Monday, June 4, 2018

A Tiananmen Story Told Through Shirts & Dresses in Guangzhou, China

Today as I looked at the English messages on clothing sold and worn at the Dongji Xintiandi Shopping Mall in Guangzhou, I rather unexpectedly saw a potential story being told. So instead of sharing relevant links and tweets, what I witnessed at a Hong Kong vigil, or how much of what happens in China on this date is the same as any other day, this year I will reflect on the anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square through the messages on some of the clothing on display today in one shopping center in one city of China.

While this approach is certainly unusual, it captures some of the conflicting and almost surreal feelings one can experience considering today's history while walking down the streets of present day China. It also reflects how those who do speak out on this topic in China often have to resort to more indirect or creative expression to make it through heavy censorship even briefly.


Twenty-nine years ago many students in China had a dream.

"Reach for the Moon" shirt

They had goals.

"Democrazy" and "Help Me!" shirts

The students were peaceful, but the Chinese government was greatly concerned nonetheless.

"The Power of Dreams." shirt

Things didn't go the way the students had expected.

"There is a surprise" shirt

The government's response was not light.

"Extreme" shirt

And the streets of Beijing became like they they had never been before.

"Tank" shirt

Without the witnesses, photos, and videos, some of it would now be hard to believe.

"It's real" shirt

The government offered rationale for its actions.

"Security" shirt

And now the government even says that democracy is one of the twelve Core Socialist Values for the country.

"Not Fake But Faux." shirt

Some outside of China would question whether the country really claims that.

"Yep!" shirt

Many people today don't spend much time thinking about what happened 29 years ago.

"Never look back" shirt

They may be focused on a variety of other things.

"Less Stress More Sex." shirt

Some people don't want to talk about it even if they are aware.

"Don't Ask Me" shirt

Still, there are some in China who have their own dreams.

"REBEL" shirt

But they often see no effective way to proceed.

"Plan" shirt

Some would say there simply isn't any chance in China for what the students sought 29 years ago.

"Just Can't" dress

Despite the challenges, some still hold out hope.

"Never Give up" jumper dress

Some believe that even if they might not be able to achieve each and every goal they desire, that isn't reason things can't be better.

"Fuck The Perfect" shirt

There are questions as to whether the change can occur over time by encouraging fundamental behaviors.

"Be Curious" shirt

Or whether significant change would require much sacrifice for it to have even a slim chance of occurring.

"Find What You Love and Let It Kill You" shirt

Whatever the case, today in China it is difficult to discuss the facts of what occurred at Tiananmen Square. Even mentioning the date June 4 can lead to censorship. So people find ways to refer to the day in other ways.

And another May 35th goes by in China . . .

"May Can't Happen in June" shirt

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Nine Children Day Photos from Guangzhou

As in a number of other countries, June 1 is Children's Day in China. Children younger than 14 get the day off from class, which lead some parents to question why they aren't legally entitled to a day off too so they can spend it with their children. On that note, many schools arrange activities for the day.

Yesterday I saw signs of the holiday in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. Despite it being a Friday, the activity level at some places felt more like a weekend. One movie theater lobby I passed was packed with excited children — likely due to discounts or a school outing.

Below are a handful of photos I took yesterday. I can't say each and every scene is directly connected to the holiday, but they all definitely include children.

dance performance by boys
Dance performance at Sunny Mall

kiddie play area at mall
Busy children's amusement center at Sunny Mall

air hockey game
Air hockey at an arcade in the JN Sunday underground pedestrian shopping street

children making pizzas at The Pizza Factory in Guangzhou
Pizza-making party at The Pizza Factory in the Icon City shopping mall

woman and girl walking down Gaodi Street in Guangzhou
On Gaodi Street

girl posing in front of a sculpture for a photo
Photographic opportunity at Shangxiajiu Square

one girl lifting up another onto her back
Lifting up a twin sister at Shangxiajiu Square

girl giving another girl a piggyback ride
A piggyback ride underway

two children debating who should get a stroller
A (potential) learning moment for a boy who had tried to hijack a baby stroller

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Anthodites, Dragons, and Something Sacred: Panlong Cave in Yunfu, China

Exit of Panlong Cave in Yunfu
The exit for Panlong Cave in Yunfu

The biggest attraction at the Panlong Lake Scene Area in Yunfu is inside the karst topography that gives the area much of its beauty — Panlong Cave (蟠龙洞), from which the lake and scenic area ultimately derive their names. Regular tickets cost 35 yuan (about U.S. $5.45) and tour guides take groups of visitors through the cave.

As the tour guide will note, one of the cave's claims to fame is its "stone flowers". After a bit of online research, I believe the formal name for them is "anthodites". As described in the Universities Space Research Association's Earth Science Picture of the Day blog post, anthodites aren't very common:
Anthodites are a relatively rare mineral formation found only in certain caves, such as Skyline Caverns near Front Royal, Virginia. They're normally nearly pure white in color and usually consist of radiating bunches of needle-like crystals of calcium carbonate. Their mode of formation is not well understood, but they presumably form in air-filled chambers by the slow precipitation of calcium carbonate from thin films of water that are held to their surface by capillary attraction.
A sign inside Panlong Cave leaves no doubt as to the quality of its own anthodites:

In short, they are claimed to be the best. I will leave it up to anthodite experts to debate this further if need be.

You can't get very close to the anthodites, which is probably a good thing for their preservation.

anthodites at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

So here is a cropped version of the above photo with some clear examples.

anthodites at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

There are some other special structures in the cave as well.

Alien residue at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

But it is something else which inspired the cave's name. The cave twists and turns in such a way that has been compared to a twisting dragon. And "panlong" means "coiling dragon". In a similar spirit, many structures in the cave are said to resemble dragons in some way or another. The guide will be sure to point many of these out to you. It is like identifying objects in the shape of clouds. I don't have any good dragon photos, but I do have one of the Dragon Door.

Dragon Door at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

While the dragon shapes might be easy to miss, the twisting path is not. I have visited a number of caves in the past, and found it both remarkable and enjoyably disorienting as we twisted and turned over several levels.

Panlong Cave in Yunfu

twisting path at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

metal stairs at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

Walking past and over water from a underground stream is an added touch.

underground river at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

Towards the end of the tour through the cave is a structure named "Longmu's Return" that I feel safe safe saying isn't the result of completely natural processes.

Longmu Returns sculpture at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

From The Tao of Craft by Benebell Wen:
"Long Mu" means "Mother of Dragons." Long Mu was born human, as a woman named Wen Long Ji (溫龍姬), and became an orphan after her parents drowned in a great flood. She then came to raise five orphaned baby dragons to adulthood, who were loyal to their human mother until her death. Long Mu was later deified for mothering the five dragons. She is venerated as the goddess of motherhood, parenthood, fertility, and filial piety.
There is a box for giving money to the goddess.

Overall, the anthodites and coiling multilevel route are enough to recommend a visit to people who make their way to Yunfu. But if that's not enough to entice, perhaps one of the first sights in the tour through the cave will seal the deal.

Ladies and gentleman, the Sacred Cock:

Sacred Cock at Panlong Cave in Yunfu

The lighting and glass panel don't make it easy to take a great photo, but if you look closely you may make out the form of a chicken, a sacred one at that. How many caves have one of these?

Why it is with the dragons was not explained. But you can ask if you visit Panlong Cave in Yunfu.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Karst and Water: The Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

The first thing that caught my eye as I arrived in Yunfu, Guangdong, was the incredible number of places selling various types of stone. The second thing was the karst topography in the midst of Yunfu's central urban area.

Soon I was photographing some it from my hotel room window. But the Panlong Lake Scenic Area which I had just passed is a more popular place to take in the karst views. It isn't as famous as similar sites in Guilin or neighboring Zhaoqing, but it has its own charms. And you can walk around the lake and hills for free.

I had planned to mention this scenic area earlier, but I ended up going down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what to call it English — more about that in a later post. The lake takes it name from Panlong Cave, which is in one of the hills surrounding the lake. More about the cave in another later post. A guide at the cave said it isn't possible to walk up any of the hills. But there is an accessible hill top not far away. More about that crag in yet another later post.

For this post, below are some photos taken on a cloudy and slightly hazy day as I walked around Panlong Lake in a clockwise direction. Yes, the sculpture in the last two photos is leaning to one side. And yes, there are ducks in the lake. But mostly, I share these to highlight more of the karst topography and some of the nearby urban areas in a city not familiar to most people outside of this region in China.

path at the Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

View from Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

path at Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

bridge at Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

Panlong Lake in Yunfu

people on boats at Panlong Lake

Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

Longzhu Island (龙珠岛) at Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

Yunfu's city center behind Panlong Lake

Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

sculpture at Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

sculpture at Panlong Lake Scenic Area in Yunfu

Friday, May 25, 2018

Buckling Up Success: Belts for Sale in Yunfu

The previous post with a photo of a crag in Yunfu I didn't try to name indicated that some future posts will include more crags. Incredibly enough, though, some other posts I have been working on don't include a single crag. So for a slight hint of what these cragless posts will be about, here is a sign for some belts for sale at a shop in Yunfu:

sign for belts for sale with a black rabbit logo and "Sign of successful people"

I believe that is it for this week. Next week should be more post-heavy.

An Unidentified Crag in Yunfu

I have recently spent much effort on research for several posts here. I don't actually have any of the posts ready yet though. And a good chunk of this research won't lead to anything that would make most people think, "Wow, you must have put a lot of time into this!"

If some people knew how much, they would probably wonder, "Why in the world did you spend so much time on this?"

Such is life.

So for a contrast (and to get something actually posted today) here is a scene from Yunfu.

a field and crag in Yunfu

I don't know the name of the crag / rock / hill in the photo. I am not going to try to figure it out. I just thought it was a nice thing to find while walking around an urban area in Yunfu.

More crags soon. At least one will be named.