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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 15)

Shaolin Temple near Luoyang


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Shaolin Temple near Luoyang

Yesterday we walked down to the bus station area and made arrangements for a tour company to drop by our hotel to pick us up. We were to join a tour to visit Shao Lin Temple. The agent stated plainly that this tour was to Shao Lin and covered the bus trip but not the entrance fees. We were paying for the convenience of not taking public transportation and we were a bit tired from running after buses. A nice respite, we thought

The car came right on time at 8 a.m. and took us to the agent's building where we climbed onboard a very crowded bus. There were four other foreigners on the bus and a lot of Chinese. I sat next to two lovely Italian students who had finished their classes in Shanghai and were traveling around before returning to Italy. We all relaxed for what we expected would be an easy hour or so trip to the famous monastery and temple.

Wrong!

Within around thirty minutes we made a stop at a cultural site that I never heard of. It was the tomb of the third wife of the fourth emperor's cousin who lived in the area after his first two wives had been killed by the emperor. Not really but it was a newly hatched cultural site that we were not interested. We began to complain to the tour guide that we had not signed up to stop at every temple along the way to Shaolin. He got testy! Eventually he said it was not his problem but several others in the bus had the same reaction. He eventually gave our money back and sent us to the main road to catch the public bus to Shaolin Monastery. The other foreigners stayed with the tour.

The tomb of some wife??

The tomb of some wife??

Waiting for the public bus

Waiting for the public bus

The bus to Shaolin

The bus to Shaolin

Tickets were 100 Yuan for everybody, so we paid our money and entered the world-famous Shaolin Monastery.

Shaolin beginning Practicianers

Shaolin beginning Practicianers

The Shaolin phone system

The Shaolin phone system

On the bus we sat next to a couple of students from Beijing so we decided to visit Shaolin together. I believe they were engineering students.

Our Beijing Friends

Our Beijing Friends

As one enters the complex, on finds an open area for shows. Indeed, there was a show be presented by a bunch of baby monks. After watching several martial arts shows on and around Emei Mountain, this was in comparison "cheezy!"

Baby monks on display

Baby monks on display

More baby monks

More baby monks

Greetings for Shaolin Monastery

Greetings for Shaolin Monastery

More greetings snaps

More greetings snaps

Another Shaolin Phone

Another Shaolin Phone

Wheel of Fortune (actually Life)

Wheel of Fortune (actually Life)

Happy snaps at Shaolin Entrance

Happy snaps at Shaolin Entrance

Guardian 1

Guardian 1

Guardian 2

Guardian 2

Red Door Guard

Red Door Guard

Many Guards

Many Guards

Good Luck

Good Luck

Newly renovated Pagoda

Newly renovated Pagoda

Guard lion

Guard lion

Steal that Stele

Steal that Stele

Turtle Stele

Turtle Stele

Lionhead

Lionhead

HDR (high dynamic range) Post

HDR (high dynamic range) Post

Knockers are my favorite

Knockers are my favorite

Another KNocker photograph

Another KNocker photograph

Filming an important movie

Filming an important movie

A Darkened Lion Head - Rub it for good luck

A Darkened Lion Head - Rub it for good luck

Not a baby but a real Shaolin Monk

Not a baby but a real Shaolin Monk

What is behind the red Lion Door

What is behind the red Lion Door

Crash dummy Bronze Head

Crash dummy Bronze Head

Crash dummy Bronze Bod

Crash dummy Bronze Bod

For a price ride theCamel

For a price ride theCamel

Shaolin monks hawking their wares

Shaolin monks hawking their wares

Teaching about Zen Buddhism

Teaching about Zen Buddhism

Forest of Pagodas

Forest of Pagodas

Very famous Pagodas

Very famous Pagodas

Guarding the steps

Guarding the steps

Open the Blue Door at your own risk

Open the Blue Door at your own risk

Still None Life Photo - Stele with Chair

Still None Life Photo - Stele with Chair

Knocker on Blue

Knocker on Blue

Three thumbs up for the monastery

Three thumbs up for the monastery

Sunee does some Charity

Sunee does some Charity

This Shaolin Monastery was enjoyable and worth the effort. The Monastery, IMNO, is not real - a commercial venture where they are selling the Shaolin Brand. Capitalism at its best. Even though it was very commercial, we enjoyed the visit and the monks played their parts perfectly. We did visit with a few who seemed to enjoy their acting parts and were really friendly. I think the Emei Mountain monks who do martial arts would wipe the floor with these monks but who knows. Wutang Mountain also is well known for its marital arts as well. Shaolin has got the name and the star power behind it and is a very successful tourist attraction. We both liked it very much.

Returning to the entrance at around 4 p.m. we met the foreigners who had been on the bus with us. They had spend a lot of money to get into five different sites on their way to Shaolin. None of them was happy about their current lack of time to enjoy Shaolin. We visited awhile about their adventures then rented a taxi back to our hotel and much needed rest.

Posted by inchinahil 06:34 Archived in China Tagged food mountain monks tourist_sites ancient_town martial_arts buddhist_temples 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 20/21)

Changzhi, Shanxi Province


View Courtyard House Adventure on inchinahil's travel map.

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 (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)

A Western Restaurant Offers Mao's Revenge

Continuation of John's farewell party, we westerners went to a western restaurant, the only one in Emei City. I paid the price!

The western restaurant is called NongChau after some bridge in some famous western movie. Never could figure the correct name out. Anyway, it features fusion food in the western tradition. This particular night they had a buffet with western dishes.

StrangeLights.jpg
The first picture I took came out like this. Wrong settings. This should have been a warning.

Itseemedgood.jpg
The food seemed ok and was tasty and western

SatisfiedI-thought.jpg
A good meal for someone looking for western dishes or so I thought

QuiteNiceThanks.jpg
John, too, thought it was very nice

Maybethe-s..lled-it.jpg
No one else got sick. Maybe, it was the celebration alcohol which protected everyone

I got very sick and spent two days in bed. Sunee, who did not eat much was ok. No one else was sick. All the others drank loads of wine and then scotch. Bet it killed the bacteria. Should have known when I saw that none of the chafing dishes were heated. It will be forever before I return to that place!

Posted by inchinahil 20:32 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (0)

John's Farewell Dinner And Party

We got together with the other teachers in our department to say goodbye to John and hello to a new teacher. The head of the department, Susan, and the Dean of the faculty, Dean Jiang, were our hosts

They came to get us at around 6 pm and took us to a restaurant that was popular to hold such affairs. We had been there before in one of our weekend dinings with Bogdan and Tom. The restaurant was nice and had separate dining rooms with air conditioning. Our room had two tables and was perfect for our small group. Pictures say it better than I can write.

OurTable.jpg
All the guys sat at this table with three of the ladies.

TheOtherTable.jpg
The other table was strictly for the lady teachers. No men allowed.

Robert_Jean.jpg
Dr. Robert and his wife Jean are from Canada and qualify as "foreign" teachers

DeanJiangandSusan.jpg
Susan, head of the department, and Dean Jiang, head of the faculty, were our hosts

SunneGoodTime.jpg
Sunee seems to be having a good time

SylviawithNewTeacher.jpg
Sylvia with our new teacher

SuneeJohnRobert.jpg
John is enjoying himself

TwoTeach.jpg
Two more of our finest

GossipTime.jpg
Susan takes a break to gossip a bit

BerniceMariah.jpg
Bernice and Mariah, both graduates of the Assumption University MELT program

DeanNeedsMore.jpg
The Dean needs more wine

charles_Soy.jpg
Charles, our teacher coordinator, brought some soy bean milk for me and others

TomPigsOut.jpg
Tom takes advantage and pigs out

SusanFlashes.jpg
I guess this means the dinner was a success

THE FAIR

Thefeast.jpg
The feast is spread

SpicyPeanuts.jpg
The appetizer was spicy sichuan peanuts. Lots of peppers with few peanuts

SpicyNoodles.jpg
Then came some spicy sichuan noodles. Not too bad but still spicy

SpicyMushrooms.jpg
Do not be fooled by these mushrooms. They were very, very hot

SpicyFishheads.jpg
Fishheads! A sichuan delicacy which us foreigners passed on. All except Robert who loved them

SpicyChicken.jpg
Spicy sichuan chicken. Would have been much better if the chicken had been boneless

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Spicy sichuan pork (or is that beef) stomach. I passed on this as well

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Pagoda Pork. The best dish we had for us foreigners. Giant slabs of bacon

Posted by inchinahil 19:17 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (0)

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