Route and Map 2016: Beijing to Xian

2016 Beijing To Xian

2016-Map

This summer we travelled with a friend who had never been to China before. So to give him a good introduction we made a route from Beijing to Xian passing through the province of Shanxi. Its a route that took in some magnificent Buddhist cave art, wonderful old towns and castles, the Great Wall and included some of the most beautiful temples in China. Finally finishing up with the Terracotta Army in Xian.

 

Old Castle town near Jincheng

Old Castle town near Jincheng

Shanxi Province 山西省: A journey through the cradle of Chinese culture

Shanxi Province 山西省

Yungang Caves nearDatong

Yungang Caves 云冈石窟 near Datong大同

 

Our last two trips to China have taken us to the North-Western province of Shanxi. We’ll be posting a series of articles that look at some of the most spectacular sites Shanxi has to offer.

Temple  Land at Wutai Shan

Temple Land at Wutai Shan 五台山

We’ll be recommending what to see and do in places that range from the amazing cave art of the Yungang Grottoes云冈石窟 near Datong 大同 and the temple- studded mountains of Wutai Shan 五台山 to more remote places like Qikou 碛口, a Ming dynasty village on the Yellow river, the cave houses of Lijiashan 李家山, or the castles near the bustling city of Jincheng 晋城.

Grilled Squid at Taiyuan-s wonderful night market

Grilled Squid and lamb at Taiyuan-s wonderful night market

Pingyao 平遥 won’t be forgotten. We’ve now visited this wonderful city 3 times since 2001. There will be a comprehensive review of all the incredible things to see and do in and around this unique historical city.

Shanxi Opera in Pingyao

Shanxi Opera in Pingyao 平遥

For now, here are a few photos to whet you appetite. [Read more →]

Li Qun 力群 Wood Cuts 木刻绘画 in the Wang Jia Mansion

Li Qun 力群 Wood Cuts 木刻绘画

Li Qun Wood Cut

Li Qun Wood Cut

 

Here are just a few of the beautiful wood cuts we were able to enjoy when we visited the rambling and extraordinary Wang Family Home in Shanxi Province a few hours from Pingyao.

Wang Jia Mansion

Wang Jia Mansion

We had no idea that there was a Li Qun exhibition on when we visited. It was a fantastic surprise. Some of his wood cuts are really stunning works of art.

Li Qun Wood Cut

Li Qun Wood Cut

For more on Li Qun Click here: I hope you enjoy the photos we took. I am afraid there is some reflective glare on one or two of the photos due to the wood cuts being protected by glass.

Here is a summery of  his philosophy on art:

Art for Serving the Masses

 The following text comes from: http://en.cafa.com.cn/iconic-chinese-woodcuts-artist

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“Li strongly believes that art should serve the interests of the masses–the workers, peasants and soldiers. [Read more →]

Yuci Ancient City 榆次古城: Taiyuan Shanxi Province

Yuci 榆次古城Ancient Town

God Temple Yuci

God Temple Yuci

It’s a tedious ride on a local bus from Taiyuan passing through an endless sprawl of residential tower blocks that blur the distinction between the ending of one town and the beginning of another. The apartments are interspersed with companies, ranging from small and medium-sized to large, all set back from the road in their own compounds. The traffic is relentless and the ride seems to go on and on.

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Yuci 榆次

Then, suddenly, you are dropped in Yuci榆次Ancient Town and immediately the urban horrors of modern China recede and give way to striking temples, imposing ancestor halls and magnificent but austere Confucian buildings. Add to this some exquisite vernacular buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasty and you can enjoy a superb day trip from Taiyuan.

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Yuci Street

On a beautiful winter’s day in early January with temperatures below 10 and an azure sky, we were incredulous to find the town devoid of tourists, finding ourselves more often than not the only visitors at the various sights.

Yuci Blue Skys

Yuci Blue Skys

Visiting the Ancient Town

Start by paying 60 Yuan for a Tong Piao 通票 (through ticket), which allows you to visit all the numerous sights; you can wander around the town itself without a ticket.  The first on your list, and close to the entrance, should be the magnificent God Temple 隍庙, where you’ll find [Read more →]

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015

Harbin Ice Skyscrapers

Harbin Ice Skyscrapers

At last we made it to Harbin. We had wanted to go to Harbin for its Ice Festival for years and at last everything fell into place.

What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin's favorite brew?

What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin’s favorite brew?

Here is the rundown for this year’s Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Later we’ll be putting up a more personal account. In this post we’ll give you the info you need if you are planning to go this year 2015.

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The Festival has 3 parts:

  • Harbin Ice and Snow World
  • Harbin Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo
  • Harbin Ice Lantern Fair

 

The Harbin Ice and Snow World

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This is the big one. It’s out on Sun Island, and it’s where you’ll find the [Read more →]

Zhaoqing 肇庆: The City with Everything

Zhaoqing 肇庆

The City with Everything

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Within an hour from Guangzhou, Zhaoqing is a fantastic place to spend a few days exploring. It’s a lively city with its own miniature version of Guilin’s famous karst scenery smack- bang in the centre in the form of the Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone; a massive park and lake area.

Not bad for the city centre

Not bad for the city centre

Moreover, Zhaoqing still preserves some interesting, old downtown areas to wander around and explore the traditional shop-houses, the tiny dwellings built onto the city walls and the occasional riverside pagoda.

Zhaoqing River Scene

Zhaoqing River Scene

Nearby, China’s first Biosphere Reserve, Dinghushan 鼎湖山, lies on the outskirts of the city. Just an hour away by local bus are the time-forgotten, completely un-spoilt ancient Bagua Villages of Licha Cun and Xianggang Cun. Add to all this a great night market with restaurants spilling out into the street, serving excellent Cantonese food and you couldn’t really ask for more. Incidentally, though the city is popular with Chinese visitors, you are unlikely to see another foreigner during your stay.

Zhaoqing Street Scene

Zhaoqing Street Scene

Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone

In Zhaoqing city, the undisputed main attraction is the [Read more →]

Dinghushan 鼎湖山; a Tropical Paradise on the Edge of Urbanization

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Zhaoqing / Guangdong Province

Dinghu Shan

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Dinghushan 鼎湖山, just an hour away from the centre of Zhaoqing, was China’s first National Park, established in 1956. Nowadays it’s also a UNESCO “Man and Natural Biosphere Reserve” for the research of ecosystems in tropical and subtropical forests.

Another Waterfall in Dinghu Shan

鼎湖山

It’s a beautiful place of towering green hills, gushing waterfalls and clear streams, laced with a sprinkling of peaceful Buddhist temples and home to numerous plant and animal species. However, apart from the awe-inspiring, lush, tropical scenery, one memory will always stick in our minds: that of pigging out on tasty, deep- purple potatoes…

The Purple Potato

The Purple Potato

We got to the park by local bus, leaving from downtown Zhaoqing. Though the park’s only 18 km away, the ride took quite a while, as the bus meandered from one densely populated suburb to the next. Even when it finally dropped us off in a quiet, dead-end street, lined with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, we still found it hard to believe there could be an important natural reserve near here.

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Map of Dinghushan

Our first impressions of China’s “green gem on the Tropic of Cancer” weren’t [Read more →]

Luocheng 罗城镇 Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture: Travel Update

Luocheng 罗城镇

Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture

罗城镇 Luocheng

罗城镇 Luocheng

We’ve just received a travel update on the amazing teahouse village Luocheng 罗城镇  in Sichuan province. Many years ago we had a long and bumpy ride to Luocheng from Leshan. It now seems the trip can be done in around 3 ½ hours by bus directly from Chengdu along a good road. We’ve had a detailed comment from Wayne on our previous post.  The bus timetables are below but click here to read the rest of the comment and more about Luocheng.

Buses to Luocheng leave from Chengdu’s Shiyangchang Bus Station 石羊场汽车客运站 at 8.20 / 9.20 and 12.20 and return to Chengdu at 12.30/ 13.30 and 14.30. Tickets cost 67 Yuan. Bus number 28 goes to Shiyangchang Bus Station from downtown Chengdu.

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Country Driving; A Chinese Road Trip, by Peter Hessler

Country Driving;

A Chinese Road Trip,

by Peter Hessler

(Published by Canongate)

Due to a number of family matters we had to cancel our trip to China this summer. Instead, we’ve had to content ourselves with reading books about travelling in China. Country Driving; A Chinese Road trip, was one of the best. Hopefully we’ll be able to head to the Harbin Ice Festival this winter as compensation for missing out this summer. We still have loads of travel material to upload.

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What’s it like to drive a car around China? As neither Margie nor I drive, we’ll probably never know. However, Peter Hessler’s fascinating, and often hilarious book, gives you a wonderful insight into what it might be like. Hessler’s observations on the quirkiness of driving in China, which include the amazing opportunity he had of taking part in the test driving of the Chinese Chery, are unlike anything you may have read before.

Road signs can be different

Road signs can be different

And yet, Country Driving is much more than just another travel book; Hessler’s fluency in Mandarin allows him to connect with the Chinese in a way few westerners are able to do. In fact, his encounters with the people he meets on the road, and the relationships he develops with them, are the real highlights of the book. I particularly enjoyed the incredibly relaxed and open relationship Hessler cultivates with some of the characters, such as the people from the car hire company, or the family in Sancha village.
Country Driving is divided into three parts.

Driving isn't always safe in China

Driving isn’t always safe in China

Part 1

This part focuses on his first trip into remote areas of the northern provinces of Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, where he traces the crumbling remains of the Great Wall. Along the way, he picks up hitch-hikers and passes through time- forgotten villages, whose names hark back to their glory days when they were at the fore-front of the defense of the Empire.

Names like Slaughter the Hu, or Smash the Hu (the Hu being the Barbarian tribes from the North) are not too dissimilar to the names of villages [Read more →]

Bagua Village 八卦村 of Licha Cun 黎槎村 Guangdong Province

Bagua Village of Licha Cun 黎槎村

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Licha Cun Bagua Village

One of Guangdong’s hidden gems is found only 200 meters from some of the drabbest scenery you are ever likely to see in China.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

The road between the attractive town of Zhaoqing and the fascinating Bagua village of Licha Cun 黎槎村 has got to be one of the ugliest in China. Dusty, dirty and lined, almost uninterruptedly, with small ceramic factories, many of them specialize in manufacturing toilet bowls of all shapes and sizes. These thrones, destined for backsides of China’s growing urbanized middle class, are haphazardly displayed along the side of the road making the traveler wonder if the world is just one big toilet.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Yet, the ugliness is deceptive. Turn 200 meters down any small road leading off the highway and you enter a rural world of bucolic charm that has hardly changed for centuries. The turn off to the Bagua Village of Licha Cun is just one such example.

Bagua 八卦 The Octagonal Shape of Licha Cun

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“The bagua: 八卦; literally: “eight symbols”) are eight trigrams used in Taoist Cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either “broken” or “unbroken,” representing Yin or Yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as “trigrams” in English.” WikiPedia

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

With a history tracing back more than 700 years, the Village of [Read more →]