Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 31 – Today, we visited the Humen Opium War Museum and the Sea Battles Museum. There’s a lot to this story in history, but very briefly (and over simplified!) , although originally opium was used as medicine, it gradually grew to be used recreationally. British and American companies started trading it in large amounts, but many Chinese learned how dangerous opium really was, and saw how it destroyed the lives of those who used it. In June of 1839, a Chinese man named Lin Zexu led the destruction of over 2.5 million pounds of British and American opium! This happened in Humen, a town about a 45 minute drive from us. This event triggered the Opium Wars which followed. The pictures, starting with the large one and going clockwise, show: A painting of the destruction of opium in Humen in June 1939, an elaborately carved opium pipe, an opium smoking tool (with Chinese lions), canons, Lin Zexu, and some who fought in the Opium Wars.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 16 – Most people who haven’t been to China don’t realize that there are a large number of government sanctioned Christian churches which are perfectly legal for Chinese citizens to attend. The teachings aren’t the same as in foreign Christian churches though. You must commit your life to China first and God second. Christians who don’t agree with this often turn to “underground” churches, and those are the ones that the government isn’t happy about. In areas with a lot of foreigners, there are often special services, depending on the area, you need to show a foreign passport to participate in these. Leah was invited to attend a youth group at a Chinese Christian Church today. She took the bus to the town of Shilong which was about an hour and 10 minute bus ride from us. The youth group was held upstairs from the main congregation, and she took the first picture on her way up; you can see it’s a full house! In the picture with the sign, the part with the red cross is the church name, Shilong Fuyin Tang, basically Shilong Christian or Gospel Church. This was at the back of the building, which used to be the main entrance, so the rest of the sign says where to enter the church now. She went to a small museum in the afternoon, and the church she attended supposedly has about a 150 year history. The other picture shows an old picture of the church. Leah said the caption reads that “Christianity was brought to Shilong in the late 19th century. In 1863, an American missionary built Shilong Church, called Presbyterian Church. After the Boxer Rebellion (1900), the church was destroyed.” At some point (possibly 1918) it must have been rebuilt because it says a school was established, and that during a famine it was used to provide food and medicine. Thanks to Leah for the pictures and translations.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 8 – I think any country with rivers and lakes has its own style of picturesque bridges and China is no exception! Many of the bridges, whether they are arched, zigzagged, have pavilions in the centers, or something else, have stone balustrades with decorative baluster heads. Long ago, carvings of dragons and phoenixes were used only for the baluster heads on the grounds of imperial buildings; The Forbidden Palace in Beijing has many. In my picture, the dragon baluster heads are around the Drum Tower at the Chiwan Temple in Shenzhen. The bridge is one near us, I’m not sure if the carvings represent flowers or clouds, but they are interesting. Many modern bridges just have plain baluster heads. Other common designs for the more ornate ones are lions, flames, and pomegranates. You can see the plain ones in my post on Zigzag Bridges https://linda-walsh-n6tp.squarespace.com/config/pages/568757bdd8af102bf3da0525
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 26 – Jade has been a highly sought after gemstone in China for thousands of years. It actually was first used for its hardness as tools before being used for its beauty. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says “You can put a price on gold, but jade is priceless.” I never knew much about jade (I still don’t really!) and when I came to China, I was surprised at all the colors of jade! I always associated it with green, but it can naturally be red, yellow, lavender, white, black, or green. There is a lot of jade jewelry in China, many ornaments and decorations, and even special jade markets. An interesting jade piece you see often is the jade cabbage. Chinese cabbage is called “bai cai,” which has the same sound (but different characters) as “bai cai” the words for “numerous wealth.” Thus, the jade cabbage is another good luck charm, put in your home or your business to bring in wealth. There is a famous jadeite cabbage statue in a museum in Taiwan, which also has a cricket and a katydid carved in it. There is an old poem where supposedly these insects represent having many children and grandchildren, so I’ve been told that there are often insects hidden in the carved cabbages (but I’ve never been able to find one!) The pictures are from various places around us where we’ve seen jade cabbages, and also an art print of the cabbage and insects. jade, cabbage,
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 28 – Yesterday, while in Guangzhou, we happened to walk past the Sun Yat-sen Children’s Library. I like looking at old Chinese architecture so we went inside of the gates to get a better look. One of the features it had were the “wenshou,” or “zoomorphic ornaments.” These ridge animals have been used in Chinese architecture for over 2000 years! They are considered to be a good luck symbol as it was traditionally believed that they were capable of putting out fires. The number of animals was indicative of the status of the owner of the building. The Throne Hall at the Forbidden City in Beijing has eleven animals, which is the largest known amount. This library, built in 1933, has six animals on each sloping ridge point, arranged in the standard order: first comes a god riding a phoenix, then a dragon, a phoenix, a lion, a “heavenly” horse, and a “sea” horse. The ferocious looking creature at the back of the line of animals is “chiwen” also known as the “ridge devouring beast” when used like this.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 10 - I’ve always enjoyed seeing the contrast of old and new architecture in China. I didn’t think we had any right here in Songshan Lake, as it’s a fairly newly developed area, but we found this building yesterday. We rode our bikes down this new road it’s on, which I guess was always a road of sorts since this house is here! We live in the housing in the background, which is across a small inlet from the lake, and there is new housing going up on the other side of the road. I really like that this old house is all decorated for Chinese New Year. They also had a big garden and a horse across the street. If these people own the land this old house is on, they are going to be quite wealthy when they decide to sell it!
Life in China: A Picture a Day, 2016, January 7 - Today we went to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin. My favorite part was the temporary exhibit of Chinese Children’s Clothing. Because of the high mortality rate in the past, babies and young children wore highly decorated clothing, filled with items in nature that had/have symbolism for health and longevity and to ward off sickness and evil spirits. The clothing was all so beautifully made, but I’d like to share this one: I will quote part of the information that was accompanying the display: “Baijiayi, hundred households garment, is a baby garment sewn by putting together scraps of cloth contributed by many households. In the past, after a child was born, the baby’s family would announce the good news to their relatives and neighbors, and scraps of cloth would be collected from close relatives and good friends to be sewn into a ‘hundred households garment,’ so that the blessings from many households would be assembled to ensure the healthy growth of the child.”