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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What's the Sichuan Pepper Frequency, Kenneth?

dish of numbing and spicy bullfrog
Spicy bullfrog with numbing Sichuan peppers at a restaurant in Chongqing

Like many others who enjoy Sichuan cuisine, I am a big fan of Sichuan pepper, which has a hard-to-miss numbing effect. So I am happy to (belatedly) link to a fascinating and informative piece by Taylor Holiday about why Sichuan pepper is difficult to find in the U.S. But there is one small part with which I disagree:
Even more than other spices, endowed by evolution with defensive odors and tastes, Sichuan pepper seems designed not to be eaten. Once you get past the thorns, the taste of a fresh or freshly dried berry leaves your mouth, tongue, and lips buzzing and numb for several minutes. It is literally electric: The active ingredient, sanshool, causes a vibration on the lips measured at 50 hertz, the same frequency as the power grid in most parts of the world, according to a 2013 study at University College London.
Sichuan pepper's vibrating effect is rather notable. But that the vibration has been measured at a frequency similar to the frequency of many electrical grids doesn't make it "literally electric". It doesn't even make it figuratively electric in any particularly meaningful way. (Just to be clear, the referenced 2013 study doesn't mention this similarity.)

Basically, this is because hertz is simply a measure of the number of cycles per second and there's nothing special about the measurement of 50 hertz on its own. For example, on a standardly tuned piano tuned there is a key for the musical note G (Contra octave) which will produce a sound at 48.9994 hertz. In this case, the hertz measurement reflects the fundamental frequency of that note. If you wanted, you could retune the piano so that the key produced a sound at 50 hertz. In either case the note isn't any more electric or Sichuan peppery than the other notes on the piano, even if it's an electric piano. Similarly, 50 hertz electrical grids aren't literally the musical note G.

For another example, a strobe light could be set to flicker at 50 hertz. Again, this wouldn't be any more electric than if it flickered slower or faster.

And countries such as the U.S., Canada, and Guatemala have electrical grids with a frequency of 60 hertz. Is Sichuan pepper less electric there?

So enjoy some Sichuan peppers. But unless you're also sticking your finger in an electric outlet while grounded (note: do not do this) or something similar, the experience won't be literally electric because of the exact frequency of the vibrations. The buzz is grand nonetheless.



Additional note: For those who don't understand the reference to Kenneth, see here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Elevated Arches in Wuhan

I'm hoping to soon return to posts with a bit more text in them. For now, here is another scene from the capital of Hubei:

Zhongbei Road, including an elevated section with many arches over it, in Wuhan
Zhongbei Road near Han Street

Friday, December 15, 2017

Candied Fruit and a Ferrari in Wuhan

man on scooter selling candied fruit next to a red Ferrari
At the intersection of Shahu Avenue (沙湖大道) and Songzhu Road (松竹路) near the Hanjie Wanda Plaza

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Live Game of Xiangqi in Wuhan

While to many people this game of xiangqi may not have presented as much of a photographic opportunity as another in Wuhan, it was far more dynamic overall.

two men playing xiangqi
At Wuchang Lianzheng Wenhua Park (武昌廉政文化公园)

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Solid Game of Xiangqi in Wuhan

Sculpture of a xiangqi game with one man playing and another watching
On the Jianghan Road Pedestrian Street

The above sculpture of a xiangqi game appears to have been designed to encourage people to have their photo taken while pretending to be one of the players. You would have to bring your own fan and sandals though.

I have been bouncing around — of both the intracity and intercity variety — quite a bit lately. This perhaps to a degree unconsciously influenced the recent focus here on rather still statues. Other topics are on the way — probably more statues at some point too.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Time of Change and Digging at the Gude Temple in Wuhan

Even after visiting hundreds of Buddhist temples in China, the Gude Temple in Wuhan can catch you by surprise. According to a photo gallery featuring the temple on the Hubei Provincial People’s Government's website:
It was built in the 3rd year of Emperor Guangxu (1877) in the Qing Dynasty.

The present Great Buddhist Hall was built in 1921 and later was expanded into Gude Temple, which covers an area of 20000 square meters and has a floor space of 3600 square meters.

The Gude Temple was built according to style of the Alantuo Temple in Myanmar in an erratic combination of all thinkable architectural styles and traditions, being unique in construction of Buddhist temples in China’s hinterland.
I wouldn't describe the location as being in China's hinterland, but I agree the architecture is unlike any other temple I have seen in China. My recent visit was made all the more special thanks to work affecting much of the temple's grounds — reminiscent of the construction I walked through when I visited the Changchun Taoist Temple in Wuhan six years ago.

Below are some scenes which feature some of the change now occurring at Gude Temple as visitors still make their way around. The temple is easily reachable by going to Toudao Street Station on the Wuhan Metro and then walking down Gudesi Road. But that might not work in the not-too-distant future. Many of the areas near the temple are changing to a greater degree.


excavator moving a tree at Gudesi Temple



excavator moving a tree at Gudesi Temple



monk and workers at Gudesi Temple in Wuhan



excavator and truck at Gudesi Temple



excavator at Gudesi Temple



excavator at Gude Temple



excavator at Gude Temple



Gude Temple (古德寺) in Wuhan

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Views of and from Toudao Street Station in Wuhan

The Toudao Street Station on Line 1 of the Wuhan Metro is a brief walk from one end of Gudesi Road. For contrasts to the previously shared scenes from Gudesi Road and of metro trains arriving at two other stations on Line 1, here are photos of two trains departing the station:

view of Toudao Street Station (头道街站) in Wuhan with a departing metro train
View of Toudao Street Station facing northeast from a pedestrian bridge


view from Toudao Street Station (头道街站) in Wuhan of a train departing
View facing southwest from Toudao Street Station

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Few Scenes from Gudesi Road in Wuhan

Unlike Qingfen Road in Wuhan, Gudesi Road (古德寺路) is labeled on both Google Maps and Baidu Map. However, both maps are missing sections of the street and Baidu Map mistakenly labels a connecting street with the name. In any case, there aren't as many shops on Gudesi Road as there are on Qingfen Road, but plenty of life can still be found there.

Gudesi Road (古德寺路) in Wuhan


Gudesi Road (古德寺路) in Wuhan


And if you are lucky, you may meet a rather friendly dog.

dog sitting on Gudesi Road (古德寺路) in Wuhan


friendly dog Gudesi Road (古德寺路) in Wuhan


While Gudesi Road wouldn't seem remarkable to most people in China, the temple it is named after is another story. More about that later.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Five Scenes From Qingfen Road in Wuhan

Qingfen Road (清芬路) in Wuhan doesn't appear on Baidu's or Google's online maps, but it definitely exists. A few scenes from a street densely packed with life:

Qingfen Road (清芬路) in Wuhan



Qingfen Road (清芬路) in Wuhan



two girls on Qingfen Road (清芬路) in Wuhan



boy running on Qingfen Road (清芬路) in Wuhan


Qingfen Road (清芬路) in Wuhan