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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dolphins, a Log Flume, and Hu Jintao in Zhongshan: The History and Legacy of China's First Large-Scale Modern Amusement Park

Near one end of the Changjiang Reservoir in Zhongshan, Guangdong, exists a place of merriment, magic, and water. But when I recently passed the Changjiang Water World (长江水世界) park on a foggy afternoon, it was closed — as it is every day this time of year due to the colder weather.

At least a sculpture at its main entrance is still approachable.

sculpture at entrance of Changjiang Water World in Zhongshan


A short walk away is the hard-to-miss entrance for the Changjiang Water World parking lot.

Changjiang Water World parking lot entrance


Unsurprisingly, there were no cars parked there at the time.

Changjiang Water World parking lot


The other side of the parking lot is bordered by the Changjiang Reservoir's dam. Yes, this is your place for empty parking lot photos.

And the fun doesn't stop there. One of the historical photos displayed at Zhongshan's Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall captures a moment at the amusement park which previously existed at Changjiang Water World's current site.

Chinese caption for the photo:
"1984年5月24日,时任中共中央总书记胡耀邦在时任广东省省长梁灵光陪同下视察中山,图为他在中山长江乐园验“激流探险”


According to the photo's caption, Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), who then held the highest office in Communist Party of China as its general secretary, and Liang Lingguang (梁灵光), who was then Governor of Guangdong, are checking out a log flume ride at the Changjiang Playland* (长江乐园), which had opened the year before in 1983. Hu riding a potentially soaking ride while wearing a suit strikes me as bold. In fact, according to accounts of the time, the 69-year-old Hu insisted upon conquering the water ride despite concerns over safety and it not being part of the original plans.

Hu was presumably not visiting simply for fun, but instead because the Changjiang Playland was the first large-scale amusement park with modern rides in China and seen as a potential model for others. The park also helped Zhongshan — where the first bumper cars were made in China – grow into the largest base of amusement park ride production in the country. They even make log flume rides there.

Perhaps the park inspired too much for its own good though. Soon the fun faded away and in 1997 the park closed, in part due to competition from other parks which opened in the region. Aging equipment didn't help either, although it was good enough to be sent to Leshan in Sichuan province.

In 2005, the site experienced a rebirth when the Changjiang Romantic Water World (长江浪漫水城) opened. The romance didn't last for long, and in 2009 the site was closed for redevelopment once more. In 2010 the first phase of the Changjiang Water World opened.

That park remains in existence today, as does Zhongshan's amusement park ride industry. But unfortunately, a list of rides at Changjiang Water World indicates a log flume ride no longer exists. So there goes any chance for a contemporary version of Hu's daring act at the park.








*Some sites now use "Changjiang Paradise" — a reasonable translation — for the park's English name, but according to photos of various old entrance tickets (see here and here) the park itself used "Changjiang Playland" as its English name.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Photo of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Zhongshan, China

I may have never seen a photo of President Hu Jintao looking at a fish if it weren't for the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Zhongshan. So it seems fitting to now share a recent photo of the building.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Zhongshan, China


While there are many memorial halls for Sun Yat-sen in China, this one is special since the city of Zhongshan, another name for Sun, is named after him and he was born in one of its villages. The exhibits inside are free to visit and include many other photos as well. As mentioned in the fish photo post, one of those will appear here later.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hu Jintao Looking at a Fish

A piece about a site in Zhongshan I had planned to post yesterday turned out to be more challenging to put together than expected. I think I finally sorted out the loose ends which had bothered me, but I won't get around to finishing it today.

Instead, today I will share a photo that tangentially relates to the future post.

Photo's caption:
"2004年12月21日,时任中共中央总书记,国家主席,中央军委主席胡锦涛视察中山市食品水产进出口集团,时任中央政治局委员,广东省委书记张德江等陪同"


The photo in the above photo is displayed at Zhongshan's Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. According to the caption, it was taken in 2004 and captures a moment as Hu Jintao (far right), then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and president of China, inspected the Zhongshan Foodstuffs and Aquatic Import & Export Group Co., Ltd. The caption doesn't say anything about whether the visit was a success, but with all those smiles it looks like at least this part went quite well, at least for the non-fish entities.

I now see that the photo relates in yet another rather tangential fashion to the unfinished future post. So I will add that it includes another exciting photo of a past Chinese leader displayed at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and has an indirect fish theme. Most importantly, I can now rest in peace knowing that I have a "Hu Jintao Looking at a Fish" post.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Names and Views of the Changjiang Reservoir in Zhongshan, China

After passing by some flowers on a recent foggy day in Zhongshan, I found a good view of the dam at the Changjiang Reservoir (长江水库).

dam at the Changjiang Reservoir in Zhongshan, China


Changjiang is the name of a famous river. The name may not ring any bells, and that's probably because the river is typically named the Yangtze River (扬子江) in English. The short story about the river's English name is it is based on just one of its sections. Using China's current system for romanizing Chinese words, that section would instead now be named the Yangzi River.

But the Yangtze River never comes close to Zhongshan, and there's more to the story about how the Changjiang Reservoir got its name:
Why is the reservoir named Changjiang (the Yangzi River) although it has nothing to do with the mother river - Changjiang. According to a legend, about 300 years ago, a Mr. Long and his nephew came from their hometown Jiangxi province to farm in this wildness. They named the place they resided "Changgang" (literally, it means a [series] of hills) because on their way from Jiangxi to Zhongshan, they walked [past] one hill after another. To commemorate their hometown Jiangxi, they changed "Changgang" to "Changjiang". (In some Chinese dialects, Gang is the [homophone] of Jiang.)
Despite the story, journalist Jiang Shangyu (江上雨) doesn't think the name lives up to the reservoir's splendor (link in Chinese with many photos of the reservoir), and their argument was published in the Southern Daily newspaper (link in Chinese without many photos). The suggestion was to change the name to Qingling Lake (庆龄湖) in honor of Soong Ching-ling (宋庆龄), a prominent past political figure in China and the third wife of Sun Yat-sen — the "founding father of the Republic of China". In China, the name Sun Zhongshan is commonly used for Sun Yat-sen, and that's where the city of Zhongshan gets its name.

Apparently Jiang's suggestion had an impact. A few signs near the reservoir display the Qingling Lake name.

sign for Qingling Lake (庆龄湖) in Zhongshan, China


However, it doesn't appear to be the official name. According to online maps the name remains the Changjiang Reservoir. And that is the only name used on a Zhongshan government website (example in Chinese).

The body of water is rather large and surrounded by much greenery. Unfortunately, at least where and when I arrived all I could find with views that was open to the public was a small area in front of the Scenic Holiday Hotel. But I could at least spot an island through the fog from one vantage point.

foggy view at the Changjiang Reservoir (长江水库) in Zhongshan, China


So I don't have much to share in terms of photos, though I am glad I made it there. And I will conclude with one of the more picturesque trees I came across at the reservoir, lake, or whatever you'd like to call it.

tree at the Changjiang Reservoir (长江水库) in Zhongshan, China

Monday, January 7, 2019

Flowers in Zhongshan

Last year I posted a photo of several red silk-cotton flowers I saw on the ground in Jiangmen. I identified them as coming from the Bombax ceiba tree, which is known by a variety names. Later I shared photos of the flowers being collected at a park and drying outside at two nearby locations. In both cases, the flowers may have been destined to become an ingredient in Five-Flowers tea.

Several days ago in Zhongshan I noticed a different type of flower. I don't plan to write as much about them as I did about the red silk-cotton flowers, though I do hope to do a short piece on the near Changjiang Reservoir. But since the flowers caught my eye, I will take this opportunity to add to the flowers-in-Guangdong theme.

flowers near the Changjiang Reservoir in Zhongshan, China

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Generational Meme in China

I will keep this short and sweet since these tweets by Kassy Cho speak for themselves:



A compilation by Victor Sun on YouTube includes these examples and more:



That's all.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A Countdown for the New Year that Didn't Happen in Zhongshan

After finishing my last post of 2018, I headed out to see see what the final moments of 2018 and the first moments of 2019 would bring in Zhongshan. I didn't expect the city would have anything even close to the spectacular New Year's fireworks I saw last year in Taipei, but I figured I could stumble upon something.

As I walked towards the Central Power Plaza, a shopping mall at one end of the popular Sun Wen West Road Pedestrian street, I noticed that both the vehicular and foot traffic was far heavier than usual so late at night. And when I finally arrived at the shopping area, I saw that the Christmas tree there was still up and the large mostly open square was packed with people far more densely than I had ever seen it before.

So I joined the masses. Midnight was mere minutes away, and I asked one couple why so many people had gathered there. They said they had no idea themselves and had similarly joined in hoping to catch whatever there might be to catch.

people gathering to celebrate the first moments of 2019 at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan, China


I then noticed that a number of people appeared to be video recording a large digital display on a building across the street.

a dark large digital display on a building


Aha . . .

But nothing ever appeared on the display. And soon a small number of people, presumably with the help of their mobile phones, simultaneously counted down from ten to zero.

Nothing happened. After a few moments quite a few people emitted sighs of disappointment. Suddenly, what sounded like fireworks livened things up, but there were no visual signs of them in any direction. After just a few explosions all was back to as it was before, except now people were quickly dispersing.

After milling about a bit, I asked a group of young women if they knew why everybody had gathered. I was luckier this time, and they explained that in past years, including last year, a countdown to the end of the year would appear on the large screen. They had assumed the same would once again happen this year. The one woman said she suspected the government had decided it wasn't safe anymore and had canceled it. I asked her what she thought about the safety issue and she said "Well, I came here. I don't think there's a problem."

Like others, they seemed deflated. So I told them I sort of found the experience exciting. After they asked why, I explained that I had never before experienced anything quite like this on New Year's Eve— everybody tightly packed together anticipating a big countdown and celebration and then . . . mostly nothing, not even the countdown. It was almost surreal. I could now say I certainly had had yet another special experience to bring in a new year.

At least my perspective appeared to amuse them.

So I wished them a happy new year and headed away. I knew the perfect thing to do. I would have my first 2019 drink at a bar I hadn't visited before with a name that seemed to describe much about the past year, including its last moments.

Fittingly for its name, after a long walk I was surprised to find it closed.

The W.T.F. Bar in Zhongshan China


Yet again, somebody felt amused.

Happy New Year!