Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Climb Worth the Time: Views of and from Jiuxing Crag in Yunfu

As with Pingfeng Hill, according to a guide at Panlong Cave none of the hills most closely surrounding Panlong Lake in Yunfu have paths allowing a hike to their summits that doesn't require skilled mountaineering. The guide suggested if I wanted to hike up a hill to head to Nanshan Park (also called Nanshan Forest Park). It was a fine suggestion and somebody else recommended the park as well. But I would recommend Jiuxing Crag* (九星岩) first because of the views it offers located in the midst of the most central urban area of the city and its karst topography.

As an added bonus, it is closer to the Panlong Lake Scenic Area. Here is yet another photo taken there:

view at Panlong Lake including Jiuxing Crag

Jiuxing Crag is the hill behind some buildings on the left side.

Below are a set of photos taken from various heights on Jiuxing Hill during a hazy day. On the right side of the first photo is the hill which is to the right of Jiuxing Crag in the photo above. Pingfeng Hill is in the distance on the far left side of the second photo and far right side of the third photo. Unfortunately, the view of Panlong Lake is blocked unless you venture off the path into riskier areas. I refrained from venturing this time.

view from Jiuxing Crag (九星岩)  in Yunfu (云浮)

view from Jiuxing Crag (九星岩)  in Yunfu (云浮)

view from Jiuxing Crag (九星岩)  in Yunfu (云浮)

view from Jiuxing Crag (九星岩)  in Yunfu (云浮)

*I didn't find any official English translations of the hill's name. I went with "crag" since that follows the way neighboring Zhaoqing translates the names for a set of similar hills also identified in Chinese as "岩".

Monday, June 11, 2018

Carrying Some Styrofoam in Guangzhou

In China, seeing massive amounts of items being carried in one way or another isn't exceptionally uncommon. Still, this caught my eye today in Guangzhou:

man carrying many styrofoam containers at once in Guangzhou

Well done.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A View from Below of Three Guangzhou Towers at Night

The previous two posts included photos of the Chao Tai Fook (CTF) Finance Centre, Guangzhou International Finance Center (IFC), and the Canton Tower in Guangzhou. The most recent post referred to some below-ground-level urban planning. So to pull everything together, here is a photo capturing all three of the tall structures taken last night from an open section of the mostly underground Mall of the World.

CTF Finance Centre, IFC, and Canton tower viewed from an outdoor area at the Mall of the World

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Taller Tower in Guangzhou's Clouds

The previous post, "The Two Towers of Guangzhou", featured a photo of two skyscrapers reaching into the clouds at night. The building on the left is the Guangzhou Chao Tai Fook (CTF) Finance Centre and the building on the right is the Guangzhou International Finance Center (IFC). They are sometimes referred to the East Tower and West Tower, respectively. The CTF Finance Centre is the taller of the two and is currently the third-tallest building in China and seventh-tallest in the world.

But the title for most iconic tower in Guangzhou probably wouldn't be awarded to either of these buildings and instead go to the Canton Tower. It isn't counted as a building, but it is even taller than CTF Finance Centre and is the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

I took the photo below of the Canton Tower shortly after the previously shared photo from a location just feet away. The scene was especially remarkable to me because the view was unusually clear thanks to genuinely good air quality.

Canton Tower in Guangzhou at night

I would say the big story related to these towers isn't their heights but closer to ground-level, including below it. A story of urban planning for another day . . . 

The Two Towers of Guangzhou

two Guangzhou skyscrapers in the clouds at night

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.