Although China doesn’t have one actual national bird, the red-crowned crane is often one that is recognized for its importance in Chinese culture.  However, there is a joke you hear often in China about the “construction” crane being the national bird of China! I found references to it all the way back to 1993! It seems that wherever you go… other than true rural areas, you find some kind of construction happening! Shenzhen, the nearby city where we lived for 4 years, had a population of 30,000 in 1980. That year, the government decided to make it a “Special economic zone” and by 2014, the city’s population had grown to over 10 million! The population of the entire metropolitan area was over 18 million! Growth is moving outward, and currently they are working on connecting public transportation routes for the entire Pearl River Delta area. I’m sure the next five years are going to bring dramatic changes to the area we are now in. The top picture shows our view across Songshan Lake (taken today after the rain), and the other shows the growth happening south of us along the lake. The real red-crowned crane is from Safari Park, the Shenzhen Zoo :-)


This is jackfruit, which is a really large, heavy fruit… in fact, I read that it is the largest tree fruit in the world, and one fruit can grow up to 100 pounds! Most aren’t usually that big! But, the size makes it a little more difficult to buy because unless you’re throwing a huge party you’ll need to find a place that has one opened and just buy some of the “bulbs” taken out of the main fruit. It’s one of my favorite fruits here, so I buy it when I can. We usually buy 6-8 bulbs prepackaged. It has a very sweet “mixed fruit” taste – bananas, apples, peaches, mangoes … it’s kind of hard to describe! You can see on the crosscut fruit picture how the “bulbs” are positioned inside the fruit, there were probably 12-15 pieces around the main center “seed”? Then you also see in the other picture that each small segment has a hard seed in the center (which I read can also be cooked and eaten but I haven’t tried it!). I’ve had fresh and dried and you are supposed to be able to cook with it also. The tree pictured is from mid-May last year, in Shenzhen (OCT Loft area). I certainly wouldn’t want to be underneath one of these when it falls! And this tree was just along a city street! You are supposed to harvest them before they fall; by the time they drop, they are overripe.

Kapok or Mu Mian Cotton Tree Flowers

Living in a subtropical climate, we have an abundance of colorful flowers. I especially love all of the flowering trees. One that is blooming right now is the Kapok Tree, called Mu Mian 木棉 or Cotton Tree, in Chinese. They bloom mainly in March and April, and are quite striking because the large reddish-orange flowers bloom before any leaves appear. The birds love the flowers! You can see how large the flowers are by the one I’m holding and also by the pictures with the birds (These are 7-8 inch birds). When the flowers fall from the trees, many Chinese people hurry to collect them because they dry them and use them to make what is called five flower tea, known as a cooling tea for hot weather. It was a rainy day today, but from the bus, I saw a mother and her two children busily collecting flowers that had fallen in the rain. The flower petals and seeds are both edible. About a month after the flowers bloom, large pods, filled with silky cotton fiber encasing the seeds, open and the “cotton” is carried by the wind to disperse the new seeds. Historically, this “cotton” was used for making clothes, filling pillows and furniture, and as a filling for life jackets. The seed pods pictures are from last year.

White Water Buffalo

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 6, 2016 - Today we visited the Dongguan Xiangshi Zoo. This is a much smaller zoo than the ones we’ve visited in the surrounding big cities, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. For the most part, we enjoyed it, though we skipped the shows. They had something we’ve never seen before, I thought they were albino Asian water buffalo, but Leah translated the information and they are a specific breed from Guizhou province. There were 4 or 5 adults and a calf. There doesn’t seem to be much information about them in English online, but, there are 135 breeds of water buffalo listed for around the world! and the Guizhou White was one of them! You can see a regular colored one in the background. We have seen the regular colored water buffaloes working on farms outside of the cities. Asian water buffalo are almost extinct in the wild, as most are now domesticated.

Collecting Snails

Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 2, 2016 -Today, Leah and I had lunch with a friend then took the bus to check out a DIY market near our library. We did find it, there were about 10 vendors, plus kids were painting masks and adults were doing some silk screening. There were numerous shipping containers converted into shops and restaurants, but best of all … there is a park that we didn’t know about, called Creative Park, with 3 small lakes. These people along the lake were all collecting snails to eat! There were LOTS of snails and people were just filling their bags or buckets. The one I’m holding was one of the biggest, people were collecting all sizes. We then figured out that there is a path that leads to an adjacent park, which made it easy for us to walk home :-)

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 31, 2016

 I’ve wondered, and made guesses, for a lot of years now why the lower trunks of trees here are always painted white…. has anyone else wondered this???? Well, I recently saw some ladies, out along the lake, painting the tree trunks and I decided it was time to find an answer. It is actually “whitewashing,” which is either watered down latex paint or a mixture of hydrated lime, salt and water. It is done mainly on fruit trees, ornamental trees, or just young trees. The whitewash dries into a “crusty” surface on the trees mainly to protect them from sunscald during colder weather! Sunscald can cause various problems, either when the tree is dormant and the bark warms up or if the bark heats up during the day and then cools down quickly at night. The whitewash reflects the light which keeps the bark cool and therefore avoids damage. If the bark is damaged, it can split and allow insects and disease to attack the tree. It seems that this is done in many places around the world, I guess just none of the ones where I’ve lived! Is it done where you live????

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 19, 2016

Each spring in southern China, along with warmer weather, comes what they call huinantian 回南天 which literally translates as “back to the south.” We live in a subtropical monsoon climate, and March and April is when the cold northern air meets the warm moist air from the South China Sea: This is considered an annual meteorological phenomenon. Humidity at this time is basically 90% and above! Everything is dripping wet! Well, I shouldn’t say everything, luckily our apartment isn’t dripping inside, but the halls outside of the apartment are …. the walls and doors are literally dripping, and the floors are wet and very slippery! The ground outside is wet like it has rained even if it hasn’t. So, for the next week, we are supposed to have fog, mist, rain, and thunderstorms. It’s kind of a strange feeling being damp and sticky, yet slightly cool! I can’t walk outside without my glasses and camera fogging up. The mist and fog does give the lake quite a mystical look though. This picture of the lake was partially due to my fogged up lens. The other pictures are the glass doors in our building lobby, and the floor outside of our apartment.