A Travellerspoint blog

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 21-23)

Linfen, Shaanxi Province


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Linfeng

July 21, 2009

In the morning, we got up fairly early, checked out of the hotel and with Suzie went to the bus station. Suzie is a very lucky younr lady to have a family like she does.

ByeBye to Susie

ByeBye to Susie

As we traveled toward Linfen, we began to see the remnants of cave houses built into the loess. I also got a picture of a large pagoda in a town called Anzexian that was being renovated.

Quick view of Anzexian Pagoda

Quick view of Anzexian Pagoda

A typical Shanxi CaveHouse

A typical Shanxi CaveHouse

We arrived to the Linfen bus station at around noon and met one of my sophomore students, Sophia. We checked into a decent hotel and had a quick lunch and Sophia took us on a quick tour of downtown Linfen.

City Center Linfen Bell Tower

City Center Linfen Bell Tower

A twenty minute bus ride took us to a huge monument built to honor Emperor Yao 尧 who was a legendary Chinese emperor. He was supposed to have been the perfect sage-king. He is considered to be the proto-type of all Chinese emperors who followed.

This place was huge but expensive to get in. Judging by what we saw from the outside, it was modern with not many interesting ancient Chinese buildings to see. We took some pictures but did not go in. Instead we walked along the huge area just in front of the monument.

The Recently Built  Yao Monument

The Recently Built Yao Monument

Giant Wine Pitcher

Giant Wine Pitcher

Red and Gold Knocker

Red and Gold Knocker

Monument to somebody inside hotel courtyard

Monument to somebody inside hotel courtyard

Smaller Replica of Temple of Heaven

Smaller Replica of Temple of Heaven

Commercial Chinese-style Red Building in the area of the monument

Commercial Chinese-style Red Building in the area of the monument

After getting some snacks from some of the venders in the monument area, we caught a bus back to the downtown area. Sophia took us to a Ming Dynasty pagoda and a temple complex that was being made into a city museum. It was a very good example of classical Ming Pagoda.

A Narrow Street to a Ming Dynasty Pagoda

A Narrow Street to a Ming Dynasty Pagoda

Welcome waves a Mao statue

Welcome waves a Mao statue

Another view of the Pagoda

Another view of the Pagoda

Double Red Door Knockers - I could not resist a photo

Double Red Door Knockers - I could not resist a photo

A closer look at the Big Knocker

A closer look at the Big Knocker

We finished the day doing a little shopping and got back to our hotel at around 5 p.m. We had a early dinner and tired, we had no problem getting to sleep. We were to meet Sophia for breakfast and then return to the Yao Monument to catch a bus to the Dingcun courtyard houses. We were very excited about the next days adventure.

July 22, 2009

Sophia came by at around 0900 and we had a leisurely breakfast before heading out to the Yao Monument where we caught a local bus for 8 Yuan each that took us to the Dingcun village. About an hour from Linfen in Xiangfen County are a bunch of courtyard houses, about forty total which have been renovated for tourists to check out. They are mostly from the Ming and Qing dynasties and are well preserved. Some have been touted as some of earliest example of courtyard houses in China, having been built during Emperor Wanli’s reign of the Ming Dynasty. The newest ones were built during the Republic of Chna between 1912 - 1949. This was why we came to Shanxi Province.

DingCun Entrance

DingCun Entrance

A typical Dingcun courtyard or hsiheyuan

A typical Dingcun courtyard or hsiheyuan

Map of the area

Map of the area

An Old Ming Door

An Old Ming Door

Another Courtyard

Another Courtyard

Yet Another Courtyard

Yet Another Courtyard

House Shrine

House Shrine

An Old Watercolor

An Old Watercolor

Traditional Drum

Traditional Drum

Still another Courtyard

Still another Courtyard

Containers for ...?

Containers for ...?

Genuine Chinese Ming and Qing Stuff

Genuine Chinese Ming and Qing Stuff

Welcome! Come in and get comfortable

Welcome! Come in and get comfortable

Another HouseShrine

Another HouseShrine

Side view of one of the seven courtyards

Side view of one of the seven courtyards

Twin Doors into a main building in one of the courtyards

Twin Doors into a main building in one of the courtyards

And behind the Orange Door

And behind the Orange Door

A Modern Rusty Lock

A Modern Rusty Lock

A seriously Bulky Door

A seriously Bulky Door

Good Luck is behind this Door

Good Luck is behind this Door

Another Old Courtyard

Another Old Courtyard

Qing Carved Doorway

Qing Carved Doorway

Sunee doing some Filming for our upcoming movie

Sunee doing some Filming for our upcoming movie

Cranes

Cranes

A very friendly local Weaver

A very friendly local Weaver

Traditional Red Paper to Guard the Doors

Traditional Red Paper to Guard the Doors

Hey, it is an old wooden Door

Hey, it is an old wooden Door

And here is a brick Oval Door

And here is a brick Oval Door

Posing at the Oval Door frame

Posing at the Oval Door frame

We explored the old buildings for several hours finding the people there to be very friendly and helpful. We are now convinced that courtyard houses tended to come in groups. As the family grew along with their fortune they added more and more courtyards to house the extended family. A courtyard house really tends to be courtyard houses.

Time to get back to the city for some food so we caught the bus back to Yao Monument and another to downtown Linfen near the Bell Tower.

Time for Western-style Ice Cream

Time for Western-style Ice Cream

The lights were turned on in the Bell Tower and at night it was very nice.

The Bell Tower ablaze

The Bell Tower ablaze

Another day another adventure enjoyed. Tomorrow we will be taken around the countryside by Sophia's father. We will also get to visit a cave house still in use by Sophia's aunt in a nearby county. Had no problem with sleep today.

July 23, 2009

It was around 0900 when Sophia and her father picked us up. We first went to visit Sophia's aunt in Fushan County which was famous for Chinese paper cutting. The aunt also lived in a genuine loess cave house. We were not disappointed. Prior to arriving to the cave house, we made a quick stop at a newly built area that had a huge statue of Emperor Yao overlooking the land. Stopped for about an hour before heading to the aunt's cave house.

The Huge Yao Statue - work still in progress

The Huge Yao Statue - work still in progress

Inside a Cave House in Fushan County

Inside a Cave House in Fushan County

Nice Watercolor

Nice Watercolor

Sophie friendly and hospitable Aunt

Sophie friendly and hospitable Aunt

After visiting with the aunt for an hour or so we went to the Gurangsheng Temple about a half hour further down the road. It was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty and was renovated several times up to the Ming Dynasty. The famous and one of China’s most beautiful pagodas, Feihong Pagoda, was last renovated in 1622 with the addition of a corridor on the ground floor. It is spectacular!

Ground floor corridor around the Front of the Pagoda

Ground floor corridor around the Front of the Pagoda

The magnificent Flying Rainbow Pagoda

The magnificent Flying Rainbow Pagoda

An ancient Buddha image on the second floor inside the middle of the structure

An ancient Buddha image on the second floor inside the middle of the structure

In total darkness, looking up at the Buddha image

In total darkness, looking up at the Buddha image

Orange accented Door and Buddha image

Orange accented Door and Buddha image

Working Seated Monk

Working Seated Monk

Inside one of the many niches in the temple area

Inside one of the many niches in the temple area

A Brown Buddha image

A Brown Buddha image

Incense Burner

Incense Burner

A Square Incense Burner - the kind we had been looking for

A Square Incense Burner - the kind we had been looking for

A different view of the pagoda

A different view of the pagoda

It was hot so after a couple of hours exploring all we could at the temple and inside the pagoda (only second floor opened) we decided to head back to Linfen.

In Linfen, Sophia's father let us off downtown to find some dinner. We decided on pizza. At first we thought about an all-you-can-eat place but Sunee said it would be a waste of money since she has never eaten more than one large piece of pizza in her life. We walked across the street and had a regular western style pizza.

The Big Pizza where one can have all the pizza in the world

The Big Pizza where one can have all the pizza in the world

A better and cheaper Pizza Place

A better and cheaper Pizza Place

Ordering a Pizza - the owners English was excellent

Ordering a Pizza - the owners English was excellent

Our Pizza Arrives

Our Pizza Arrives

This is My Pizza

This is My Pizza

Closeup of the Pizza to prove it really was Western-style

Closeup of the Pizza to prove it really was Western-style

After the pizza, Sunee decided she wanted to try some local snacks so we walked around searching for interesting if not weird things to eat.

An After pizza snack

An After pizza snack

More Snacks

More Snacks

With Sunee finally full, we walked back to our hotel and prepared to leave for Pinyao in the morning by train. Sophia had gotten us two tickets for in the mid morning.

Linfen is world famous for being the most polluted city on the planet. We did not feel nor did we see this pollution. Sophia assured us that the pollutions starts mostly in the winter when everyone burns their coal stoves. We did see this coal laying around at every open field and around every corner.

Posted by inchinahil 06:26 Archived in China Tagged china ancient_town courtyard_house buddhist-temple linfen shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 24)

Pingyao and hundreds of courtyard houses. First Day


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Pingyao

Caught the train right on schedule as Sophia bits us goodbye. Linfen was a great adventure with really good examples of Chinese courtyard houses we were seeking. Told Sophia I would see her at Southwest Jiaotong University in a couple of months and we were off.

ByeBye Linfen and Sophie

ByeBye Linfen and Sophie

Sophies bits us GoodBye from the train station

Sophies bits us GoodBye from the train station

And it is off to Pingyao

And it is off to Pingyao

Next where we picked up passengers. It is definitely Coa lCountry

Next where we picked up passengers. It is definitely Coa lCountry

Harvest Time along the tracks

Harvest Time along the tracks

The Pingyao bus station did not have anything that indicated there was a very famous city some place in the area. We got a small golf cart like taxi to the famous city and, sure enough, it was completely surrounded by a Ming-style wall (think baby Xian here). The taxi actually entered the city and went out of its way to get us close to our hotel which we had picked out of an internet travel guide. Actually, we just told him the name of the hotel in hopes of getting us close to hotels we could check out. The reason we had to take all the back alleys in Pingyao was simple - the main tourist streets were walking streets only.

We looked at several courtyard house hotels and decided on a quaint little Ming Dynasty hotel in the center of the town. Sunee negotiated a pretty good price for the three days we planned to stay. After getting our room and taking a quick shower, we were off to find all those courtyard houses we had been reading about.

Main street - Pingyao Style

Main street - Pingyao Style

Street Scenes were heavily tourist oriented but authentic

Street Scenes were heavily tourist oriented but authentic

The main street Pagoda - View from the other side

The main street Pagoda - View from the other side

Shanxi is famous for its Paper cuts - we bought some, of course

Shanxi is famous for its Paper cuts - we bought some, of course

An old Qing Dynasty (it is guessing) wooden building

An old Qing Dynasty (it is guessing) wooden building

Panorama view of Pingyao

Panorama view of Pingyao

Need a taxi? Here is a Red one

Need a taxi? Here is a Red one

Do you think there are a lot of tourists who visit here?

Do you think there are a lot of tourists who visit here?

A Red shop selling noodles

A Red shop selling noodles

Some nice Buddha Images

Some nice Buddha Images

Shop for Chops

Shop for Chops

Person hole cover - Qing Dynasty had person holes!!!!

Person hole cover - Qing Dynasty had person holes!!!!

Only two Yuan for this nifty needle threader.  Never have found it since

Only two Yuan for this nifty needle threader. Never have found it since

Western Food for Westerners or Chinese who like such things

Western Food for Westerners or Chinese who like such things

Lots of beautifully carved wooden Doors - Mao era

Lots of beautifully carved wooden Doors - Mao era

More papercuts. These things are actually done on a big machine then cleaned up by hand. They make nice gifts

More papercuts. These things are actually done on a big machine then cleaned up by hand. They make nice gifts

A local Painting Class down one of the side alleys

A local Painting Class down one of the side alleys

Drawing Students

Drawing Students

An old Street off the main tourist thoroughfare

An old Street off the main tourist thoroughfare

The Pingyao Ming Wall

The Pingyao Ming Wall

It was late and we had been walking around for about three hours and decided to find a restaurant. We had typical Chinese food that would be found just about anywhere. While dining, this nice family asked if they could take a picture with them. They did and we did. Very nice family from Beijing as I recall.

Gotta tell you that Pingyao is really better than advertised. Yes, it is very touristy but the building and things we saw are obviously authentic. It feels like a late Ming, early Qing city with its style and layout (as if I would know how such a thing feels). We both liked the way things felt and looked.

A Friendly Family

A Friendly Family

Posted by inchinahil 06:25 Archived in China Tagged architecture tourist_sites pingyao ancient_town buddhist_temples shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 25)

Another Day in Pingyao


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Pingyao is as good as advertised. The houses are beautiful, the people friendly and the shopping great.

Our second day started with a quick breakfast and then more exploration of courtyard houses. So many, it is easy to get confused which one was which one. These houses reinforced our opinion that the courts are small and when the Chinese need to expand they did so by building additional courtsyards around the original. Most of the Pingyao courtyard houses were small with no more than two or three courts each. Most had a single courtyard.

I think this might have been a Shoe Store

I think this might have been a Shoe Store

This is a typical Pingyao Small Courtyard House Design

This is a typical Pingyao Small Courtyard House Design

Caligraphy done for you on the spot

Caligraphy done for you on the spot

A nice Treasure Chest

A nice Treasure Chest

Interesting Wheel Cart near the entrance to another courtyard

Interesting Wheel Cart near the entrance to another courtyard

A family Buddha

A family Buddha

Taking a Courtyard break

Taking a Courtyard break

I might be just taking pictures, but I also needed a break

I might be just taking pictures, but I also needed a break

Follow me into this landscaped courtyard

Follow me into this landscaped courtyard

A very impressive landscaped courtyard

A very impressive landscaped courtyard

A rickshaw Cart for weddings and other transportation

A rickshaw Cart for weddings and other transportation

She figures we are about here

She figures we are about here

A cool (as in temperature_ Cave Temple

A cool (as in temperature_ Cave Temple

Another nice all purpose Cart

Another nice all purpose Cart

A very ancient Pedistal

A very ancient Pedistal

Was there a Chinese Robin Hood?TGT

Was there a Chinese Robin Hood?TGT

Aiming a bit too much, don't you think?

Aiming a bit too much, don't you think?

Stone Stairs heading to the library

Stone Stairs heading to the library

Treasure Chest Cart ready to roll

Treasure Chest Cart ready to roll

A Ming Dynasty Cup

A Ming Dynasty Cup

A Ming Dynasty Door

A Ming Dynasty Door

The dreaded Blue Window among the grayish bricks

The dreaded Blue Window among the grayish bricks

A very Old House not yet renovated

A very Old House not yet renovated

Another Local Temple

Another Local Temple

A Temple Inside another Local Temple

A Temple Inside another Local Temple

Another temple inside a cool Cave

Another temple inside a cool Cave

Ancient Wooden Buddha

Ancient Wooden Buddha

YACC - Yet Another Cool CaveTemple

YACC - Yet Another Cool CaveTemple

A Small Courtyard Display - this was about number 45 or so

A Small Courtyard Display - this was about number 45 or so

Nice Family Shrine

Nice Family Shrine

Loved the Shadows and light in this photo

Loved the Shadows and light in this photo

Another Cave done in red

Another Cave done in red

Respect

Respect

Bats are not bad in China. They are Good Luck as we found out later in our stay in China.

The Bat Sign

The Bat Sign

Bat Sign from a distance

Bat Sign from a distance

Now this is an Impressive entrance

Now this is an Impressive entrance

There are Old Doorways just about everywhere

There are Old Doorways just about everywhere

A Stone Entrance is still just an entrance

A Stone Entrance is still just an entrance

This was the most Elegant Entrance to a courtyard we saw

This was the most Elegant Entrance to a courtyard we saw

Another courtyard Entrance. There were too many to count

Another courtyard Entrance. There were too many to count

Putting an urn  in front to be different. Maybe.

Putting an urn in front to be different. Maybe.

The Dao Sign

The Dao Sign

A Ming Dynasty Store Front

A Ming Dynasty Store Front

One of the Watch Towers on the Ming Wall

One of the Watch Towers on the Ming Wall

The Pingyao Wall

The Pingyao Wall

Guards

Guards

Essentials

Essentials

Our Ming Dynasty era Courtyard Hotel

Our Ming Dynasty era Courtyard Hotel

We spent about ten hours or so meandering through the allies and streets of this really great city. Saw more courtyard houses than I care to remember. I did make some sketches and have a pretty good feel for how this architectural design was built. We also did a little shopping, picking up a few gifts along the way. Overall, this was a highlight of our trip up until now. We loved Pingyao very much.

Posted by inchinahil 06:24 Archived in China Tagged architecture china tourist_sites ancient_town courtyard_house shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 26)

First Day in Taiyuan


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Taiyuan

During our exploration of Pingyao, we walked outside the walled city and had a decent dinner at a small restaurant. Found out there were buses going to Taiyuan just about every hour on the hour. We walked over to the bus station and got a schedule, deciding to take an early morning bus to Taiyuan. We went back to our hotel, packed and got ready to leave in the morning around 0800.

The bus trip took around three hours and got us to Taiyuan at around 1300. We got a taxi and started looking for a good hotel to stay during our visit. We saw a Home Inn and tried to check in. All was fine until I walked through the front door. Seems this was a bushiwai hotels that did not allow foreigners. Weird since the hotel signs were all in English outside. We were not happy as we had stayed in a Home Inn in our trip to Guiyang in Guizhou Province. We had to get another taxi and we were not happy.

Funny how things seem to work out. The taxi driver was very understanding and took us to the Hanting Hotel not too far away. An excellent hotel with excellent service at a decent price. The taxi driver was so nice and helpful, I had to take a picture of him. He made us feel extremely welcomed.

The most Helpful Taxi driver we met during the entire adventure

The most Helpful Taxi driver we met during the entire adventure

Got settled into the Hanting Hotel and decided to explore the local sites. I had read about the Twin Pagoda Temple 双塔死 so we got directions, found our bus, and ended up at the temple after a forty minute ride. It was a very nice temple with two great Ming Dynasty Pagodas built around 1608.

The Twin Pagoda Bus Station

The Twin Pagoda Bus Station

View of the Twin Pagodas from the road

View of the Twin Pagodas from the road

Dragon Window

Dragon Window

Chinese Oval Window

Chinese Oval Window

The 13 storied Twin Pagodas

The 13 storied Twin Pagodas

On  the way to check one  of the pagodas out

On the way to check one of the pagodas out

Oval Door into a garden

Oval Door into a garden

Oh, NO! Not another Door Knocker

Oh, NO! Not another Door Knocker

This is the Second Pagoda

This is the Second Pagoda

Here are the Twins from Inside

Here are the Twins from Inside

Can't seem to get enough Ovals

Can't seem to get enough Ovals

Sunee at the Oval

Sunee at the Oval

A Small Buddha in a niche inside the second pagoda

A Small Buddha in a niche inside the second pagoda

Looking up at the center Inside Pagoda number two

Looking up at the center Inside Pagoda number two

View of Pagoda, nicely Framed

View of Pagoda, nicely Framed

Twins with Red accents

Twins with Red accents

Door to a Roof

Door to a Roof

Finally, a resting place

Finally, a resting place

Horse through an Oval

Horse through an Oval

The Big Bell pardons all sins

The Big Bell pardons all sins

Burner at the Front

Burner at the Front

Red Buddha Orange

Red Buddha Orange

Red Buddha Close

Red Buddha Close

A Robed Buddha

A Robed Buddha

Two Red Buddhas

Two Red Buddhas

Time to relax

Time to relax

A nice little temple which was easy to get to and a joy to visit. Got some really good pagoda photos and we picked up a couple of small mementos from the gift shop.

Posted by inchinahil 06:24 Archived in China Tagged china tourist_sites ancient_town buddhist-temple shaanxi_province taiyuan Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 27)

Taiyuan and Yuci Ancient Town


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Yuci Ancient Town

Prior to making this trip, I had compiled a list of possible sites to visit along the way. One of these places was the ancient town of Yuci located about an hour from Taiyuan. I could not find a lot about it, just that there was such a place. There might be some courtyard houses there so we decided to find it and afterward go visit the Chang Family Manor which seems to be on every tourist must visit location.

The bus to Yuci was hard to find but eventually after several inquiries we located where to catch it. A true local bus without any amenities at all. The trip was about an hour and it took us to a small suburban area that was rather unimpressive. However, we did see the area which was built up for tourist so that is where we headed. We were not disappointed.

Entrance to the ancient town Yuci

Entrance to the ancient town Yuci

Seems that all over China, if a town has an area that is old and still intact, the locals are trying to take advantage of it by renovation and setting up services. It is a good idea to attract people (mostly Chinese tourists).

A famous Thai Movie Star

A famous Thai Movie Star

A Yuci Ming/Qing Dynasty Street Scene

A Yuci Ming/Qing Dynasty Street Scene

An Ancient doorway awaiting renovation

An Ancient doorway awaiting renovation

The ferocious and photogenic Guard Lion

The ferocious and photogenic Guard Lion

One knows he or she is in an ancient city . . . The Tower Entrance

One knows he or she is in an ancient city . . . The Tower Entrance

Bridge to a local Temple

Bridge to a local Temple

Bridge with Gazebo

Bridge with Gazebo

Some very Friendly local Students

Some very Friendly local Students

Traditional Stone Stairs

Traditional Stone Stairs

Behind the Green Door

Behind the Green Door

How about a Jello Snack

How about a Jello Snack

A well-preserved Ming ancient entrance Door

A well-preserved Ming ancient entrance Door

An Old Wood and Stone Door

An Old Wood and Stone Door

The Center of the ancientTown

The Center of the ancientTown

Almost all of these tourist locations offer photography services where one can dress in period costumes and have your picture taken. For all of five yuan you can pose for as many pictures as you like, as long as a friend owns the camera.

Sunee Posing in Qing Dynasty (or is it Ming Dynasty) costume

Sunee Posing in Qing Dynasty (or is it Ming Dynasty) costume

Local Girls are not shy and take advantage of foreigners for posing purposes

Local Girls are not shy and take advantage of foreigners for posing purposes

Talk about being in deep trouble

Talk about being in deep trouble

Knock, Knock

Knock, Knock

Here are our two Friends enjoying the costumes

Here are our two Friends enjoying the costumes

The bike in the door of a courtyard house

The bike in the door of a courtyard house

Behind the Red GreenDoor

Behind the Red GreenDoor

Picturesque Sago Palm

Picturesque Sago Palm

It was a very pleasant four or five hours we spent exploring the town. The people were friendly and the photo ops were many. We were now interested in visiting one of the biggy tourist attractions in Shanxi - The Chang Family Manor. Big disappointment. The ticket personnel were nasty and refused to allow senior foreigners to enter at half price. Chinese seniors yes. Foreign seniors no. This, even though we were working in China at Chinese wages and paying Chinese taxes. No thank you. We do not do racist sites.

The Chang Racist Manor from a distance

The Chang Racist Manor from a distance

If you have seen one manor, you have probably seen them all. Advertising how great the Chang family was. Yeh, right!

If you have seen one manor, you have probably seen them all. Advertising how great the Chang family was. Yeh, right!

Wasted only a half hour to go and a half hour to come back. Just in time for some good Shanxi noodles.

Noodles for dinner

Noodles for dinner

We took the bus back to Taiyuan and caught a taxi to our hotel. We decided to try to catch a train to Hefei our next stop. After getting the tickets (not cheap), we found that airline tickets were just a little bit more expensive. It cost us 160 yuan to get our money back and buy the tickets to Hefei.

We were close enough to our hotel that we walked About a block from the hotel was a guy showing off his monkeys. When I took a picture one of his stooges attacked me and demanded money. I just smiled and shook my head in utter confusion then walked away. Performing on a street for me is fair game. Anyway, it was obvious that the monkeys were suffering.

Monkey and their anti-PETA handlers

Monkey and their anti-PETA handlers

We had been walking all day so this evening we crashed early in our hotel.

Posted by inchinahil 06:24 Archived in China Tagged architecture buddhism tourist_sites ancient_town courtyard_house buddhist-temple taiyuan yuci shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 28 - 29)

The Wooden Pagoda and Hanging Monastery of Yingxian County


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YingXian County

Welcome to the YingXian Muta or Wooden Pagoda. The pagoda is in the Fogong or Buddha Palace Temple. It was build in 1056 and is considered to be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) standing wooden pagoda in the world.

We took a bus from Taiyuan which took about three and a half hours to the first largest town. We then caught a local bus to the site of the temple. It was obvious that the town had been renovated as a tourist site because the streets were very clean and the buildings either renovated or newly built in the appropriate style.

We first tried to get a room across the street from the temple but the people there were rather rude and let us know we were not welcome. Thus, we decided to wonder around the area since we felt it was a bit late to actually and officially visit the temple complex. I did take a few pictures in the area of the temple but refrained most of the time because we planned to be back the following morning.

Very Clean Streets

Very Clean Streets

Sneaking a picture with a Liberal Donkey

Sneaking a picture with a Liberal Donkey

Wooden Pogada Entrance

Wooden Pogada Entrance

Framed

Framed

Tourist view with Sunee

Tourist view with Sunee

I had to have one for myself as well

I had to have one for myself as well

We found a decent hotel about four blocks away and after finding a light dinner, we checked in and called it a day. At around 0400, the lights in the hotel went out and when we checked out at around 0900, they were still very much out. No one seemed bothered so we figured it was a common occurrence.

Walking back over to the temple, we got a quick bowl of noodles and made our official visit to this tourist site.

Entrance Tickets priced for seniors

Entrance Tickets priced for seniors

Welcome from Guanyin Image

Welcome from Guanyin Image

Another view of Guanyin

Another view of Guanyin

Front view of the complex (Fogong Temple)

Front view of the complex (Fogong Temple)

Door into the temple complex

Door into the temple complex

Tough flowers Growing on Cement

Tough flowers Growing on Cement

Close up of these tough Flowers

Close up of these tough Flowers

View of the pagoda among the flowers

View of the pagoda among the flowers

Sunee was not very willing, but I coaxed her into climbing some really old stairs to the second floor of the pagoda. There can be no doubt that his building is really as old as advertised. When we got to the second floor (all other floors were closed), we met a very nice monk from northern China. Sunee and the monk walked around the area of the second floor visiting for about 15 minutes while I took pictures. Sunee was not as anxious as she was previous to meeting the monk.

Monk who was friendly and calm

Monk who was friendly and calm

Another Front View of the Buddha image

Another Front View of the Buddha image

The always ferocious  Red Door Guard

The always ferocious Red Door Guard

Lion Dogs are a standard feature at all Buddhist temples

Lion Dogs are a standard feature at all Buddhist temples

Very ancient Rock Carving. May be the oldest part of the whole place

Very ancient Rock Carving. May be the oldest part of the whole place

Wooden Pagoda Close view

Wooden Pagoda Close view

The Buddha Palace plaza

The Buddha Palace plaza

A nicely renovated Side Temple

A nicely renovated Side Temple

A framed incense Burner

A framed incense Burner

A really Big Incense Burner

A really Big Incense Burner

A Buddha on the side

A Buddha on the side

My best photo of the pagoda

My best photo of the pagoda

We finished our visit and walked back to the hotel to collect our luggage. Our next stop was the Hanging Monastery or Xuankong Si 悬空寺. The most famous temple in the area, Hanging Monastery is around 5km/3mi from Hunyuan city. The monastery was built near the Pass of the Golden Dragon (Jinlong Kou) on a rock-face 30m/100ft above the valley floor. Some of the smaller halls of this 6th century AD monastery are supported by thin stilts which stand on rock precipices. There are supposed to be a lot of ancient items inside the monastery but the whole parking lot of jammed with visitors. I took several pictures form afar and then we took a taxi to the local Hunyuan city bus station. The local bus from the Wooden Pagoda dropped us off at the river outside the city and we had to take a taxi to the monastery. It was eleven Yuan. The taxi that took us to the bus station was twenty Yuan and, unknown to us, it was within walking distance. Bet the taxi driver was boasting how he had ripped the dumb foreigners off. We were tired and hot so it did not matter.

The famous Hanging Monastery of Hengshan

The famous Hanging Monastery of Hengshan

A closer view of the Monastery

A closer view of the Monastery

Distant View from the parking lot

Distant View from the parking lot

We had a two hour wait for the bus back to Taiyuan. It was nice to relax and eat some of the snacks they served in the bus station. Our trip to Ying Xian was very pleasant and rewarding. The people, even the taxi driver who cheated us, were friendly (except at the first hotel) and we visited with many people along the way. Life in China is not bad and, in fact, appears to be pleasant for most people. Most of the people we met were locals who were living their life like everyone else in the world. They were curious about us foreigners but were not shy. Often we would be asked a question to start a conversation. It was obvious that these people are nice and wonderful. Shanxi appears to be a pretty good place to live, even though it is considered one of the poorest provinces in China. Believe this is due to its location close to the central government who siphons off Shanxi coal for use elsewhere in China.

We have plane tickets for the evening flight to Hefei. Figured we could go visit another famous temple complex in Taiyuan - Jinci Temple.

Posted by inchinahil 06:23 Archived in China Tagged buildings architecture tourist_sites buddhist_temples taiyuan wooden_pagoda shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 30)

Last Day in Taiyuan and Visit to Jinci Temple


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Jinci Temple

Jinci Temple was built in the Bei Wei dynasty (386-534 AD) but has connections to earlier temples built during the Western Zhou Dynasty over 1500 years ago. It is one of China's finest examples of an imperial garden. The internet said it was nice and all the guide books said it was a must see so we gave it a visit.

We caught a city bus about a block from our hotel after checking out and leaving our bags under lock and key. The 14 or so miles to Jinci Temple was very pleasant with friendly people getting of and gettin on at every location. The temple itself is about a twenty minute walk from the bus stop. As we walked to the temple entrance we met a couple of college students home on vacation. Of course, they were sweet and marvelous to visit with. We followed them around for awhile and then took off on our own for another wonderful adventure.

Very friendly College students home on summer vacation

Very friendly College students home on summer vacation

Chinese Zodiac at the first entrance

Chinese Zodiac at the first entrance

A nice Iron Lion guarding that first entrance

A nice Iron Lion guarding that first entrance

Walkway off to the right on the way to the main entrance

Walkway off to the right on the way to the main entrance

This looked to be a recent addition but a nice stone Carving

This looked to be a recent addition but a nice stone Carving

Everyone was taking pictures of these recent statues so....

Everyone was taking pictures of these recent statues so....

figured I might as well get in the picture as well

figured I might as well get in the picture as well

Near the stone carving we met another vacationing Student student with her mother

Near the stone carving we met another vacationing Student student with her mother

Chinese Lotus

Chinese Lotus

Anyone for some nice grapes. These things are expensive in Thailand

Anyone for some nice grapes. These things are expensive in Thailand

I called this the Eye temple

I called this the Eye temple

Nice view of one of the big garden and landscaped area. This is before one gets to the main entrance

Nice view of one of the big garden and landscaped area. This is before one gets to the main entrance

Theater in one of the garden areas

Theater in one of the garden areas

Chinese Oval

Chinese Oval

A very serene garden scene

A very serene garden scene

Jinci Temple is huge and goes on and on up the side of a mountain. The main hall is called Saint Mother Hall. It attracts many visitors because its extreme age and good shape for being the oldest building in the temple complex. It along with a couple of other similar buildings looked old. Not because they were run down, the architecture looked and felt ancient. They are impressive indeed.

Saint Mother Hall

Saint Mother Hall

A tourist posing for my picture

A tourist posing for my picture

Guess what? Another oval window

Guess what? Another oval window

These ancient carvings are all over the place

These ancient carvings are all over the place

Kinda looks like Song Dynasty ladies if I were to guess. All of them were completely different

Kinda looks like Song Dynasty ladies if I were to guess. All of them were completely different

A unique corner building

A unique corner building

To the left of Saint Mother Hall as you face it is the weirdest spring I have ever seen. It is supposed to have been around for a long time and is called Never Aging Spring. Figured I had better get some water from it.

Never Aging Spring

Never Aging Spring

Running spring water

Running spring water

The spring water filled up these ponds and then overflowed into a nice creek

The spring water filled up these ponds and then overflowed into a nice creek

I had read about the four iron men of Jinci on the internet (http://www.china-lifestyle.com/the-iron-men-of-jinci). It made for a good story and here I am with one of these famous guys.

One of the famous cast iron men of Jinci

One of the famous cast iron men of Jinci

Posing at the Red Doors

Posing at the Red Doors

Another ancient Iron Lion

Another ancient Iron Lion

The unique Flying Bridge is the only such bridge left in existence

The unique Flying Bridge is the only such bridge left in existence

I loved this time of year in China - Peaches!!

I loved this time of year in China - Peaches!!

There were several Hawkers outside the entrance to the main complex. We bought a map and some other mementos from one of them.

There were several Hawkers outside the entrance to the main complex. We bought a map and some other mementos from one of them.

We walked back to the bus station and had to wait about fifteen minutes to get on a very crowded bus. The bus ride back was even friendlier than the one we took coming in. What a pleasant adventure.

The crowded cityBus

The crowded cityBus

We never turn down Xinjiang-style bread. They put some additional topings on for our evening Dinner

We never turn down Xinjiang-style bread. They put some additional topings on for our evening Dinner

We returned to our hotel, picked up our luggage and got a taxi to the airport, several miles away. The airport was not very large and this late, there were only a couple of planes worth of passengers.

Posted by inchinahil 06:23 Archived in China Tagged architecture ancient_town buddhist_temples taiyuan jinci_temple shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 31 - August 1)

Taiyuan to Hefei, Anhui Province


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Hefei

Our plane was supposed to take off for Hefei at around 2030 (8:30pm). Unfortunately it got delayed and we ended up waiting for nearly five hours. Hey, if one has to wait, why not at an airport.

Waiting at leisure at Taiyuan Airport

Waiting at leisure at Taiyuan Airport

We are finally scheduled to leave

We are finally scheduled to leave

It was very early in the morning (0230) by the time we got to the Hanting Hotel in Hefei. We were both tired from the long day that we slept in. Got up and had a leisurely breakfast (the hotel supplied me with a KFC breakfast to go). The morning was late so we decided to check out the local tea market area to find some famous Anhui Province tea. I was especially interested in getting some Tai Ping Hou Kuei green tea. It was a nice visit to the tea market which was not busy at all.

Melon Pieces green tea

Melon Pieces green tea

There was definitely tea for sale here

There was definitely tea for sale here

I had read about what teas to buy while in Anhui Province. In Hefei, one would want to buy the Taiping Houkuei and the Lo An Guapian (Melon Pieces) green teas. And that is exactly what we were looking for. The Taiping Houkuei or monkey picked green tea comes from Taiping lake and is very unique in its shape and color. The Lo An Guapian comes from the Lo-an district outside Hefei.

The world famous Tai Ping Hou Kuei tea

The world famous Tai Ping Hou Kuei tea

Testing a good quality taiping houkuei

Testing a good quality taiping houkuei

Big variety of tea

Big variety of tea

Some huangshan maofeng green tea

Some huangshan maofeng green tea

Negotiating for our Taiping Houkuei tea

Negotiating for our Taiping Houkuei tea

It had been a long day previously so all we did the remainder of the day is walk around and do some shopping. I got a great collection of tea music cds and dvds at the local book and music store. We took an early dinner and went to bed early. Older folks are like that!

The next morning we were up early and walked behind the hotel for an Anhui Province breakfast. I had already had my KFC breakfast to go but Sunee was hungry.

Hefei Breakfast

Hefei Breakfast

During my research on Hefei and its attraction, I came upon a small article about a newly opened ancient town not far from Hefei. We decided it would be an adventure to visit it. It was called Sanhe 三和. It was supposed to be 2500 years old with a beautiful buildings and river. The bus took about a half hour to get to. It was not disappointing at all

Entrance to Sanhe ancient town

Entrance to Sanhe ancient town

Part of the town had a wall around it which looked to have been freshly renovated. Sort of like a fort with its own canon.

The deadly canon of Sanhe

The deadly canon of Sanhe

An unusual and old lantern

An unusual and old lantern

Some of the local cuisine. Glad I had that KFC breakfast because this food looked a little rough

Some of the local cuisine. Glad I had that KFC breakfast because this food looked a little rough

The local transportation

The local transportation

A walled courtyard style building

A walled courtyard style building

A very nice river view

A very nice river view

Along the river

Along the river

The Sanhe pagoda

The Sanhe pagoda

River portrait

River portrait

A small temple

A small temple

A diligent wood carver

A diligent wood carver

Sanhe street scene

Sanhe street scene

Fanmakers

Fanmakers

Very Chinese stand of weeping willows

Very Chinese stand of weeping willows

We spent most of the day in Sanhe and had a traditional Sanhe lunch. Actually, this is a joke as we asked for a typical local style lunch and ended up with some sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sugar. We still joke about the local Sanhe cuisine.

After getting back to Hefei a little late we decided to find a restaurant within walking distance from the hotel. Found a restaurant that served fast food style Chinese food. Nothing great but OK. We did not find anything exceptional about this province's cuisine. On the way back from the restaurant I came across this Rolls Royce. Took me a few minutes but then I realized it was sitting in front of a wedding studio. This is very common in the larger cities in China.

An end to another great adventure in China.

17_Rolls

17_Rolls

Posted by inchinahil 06:22 Archived in China Tagged shopping taiyuan hefei anhui_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (August 2)

Huangshan Area


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Tunxi

This morning we got up fairly early and took a taxi to the south bus station where we caught the bus to Tunxi in the Huangshan area. The trip took about four hours and the scenery was fabulous. Lots of tea plantations along the way.

A relaxed bus trip

A relaxed bus trip

Sunee never relaxes, she is always studying Chinese

Sunee never relaxes, she is always studying Chinese

A nice tea plantation along the road

A nice tea plantation along the road

Tea Plants

Tea Plants

We arrived to Tunxi and got a taxi to a reasonable hotel on the edge of the ancient town. A nice hotel and a nice location. We got checked in then spent the rest of the day exploring the ancient streets and buildings mostly Ming Dynasty style.

Tunxi Ancient Arch

Tunxi Ancient Arch

Ancient street

Ancient street

Tunxi is famous for the four treasures of study: paper, brushes, ink and ink stones. We ended up shopping quite a bit for Sunee to find some nice brushes and ink. She was not interested in the ink stones nor the paper. The paper we could buy in Chengdu and it is the best one can buy.

Buying one of the four treasures:Brushes

Buying one of the four treasures:Brushes

One must always check the brushes before buying

One must always check the brushes before buying

And continue to check them

And continue to check them

A college student on his summer break

A college student on his summer break

More ancient streets

More ancient streets

Tunxi and Anhui are famous for their stinky tofu. Boy was it stinky!

Molded, rotten, stinky dofu

Molded, rotten, stinky dofu

Not Sunee's favorite

Not Sunee's favorite

A unique wooden Street sign

A unique wooden Street sign

Fabulous Ming Dynasty wooden building

Fabulous Ming Dynasty wooden building

Weaving as a tourist attraction

Weaving as a tourist attraction

We never turn down Chinese baked bread

We never turn down Chinese baked bread

Took us most of the day, but we finally came to the end of the ancient streets of Tunxi. Time for dinner and local cuisine. Found a nice restaurant and ordered locally. After dinner we enjoyed the sunset on the local lake.

The local cuisine

The local cuisine

Sunset

Sunset

Posted by inchinahil 06:22 Archived in China Tagged food architecture shopping tea huangshan tunxi ancient_town buddhist-temple anhui-province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (August 3)

Traveling around Huangshan Area


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Qimen County

Since I was tasked with the planning for this trip, I made plans to come to the Huangshan 黄山 area south of Hefei. I did this because there were lots of ancient buildings and houses in this area but also because it had some of China's greatest teas.

I told Sunee we would be going to Qimen County about four hours from Tunxi. She had no idea why I wanted to go to this none tourist location. There is a story behind our journey.

About a year before this trip, I discovered and became very interested in Chinese tea. We visited the first tea plantation are in China which was three hours from our apartment at SW Jiaotong University. From that trip, I began to research Chinese tea. After about two months, I started a tea blog and my goal was to taste all the best tea in China.

One day, I came across the famous black tea called Keemun or Qimen 气门茶. Every time we went to Chengdu, we always visited the recently opened Tea City. On one such visit, I asked the dealer for some Qimen tea and he sold me some. I tasted it and was not overly impressed. I blogged this experience on my blog. A month after blogging, a chef from South America informed me that the tea I had said was Qimen was actually a cheap Yunnan black tea. I had gotten ripped off by the dealer in Chengdu.

What to do about this embarrassment? I devised a plan that was fail proof. We would travel to the source of Qimen Tea and thus we found ourselves in the nondescript little town of Qimen. Sunee thought I was crazy. We got a taxi and I told the driver to take us to a local tea seller. What a great time we had buying not only Qimen tea but several other teas unique to the Qimen area. We spent over three hours tasting, visiting and buying their teas.

The Best Qimen tea money can buy

The Best Qimen tea money can buy

Our dear Qimen friends

Our dear Qimen friends

More friends pictures

More friends pictures

Negotiating the sell of their fine teas

Negotiating the sell of their fine teas

And the haggling continues

And the haggling continues

Tasting in between the negotiations

Tasting in between the negotiations

This was one of those highlights we will always remember. What a great time we had with our tea selling friends.

But the adventure was not over. We still had an ancient town to visit. We took the bus back toward Tunxi and stopped at the town closes to the Anxici
ancient town. We found a hotel since it was late afternoon, had dinner and walked around a little. Not much in this town. In the morning, we would catch a taxi to the ancient town.

Anxici Ancient Town

The taxi we got in the morning took us to Anxici Ancient Town. It was a beauty. If one looks carefully, one may be able to see similar architecture as we saw in Shanxi Province. The Huizhou Culture has strong connections to Shanxi Province. The majority of merchants who came to this area, came from Shanxi Province. They were the finest business people in all of China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These Chinese merchants tended to build really large manors and used identical architecture found in Shanxi. This is one great ancient town.

Entrance to Anxici town

Entrance to Anxici town

If their are Chinese brushes for sell, Sunee will find them

If their are Chinese brushes for sell, Sunee will find them

A typical doorway

A typical doorway

Cooking tea leaves from the local mountains

Cooking tea leaves from the local mountains

A very Chinese Huizhou room

A very Chinese Huizhou room

A Street scene

A Street scene

An Old doorway

An Old doorway

Down an alley through another Oval door

Down an alley through another Oval door

Several tea sellers working out of their homes

Several tea sellers working out of their homes

Roaring Twenties China girl

Roaring Twenties China girl

A pathway along the edge of the town

A pathway along the edge of the town

The girl in the doorway

The girl in the doorway

Buddhas for sell

Buddhas for sell

The exit from the town

The exit from the town

Posted by inchinahil 06:21 Archived in China Tagged tea huangshan ancient_town buddhist-temple anhui-province qimen anxici Comments (0)

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