In April our school administrators informed the foreign teachers that during the Labour Day holiday week in May, that they would take us away for a 2 day tour of some local scenic attractions. The typically impatient Western foreigners (having made plans in advance), didn't like waiting around for last minute confirmation and details about a possible tour, and so after advising the leaders, they all left to pursue their own particular plans. Just as well. An official and prolonged inspection of every aspect of the school's current operation, left organisers no time to actually plan the tour.
The other week however, we were advised to keep the weekend of May 26th and 27th free, so as to do that tour. This article is about that tour to the ancient towns of Wuzhen, Nanxun and Tongli in Jiangsu Province.
|The night before we left, Chiara and I went up to the city wall by "Shilu" to take some night photos.|
Saturday 26th May, we foreigners, 7 in all (4 of whom are Japanese), were pleased to discover that the school had employed the services of a professional tour company. We were supplied not only with a comfortable bus and pleasant driver, but with a multilingual guide named 'Scarlet', who was Fluent in Chinese, Japanese and English. She did a wonderful job.
Our first port of call, which lay at a distance of about 2 hours drive from the school, was Wuzhen. The "wuzhen.com.cn" website offers quite a lot of information if you would like to check it out, a little of which I will provide.
The Ancient Town of Wuzhen
WuZhen lies at the north of Tongxiang City of Zhejiang Province China, and at the center of the triangle formed by Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing.
|Scarlet with one of the Japanese teachers.|
The town lies on the Hangzhou-Jiaxing-Huzhou alluvial Plain, with no hills but interlaced rivers. Wuzhen enjoys a history of over 1,000 years since its establishment in 872 A.A.
I will point out here that this was an 'all expenses paid' trip, and we foreigners paid for nothing.
I have no idea how much the entrance ticket cost to this particular place, because it is not indicated on the ticket, but like the tickets from the other towns we visited, the ticket is 'multi-entry'.
This is to say that there are individual establishments (9 in all) within this location to which your ticket provides automatic entrance.
At the entrance to each new section that you enter, an attendent punches a hole in your ticket. I have 4 punch holes in my ticket, but apart from the original entry and the visit to the Pawn shop, I have no idea what else I visited.
|WuZhen homes by the canal.|
|No need for cars - just Mosquito spray.|
|Be a mug and buy a mug with your mug on it - only 10rmb.|
We had arrived at lunchtime and so the first order of the day was to eat, which we did at a little restaurant within the tourist complex. With that out of the way, we all set off in different directions to do our own exploring. This was not too difficult since everything could be found off one main thoroughfare.
Because I finished eating before the rest (I found little that I liked amongst the numerous dishes on offer) I left the restaurant for a cigarette. While outside I walked a short distance to a bridge and took a few photos. As I was walking back over the bridge, I stopped so as not to block a photograph being taken by a young chinese man of his family. The girl beside him who was taking a video, turned the camera on me, and in English said: "Look! A foreigner!"
In Chinese I answered that I was not a foreigner, but a Chinese person from the Muslim Province of XinJiang. (Yes it sounds crazy but you would be surprised how many believe me). Anyway, the girl then apologised to me in English. It was quite funny really.
|Pawn Brokers Office. The legal way to get ripped off.|
I headed back to the restaurant to discover that everyone had split up and taken off to explore, and so I passed my time with Scarlet the guide. We spent most of the time sitting on a bench by the canal talking. Or perhaps more realistically, I spent most of the time talking. At the appropriate time, we met up with the rest of the tour group, and headed off to our hotel.
|Panelling from the home of Liu Tiqing.|
The Ancient Town of Nanxun
Nanxun is in Huzhou, if that means anything to you. It confuses me, because all of it is in SuZhou.
After visiting Wuzhen, we checked into a very nice Chinese hotel (sorry - I forgot to get the details) where the room rate was apparently 300 rmb.
It was a beautiful establishment that included a Chinese Breakfast in the room price.
After check in, we had 90 minutes to rest before meeting up for dinner. I don't know where we went or how we got there, because some of the streets were blocked and we did some backtracking.
Dinner was great (there is a photo in the kingscalendar file) because we had a different set of dishes to choose from.
Toward the end of dinner, some children spotted the foreigner and began coming to the door to say 'hello' 'hello' 'hello', as they do, and then one little girl entered the room and handed out candy to us all.
That was a first, as too was the cappuchino that I drank at a coffee house after dinner. I could swear it was an expresso. Ah! What would a foreigner know!
Next morning we headed off to our next destination, the major places of interest of which (according to the 100 rmb entry ticket) are, Little Lotus Villa, Home of Zhang Shiming, Jiaye Library, Qiushuli Place, Home of Liu Tiqing and Ancient Stone Bridges.
In fact, if one can judge a matter by the number of photos one takes, then indeed I did find this place of far more interest than the other towns. Of particular interest to me was the Jiaye Library. Since the photo would be useless here, I will provide the text found by the entrance.
A Brief Introduction to Jiaye Ancient Library
Jiaye Ancient Library is a famous private library with the largest collection of books in modern China. the construction of the library was started in 1920 and completed in 1924.
|Jiaye Library Entrance. A nice place to visit.|
It covers an area of 13,340 square meters, and expended the gold of 120,000 liang.
After liberation in 1949, it has become part of Zhejiang Library that mainly houses ancient books. In June of 2001, Jiaye Ancient Library was deemed a National Preserved Cultural Relic Unit.
The stream runs around the building of Jiaye Ancient Library, and in the garden are trees, zigzag paths, rockery, stalagmitic stones, pavilions, bridges and lotus ponds. the garden and the building become an integral whole.
It is a two-storied building of wooden and brick structure. the Jiaye Ancient Library is built in the shape of a square with corridors on all sides. In the middle is a square courtyard.
there are 52 rooms in the two-storied building. "Shicui Room', "Songsishi Room", "Jiaye Hall" are upstairs and downstairs are "Xigu Building", "Qiushu Room", "Liguang Pavilion".
Each room has its own characteristics in the collection of books and its layout, convenient to keep and to read the books.
The owner of private library was named Liu Chenggan (1882-1963) who was born at an aristocratic family and had a strong love of collection.
|Books in the Jiaye Library.|
About the revolution of 1911, Liu took the opportunity of the large quantities of ancient books scattered to search and buy a great deal of books.
According to his said he took twenty years and silver of 300,000 Liang to collect books of 6,000,000 volumes.
In its prime times (1925-1932), the Jiaye Ancient Library housed 155 kinds of the editions of the Song (960-1279) and the Yuan Dynasty (11206-1368), 1000-odd kinds of chorography and many kinds of editions, hand-written copies of the MIng (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1616-1911) in addition to some rare and precious editions.
Most collections of Jiaye Ancient Library are collected works of the Qing Dynasty and all kinds of historical records. Jiaye Ancient Library was well known not only for the collection of ancient books, but also for block-printed books.
|Exquisite furniture from either Jiaye Library or Home of Liu Tiqing.|
Many of block-printed books are banned books by the Qing Dynasty Government and inscribed exquisitely, more than half were collated by Miao Quansun, a famous scholar of the end of the Qing Dynasty. These block-printed books of Liu Chenggan were also gained affirmative comments by Lu Xun.
|Panelling from the home of Liu Tiqing.|
|Memories of the old days. Home of Liu Tiqing.|
In 1933, the family of Liu was in straitened circumstances and Liu began to sell its collections. There were only 110,000 copies left and almost no block-printed editions of the Song and the Yuan Dynasties when Liu Chenggan donated them to Zhejing Library in 1951.
In 1949, when the Chinese People's Liberation Army liberated the south of the Yangtze river, Chinese communist appointed army to protect Jiaye Ancient Library lest it was damaged.
In November 1951, Liu Chenggan donated his collections, the building of Jiaye Ancient Library and the Garden to Zhejing Library and it became a part of Zhejiang Ancient Library and put aside a lot of fund in the renovation of this former private library.
It also gained attention and care from the Leaders of Hushou and Nanxun.
We believe, under together endeavor, the Jiaye Ancient Library must be refreshed with vigor and make a contribution to the prosperity of science culture with its own features and special collections.
|Home of Liu Tiqing (I think!)|
The text from Jiaye (above) was typed exactly from the photograph, with errors intact. Personally I think it adds charm. This week I received an email from someone who recently went to HongHu on business. They emailed to say 'thank you' for having prepared them (via my articles) for their visit. A photograph was included of a sign in their hotel which read: "Have a grave time." Chinglish is quite common in China, and I contribute a photograph of my own, taken at Nunxun.
|The English version should be something like: Beware of Falling into the canal.|
|Beautiful gardens. This was a man's home. Lucky man!|
As already mentioned, the entrance ticket included admission to a number places in this Nanxun Scenic area. The punch holes in my ticket indicate that I visited 3 of the 8 sites. The Jiaye Library was one such place. Another was I believe, the Home of Liu Tiqing, with it's wonderful gardens, lake, rockeries etc.
I remember a long time ago after writing about San Xia (Three Gorges), someone wrote to me and not only told me the name for a particular location, but sent a later photograph to demonstrate how much the site had changed.
Sometimes I feel guilty because I can't say: 'Oh this is taken at this place or that place and the name is such and such. Please forgive me if I locate something incorrectly.
Because I tend to take lots and lots of photos, partly because the camera viewing screen doesn't work, and I don't visit places with a note book at hand so that I can give a blow by blow description, when I sit down to write, I do have difficulties remembering exactly where a particular photograph was taken.
|I would love to call this place home.|
|Sue had her photo taken under the memorial to chastity. Mmm?|
When we visited the Liu villa, the first site we visited at Nanxun, I couldn't figure out why all the Chinese were going the wrong way. So what else is new?
As it transpired, it was we who were going the wrong way, because we had started at the end of the trail. Stupid foreigners!
Sue was admiring the archways when I pointed out that the particular one under which she was standing, was dedicated by the Emperor to the Liu family's Charity and Chastity. (Yep! I read the sign!)
She then insisted that Chiara take a photo of her standing underneath it. She seemed to find significance in the act, as apparently she did also a little later, when she insisted on taking a photo of me standing under a sign requesting people to 'Be Polite'?
Memorial Archway Granted by Emperor
It was built in the period of Emperor Xuantong in Qing Dynasty. One was granted because of the charity of the Liu's the other was granted because of chastity of women in the family.
The Liu's was praised and encouraged by Emperor Guangxu and Xuantong. They are 8.5m in height and 5.6m in width, 5 storied and with 4 pillars each. The marvelous stone cavings are from ancient Chinese folk stories including auspicious patterns of chinese dragon, phonex,Chinese unicorn and bat, etc. They are of great architectural value.
|Traditional Home environment|
|This was someone's home. They certainly knew how to live.|
The area between the two archways consisted of a small courtyard in front of the Memorial Temple. Unfortunately it was closed, so we couldn't take a look.
|The ornate richness of traditional China.|
If it had been our first trip to China, we might have been disappointed. There are however, two things of which you become aware the more you travel. One is that after the first 100 or so photos of a pagoda or temple, they all tend to look alike.
The other is, that eventually the folk back home start asking why it is that you are in none of your photos.
The Memorial temple was built in the 14th year to 23th year of GuangXu (1888AD-1987AD). The Liu's used to offer sacrifice to their ancestors Twice a year.
The Temple is 3 kaijian in width (1 kaijian = 10.936 feet) and three normal houses in Length. In the front of the temple, there are two stone lions, flat stands and the memorial archways.
The whole structure is imposing and Golden plague inside the temple which is with four Chinese characters written by Emperor. Xuan tong the Memorial Temple can be a typical architecture of memorial temple. (Although typed as photographed, the previous to last sentenced should have ended with Emperor Xuantong)
Visiting Tongli Town
After our tour of Nanxun, we headed off for Tongli town, where the first thing we did was stop to eat. The restaurant tried to charge Mr. Xu (our teaching co-ordinator), 20 rmb for each bottle of beer that had been consumed. Given that the normal price in a restaurant is 5 rmb, he put up a bit of a fight.
Tongli town is a really old canal town, and our 80 rmb entry ticket indicated that we could enter 8 different locations within the town. Additionally, there was an outdoor stage on which continuous Opera performances were given throughout the afternoon.
|Performing arts 'al fresco' at Tongli.|
I know that the first thing I did was accompany the female foreign teachers into some place, (either the Tuisi Garden or the Gufeng Garden) but I don't seem to have any photographs. I do know that we ended up in some place with a museum of lattice work that did not interest me that much because it was all behind glass. What I do remember is that finding myself rather bored, I set off on my own journey of discovery.
Down the road a piece, I came to a sign advertising 'The World Famous Exhibition of Sex Antigues'. (Not antiques!) Having lived in China for some time now, I had heard about such exhibits, and decided to take a look. Following the signs I arrived at the entrance, only to be told by the attendant that my ticket was no good. As I was backtracking, I ran into Chiara and Sue, who quickly pointed out that I had produced the entry ticket from Nanxun.
I quickly went back to the entrance only to be told that the ticket for Tongli does not include entry into this exhibition. Being foreigners we did not believe this. Then a mixed foreigner / Chinese tour group turned up and got the same treatment. The attendant was probably wondering why no one wanted to pay to go in.
It wasn't as if we would not have paid had we gone to Tongli specifically to see the exhibit, but as we just blundered into the place (so to speak), we were merely disapointed that admission was not included in the entrance price. Of course, if any of us had bothered to read our tickets, we would have seen that it was not included.
Even though we did not go in, we could not help but see one rather large exhibit standing in the courtyard, and I can tell you that if graphic depictions of a sexual nature offend you, then don't go anywhere near the place.
|Traditional women at Tongli with the cormorants.|
After that little misadventure, I headed off on my own again and wandered around. I took only two photographs prior to rejoining the group; the one above of the lady with the cormorants, and the building beside the canal below. Beyond that I just wandered. I did pass a few places that I could have entered, but as I wrote earlier, after a while you get bored with seeing the same things. Sometimes it's just nice to sit down somewhere and watch the world go by.
|Scenic shot of one part of Tongli.|
And on that note, I will say 'BYE!'
I hope you enjoyed this photographic article. The companion file to this article at King's Calendar 'Stories From China' article section, has more, larger and/or different photos that you might find interesting.
In due course I will provide another article on my Labour Day holiday week travels in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Shaoxin.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran (www.kingscalendar.com) and is a contributing columnist at Magic City Morning Star News.
From Brisbane in Australia, BenDedek use to belong to a Multi-Faith and Multi-Ethnic family that included Christians and Muslims. He currently teaching Conversational Business English in SuZhou City, Jiangsu Province China.