Thursday, November 12, 2015

From Shaoguan to Changsha: A Brief Look at a Long Day

After reaching a boarding platform at the Shaoguan Railway Station last Wednesday morning, I headed in the wrong direction. To ensure the high-speed train didn't leave minus a confused passenger, staff asked me to board the nearest train car. The long train appeared to be two trains connected together, and there was no way to pass from the one I had boarded to the one with my reserved seat. Fortunately, finding a new seat wasn't a problem. During the 1 hour 44 minutes needed to reach my destination 480 km (298 miles) away, I was the only person sitting in the train car I had entered.

empty high-speed train car in China

After arriving at the Changsha South Railway Station, instead of taking a taxi with a bust of Mao Zedong as I had done two years ago, I took the subway which had opened more recently.

In my hotel room I discovered one of the lightbulbs needed replaced. I notified hotel staff and not long afterwards left my room. In the elevator lobby I saw a hotel employee walk towards my room with a light bulb. Minutes later my room had more light. The elevator lobby, where I had watched the employee remove the light bulb from the ceiling, now had less.

I hit the streets of Changsha with a number of goals in my mind, most related to seeing what had and had not changed since my previous time there. Since my stomach desired lunch, my first destination was a new favorite for Liuyang-style steamed dishes on Jixiang Lane (吉祥巷). My old favorite and an old new favorite on the same lane are both long gone.

Liuyang-style restaurant in Changsha, Hunan

As expected, a variety of options, many spicy, were available in the steamer.

Liuyang-style steamed dishes in Changsha, Hunan

As not expected, the fish I chose was far from spectacular. I may branch out to other lanes next time.

I then made my way to the Kaifu Wanda Plaza. Behind it a pair of men encouraged me to try their specialty of pig and chicken feet.

two men selling pig and chicken feet in Changsha

Being full, I passed on their offer. And I soon passed some non-foot meat for sale nearby.

hanging raw meat for sale in Changsha

While walking down Yongxing Street (永兴街), a man sitting outside a mahjong room requested I take his photo. I obliged, and he convinced a woman to join him.

woman and man posing outside for a photo in front of a room filled with mahjong players

Later, near an area with a number of mobile phone stores and markets, I met two boys sharing a chair . . .

two boys sitting on a chair in Changsha, Hunan

. . . a boy with a Chinese sanjiegun . . .

boy posing with a sanjiegun (three-sectional staff) in Changsha, Hunan

and a sanjiegun-less mutt.

a mutt with a bit of pug sitting on a table in Changsha

Upon reaching the mobile phone markets, I checked out their current selection.

variety of children's mobile phones for sale in Changsha

I then walked to a large shopping district around Huangxing Road and saw a Minions mascot . . .

Minion mascot holding a sign in Changsha

. . . a child with a dog . . .

small dog standing on its hind legs and looking at a child in a stroller in Changsha

. . . and a couple of other mascots, these for Dianping.

male Dianping mascot holding a sign at a Changsha mall

female Dianping mascot holding a sign at a Changsha mall

The mascots were part of a promotion at a mall which, similar to many other promotions I have seen in China, concluded with dancers.

dancers for a Dianping promotion in Changsha

The dancers conclude this set of photos as well.

I was in Changsha for less than 24 hours but still managed to cover much ground. The above photos capture just a small portion of what I saw. In the future, I will share more, including updates to some earlier Changsha-related posts. And perhaps someday I will return to the elevator lobby to see whether it has regained its earlier brightness.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some of Today's Lunch Space

On the plus side, the restaurant in the building has pretty good food and an excellent view.

sign at the Space Telescope Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore

On the negative side, I didn't get to use the telescope today.

I had hoped to have a bit more posted by now to help serve as a prelude to the above. I also hope to soon post the material, though in a more postlude-like fashion.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Mobile Moment in Nanxiong, Guangdong

A crowd surround these pots for sale when I passed by less than an hour earlier.

Man uses a mobile phone while sitting next to "mobile" pots in Nanxiong, Guangdong.

Regarding the mobile theme, I have been rather mobile myself since yesterday and such joys will continue for about another day or so, depending on how you count. More about that, including my brief but eventful time in Changsha, once I am in a slightly more settled state.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Another Small Space in Shaoguan Filled with China's Redder Days: The Wuya Lane Old Book Room

The Nostalgia Book Room isn't the only place buying and selling old books and other older items on Wuya Lane in Shaoguan. Another place is the similarly small and appropriately named Wuya Lane Old Book Room* (吾牙巷旧书房). Like The Nostalgia Book Room, it opens when it opens and was closed almost all of the times I passed by.

The Wuya Lane Old Book Room (吾牙巷旧书房) in Shaoguan, Guangdong

Fortunately, one evening I arrived just before the door was about to come down. I was able to take a photo of the packed up room.

inside the Wuya Lane Old Book Room (吾牙巷旧书房) in Shaoguan

To peruse the many items call Mr. Mo (莫) at 18344499159 to have a better chance of finding an open door.

*Once again, I took the liberty of providing an English name. "书房" is often translated as "study" (the room), but I thought "book room" worked better in these cases.

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, November 1, 2015

Halloween Scenes from Shaoguan, China

Last week while crossing the Fengcai Bridge in Shaoguan, I noticed a few people looking up at something.

young women walking on a bridge and looking upwards in Shaoguan

I soon surmised their attention had been caught by an advertisement for a Halloween party.

Billboard in Shaoguan advertising the Halloween 2 party

The other side of the billboard was the same.

Billboard in Shaoguan advertising the Halloween 2 party

And similar signs appeared over a road leading to the Shaoguan East Railway Station.

Billboard near the Shaoguan East Railway Station advertising the Halloween 2 party

Billboard  advertising the Halloween 2 party

Not to be outdone, a fitness club had a Halloween activity planned as well.

Advertisement by a fitness club for a Halloween run in Shaoguan

And during several returns to an RT-Mart in Shaoguan I always saw a crowd around the Halloween supplies for sale.

Halloween supplies for sale at an RT-Mart in Shaoguan, China

The RT-Mart also added two Halloween-themed candy displays.

Halloween Skittles display at the RT-Mart in Shaoguan

Halloween M&M's display at the RT-Mart in Shaoguan

All of these signs plus some discussions I had with locals lead me to believe there would be more Halloween spirit in Shaoguan than I had expected after earlier seeing the Halloween offerings at a Pizza Hut.

I had not expected to still be here on Halloween, but life proved to have other ideas. So I was able to experience some of the city on the special day. What I saw on Halloween night was not as extensive as what I saw in Changsha several years ago, but it still surprised me, especially considering the constant rain all night.

For example, people sold masks and other Halloween-related items at both the Pedestrian Street and The History East Street shopping area.

person selling Halloween supplies at a pedestrian street in Shaoguan

Halloween supplies for sale at The History East Street in Shaoguan

And a popular arcade had Halloween activities, including free face painting.

Halloween face painting the City Hero video arcade in Shaoguan

Halloween face painting the City Hero video arcade in Shaoguan

college student with face paint in Shaoguan

Two City Hero employees with Halloween face paint in Shaoguan

young woman wearing face paint and holding a small stuffed bear in Shaoguan

At the History East Road shopping area I saw a variety of people, mostly younger, appropriately dressed for the holiday.

little boy wearing a Spiderman Halloween mask in Shaoguan, China

group of young people in Shaoguan dressed up for Halloween

And a decent crowd showed up for the party I first saw advertised, also at The History East Road, despite the steady rain. Some people took advantage of the opportunity to dance. Others watched.

Dancing at the Halloween 2 party in Shaoguan

Dancing at the Halloween 2 party in Shaoguan

people watching the dancing at the Halloween 2 party in Shaoguan

people on state at the Halloween 2 party in Shaoguan

Dancing at the Halloween 2 party in Shaoguan

Dancing at the Halloween 2 party in Shaoguan, China

Surely this is not cover all of Shaoguan's Halloween activities, but it offers a sense of how another Western holiday is gaining acceptance in China. Even a local reporter noted Halloween's growing presence (in Chinese). By far, most of Shaoguan showed no signs of the holiday and at most homes you would likely only cause much confusion (at best) if you show up trick-or-treating. Still, it's good to know one can end Halloween in Shaoguan at a quiet bar and receive an unexpected free holiday treat to complement your Bloody Mary.

Bloody hand made out of hot dogs, cheese, almonds, and ketchup