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Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 10-12)

Yuncheng and Pujiu


View Courtyard House Adventure on inchinahil's travel map.

Preparations

In 2008, we bought some land south of Bangkok in hopes of building a Chinese Courtyard House 四合院。 After much internet search and seeing a few examples in the area where we lived in Leshan District of Sichuan Province, we decided to take our summer vacation and find examples of such houses in China. The best place to find them is obviously Beijing but we had seen several there and knew that they had lost their architectural impact because of the building surrounding them. We decided to take our vacation in Shanxi province where we could look at these houses without the distraction of modern buildings surrounding them.

Since I had two students who came from Shanxi, I began to gather information from them about the trip, places to visit and the houses we wanted to see. The two female students were excited that we were going to come to visit them during the summer vacation. Our plans were finalized and we would be starting at the lower part of Shanxi and working our way up to Taiyuan which would give us the opportunity to visit many of the courtyard houses.

Flying to Shaanxi Province July 10,2009

The closest airport to Chengdu is Yuncheng 运城市. My student who lived in Linfen 临汾市 told me this was how she got home. She flew to Yuncheng and then took a bus to her home about four hours away. A rather inexpensive way to start our search for our dream house. In addition, Yuncheng was the center piece in one of my favorite Chinese movies - Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingmar Bergmann. This is a true story about the life of Englishwoman Gladys Alyward, a missionary who spent most of her life in Yuncheng.

Yuncheng

We arrived quite late in the evening so could not see anything other than the inside of the airport taxi. It took about forty minutes to get to the city (population around 5,000,000). On the way, Sunee visited with the taxi driver about sites in and around the city. When she asked about possible courtyard houses, he excitedly told us that a new courtyard mansion had just recently been opened not far from the city. It was called the Lee Mansion. We decided to visit the mansion first thing the next day.

We checked into the hotel the taxi suggested and went out to explore around the hotel and find something to eat. The people were friendly and we settled on some familiar dishes of noodles Shanxi style.

First night dinner

First night dinner

Our room was old but huge. It had a large living room and two separate bedrooms. In the living room was a electronic mahjong table ready to be used. Since we really did not know how to play, we spent a few minutes checking out ancient mahjong on a totally automatic electronic mahjong table. I do know that Sichuan mahjong is not the same as Shanxi mahjong. The room was large but rather run down and, of course, the price was right- 150 yuan for the first night in a strange town.

Room Mahjong

Room Mahjong

Lee Family Manor

The next morning (July 11, 2009) we got up early and caught a bus to Lee Manor. Well, let me just say that we caught a bus to the area of the Lee Mansion. All we saw was a huge sign welcoming us to the mansion. Nothing else

Lee Huge Entrance

Lee Huge Entrance

Lee Welcoming Sign

Lee Welcoming Sign

After trying to figure out the lay of the land, we decided to call the number provided by the sign. A man immediately came out to pick us up with a tourist golf cart. The man was very friendly and was happy to see us after charging us six yuan each for the ride.

Telephone Number

Telephone Number

The Lee Mansion complex was divided into two parts - old mansion stuff and newly built museum-like stuff. Check out the obvious touristy buildings and architecture which was just completed this year to draw some visitors.

The Main Entrance

The Main Entrance

New Red Door

New Red Door

All Newly Minted Buidlings

All Newly Minted Buidlings

A Newly Carved Stone Mural

A Newly Carved Stone Mural

A Close Look At a Carving

A Close Look At a Carving

More New Buildings

More New Buildings

A New Wooden Door

A New Wooden Door

Chinese Door Knocker Closeup

Chinese Door Knocker Closeup

Door Knocker

Door Knocker

More Doors

More Doors

Movie Making

Movie Making

Not the KInd of Building Courtyard we wanted

Not the KInd of Building Courtyard we wanted

New Courtyard building

New Courtyard building

Another Courtyard

Another Courtyard

Lee Family Daily Activity Watercolor

Lee Family Daily Activity Watercolor

Sculpture of Lee Family

Sculpture of Lee Family

Old Hitching Post

Old Hitching Post

Bronze of a family worker

Bronze of a family worker

New Porch

New Porch

Courtyard Yard View

Courtyard Yard View

Another Porch

Another Porch

Posing But Getting Really Bored

Posing But Getting Really Bored

It was a good thing we got in for half price because of our ages because up to this point, we were not excited by what we had seen. Emei City and most of the larger towns in Sichuan have already built replicas of what appears to be Ming-style buildings to draw tourists. This was simply boring!

To the back of this new area was what appeared to be older buildings so we headed in the direction of the pagoda we saw in the distance.

A Pagoda in the back of the new buildings

A Pagoda in the back of the new buildings

Finally a building that may have been an original

Finally a building that may have been an original

An ancient stele. Things are looking up for our Courtyard Adventure

An ancient stele. Things are looking up for our Courtyard Adventure

These turtles on the stele are for rubbing so this one is old

These turtles on the stele are for rubbing so this one is old

Wrong! This is a freshly carved waterbarrel

Wrong! This is a freshly carved waterbarrel

This next set of buildings were a mixture of old and renovated. We seem to be getting close to something old.

The Typical Chinese Oval Interior Door

The Typical Chinese Oval Interior Door

This area displayed the Western Influence on the Lee Family

This area displayed the Western Influence on the Lee Family

The Entrance to the real Lee Mansion - about 15 feet below the surface

The Entrance to the real Lee Mansion - about 15 feet below the surface

Ancient Engraving done for you now of the Lee Mansion

Ancient Engraving done for you now of the Lee Mansion

Original Stone Doors

Original Stone Doors

Real Old Carvings

Real Old Carvings

Fantastic Wooden Doors

Fantastic Wooden Doors

As you probably have guessed, we are now in the real Lee Mansion. The stuff on top and to the front was added to enhance the ability to draw the local Chinese tourists. For us it was boring and overdone, telling over and over how great and socially beneficial the Lee Family had been to the local community. That is probably why the Lees lived so far away from Yuncheng. The real Courtyard House begins.

Beautifully Done Woodcarvings

Beautifully Done Woodcarvings

A Real Shanxi Courtyard Section

A Real Shanxi Courtyard Section

We slowly began to realize that a mansion in ancient China may have been made up of a bunch of classical Chinese court yards. There were at least five that we counted in this complex. The Chinese wealthy and nobility must not have built huge residences all at once but added on court yard sections as their families grew or their wealth increased. I am just guessing based on what we were seeing with the Lee Mansion. Will remember to look closely and ask questions as we visit other such mansions.

Stone Oval Door

Stone Oval Door

Shanxi and Shaanxi are famous for their location on the loess plateau 黄土高原。We saw this loess in our many trips to Xian where there were lots of cave houses. It seems that the Lee Mansion was dug down into this loess and that explains why it was quite a distance from Yuncheng and set below the new area above.

A Cave Room

A Cave Room

Nice Carved Entry

Nice Carved Entry

The area that differentiated the real Lee Mansion from the tourist site was stark in its contrast. One walks through a series of long allies that lead to a park that is being renovated. It is surrounded by a new brick wall where the pagoda we saw earlier stands. It was not quite finished but the park will have a beautiful pond with all the Chinese trimmings when it is done.

An Octagon Window

An Octagon Window

Allies Leading Away from the Real Mansion

Allies Leading Away from the Real Mansion

An Oval Window with Park View

An Oval Window with Park View

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

A Rickshaw Prop

A Rickshaw Prop

Getting Back to the New Section

Getting Back to the New Section

Lee MansionExit

Lee MansionExit

Good Luck_Gold Coins

Good Luck_Gold Coins

It was hot so we were considering heading out but noticed the apparent kids theme park across the parking lot. This was obviously set up to draw in Chinese families. I talked Sunee into walking the great distance in the hot sun to check it out. We were both disappointed as it was really for kids

Kids' Theme Park

Kids' Theme Park

A Huge Red Entrance

A Huge Red Entrance

Posing

Posing

Red Door Lion

Red Door Lion

ART PHOTO - Swaying Wall

ART PHOTO - Swaying Wall

ART PHOTO - Hitching Post

ART PHOTO - Hitching Post

Gothic Catholic Church of Yuncheng

We arrived back in Yuncheng by bus at around 2 PM and went looking for the Catholic church that was one of the four remaining Gothic cathedrals in China. It was situated on a large hill overlooking the northwest section of the city. It was built in 1935 and became famous for its architectural design. The Catholics first came to Yuncheng when Italian Jesuits arrived in the mid 1600s. The church did not disappoint.

Definitely a Gothic Cathedral

Definitely a Gothic Cathedral

Mary with Jesus in a Chinese gazebo

Mary with Jesus in a Chinese gazebo

The stunning interior

The stunning interior

Guan Wang Temple

This very old Buddhist temple was right across the street from the Catholic church. Not sure who Guan Wang was but the temple looked to be Song Dynasty. It made for some interesting pictures.

Guan Wang Temple

Guan Wang Temple

Very Old Carved dragons

Very Old Carved dragons

Ancient Steles

Ancient Steles

The Temple Wall

The Temple Wall

A Great Looking Wooden Monk

A Great Looking Wooden Monk

The Temple Courtyard

The Temple Courtyard

ART PHOTO: Leaning Bike

ART PHOTO: Leaning Bike

Detailed Carvings

Detailed Carvings

Dragon Pole And Lantern

Dragon Pole And Lantern

Guard Dog

Guard Dog

After spending about an hour in the temple, we headed back to our hotel and had a late Yuncheng lunch. The Lee Mansion turned out to be pretty good with about five or so courtyard sections. The Catholic church was beautiful and the Buddhist Temple was old and very photogenic. A good day.

A Late Lunch

A Late Lunch

Pujiu And Ying Ying Pagoda

Once upon a time during the Tang Dynasty, a lady with her young daughter YingYIng 盈盈 was traveling to Chang'An and took rest in the local temple near Puchiu. Also in the temple resting and on his way to Chang'an was a young scholar by the name of Zhang Sheng. During their visit to the temple, they fell in love. Thus begins the Romance of The West Chamber, a celebrated novel written during the Yuan Dynasty. Welcome to Puchiu Temple and the YingYing Pagoda named in honor of the above young lady.

We left Yuncheng very early in a care we rented to take us to Puchiu. Puchiu is a small nondescript town with very few things to see. Few that is if one is not counting the famous Puchiu Temple with the Ying Ying Pagoda of West Chamber Fame. It was worth the trip.

On the way we came across a very large funeral procession. There were hundreds of mourners dressed in white spread out along the road for several hundred meters.

A Funeral

A Funeral

We got settled in a small hotel in the middle of town and immediately found a bus to the Pujiu Temple.

The YingYing Pagoda and Pujiu Temple

The YingYing Pagoda and Pujiu Temple

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

Always On Guard

Always On Guard

Have To Buy Tickets

Have To Buy Tickets

Buy A Lock And Leave It

Buy A Lock And Leave It

The Big Bell

The Big Bell

A Happy And Fat Buddha

A Happy And Fat Buddha

A Nice Bronze near the top of the entrance

A Nice Bronze near the top of the entrance

A Painted Buddha

A Painted Buddha

This is a monk that Sunee visited with and he was very friendly

This is a monk that Sunee visited with and he was very friendly

It is hot in July in China and Sunee was hot.

It is hot in July in China and Sunee was hot.

This temple complex was built on what appeared to be loess and remained while the surrounding area was gradually worn down by farming or normal wear as the temple was very ancient going back to the Tang Dynasty. At least the location had a temple on it throughout its history.

The Temple Area Stairs

The Temple Area Stairs

Red Doors

Red Doors

I asked about a very nice sign under a roof. Sunee told me what it said and it was boring. Mostly just rules for tourists. How disappointing!

A nice roofed Sign

A nice roofed Sign

An Orange Buddha

An Orange Buddha

Pink Buddha

Pink Buddha

Pagoda up close. It is nice and has a weird echo effect if pounded on with stones. Legend has it that the guy who built it hid a couple of gold frogs in it and so people tap the building looking for a hollow place in it.

Ying Ying Pagoda

Ying Ying Pagoda

A Dark Buddha

A Dark Buddha

Drum Tower

Drum Tower

We finished looking over the Puchiu Temple then negotiated a ride in a cute three wheeled vehicle to take us to some more of the sites in the area. The Guang Lou is one of the best examples of

Guangque

Guangque

Guangque Attic was originally built during the Northern Zhou Dynasty and destroyed during the Yuan Dynasy. The current one was built on the original site. Sunee was not interested so I paid my money and walked about a mile to the structure from the main entrance. I thought it was worth the walk.

Guangque Attic Close

Guangque Attic Close

Intricate Painting on the Front

Intricate Painting on the Front

There were elevators to take the tourists to the various floors. I caught it to the top floor for a magnificent view of the area. In addition, we were entertained by a lovely lady playing the gucheng.

Gucheng

Gucheng

When I walked back to our rented three-wheeler, Sunee was very hot so we took a few minutes to get water and then headed for some cave houses that were in the area. I wanted to see cave houses while in Shanxi. Most of the cave houses were long gone and only a few remained.

Abandoned Cave House

Abandoned Cave House

This is the top of an ancient stele that was laying around near these cave houses.

Ancient SteleHead

Ancient SteleHead

Back to Pujiu for lunch and then we tried to get a bus ticket to Luoyang in Henan Province about six to eight hours away. Sunee demanded we go visit the ShaoLin Temple so it was off to Luoyang. Got lucky and found a bus that would be leaving at around 6 am the next morning. Near the bus station we found some interesting bronze X-rated statues. This is just a more modest example.

Bronze Statue

Bronze Statue

Posted by inchinahil 06:37 Archived in China Tagged food architecture cities china tourist_sites ancient_town courtyard_house shanxi_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 13-14)

Trip to Henan Province and Luoyang


View Courtyard House Adventure on inchinahil's travel map.

Luoyang, Henan Province

The bus left Pujiu at around 6 a.m. so we had to get up really early and check out. The girl behind the counter actually was sleeping on a cot when we woke her up to check out.

We had an uneventful trip to Luoyang of about five hours. Upon arrival, we caught a taxi who took us to a business hotel in downtown Luoyang. For the price of 175 Yuan, it was totally unimpressive. We decided to stay one night and then move to a cheaper hotel if we decide to stay another night.

After checking in at around noon, we set out to explore the area within walking distance of or hotel after we had a Luoyang lunch of baodz and jaodz. These are the same all over China.

Local Baodz

Local Baodz

Local Jaodz

Local Jaodz

After lunch, we walked to what appeared to be the center of Luoyang. Here we saw an underground museum of the original inhabitants of the location. Based on the pictures, we decided to pass as it looked to be a strictly bones display. On top of this underground facility was a statue with a team of horses. Apparently a lot of horse bones were on display in the museum.

The Horse Park

The Horse Park

We asked a passerby for directions to the largest and most beautiful park in Luoyang. Without hesitation she gave directions via bus to the this park. Although the day was overcast with the occasional shower, the park was magnificent. No peonies this time of year but in April, it must be something special. Do a Google search on Peony Park Luoyang and it is the only park of its kind in all of China. We were happy we found it.

Peony Park of Luoyang

Entry way into the Peony Park

Entry way into the Peony Park

Pagoda on the left as one enters

Pagoda on the left as one enters

Another "for rest" Pagoda

Another "for rest" Pagoda

The Centerpiece of the Park: The Peony Fairy

The Centerpiece of the Park: The Peony Fairy

The Huge Incense Burner in front of the main building

The Huge Incense Burner in front of the main building

A typical park oval entrance

A typical park oval entrance

Love those Chinese Knockers

Love those Chinese Knockers

More door knockers

More door knockers

Common variety of round window

Common variety of round window


a
A Curious Door

A Curious Door

Guard Lion

Guard Lion

What a wonderful park and first day in Luoyang. All the people we had met, thus far, had been very friendly. Of course, my wife, Sunee, is Chinese and speaks fluent Mandarin.

I had not planned to do any serious tea shopping until we got to Anhui province. I did, however know that Henan produces a top ten Chinese tea from Xinyang Mountains. It is a green tea called Miao Jian. We looked for some as we wondered around the city.

We were planning to go to White Horse Buddhist Temple the following day so we got directions to the appropriate bus stop. On the way we made reservations for the next night at a cheaper hotel near the bus station. We also found some pottery shops close to the hotel. We also picked up some Sinyang Miao Jian at a local tea shop as well.

Negotiations underway for Luoyang Tea Cups

Negotiations underway for Luoyang Tea Cups

After locating the bus station and shopping for tea and tea cups we had our dinner at a nice restaurant nearby the tea shop. We asked for local cuisine.

Luoyang Pork

Luoyang Pork

A Luoyang Specialty

A Luoyang Specialty

White Horse Buddhist Temple

Bright and early, we moved to our new hotel (no one cared what time it was) and checked in. Got to the bus station and with help found where to catch the appropriate bus

It is this one, the guy told us

It is this one, the guy told us

See, it says White Horse Temple

See, it says White Horse Temple

We have traveled throughout Sichuan and much of China, so we knew that tickets for us seniors were available. Not so said the monk (a nasty creature with an obvious dislike of foreigners). Sunee insisted and demanded to see the ticket boss. After a little haggling, we got our half-price tickets. The monk at the ticket counter still hated foreigners but . . . we got in for the correct price.

Hard-fought tickets

Hard-fought tickets

White Horse Temple 白马寺 is the first Buddhist temple in China. It was built in 64 AD during the Eastern Han Dynasty during Emperor Mingdi's reign. Welcome to the cradle of Chinese Buddhism.

Large, normal-looking Temple Entrance

Large, normal-looking Temple Entrance

Posing before the cradle

Posing before the cradle

Lit Candles

Lit Candles

Incense Burner with admirers

Incense Burner with admirers

A big one

A big one

More Lit Candles

More Lit Candles

Symmetry

Symmetry

Traditional Circle Window

Traditional Circle Window

Even Monks get to relax

Even Monks get to relax

The Pink Buddha

The Pink Buddha

Incense and Prayer

Incense and Prayer

Monk doing his lighting the candle job

Monk doing his lighting the candle job

Did I tell you it was hot in July in Henan Province?

Did I tell you it was hot in July in Henan Province?

A Red Buddha

A Red Buddha

A White Horse Monk

A White Horse Monk

These double stairs lead to the same place

These double stairs lead to the same place

New friends and such a nice family who likes foreigners

New friends and such a nice family who likes foreigners

Surprise! A Thai Wat

Surprise! A Thai Wat

Another surprise! A Hindu Church

Another surprise! A Hindu Church

This is definitely a Thai Buddha

This is definitely a Thai Buddha

Burial Place for the local monks

Burial Place for the local monks

Newly built Indian Hall

Newly built Indian Hall

An Indian Buddha

An Indian Buddha

Relaxing with a very friendly Monk

Relaxing with a very friendly Monk

Very interesting Indian-style carving

Very interesting Indian-style carving

Hawkers were everywhere as we exited the temple. We did a little shopping, picking up a couple of more small tea cups and caught the bus back to the bus station. The bus ends and starts at White Horse Temple. On the walk back to our hotel we passed (but did not stop) the local Pizza Hut with KFC right next to it. The monk at White Horse Temple probably did not like foreigners because of KFC, MacDonalds and Pizza Hut. He has to be a vegetarian in order to be a monk. We forgave him for his rudeness.

The local PIzza Hut

The local PIzza Hut

Today had been pure tourist activities. We saw no courtyard houses anywhere in Luoyang. About two hours from Luoyang was a placed called Gongyi which had one of the best examples of courtyard mansions in all of China. But first we must fulfill Sunee's wish to visit the world famous Shao Lin Temple.

Posted by inchinahil 06:35 Archived in China Tagged food architecture park buddhism white_horse_temple peony_fairy_park henan_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 16 - 17)

Millionaires Mansion between Luoyang and Zhengzhou


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Longmen Grotto

Today we got up early to go visit the Longmen Grotto, caves full of carved Buddhas that have been worked on for over 400 years since around 490 AD. We had already visited the Dazu Carvings near Chongqing and were not overly excited about the visit plus we were anxious to head on to our next big stop - Millionaire Kang Manor in Gongyi.

We arrived by bus fairly early and had to walk a long, long way just to get near the entrance. Paid some money to ride in a tour cart and then up to the ticket offices. The people had been rather cold to us and a bit arrogant, something we found to be true at the tourist sites with touts and agents.

Sunee checked the prices and asked for the seniors tickets. Sorry. Not at this site for foreigners. We lost interest really quick when we found this out. No amount of negotiations helped so we decided to pass - Chinese who pay Chinese taxes get senior discounts but foreigners who pay Chinese taxes do not. We decided long ago to pretty much stay away from such racist sites. We never found a place in Sichuan that did this.

Again, the people we met in Luoyang were very nice and helpful. I had a student from Luoyang whom we wanted to visit and she help set up our visit, but she ended up getting to go to Taiwan as an exchange student a month before we arrived. We were sad we were unable to visit her but happy for her success of getting to attend a university in Taiwan.

A map of the Longmen Grottos near the first entrance

A map of the Longmen Grottos near the first entrance

Sorry, no discount for senior foreign devils

Sorry, no discount for senior foreign devils

Gongyi and Millionaire Kang Manor

After the Longmen fiasco, we checked out of our hotel and went to the bus station to catch a bus to Gongyi, home of the courtyard manor known as Millionaire Kang Manor. The bus left at around 3 p.m. and took around two and a half hours. We arrived at sundown and found an inexpensive hotel near downtown. We walked around for an interesting restaurant and found a place that had Xinjiang Big Chicken Dish. It was wonderful and at a great price.

Big Chicken Dish

Big Chicken Dish

The next morning we followed the directions and in around thirty minutes we had reached our destination.

Two months prior to making this trip, I had ordered a book from Amazon to get some idea of what we would be looking for in courtyard houses. Chinese Houses by Ronald G. Knapp gave us a good idea of what we would be looking at and where to find them. This was the main reason decided to make this Shanxi trip.

The Kang Millionaire Manor was started in the Ming Dynasty by one of the most prosperous families in Henan and in all of China. The family remained united for over 400 years and gradually developed this self-sufficient manor or zhengyuan 状元 employing thousands of servants and workers to maintain it.

In 1901, the Empress Dowager, Ci Xi, spent the night as a guest on her way back to Beijing from Xian. She was so impressed by the manor and the Kangs that she called them Kangbaiwan and, thus, the complex became known as Kang Millionaire Manor.

At its zenith, it covered more than 64,300 square meters and had five main courtyards which, by the way, are still intact. It is an impressive complex but, as most Chinese buildings of this style, become very confusing as one wonders around from courtyard to courtyard and through a myriad of oval and other doorways. It was one of the highlights of our trip and cemented the concept in my mind that the courtyard houses of the type found in Beijing are not really the typical example. These big manors expanded over time with the addition of the typical courtyard house. The richer the family, the more courtyards.

Chinese Houses

Chinese Houses

Our destination by local bus was easily visible from the street and a big sign out front.

Millionaire Kang Manor is right over there

Millionaire Kang Manor is right over there

Wide view from the road

Wide view from the road

One had to walk across a nicely appointed park area to get to the ticket office. Remnants of ancient buildings and artifacts could be seen immediately.

Old entrance gate

Old entrance gate

No negotiations this time! The people at the ticket office sold us discount tickets with a huge smile and welcomed us, wishing us to have a great time.

Half-price tickets are Good

Half-price tickets are Good

On the way to the main complex that was the manor, we passed a great little courtyard that we examined carefully. Just what we were looking for.

A very nice new Courtyard

A very nice new Courtyard

A fair piece to walk from the ticket office to the manor allowed one to do a bit of shopping for "antiques" and Manor branded stuff.

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Newly minted antiques for sale

Newly minted antiques for sale

The main entrance was set up for tourists but we were the only ones entering through the long tunnel and the opened impressive black wood doors.

Entrance into the actual complex

Entrance into the actual complex

The imposing Black Door

The imposing Black Door

Long Entrance tunnel

Long Entrance tunnel

Walk around with us as we take a look at this huge complex of courtyards and Chinese architecture.

A Side Entrance

A Side Entrance

Two guard Lions

Two guard Lions

A Old Stele

A Old Stele

Oval door into another courtyard

Oval door into another courtyard

Brick Doorway

Brick Doorway

Half a dozen old Stele tops laying around

Half a dozen old Stele tops laying around

The hottest day of the trip

The hottest day of the trip

One of many doorways

One of many doorways

The main Courtyard

The main Courtyard

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom

Chinese Red Interior

Chinese Red Interior

Library

Library

Crane Interior

Crane Interior

White Interior

White Interior

Cave for cooling off

Cave for cooling off

A real Cart - not a prop

A real Cart - not a prop

The Orange Bedroom

The Orange Bedroom

The Yellow Bedroom

The Yellow Bedroom

It is just too Hot

It is just too Hot

Lots of these Oval Doors

Lots of these Oval Doors

Lock picture - almost as good as knocker pictures

Lock picture - almost as good as knocker pictures

Beautiful Small Courtyard

Beautiful Small Courtyard

Phoenix Bricks

Phoenix Bricks

Qing Dynasty Toilet - waste not the time

Qing Dynasty Toilet - waste not the time

Another Oval door into another Courtyard

Another Oval door into another Courtyard

Another Lock photo

Another Lock photo

I took a lot of pictures to give us some concept of how Chinese courtyards are laid out. Too many pictures, too much walking and too many times confused as to where we were, made for a tiring day. This coupled with the extreme heat made us slow down on our excited exploration of the complex. It was very hot as the photos indicate.

We walked back out the entrance and said goodbye to the staff at the ticket gate and caught a bus back to our hotel. Actually, we got on the wrong bus and when we realize it, the bus driver let us off with the direction to where we were staying. Getting off at the same location was a young college student from Gongyi. She gave us directions to our hotel then decided to walk back to the hotel with us. We had a great conversation and found out a lot of how people lived in Gongyi and the area. A nice surprise ending to an inspiring visit.

Friend in Gongyi

Friend in Gongyi

We were too tired to eat a lot so that evening we got some snacks and walked around a city park to take in the atmosphere.

Xinjiang bread - a delicacy we never turn down

Xinjiang bread - a delicacy we never turn down

Gazebo at Night

Gazebo at Night

The next morning we were scheduled to catch a bus to Zhengzhou, the capitol of Henan Province, where we would change buses to Kaifeng. My readings on Zhengzhou did not show anything of interest or at least no courtyard houses so we decided to press on to the former Song Dynasty capitol of Kaifeng.

Posted by inchinahil 06:32 Archived in China Tagged food architecture house gongyi courtyard_house henan_province millionaires_mansion Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 18)

Kaifeng, Henan Province


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Kaifeng

The trip through Zhengzhou was uneventful except we had to change buses in a weird residential area. The second bus then took us on to the bus station where we again had to change buses to get to the Kaifeng bus. All the service personnel we interacted with at the bus stations were really great and went out of their way to insure we were headed in the right direction or on the right bus. The people on the bus seemed genuinely interest in us and Sunee struck up a conversation with several of them as we went from bus to bus.

On the Bus to Zhengzhou

On the Bus to Zhengzhou

We arrived in Kaifeng and tried to locate a hotel which I had read about in one of the Lonely Planet articles on the internet. No luck as our taxi driver had never heard of it. We ended up about a block from the night market downtown in a hundred plus year old hotel. The rooms were comfortable and a little run down but . . . one hundred years old and in a great location at a good price.

For lunch we walked across the street from the hotel and found a cute little restaurant with cute little Chinese girls waitressing. What can I say? They were overjoyed to see us and we had a great lunch and friendly conversation

Our wonderful waitress

Our wonderful waitress

The people at the restaurant told us all the neat things to do in Kaifeng starting with the Kiafeng museum. We arrived by taxi and had to wait a half hour for it to open. It was also free. A very professional museum with a lot of stuff to see. The Print Museum section was especially interesting because they were in production when we visited. Even bought a couple of the prints hot off the presses.

The Print Museum

The Print Museum

Printmaking

Printmaking

Sold a finished  Chinese labor-intensive Print

Sold a finished Chinese labor-intensive Print

Museum Gold

Museum Gold

A huge carved Wood panel

A huge carved Wood panel

The Kaifeng Museum

The Kaifeng Museum

After about two hours in the museum we visited second site on our list from the restaurant.

Bao Zheng 包拯 Memorial Temple and Park

Judge Bao Zheng or Bao Qing Tian 包青天 was a magistrate in Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty. Every Chinese knows who he is because he is considered to be the symbol of justice in China. He was born in Hefei, Anhui Province into a scholar family. He passed the highest level Imperial Exam and was assigned to Kaifeng or Bian as it was called during the Song Dynasty. There is a TV series that Sunee never missed about him. She knew who he was and what he did from watching all the TV serials about him. She was very happy to be able to visit where he lived and worked.

Bao Zheng Entrance

Bao Zheng Entrance

Again half-price tickets without negotiations

Again half-price tickets without negotiations

Ceremonial Drum

Ceremonial Drum

Ceremonial Gong

Ceremonial Gong

Statue of Bao Qing Tian

Statue of Bao Qing Tian

Lion Door

Lion Door

Beautiful red Porch with pillars

Beautiful red Porch with pillars

As we walked around enjoying the architecture and the displays, we came across a monk selling his handicrafts. He told us he was a ShaoLin Monk. We also found out that he was married and not a vegetarian. This, according to him, was a special dispensation for only ShaoLin monks who were in training to be warriors. He was a very friendly and interesting fellow. The wood burning pictures in the background were his specialty.

A ShaoLin Monk

A ShaoLin Monk

Very impressive entrance way

Very impressive entrance way

Blue Roofed prayer hall

Blue Roofed prayer hall

Finally, another Old Knocker to photograph

Finally, another Old Knocker to photograph

The Main Pagoda

The Main Pagoda

The Front area of thePagoda

The Front area of thePagoda

Pagoda Courtyard area

Pagoda Courtyard area

As we walked to the tallest building in the complex, we saw a lot of activity with people dressed up in Song Dynasty Clothng. A show dealing with life in old Bian was about to take place.

Showtime is coming soon

Showtime is coming soon

There were three separate sections to the presentation with several people being arrested and a couple getting married Song Dynasty style. It was very entertaining and kept me busy with photography.

An Actor

An Actor

A Sheng Player

A Sheng Player

Pagoda up close

Pagoda up close

Headed for the exit, we came across another show taking place on the edge of a beautiful pond with a small pagoda. Acrobats as good as any we have seen in China gave a great show. It was during this show that my camera began to have problems. The camera, a Canon A640, did not want to extend its lens and gave me a lens error. Oh no! I finally got it to work after a few minutes and forgot about it as we finished and exited the complex.

A Small Pagoda

A Small Pagoda

Acrobats

Acrobats

Nicely done landscapedpond

Nicely done landscapedpond

Carved wooden Elephant near the pagoda

Carved wooden Elephant near the pagoda

Flower with pond as backdrop

Flower with pond as backdrop

It was getting late so we went back to our hotel, cleaned up and relaxed for a couple of hours before heading out to see what surprises the night market held for us.

Love that Chinese Bread

Love that Chinese Bread

Stuffed baked buns

Stuffed baked buns

Kaifeng Assortment of goodies

Kaifeng Assortment of goodies

Kaifen Special dumplings or Jaodz 饺子

Kaifen Special dumplings or Jaodz 饺子

A plate full of fried dumplings or Guotieh 锅贴

A plate full of fried dumplings or Guotieh 锅贴

Making Candy

Making Candy

We got plenty to eat and the night market was as exciting a place as every night market we had visited all over China. Love this city!

Posted by inchinahil 06:31 Archived in China Tagged architecture tourist_sites kaifeng ancient_town buddhist_temples song_dynasty henan_province Comments (0)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 19)

Song Dynasty Capital Theme Park And The Iron Pagoda


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Qingmingshanhetu Park

We arrived to the park area at around 0800. We were not sure when it opened and had been told to get there early. We found the ticket booths opened at 0830 and the actual theme parked opened at 0930. This gave me some time to take a few pictures and look at the map of the place.

According to the signs, this place had been built by Hong Kong business people about two years previously. It only recently finished all the attractions planned. The park is called the Kaifeng Millennium City Park or Qingming Riverside Landscape Garden 清明山河突. It is a cultural park which depicts life in the Song Dynasty (960-1127) capitol of Bianjing 汴京.

Qingmingshanghetu

Qingmingshanghetu

Qingming Festival Landscape Garden Map

Qingming Festival Landscape Garden Map

Near the Entrance

Near the Entrance

At 0830 we lined up for our tickets and found there was a problem with the half-price tickets for seniors. No foreigner discount tickets, the lady told us. Mmmmm, that is interesting because the sign right above the ticket lady stated there was in English. We insisted so she sent us to her supervisor around the back.

The supervisor was very nice and we showed her the sign above the ticket booth in English. She then left to call her supervisor. About five minutes later she came back with our senior tickets. She was polite, cheerful and apologized for any misunderstanding. I love this city!

We have Ticket Problems

We have Ticket Problems

The Problems Resolved

The Problems Resolved

The Grand Opening ceremony started at 0900 and lasted about a half hour. Amidst loud horns, gongs and drums a bunch of make-believe soldiers and officials came out to welcome the guest. Hey, I liked it!

The Grand Official Opening

The Grand Official Opening

The Opening is a bit cheezy

The Opening is a bit cheezy

Horseman supporting the Opening

Horseman supporting the Opening

A soldier during the Opening

A soldier during the Opening

It was 0930 so we entered the Song Dynasty. The first thing we were confronted with was the statue of Zhang. Gotta take a picture, right?

Zhang Zeduan 张择端 inspired this theme park. He painted a huge long scroll depicting life along the riverside during the Song Dynasty. The scrolls was entitled Along the River During the Qingming Festival 清明上河图. Most of the sites and events in the park are depicted on this huge scroll. We ended up buying several copies of this scroll in several different formats. It is very nice.

Can't miss the Statue of Zhang Zeduan

Can't miss the Statue of Zhang Zeduan

A couple of nicely painted buildings on our left greeted us. Sunee immediately decided we should take a boat ride. Nice chance for pictures.

Nice Yellow building on the Left

Nice Yellow building on the Left

Large Orange building on the Dragon Pavilion Lake

Large Orange building on the Dragon Pavilion Lake

Lets take a boat on the Dragon Pavilion Lake

Lets take a boat on the Dragon Pavilion Lake

The famous Red Bridge over the river

The famous Red Bridge over the river

It is hot so here are Umbrellas

It is hot so here are Umbrellas

Need a Song guide

Need a Song guide

Closer to the Red Bridge

Closer to the Red Bridge

While in the boat we witnessed a reenactment of a merchant ship getting robbed by a bunch of pirates and then the local police doing in the pirates. There were angry shouts and a lot of shooting at each other. Again, a bit cheezy but I enjoyed the show.

The following are scenes as we floated on the lake.

Chinese merchant Ship in trouble

Chinese merchant Ship in trouble

A scene on the lake

A scene on the lake

The Main Pagoda

The Main Pagoda

Working Waterwheel

Working Waterwheel

One of many watergates

One of many watergates

When we disembarked, we met several mobile sales people with an efficient method of transporting their wares.

Efficient Mobil Sales everywhere

Efficient Mobil Sales everywhere

Throughout the garden, one finds activities to watch or interact with. They were fun to watch and made for interesting photos.

Guess your weight Man

Guess your weight Man

The local taxi service

The local taxi service

Song songster playing the crowd

Song songster playing the crowd

Donations to a roving monk

Donations to a roving monk

Fish feeding

Fish feeding

Need a light?

Need a light?

There were scenes from the Song Dynasty at every turn. Things to do and things to see.

Here are some Directions

Here are some Directions

A bridge scene

A bridge scene

Sunee beating the drum

Sunee beating the drum

Bet this is a Restaurant

Bet this is a Restaurant

One of the things we learned traveling around China is the Chinese love to dress up in period costumes for the camera. It is a cheap way to be entertained and Sunee and I get involved as often as we can

Dressing up for photos

Dressing up for photos

Important PhotoOp for the emperor

Important PhotoOp for the emperor

Another important PhotoOp

Another important PhotoOp

Sunee as a Song Princess

Sunee as a Song Princess

Do not mess with the chief magistrate of Bianjing!

The great magistrate

The great magistrate

It was during the costumes photo sessions that my little Canon A640 died again with a lens error. I could not bring it back to life so I began using the still camera on the Panasonic camcorder. Slow process but at least I will get some pictures. Is the A640 dead forever? That is the question we hope to answer sometime on our journey to find the perfect courtyard house.

Kaifeng Iron Pagoda

The Iron Pagoda (鐵塔) of Youguo Temple (佑國寺) is the symbol of Kaifeng City and a masterpiece of the Song Dynasty. It was built in 1049 AD
and is not made of iron but the color of the tiles looks like iron. Enough history! We left the Qingmingshanhetu and got a taxi to the Iron Pagoda where we spent the rest of the afternoon. It was a hot day so we did not tarry in the sun.

The Iron Pagoda Entrance

The Iron Pagoda Entrance

Youguo Temple Landscape

Youguo Temple Landscape

The Youguo Temple

The Youguo Temple

The Iron Pagoda

The Iron Pagoda

Nice side Doorway

Nice side Doorway

A distant View

A distant View

Happy and Fat Buddha

Happy and Fat Buddha

A framed View

A framed View

Quick Lunch of Kaifeng noodles

Quick Lunch of Kaifeng noodles

Antique picture of the Iron pagoda

Antique picture of the Iron pagoda

We spent about three hours at the Iron Pagoda. It was frustrating trying to use our Panasonic camcorder to take pictures. I had to wait for the camcorder to record each picture on the SD card making it impossible to take a lot of pictures. Got enough for a blog, though.

Posted by inchinahil 06:30 Archived in China Tagged bridges people architecture temple ancient tourist_sites song_dynasty henan_province qingmingshanghetu Comments (1)

Courtyard Dream House Adventure (July 20/21)

Changzhi, Shanxi Province


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Chang Zhi student visit

July 20, 2009

Kaifeng was wonderful. The people were extremely friendly and the sites were beautiful. Unfortunately, it was time to travel back into Shanxi Province and our next stop was Changzhi where Suzie, one of my freshmen student lived. The town is not a tourist town but it turned out to be beautiful and the air unusually fresh.

The bus ride from Kaifeng took us back to Zhengzhou where we caught another bus to Changzhi. Four hours of uneventful traveling and we arrived at the Changzhi bus station where we found Suzie. I had given her a call and she was expecting us.

We met her mother and father and they were warm and hospitable. In fact, it was obvious that Suzie's family was very special. Sunee and I fell in love with both her mother and father. The first thing they did was get us set up in a hotel near by and take us to a Shanxi late lunch and what a feast it turned out to be.

Very famous Shanxi Noodles

Very famous Shanxi Noodles

Another Shanxi Specialty

Another Shanxi Specialty

The great tasting Shanxi Pork

The great tasting Shanxi Pork

More Special Shanxi Noodles

More Special Shanxi Noodles

There was just too much Good Stuff on the table

There was just too much Good Stuff on the table

A wonderful Shanxi Soup

A wonderful Shanxi Soup

Weird but still wonderfulNoodles

Weird but still wonderfulNoodles

Donkey Meat rolled in noodles - what I had read about

Donkey Meat rolled in noodles - what I had read about

It was fairly late in the afternoon, so we walked around a while with Suzie then went back to the hotel to relax. Suzie's family had provided us with fruit and snacks for a relaxed evening.

July 21, 2009

In the morning, Suzie picked us up around 0900 and we went to visit the oldest part of town and the old gate. I had told Suzie's father about my broken A640 and we took it to a friend close to the old gate. The friend said it would be ready late thatt afternoon when we got back from our tours.

The Old City Gate

The Old City Gate

After checking in my broken camera, Suzie's father drove us to the oldest temple in the area, about an hours drive through the Shanxi countryside. Agriculture was big and prospering here.

Faxing Temple was built in 401 and was was originally known as the Guangde Temple during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). A stone dagoba was built in the temple in 673. It was renamed Faxing Temple in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and experienced numerous renovations during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. Sitting in the north and facing the south, the temple's main constructions were built on the central axis and include the dagoba, Randeng Tower, Yuanjue Hall and the back hall.

The dagoba, made of sand stone hall, was built by layering the stones. A dagoba is a Tibetan-style pagoda that usually houses some kind of Buddhist treasure. This dagoba is 28 feet long at each side with three-layered eaves. The inside structure is shaped like a square caisson with sets of brackets holding up the eaves. It a pearl-shaped spire with engraved frescos on all the walls. I had never seen such a Chinese ancient structure.

The Randeng Tower lighthouse in the back of the dagoba is octagonal shaped. It was built on a two-storeyed base, with the figures of running beasts with eight performers engraved around the base. The pedestal was carved into the form of a lotus flower, with 4 octagonal hollow lamp kiosks carved above. The tower is hollow inside and lamplight shoots out through the four doors at night, lighting up the yard. It is one of only three or four such stone lighthouses in China. Because of its great value, it is locked inside a plexi-glass box.

The Yuanjue Hall has a huge altar with Sakyamuni sitting cross-legged on it. Two followers of Sakyamuni stand on his sides, bending forward. Two warrior attendants stand in the front of altar. In two side rooms are several statues, wearing various expressions on their faces. There are also many colored sculptures of the Song Dynasty and they are regarded according to the tour guide are some of the best works of the Song Dynasty. It was a very impressive place.

Additionally, we stopped at the base and tested the acoustics of the temple. One could stand at the top of the stairs and hear the noise made by rocks clicked on the stairs at the bottom. Not sure I understood the significants of this but it did work.

The Faxing Temple Entrance

The Faxing Temple Entrance

Faxing Temple

Faxing Temple

The really old Dagoba

The really old Dagoba

The Faxing Temple Courtyard

The Faxing Temple Courtyard

Layered Fence around the compound

Layered Fence around the compound

Refurbished Buddha

Refurbished Buddha

one of the many Song Buddhas

one of the many Song Buddhas

The rare Tang Dynasty Lighthouse

The rare Tang Dynasty Lighthouse

Faxing Temple was great. We had a guide who walked around with us and went into detail about every aspect of the complex. It is a major historical temple.

We next went a few miles into the mountainous area and came to the Chongqing Temple Complex which was in total renovation.

Chong QingTemple View 1

Chong QingTemple View 1

Chong QingTemple View 2

Chong QingTemple View 2

Another Gate in the local town near the temple

Another Gate in the local town near the temple

After spending about four hours looking at the two temples, we headed back to Changzhi to check on my camera near the old city gate.

The Changzhi City Gate

The Changzhi City Gate

More City Gate

More City Gate

Upon entering the camera store, everyone had huge smiles for us. The friend was able to fix my camera. Later, I would find that the previous model of this camera had problems with the lens error. In fact, when it happens to that model, the camera is pretty well dead. Not so my camera. I felt confident that the camera had a bunch dirt in the camera from being used in the hot dusty ancient towns we had visited. I was very happy with getting my camera back. It cost 200 Yuan and I was still smiling.

My Canon A640 Camera is Fixed

My Canon A640 Camera is Fixed

After picking up the camera, we went to a restaurant serving more local dishes. Very good, this Shanxi dishes!

Shanxi Lunch Special

Shanxi Lunch Special

After lunch we went shopping. Must have spent about three hours running around town looking at stuff to buy. We then went to Suzie's aunt's restaurant for an early dinner of fried chicken.

Susie's Aunt

Susie's Aunt

Susie and her Family

Susie and her Family

Shanxi Fried Chicken Dinner

Shanxi Fried Chicken Dinner

After dinner, we walked back over to the area of the city gate for some picture taking.

City Gate at night

City Gate at night

Sunee at the Gate

Sunee at the Gate

More Gate Night shots

More Gate Night shots

A Modern Stone Mural

A Modern Stone Mural

The local mosque at Night

The local mosque at Night

What a great time we had in Changzhi. Suzie's family were some of the finest people we have met in China. We will catch a morning bus to Linfen.

Posted by inchinahil 06:28 Archived in China Tagged people food architecture temple shanxi ancient buddhist_temple 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 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


View Courtyard House Adventure on inchinahil's travel map.

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)

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