Harbin, China’s Northeastern Winter Wonderland

June 16, 2015

Casey Chan of Gizmodo posted A Winter Wonderland in China with two photos of The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival located in Northeast China where the average winter temperature is a (minus) – 16.8 degrees Celsius (1.76 Fahrenheit). The Festival is held in January.

It is June, and you might wonder why I’m posting this now instead of December or January. The simple answer is for travelers who might want to visit China and think Harbin would be a good place to include in the trip—next winter.

Wikipedia says the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was first held in 1963, but it was interrupted for a few years during the insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Mao died in 1976, and it took time for China’s economic engine to recover. The fact that the festival resumed in 1985 is a sign of the changes taking place in China.

In the comment section of Chan’s Gizmodo post, Adam wrote, “China is awesome when it comes to giant decorations and celebrations (just remember the Olympics!), but the people there still have an extremely low quality of life. Why, if they can do some things so well, do they fail at others?”

Sega8800 asked Adam, “How do you know their life is low quality?”

Adam’s answer was a Wikipedia link to a post of a 1994 book, China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power. The couple who wrote the book spent five years in China (1988 to 1993) as journalists for the New York Times—not the best unbiased source about China by a long shot.

I laughed.

The content for that book was based on material that was more than 22-years old, and time in China did not freeze. During those years, China transformed itself by rebuilding the old cities while building more than a hundred new ones in addition to the explosion of a middle class that equals or surpasses the entire population of the United States. China has also crisscrossed the country with new highways, railroads that include high speed rail that doesn’t even exist in the United States yet, and it has built more than 500 new airports while America’s airports are way overdue for an upgrade.

In fact, as the standard of living for China’s still growing middle class expands, the Chinese are now buying more new cars than Americans, traveling the world as tourists (about 100 million annually), and the most popular car that’s a status symbol in China is GM’s Buick (别克).

The embedded videos with this post are of Harbin and previous festivals.

map_china_showing_Harbin

______________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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Bernd Hagemann’s “Sleeping Chinese”

May 27, 2015

a guest post by Tom Carter of Bernd Hagemann’s Sleeping Chinese

German businessman Bernd Hagemann arrived in China in 2002 amidst media reports of China’s impending rise to global domination. “News outlets around the world,” he writes, “were warning us about… how fast China is developing, how competitive it is, and what a tense life the Chinese people must live.”

Casual strolls down the streets of China in between boardroom meetings and networking, however, soon revealed to Hagemann a far less threatening side of China. So he took out his point-and-shoot camera and documented what he saw all around him. In just 148 pages, Hagemann’s debut photography book Sleeping Chinese swiftly dispels 9 years of chest-pounding by the PRC propaganda machine.

Sleeping Chinese is a fun little novelty item the exact same dimensions as a postcard that will leave you either laughing out loud or scratching your head in perplexity. The pages are divided into 3 parts: Hard Sleepers, Soft Sleepers and Group Sleepers, a clever allusion to China’s train carriage classification system.

Hard Sleepers: “Those who snooze in hard and uncomfortable places can fall asleep anywhere – even on a pile of bricks in a construction site!” Hagemann defines.

Witness, then, the dozens of people who have drifted into deep slumber atop stones, wood, mortar blocks, concrete and even cold slabs of raw meat. The most comical of the chapter being the dozing shoe repair man balancing precariously on a saw horse with an extra 2×4 for a pillow.

Soft Sleepers: “A little more fussy than their hard sleeper comrades,” the chapter intro explains, “fussy” meaning in plastic wash bins, hammocks slung under freight trucks, sleeping lengthwise across a motor scooter and even a laborer using a tape measure to cover his eyes.

Group Sleepers: “A traveling family needs no pillows when they have each other’s knees.” Truly, the photo of the family of five all huddled together like newborn puppies gives greater meaning to ‘jiating,’ China’s family unit.

 

Some Chinese might take offense to Hagemann’s photographic agenda, but anyone with a sense of humor will see that the book was made out of affection.

“I’d like to express my appreciation of the hard work and effort put in by migrant workers who play a central role in China’s success story but seldom receive the attention they deserve,” writes Hagemann.

Indeed, anyone who has spent quality time in China knows that these laborers, more than anyone else, deserve their rest — anywhere they can get it.

None of the snapshots in Sleeping Chinese were staged. Any foreign tourist in China who bothers to stray from his package tour group or get out of his hotel for a jaunt off the tourist trail will see these exact same sights, and more.

Incidentally, taking and publishing photos of sleeping Chinese people will often land a foreign tourist in hot water if caught by the authorities (the subjects themselves tend not to mind).

People’s Daily newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the Politburo, even attempted to put a socialist spin on Hagemann’s revealing imagery in an article about Sleeping Chinese: “If (we) are tired, (we) lie down anywhere and anytime and sleep. This shows (our) society’s accepting attitude.”

Regarding the western media’s scare tactics of China’s “waking dragon,” this reviewer is reminded by Sleeping Chinese of a particular song from old-school hip-hop artists Public Enemy (who I had occasion to watch perform during their 2007 tour through Beijing): Don’t Believe the Hype!

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of CHINA: Portrait of a People, a 600-page China photography book, available through Amazon.com

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From China’s Modern Gobi Stonehenge to Beijing’s Ancient Observatory

April 29, 2015

In August 2008, The Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco sent a team to China to film a total-solar eclipse. While in China, Pauld Doherty, a physicist, teacher, author and rock climber, visited China’s modern Stonehenge in the Gobi Desert.

chinesestonehenge600

Pauld says, “The Gobi Stonehenge is made with a central pillar where a viewer stands and 6 pillars that mark the positions of sunrise and sunset on the equinoxes and the solstices. There are also pillars to mark due north and south. When the sun passes over the south pillar, it marks local-solar noon.”

“The shape of an observatory like this one depends upon the latitude,” he says, “and my calculations show that the excellent Chinese astronomer who designed this one did a superb job.”

Patsy Burns left a comment, “The Stonehenge and center of Asia markers note Chinese have long been studying the skies. … Have you been to the remnants of the Emperor’s observatory just east of Tiananmen Sq by the Gloria Plaza hotel … if it is still there? Supposedly Marco Polo’s star gazing Jesuits matched calculations with the Emperor’s people there and that knowledge gave Marco Polo guanxi, credibility.”

To answer Patsy’s question, yes, the Ming Emperor’s observatory is still there and a recent planetarium has been added.

To study astronomy, the Ming Dynasty built an observatory in Beijing in 1442. The observatory covers 1,000 square meters (more than 10,000 square feet).

Eight bronze astronomical instruments stand on a platform. The design of the instruments reflects both the influence of oriental craftsmanship and the European Renaissance demonstrating an understanding of measurements and physics.

In 1955, a new hall covering 7,000 square meters (more than 75,000 square feet) was built, and it opened to the public two years later. It has an exhibition hall, a video projection room and observatory for everyone.

In 2004, a new hall covering about 20,000 square meters (more than 215,000 square feet) was added.

______________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Gongwangfu, a Prince’s Palace and Garden in Beijing worth seeing

April 7, 2015

I took these photos in Prince Kung’s (1833-1898) palace and garden (once called Gongwangfu). This palace is in Beijing’s Beihai district. Prince Kung was Emperor Hsein Feng’s (1831-1861) younger brother.

As Inspector General for the Emperor of China, Robert Hart, known as the Godfather of China’s modernism, lived in the same hutong that Prince Kung lived in. Robert Hart, the main character in My Splendid Concubine, often met Prince Kung in this garden.

After 1950, for several decades, the palace and garden became a communal home for many Chinese. In recent years, the garden, considered one of the best in China, was renovated and is now a tourist attraction, which attracts thousands of visitors daily. Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Forbidden City are all within walking distance.

To design a proper Chinese garden one must build a big place in a small space.  Prince Kung’s garden and estate is surrounded by a high wall and outside is Beijing.

Once inside, it is easy to forget that outside the walls is a crowded city. It was also easy for the Qing (Manchu) royals to forget about what was happening throughout China.

______________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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Gourmet dining at McDonald’s in Shanghai

March 25, 2015

Maybe China’s government doesn’t care for McDonald’s because of the increase in obesity among the Chinese, but many Chinese think of McDonald’s and Pizza Hut as gourmet restaurants or at least they act like they do.

For instance, a few years ago, my sister-in-law hired a young Shanghai ballerina to model for a photo shoot. Afterwards, the ballerina called her husband on a cell phone and told him to meet her at the two story McDonald’s in the middle of Shanghai to celebrate the extra cash she’d earned.

McDonald’s is even planning to increase the number of outlets in China, and to get ready, they have opened a leadership school that only accepts 1% of the applicants for training.

We also saw long waiting lines outside a fancy Pizza Hut on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road, a crowded pedestrian mall.

More Posts about Shanghai:
Shanghai
Shanghai Huxinting Teahouse
Shanghai Huangpu River Tour
Shanghai’s History & Culture
Chinese Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo

______________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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An Art Gallery in Zhouzhang, China’s Venice

March 4, 2015

In 2008, while visiting Zhouzhang, China’s #1 Water Town for Tourists, we stopped at Xu Xiao-dong’s gallery and art studio.

 
Xu-Xiao-dong

The artist trained under a master and keeps a newspaper clipping that mentions it.

We bought several watercolors from Xu Xiao-dong, and he gave me written permission to use his art for the cover of My Splendid Concubine’s 2nd edition. The 3rd edition has a dancer on the cover (you can see it below this post).

 Xu Xiao-dong’s gallery

There’s a narrow, steep stairway in the back (left) that goes to another floor and more art. The artist also paints his art on the second floor.

Zhouzhang, near Shanghai, is almost a thousand years old—built in 1086. Unlike most tourist attractions in America, this town is still occupied with 138,000 people, and they make their living from the tourists who cannot enter unless they pay a fee.

A boat ride through the town costs about RMB 100 (US$16). Traditional Chinese folk songs sung by gondoliers are free.
At least they were when we visited.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Finding Clean Air in China

January 20, 2015

If asked to name cities in China, most people outside of China would probably say Shanghai and Beijing, but China has more than a hundred cities with populations over a million and some of them actually have clean air.

Mike Conklin, in a special to the Chicago Tribune, reveals a rare gem in Xiamen, China—a southeast port across the Taiwan Straits from Taiwan.

One of China’s top universities is located in Xiamen with about 30,000 students along with a half dozen other colleges.

Besides great beaches and “CLEAN AIR”, the population is environmentally conscious and prices are low.  A few years ago, the CCP planned to build a chemical plant in Xianmen.  But students took to the streets in peaceful protest and more than a million text messages were sent objecting to the chemical plant.

The central government changed its plans—meaning NO chemical plant was built in or near Xiamen.

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

 


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