Strange place China. One minute you’re revolted by some of the customs – like the excess of phlegm its inhabitants seem to be able to produce (and the public spitting IS quite gross) or the inclination to eat….anything!. The next minute you’re absolutely charmed by the abundance of roses cultivated on the median strips and along the highways into town. And then you’re overwhelmed by the extent of the development of the cities.
A couple of weeks ago we flew into Guangzhou – the city that used to be called Canton – third largest of the Chinese cities with a population of around 13 million (yes that’s right 13 million!). As the plane descended to land, the sun set over the Pearl river illuminating, not a frontier town but the metropolis that is the portal to mainland China.
Reminiscent of Hong Kong with humidity and perpetual activity, this port city is sprawling and very busy.
Naturally we found a quieter area to walk through and found ourselves on Shamian Island, a sandbank island across a canal from the city.
Shamian Island is little different from its time as a foreign concession in the 19th century and that legacy reveals a charming leafy area, mostly pedestrian, filled with grand houses where European merchants once facilitated the trade for silk, porcelain and lacquerware. When the British and French took over they planted trees that now overhang the streets and the whole place is like an ornate garden. Throughout the area the streets are sprinkled with the bronze statues depicting life in the area past and present. This one reminded me of Apatchy –
And this one depicts the development of the Chinese woman – from the woman of the past wearing the cheongsam to the modern woman in shorts with a phone to her ear.
We shared the area with bridal photographers and other tourists as well as some locals including this lady practising tai chi in the park – complete with sword! I might take this up in my later years – I wonder what Brisbane City Council would have to say about that?
We could see the dragon boats on the Pearl River from our hotel room window and the strong rhythm of the drums and gongs as the crews practised for the Dragon Boat Festival added to the exotic atmosphere of this city.
Two days later we were in Wuhan, further north than Guangzhou, and a not inconsiderable city that nine or so million people call home. It was here that we attended a family wedding. Luvvy’s son married a local girl, both of them now living in Sydney, but who travelled back to her parents’ country for the nuptials. And what a wedding it was – imagine a talent show crossed with a game show and you get a bit of an idea. The MC, whose banter was not translated into English, kept the crowd enthused and cheering throughout the event. The vows were made in English (him) and Chinese (her) and the food served could only be described as a feast. A wonderful day – I won’t impose too many photos on you but here are a couple –
After the wedding the bride’s family took us sightseeing around Wuhan – what a beautiful city it is.
We farewelled our new Chinese family with promises to catch up again soon and flew to Beijing. After relaxed Wuhan the capital seemed somewhat tense with soldiers and police everywhere, although, as one local said “It’s the capital so it has to be safe”. Strangely it seemed less so with the abundance of security and we fancied everyone we met were spies or secret service agents.
We had only a short time in Beijing – enough to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City –
and then an hour’s drive to the Great Wall – which we did climb. What a monster this is – a monument to the sheer ingenuity, accomplishment and bastardry of man in equal measure. Taking hundreds of years to build, the bodies of those unfortunate enough to be conscripted to work on the wall and perish in the undertaking were buried within it – making it the longest wall in the world and also the longest cemetery.
Back in the city we walked through the lanes to the Old town and through the silk shops – laden with their bolts of colourful fabric that, alas, was very expensive. We came across a night market with some local delicacies –
Seahorse anyone? What about a scorpion kebab for supper?
The reputation of the Chinese gardener is well-established and we were not disappointed at the skill of the locals in this regards
The last stop on our short journey was Shanghai – apparently the most populous city in the world. A walk along the Bund highlights the difference between the old China and the modern with the historical buildings on on side facing the modern skyscrapers on the other side of the river.
Again we found quieter areas to walk and marvel at the local architecture, open spaces and scenes we found interesting. Fu Xing park and the French concession area is in stark contrast to the noise and busy streets. Again we saw older residents practise tai chi while younger ones practised ballroom dancing to Chinese melodies.
Apart from the small oases of tranquility we found, the development in these cities was overwhelming. I have never seen so many skyscrapers and all the while cranes everywhere building more. Alas we live in a homogenised world and many of the central areas of the cities looked the same as every other city. The shops in the main thoroughfare resembled those elsewhere – Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Salvatore Ferragama – you get the idea.
This means that much that is valued is also very expensive so there were only minimal purchases of silk and other ‘souvenirs’. We did find masses of some items – from teapots to jade bangles –
And we did find beautiful handcrafts at the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum and at the Old Town –
And we saw the incongruities of modern life – like the devout praying at a temple while a priest checks his text messages –
Away from the main streets just around the corner though you can glimpse the real China – and from what we saw it is boundless.
Speaking of impressive the Apatcheez have not been idle while I’ve been wandering through the back lanes of Shanghai. Congratulations to those who took out prizes at the recent Brookfield Show – Chris for her winning tea cosies – a Best Use of Colour and Most Unusual Tea Cosy award –
and Lesa – a highly commended for one quilt and 2nd prize for another –
And there were other finishes too –
Joan’s peg bag –
Suzanne’s kanzashi flower wedding cake that I should have shown you in a earlier post –
Robyne’s hexagonal beauties –
June’s bag – one for herself this time – and another – the first project made with the new fabric Tokaido –
Pat’s eye-spy quilt for a lucky grand-daughter –
Now Margaret didn’t disappoint either. Here’s a great Valentino Rossi-inspired quilt for a very lucky man –
And then this very interesting coldie/picnic bag that starts out like a quilt with two zips –
and ends up like a very useful coldie bag –
So it’s certainly been a busy month – and more to come!
Until then happy quilting