Showing posts with label Change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Change. Show all posts

Friday, May 6, 2016

Another Look at What Life Was Once Like Near Shangqiu's Dieze Gate

The previous post featured some buildings inside the Shangqiu's ancient city wall at the Dieze Gate which I had seen in November 2010. After I took the photo of them shared in that post, I walked through the gate and headed to other sights in Shangqiu. When I later returned to the ancient city through the same gate, I took a photo which includes some of this same buildings. In this case they appear on the right side.

Street scene near Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in Shangqiu during November 2010

I also took a photo of the other side of the street.

Street scene near Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in Shangqiu during November 2010

The photos aren't remarkable to me just because I found the buildings in both have since been demolished, with the exception of those behind the trees, but also because of the life they capture such as hanging clothes, an electric scale, vehicles, items for sale, and, of course, people on a day which for them might have been mostly unremarkable.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Destroying to Restore: Disappearing Life in the Shangqiu Ancient City

Mark Rowswell, aka Dashan, a performer in China famous for his Chinese language skills and comedy, recently tweeted about a city I rarely see mentioned:

The tweet reminded me of my own visit to Shangqiu and how everyday life continued amidst construction in its ancient city. A subsequent tweet by Rowswell and an accompanying photo captured how some of the life there hasn't continued in the same way.

portion of ancient city wall with leftover marking from a building which had once been built against it

The mark of the building which had once stood against the wall made me wonder how much of what I had seen in Shangqiu was now gone. Rowswell's photo specifically reminded me of one I had taken inside the western portion of the ancient city wall at Dieze Gate (垤泽门).

building attached to the city wall near Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in the Shangqiu Ancient City in November 2010

When I took the photo back in November 2010, I questioned whether the buildings next to the wall would last long. Now I was especially curious. I am not near Shangqiu at the moment, and, even if he were still there, I figured it would be a bit odd to ask Rowswell to go over and snap a photo.

Fortunately, there was another option. Baidu's online street-view service, which didn't exist when I visited Shangqiu, has greatly expanded its coverage during recent years. Not only does it now cover portions of the Shangqiu Ancient City, it offers a similar viewpoint.

More recent view of Dieze Gate (垤泽门) in the Shangqiu Ancient City from Baidu's street view service

The tree, a little larger, remains, as apparently does some of the activity near the wall. But clearly much is gone. Seeing the remains of the demolished buildings wasn't entirely unexpected, yet I still felt a complex combination of emotions I have experienced before elsewhere in China.

When I visited this location the buildings and the life around them caught my attention as much as, if not more than, the ancient city gate. I wonder what life was like there during the wall's early years. In some ways it may have more closely resembled what I saw five and a half years ago than life there now.

Regardless, the buildings are history. Perhaps it was the right choice. And perhaps someday in the future people will want to reconstruct the buildings for the same reasons they were destroyed.

Like Rowswell, I have mixed feelings.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Life Amidst Construction in the Shangqiu Ancient City

When I visited the Shangqiu Ancient City in Henan province in late 2010, road construction made the central Zhongshan Main Street difficult to navigate, especially if you wanted to cross from one side to the other.

road construction at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

There were few barriers around the construction site, and it was easy for people to enter, whether accidentally or on purpose. The border of the construction site was often fuzzy and in places materials obstructed sidewalk space.

large concrete tools on the sidewalk next to a road construction site at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

So like in many other parts of China, seemingly ordinary construction had become remarkably intwined with the lives of many people, including playing children. And people continued with their daily lives whether on it . . .

woman holding a child who is standing on a large concrete tube at the Zhongshan Main Street in the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

next to it . . .

woman selling tubers next to a road construction site at the Shangqiu Ancient City

or over it.

woman pushing her bike towards an informally made bridge over large concrete tubes at a road construction site at the Shangqiu Ancient City (商丘古城)

The road is in far better shape now, but change doesn't stop, even in an ancient city. And sometimes life can't blend in as easily. I will share a more recent example from Shangqiu later.

Update: See here for the more recent example.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Road Construction Fun in Shangqiu

Shangqiu, a prefecture-level city in Henan, China, recently came to my attention, and I was inspired to write a related post. I won't finish the post today, so for now I will share a photo I took in November 2010 of some boys who were playing in the middle of a road construction site in the walled Shangqiu Ancient City.

five boys standing in the middle of a road construction site in Shangqiu, China

More on the construction theme later. And then a bit about some more recent destruction in the historic area.

Friday, March 25, 2016

More Blues: The Losing Bar Lost in Jieyang

One night about a month ago on Wanjiang North Road in Jieyang, I noticed a bar with an unusual, but possibly fitting, name.

Losing Bar (迷途酒馆) in Jieyang with a partially falling sign a no lights on at night

The bar's Chinese name "迷途" (mítú) has a dictionary translation of "to lose one's way", which expresses a different message than the English name chosen for the bar. That doesn't necessarily mean the name was a mistake or the creator wasn't aware of the difference though. Whatever the case, it appeared the Losing Bar had, well, lost. The sign was in need of repair and there were no lights on during a prime bar time.

Two nights ago at the same location, I saw things had changed.

Mu Blue Pub (沐蓝酒馆) in Jieyang, China

The Mu Blue Pub took a different approach to translating its name, 沐蓝 (mùlán), into English by using the standard Pinyin transcription for the first character and the English translation for the second character. Perhaps this was done to avoid a more difficult task of translating both characters into a fitting English name.

I didn't go inside the new pub and won't have the opportunity to visit it in the near future. Given the turnover I have seen in Jieyang, a topic for another day, I wouldn't be surprised to see something else there if I return in a year or two. But maybe the Mu Blue Bar will be a winner.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Life With Less Lint Embraced at Shenzhen's Dongmen

My recent Shenzhen-themed posts have likely caused some longtime readers to ask an important question: Are people still selling cucumber slicers in the Dongmen shopping area as they were several years ago?

Based on recent observations, they are not. Now something else is sold by many hawkers there in a similar fashion: lint removers.

lint removers for sale on an outdoor table

hawker selling lint removers at Dongmen Pedestrian Street in Shenzhen

hawker selling lint removers at Dongmen Pedestrian Street in Shenzhen

One of the hawkers was asking 10 yuan (about U.S. $1.50) for a non-electric lint remover and 30 yuan for an electric lint remover (shaver). The latter price could quickly drop to 20 yuan. The lint removers appeared to be in demand, and several were sold during the brief time I watched several of the hawkers. As seen in the second and third photos, most of the hawkers have easily-transportable displays similar to those used for the cucumber slicers — still important for an easy escape from roaming security guards.

And yet again, a loose end is tied up. Though, as usual, more questions arise.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Small Space Filled with China's Redder Days: The Nostalgia Book Room in Shaoguan, Guangdong

Wuya Lane (吾牙巷) between Wenhua Street and Fuxing Road in Shaoguan is home to a variety of establishments including places selling & buying old currency and other collector's items, a restaurant specializing in donkey meat, inexpensive hair salons, and "hair salons" which appear to offer services far more intimate than a haircut. The place which most caught my eye there has the Chinese name 怀旧书屋 (Huáijiù Shūwū). Since no English name is listed, I will take the liberty of calling it The Nostalgia Book Room.

The Nostalgia Book Room (怀旧书屋) in Shaoguan, Guangdong, China

Numerous older books, posters, electronics and other memorabilia fill the small store. Many of them are connected to China's Cultural Revolution. Despite all of the upheaval and terror it brought, many in China today look back fondly on those days or part of what they held.

Chinese author Yu Hua, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution, sees some of the nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution as a sign of people's discontent with today's China:
In today’s China, more and more people speak in positive terms about the Cultural Revolution and hanker for a return to that era. Most of them don’t really want to turn the clock back: It’s mainly their dissatisfaction with current realities that fuels their interest in revolution. The itch for revolution, of course, may have different triggers. Some people are alienated by the increasing materialism of Chinese society, but many more are outraged by the emergence of interest cliques that marry political power to business profits.
But a quote of a Chinese musician in German sinologist Barbara Mittler's "Popular Propaganda? Art and Culture in Revolutionary China" suggests how people can have positive feelings about the era's culture without connecting it to any specific political message:
My generation likes the model works; they are our youth. Yes, there are people who dislike them, too, but really we do like them. Indeed, when I was young, eighteen or so, I needed art so much, we all did. And then there were just the model works as our food, and we actually thought they were quite great. Jiang Qing [Mao’s wife, who was in charge of the production of model works] used really good performers, writers, artists, and musicians. Of course this was propaganda for Mao’s thoughts, but it was also simply good art, it is all against these imperialists and their attacks, yes, it is, but it is also good art, really.
These are just two perspectives out of many on a complex topic which has generated much research and discussion — part of why I found the The Nostalgia Book Room so fascinating. Another part is simply the history. And old books and electronics . . .

Below is a closer look at the store. Some photographs were taken just after it opened and before all of the items had been set up as desired. If you wish to visit*, as far as I can tell the store opens when it opens. In other words, it is best to call Mr. Fan (范先生) at 0751-6109085 or 8979819 or you might be out of luck.

Little Red Books at The Nostalgia Book Room

Culture Revolution era books at The Nostalgia Book Room

books at The Nostalgia Book Room in Shaoguan

illustrated books at The Nostalgia Book Room

old radios at The Nostalgia Book Room in Shaoguan

small poster, bag, and canteen from The Nostalgia Book Room

Cultural Revolution era items for sale at The Nostalgia Book Room

children's picture story books at The Nostalgia Book Room

old radios for sale at The Nostalgia Book Room

*Some online maps identify Wuya Lane as a street (吾牙街), but store signs and standard address plates in the area identify it as a lane / alley (吾牙巷).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day and Night at the Tongtian Pagoda

Shaoguan's 3-year-old Tongtian Pagoda (通天塔) replaced a pagoda built in the mid-1500s and destroyed in the mid-1800s. It sits on a small island where the Wu and Zhen Rivers meet to form the Bei River. Below are two photos of the pagoda and the Beijiang Bridge (北江大桥), which opened 30 years ago, taken from nearby vantage points but at different times of the day. People can have strong preferences for one viewing time or the other.

Tongtian Pagoda (通天塔) and Beijiang Bridge (北江大桥) during the day in Shaoguan

Tongtian Pagoda (通天塔) and Beijiang Bridge (北江大桥) lit up at a night in Shaoguan

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Clearer Day in Changsha

The intersection of Remin West Road and Cai'e South Road on Tuesday, the same day I shared examples of people protecting themselves from the sun on a smoggy day in Changsha:

intersection of Remin West Road and Cai'e South Road in Changsha on a smoggy day

The same intersection on an overcast Friday, which had much lower levels of pollution:

intersection of Remin West Road and Cai'e South Road in Changsha on less polluted day

The pollution was still higher than what would be acceptable in the U.S. for long-term exposure, but it felt like fresh air after recent days. The worst days in Beijing, and sometimes elsewhere, may make for flashier news, but the regularity of days like Tuesday not only in Changsha but many other places as well is a bigger problem for people's health in China.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Starbucks Experience Now Available in Hengyang

Last year I saw a clear sign at a large shopping mall that Hengyang would soon have its first Starbucks.
A Starbucks shop under construction at a shopping center in Hengyang

Starbucks would offer an experience not available in Hengyang I could see people were craving, and I had little doubt this store would be a success. When I returned to Hengyang this month, the store was open.

Starbucks in Hengyang, Hunan

On one Thursday afternoon, people apparently not enjoying Starbucks products occupied most of the outside space, but customers took up much of the available seating area inside.

people inside the Starbucks in Hengyang, Hunan

While the store represents some of Starbucks incredible growth in China, it is also another sign of how Hengyang is changing. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Shooting Rubber Covered Pockets of Air in Hengyang

On nights in May and June last year, I often saw people shooting balloons set up by various game operators at a multileveled riverside area in Hengyang.

young woman and man shooting balloons at night in Hengyang, China

several people shooting balloons at night in Hengyang, China

two people shooting balloons at night in Hengyang, China

three young women shooting balloons at night in Hengyang, China

And on one occasion, I saw people taking a creative, if not riskier, approach to the game.

two men shooting balloons from the side at night in Hengyang, China

When I returned to Hengyang this month, I saw that the balloon shooting remained a popular activity.

shooting balloons at night in Hengyang, China

Thanks to several friendly conversations last year, one of the game operators even recognized me and provided a hearty welcome back.

Like some sunken boats, the game was something that hadn't changed much in Hengyang over the past year. Though as one game operator set up for the night, I noticed a type of change common in Hengyang underway across the river.

woman setting up balloons to shoot with tall buildings under construction in the background

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sunken Boats in Hengyang

While some things have significantly changed in Hengyang, Hunan province, during the past year, others have seen less change, including one related to the earlier boat theme.

The scene on a rainy day at a somewhat hidden park off Changsheng Road last May:

And a similar viewpoint from this month on a brighter day:

After heavy rains in June last year the water was higher than in either of the two photos above. The water was far less clear this year. There were also a number of dead large fish floating around during my latest visit.

But the sunken boats remain. I don't know their story and can only wonder if they will be in the same state if I return to Hengyang again.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Restaurant, Mojitos, and a Roller Coaster: Examples of Recent Change in Hengyang, China

Gaining a deeper understanding of regional variations is part of what has motivated me to examine a large number of cities in China. Gaining a deeper understanding of what can change over time is part of what motivated me to spend two months in Hengyang, Hunan province, last year and return for a look this year after 9 months away. Here, I'll share three changes I noticed which impacted personal experiences of mine. However, they touch on broader issues as well.

Somewhere Under the Bridge

The first case involves a restaurant which appeared in a subtle photo essay about an important date in Chinese history. Unlike most restaurants, it was located under a bridge.

I passed the no-frills restaurant many times last year and on a few occasions stopped for lunch.

The dishes were already prepared and kept warm while on display — no printed menu necessary. I typically selected at least one fish dish.

The prices were especially low, and typically the customers were surprised to see me eating there. One man asked why I didn't eat across the street, since he thought the food was better there. I didn't agree, although most people would consider the other restaurant to have cleaner and more upscale conditions. For me, the restaurant under the bridge had a special atmosphere — including a group of older men often sitting outside drinking baijiu during lunch.

I was looking forward to stopping by again this year. But when I approached the bridge, I felt momentarily confused. Not only could I not find the restaurant, the building which held it no longer existed.

Fortunately, Hengyang has many other restaurants, though I haven't seen another under a bridge.

Minted on Zhongshan Road

Towards the end of my time in Hengyang last year, a new drink shop opened on a shopping street that, unlike the restaurant under the bridge, was popular with youth. The shop featured mojitos — a rum-based cocktail with mint.

Most of the drinks were alcohol-free drinks, some similar to cocktails, but genuine mojitos were available. Mojitos aren't a common drink in Hengyang, or in many Chinese cities, and at an outside promotion they provided details on its non-alcoholic ingredients.

After inspecting their bottle of Barcardi rum, which was either genuine or a decent fake, I ordered a mojito for less than US $2 — hard to beat, especially since they were willing to be rather liberal with the rum. Honestly, I was most attracted by the fresh mint, something I hadn't seen in a while. I then enjoyed a riverside stroll with the drink. Unlike the U.S., in China one is free to walk around public areas with an "open container" of alcohol.

This year when I returned, I saw that the mojito shop was no more. But unlike the restaurant under the bridge, it had been replaced.

No rum or fresh mint, though. I can't say I am surprised.

Lost Tracks

In a more surprising case, I hoped to revisit a roller coaster I once compared to a historic roller coaster in the U.S. The cat & mouse themed roller coaster in Yueping Park had its charms.

As I approached the roller coaster walking on a winding path up a hill, something seemed amiss, and I briefly wondered if I had taken a wrong turn. I then realized the location for the roller coaster was now covered with newly planted trees.

Perhaps the park wanted a more natural look. The rooster and chicken walking around the edge of the area weren't talking. I would never ride a roller coaster here again, and I couldn't even drown my sorrows with a mojito.

Other changes in Hengyang also caught my attention. In some cases, the changes reflect issues which extend across China. I will share more examples of change and also some of what hasn't changed in later posts.