen in many Chinese cities, has some inspiring words about this baijiu:
The heights of heaven radiate hues of blue—the essence of Tianzhilan is loftiness, the upper limits of our imaginations. A glass of Tianzhilan contains the expanses of the heavens, and only those with the courage to soar will experience its beauty.
Assuming heaven is full of clean air, that could do the trick. Some people may be more influenced by the smoggy Red Star Wine ad I first saw in Beijing though. Red Star is also a lot cheaper. At least people have options, if they have the courage.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Baijiu Bridge Blues

elevated highway over a river in Shenyang, China

I hadn't planned on walking under this elevated road, but, as the photo strongly suggests, I did. The walk turned out to be rather interesting — much more interesting than the baijiu museum which had brought me out to this part of Shenyang in the first place. The baijiu museum sold many things. I didn't buy most of them, but I did buy some baijiu. Oddly enough, I drank it too. So here we are.

Despite the title to this post, I have no recent major blues to report. That part just rolled off of a tongue appreciative of alliteration. I was enjoying myself when I took the photo (prior to visiting the baijiu musem), and I am now (after visiting the baijiu museum). I suppose you could say the baijiu museum was just a bridge between those two states. Perhaps the museum inspired the title to a small degree though. More about it another day...

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Smoggy Street in Shenyang

Today was one of those days in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province, when you didn't need a portable air-monitoring device to know there was a lot of pollution in the air.

Polluted air over Nanjing North Street in Shenyang, China
Nanjing North Street today at 3:51 p.m.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Particles Inside: Time to Put on a Face Mask at the Gym

Years ago when I worked out at a gym in Shanghai, I occasionally wondered about the gym's air quality. I didn't notice anything obviously wrong, but there were still reasons to question whether they were using an effective air filtration system.

Today Benjamin Carlson, who is based in Beijing, checked the air inside one gym and . . .

That is pretty bad air. I understand Carlson's choice to wear a mask. Although there is reason to believe exercising in some types of pollution without a mask is better than not exercising at all, clean air is better (not even going to bother to source the last claim). Despite the logic, there is still something extra depressing about feeling compelled to wear a mask indoors.

The mobile air monitor Carlson is holding appears to be a Laser Egg made by Origins Technology. Paul Bischoff reported on the device's release and the technology inside it last year for Tech in Asia:
As the particles are pulled in by a fan, they pass in front of a laser. The laser refracts onto a photo sensor. This allows the device to instantly work out the size and number of particles in the air. These types of devices typically cost anywhere from US$500 to US$10,000, but Origins claims to use the same technology in Laser Egg at a fracion of the cost.
I have been tempted to buy one myself. I wonder how many times as I have traveled across the China it would have convinced me to go to sleep wearing a mask.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More of What is Behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

A dog meat restaurant isn't all that is behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza. It was getting dark as I walked around, but I was able to take a few photos near the restaurant including these two of buildings which appear to have been around long before Wanda:

older buildings behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

older buildings behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

And this is the view looking approximately south down West 7th Road, which runs along the eastern side of the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza.

southward view looking down West 7th Road in Mudanjiang, China

The dog meat restaurant is on the right, and close behind it, mostly out of view, is where I took the first two photos. The area on the left side of the road in the photo appears to have been recently demolished. And in the background is a newer development.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Restaurant Behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

A recent post covered Chinese flags, dog meat restaurants, and humanoid crabs in Mudanjiang. A more recent post focused on the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza shopping mall. To further tie the two posts together, here is a dog meat restaurant behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza:

dog meat restaurant behind the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

My main reason for earlier sharing the dog meat restaurants in the context of what I had initially planned to be just another post of Chinese flags during a national holiday was to simply express that these restaurants are a regular part of what I see in much of China. And on that day I happened to see such a restaurant with Chinese flags flying.

I didn't see any restaurants serving dog meat in the shopping mall, and that is typical. In fact, I would wonder whether I had ever seen dog meat served in a mall, except that the very next Wanda Plaza I visited in another city simplified the issue. More about that Wanda Plaza, and some of the food served there, another day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza: A Few Observations of Stores, Food, and Fun

Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza Shopping Mall
The Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza Shopping Mall

Several years ago I posted about the Kaifu Wanda Plaza in Changsha, Hunan. Since then I have seen a number of Wanda Plazas in other cites across China. Most recently, I visited the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang. The 144th Wanda Plaza in China opened a few months ago and includes a shopping mall, apartments, and office space. I won't be doing a comprehensive overview, but I will share some of my impressions during a brief visit to the shopping mall.

When I looked at the mall map, the most curious thing was an "Apple" store. I doubted Mudanjiang had an Apple Store and was not the least bit surprised when I discovered it referred to an Apple authorized reseller.

Authorized Apple reseller store in the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Well, the store claims it is an authorized reseller. At the moment I don't see any mention of it in Apple's online search tool for authorized resellers in China.

Elsewhere in the mall, I saw an Adidas Kids store.

adidas kids store in the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

The online Adidas reseller tool isn't working for me, so I can't comment more on that topic. I didn't see an Adidas-imitating Adisco shoes store in the mall though.

I also did not see any entertainment like the Toyota promotion I saw at the Kaifu Wanda Plaza. But I did see a promotion which featured some children in a fun competition.

children competing in a game on a stage inside the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

I have seen Zoo Coffee, a Korean animal-themed coffeehouse chain, at other Wanda Plazas. None here, but Zebra coffee is available.

Zebra coffee shop at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

There are many options for food, including three familiar Western chains: Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, and Burger King.

Dairy Queen at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Pizza Hut at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Burger King at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Pizza Hut and Burger King have prime locations at one of the main entrances. The Burger King is notable in part because Mudanjiang does not have a single McDonald's. This may be the first time I was in a Chinese city with a Burger King but not a McDonald's.

The third floor of the mall is full of other restaurants. Several offer buffets, including one with something of an Alps theme.

Alps Pizza Buffet at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

There is also, as usual for a mall, a Sichuan option.

Sichuan-style restaurant at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Several restaurants, such as Pig Boeuf, sport a trendy style which has seemingly grown popular in parts of China.

Pig Boeuf at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Pig Boeuf had a nice family standing out front.

humanoid pig family statues at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Apparently these humanoid pigs are meant to encourage people to eat pork. If they have the opposite effect, a nearby vegetarian restaurant might be a good option.

vegetarian restaurant at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

I wouldn't call Mudanjiang a vegetarian-friendly place, so seeing this restaurant at the Wanda Plaza was a bit of a surprise. When I looked inside I saw that unlike other restaurants it had zero customers. Instead, employees including two chefs were sitting at a table looking extremely bored. Too bad.

Finally, to close out this odd set of observations from the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza on a happier note, I will share my favorite: a man and presumably his daughter taking a ride through the mall on an electric dinosaur kiddie car.

father and daughter riding an electric dinosaur kiddie car at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Now that is a great way to mall.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Bonjour" From the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Wanda Plaza "Bonjour" sign on a wall bordering a construction site in Mudanjiang, China

Wanda Plaza "你好" sign on a wall bordering a construction site in Mudanjiang, China

Wanda Plaza "안녕하세요" sign on a wall bordering a construction site in Mudanjiang, China

Wanda Plaza "Hello" sign on a wall bordering a construction site in Mudanjiang, China

These signs with equivalents of "hello" in French, Chinese, Korean, and English appear on a wall bordering a construction site in Mudanjiang.

wall bordering construction site for a section of the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza in China

I will share a bit more about the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza, particularly its completed sections, later.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chinese Flags, Dog Meat, and a Patriotic Crab in Mudanjiang

Today is the last day for the Golden Week celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China. Since Chinese flags have been a persistent theme here during the past week or so (for example here, here, and here), it seems fitting to share some more Chinese flags I saw today, these prominently on display at a restaurant in Mudanjiang.

dog meat restaurant with Chinese national flags in Mudanjiang, China

For those who can read Chinese, one other thing is immediately obvious about the above restaurant on West Ping'an Street: their special dish. The Chinese characters "狗肉" in its name mean "dog meat". Restaurants featuring dog meat are easy to find in Mundanjiang. In fact, within sight of the restaurant is another which features "dog meat" in its name.

group of men watching and playing a game in front of a dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China

And further west along West Ping'an Street is another restaurant with "dog meat" in its name . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China

And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China

And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China

And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China

And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China

Notably, none of these other dog meat restaurants had Chinese flags outside. Also of note, some of their names reference rivers in or bordering the Korean Peninsula. Although Mudanjiang is closer to Russia, North Korea isn't very far away.

I didn't look at every sign along the street, so there could be more along this section of road about one kilometer long. My sense was that this area has a higher density of restaurants featuring dog meat than other parts of Mudanjiang, but, again, this is not something I have been rigorously paying attention to.

I really hadn't planned posting about dog meat today, so I will save more on the topic for another day. I'll now return to Chinese flags to end this post. Of course I saw more of them today. One was on display at restaurant in the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza.

crab-like sculpture holding a PRC flag in Mudanjiang, China

This restaurant features another kind of meat — crabs, presumably of the patriotic variety. The humanoid crab on the right appears to be holding an iPhone though.

And I believe that is the end to this year's series of National Day posts.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Closer Look at the Guomao Shopping Center Sign

Answering the question of what counts as "behind" for a shopping center sign in Mudanjiang would be aided by a closeup photo of the sign. I didn't share one before, so I will share one belatedly:

character 国 for a shopping center sign in Mudanjiang, China

The Chinese character (guó) is affixed to both sides of this particular metal grating. Three pairs of other characters are similarly affixed to three other gratings. As discussed in the earlier post, there are reasons to consider locations on either side to be "behind the sign" and there are reasons to say there are two signs.

So if somebody asks me to meet them in front of the large Guomao Shopping Center sign, I will just suggest we meet next to the 国.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

China's National Day: October 1, 2016, in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang

October 1 was the celebration for the founding of the People's Republic of China and the beginning of a Golden Week holiday during which nearly 600 million people are expected to travel in China. I have spent the holiday in Mudanjiang — a city in China's most northeastern province. During the afternoon of October 1, I walked around a central commercial area including a pedestrian street and Culture Square, where I had already seen Chinese flags displayed for the holiday.

Some people carried a Chinese flag.

man with girl holding a Chinese national flag in Mudanjiang, China

Some people sold Chinese flags.

woman selling PRC flags in Mudanjiang, China

Some streets were filled with vehicles.

traffic on Taiping Road in  in Mudanjiang, China

Some streets were filled with pedestrians.

people walking on a pedestrian street in Mudanjiang, China

Some people carried a child.

man carrying a boy past street vendors in Mudanjiang, China

Some people carried a dog.

young woman carrying a poodle across a street intersection in Mudanjiang, China

Some people carried a bear's head.

young woman carrying a bear mascot head past a three-wheeled vehicle in Mudanjiang, China

Some people sang and played.

man signing and playing guitar at Culture Square in Mudanjiang, China

Some people sang and danced.

Adults clapping for a toddler singing and dancing at Culture Square in Mudanjiang, China

Some people checked their phone.

young woman wearing a bridal gown and using a mobile phone in Mudanjiang, China

Some people took a drive.

boy driving an electric kiddie car with a PRC flag in Mudanjiang, China

And, of course, some stores had a sale.

National Day "sale" signs in Mudanjiang, China

In many ways what I saw was indistinguishable from other days I have spent Mudanjiang. For this reason, the day unexpectedly and somewhat ironically reminded me of another day in another Chinese city. The crowds did feel larger, though nothing like what is seen in more popular destinations. I don't expect that much will be different here in another week or two, except that there won't be so many flags.

Monday, October 3, 2016

What's Behind? More About the Sign and Flags at the Guomao Shopping Center in Mudanjiang

Yesterday I stopped by Culture Square in Mudanjiang yet again. When I arrived, I began questioning an earlier claim I had made — that the photo in the previous post showed a view from "behind the [main] sign" for the Guomao Shopping Center. I had characterized the view this way in part due to three reasons.

1. Viewed from the other side of the square, the large Chinese characters most visible on the metal gratings are "国贸商城" — the shopping center's name spelled from left to right. But from the photo's viewpoint the characters most visible, which are on the opposite side of the metal gratings, are "城商贸国" — the name of the shopping center spelled right to left. Typically, modern Chinese is written left to right when horizontal, but, long story short, right to left is still used in some contexts today. However, left to right would be more typical for a shopping center. It is also how the name is displayed anywhere else I have seen it at the shopping center.

2. The characters on both sides are affixed to a common set of metal gratings and are partly visible from behind.

3. The set of characters for the left-to-right spelling face a much larger area of the square. Here is a photo of a small portion of that side of the square with the sign in the distance:

Girl flying kite at Culture Square (文化广场)  in Mudanjiang, China, with sign for the Guomao Shopping Center (国贸商城) in the background

So without any deep thought, I described the photo as being taken from a location behind the sign.

But . . .

The right-to-left spelling of the shopping center's name (again, the one easily seen in the photo) stands over the shopping center's main entrances. So there is an argument for calling it the front side.

Also, the characters affixed to one side of the metal gratings aren't directly connected to those on the other side. So it would be reasonable to say there are in fact two signs. From that perspective, what I wrote would be correct if the sign facing the largest area of the square is considered to be the main sign. But with it mostly out of view in the photo and the other sign appearing prominently, it strikes me as a potentially confusing or not especially useful description.

You could say I see several sides of this issue, which interests me because it relates to some of my earlier research on visuo-spatial cognition and language. If I wrote the previous post now, I would simply mention the sign in a way which avoided the issue. And then I wouldn't need to write this post, which will probably cause far more confusion than the earlier post.

Since I have made this unexpected return to the shopping center, I will share something more about the topic which caused me to mention in it the first place — Chinese and red flags periodically appearing there during recent days. I had hypothesized the reason I didn't see the flags one late afternoon was because they are only put out during opening hours to celebrate the National Day of the People's Republic of China. Consistent with that explanation, yesterday I had the pleasure to see them being removed about one hour before the shopping center closed.

people removing Chinese and red flags at the Guomao Shopping Center in Mudanjiang

I was hoping there would be more pomp and circumstance though.

UPDATE: A closer look at a part of the sign here.