Category Archives: Nanjing

Unwinding at Gilly’s in Xianlin

Language is unstable, some postmodern and contemporary poets might warn us. Some of this comes from the interplay of  text and meaning, and some of it is comes from the meaning a reader assigns to what they read. No two readers read the same text the same way. Trust me, I know this sounds confusing. Bare with me. All of this partially originates from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who drew from the linguist Ferdinand De Saussure. Some people might be reading this paragraph and go, “What the bloody hell is he talking about? Has he been drinking baijiu 白酒 and has been smashing his forehead on his keyboard, AGAIN?” So, I’m not going to unpack any deconstructionist literary critical theories at the moment. It made my head spin in graduate school, and over the past weekend, it made my head spin again.

Although, deconstructionism  befuddled me in a new and different way. Recently, I attended a translation-terminology conference at Nanjing University’s Xianlin Campus. Literature and writing studies has it’s own academic jargon. Wading into translation studies, or any other professional field,  for the first time would be like walking into a wind tunnel of highly technical words– you look for just about anything to grab onto before being swept away and flung painfully against a brick wall. For me, that meant relying on the literary critical theory I know and smidgen of linguistics I actually remember from a long time ago to find parallels. Basically, I was trying to find a way to “translate” from type of specialized, technical English to another. I would talk about the irony of that being at a translation-terminology conference, but only language nerds might get the joke.

Needless to say, after the first day, I went looking for a bar because I really needed to decompress my head.  Thankfully, I found Gilly’s and after a couple of beers, I found myself mingling with some of the local expats and a fellow teacher from Changzhou I accidentally ran into.

 

 

Gilly’s is walking distance from the Xueze Road 学则路 xué zé lù subway station on Nanjing’s Line 3. It’s at 108 Wenfan Road. This would be in the Xianlin neighborhood of Nanjing. There are a lot of schools down this way, and a lot of expats who work in some industrial sectors live here. In short, it’s a large foreign community (teachers, engineers, business people, and so on) in Nanjing.  However, the ambiance of this area is a marked difference that Xinjiekou and the bustle of Nanjing’s city center. Life seems to have a slower, more relaxed pace around Xianlin.

Gilly’s seemed to have that same vibe. However, do bare in mind I have only been there once. Good expat bars feel like they have a sense of community, and this place seemed no different. You could even see it in the food specials. The place was taking reservations for an upcoming Thanksgiving dinner, and Saturdays offered American styled breakfast specials until 4pm.

 

Well, that sounds super YUM!

 

They have Asahi, Carlsberg, and Ming IPA on draft, and seeing how I wanted to drink local, I opted for the Ming IPA. It’s brewed in Nanjing.

 

A very good Chinese IPA!

 

Gilly’s also has Master Gao’s  Baby Jasmine Lager for a bargain of 25 RMB per can.

 

Note the blackboard behind the yummy Nanjing beer. Thanksgiving turkey can be had here.

 

Unfortunately, since I had stuffed myself silly at NJU’s Convention Center buffet restaurant, I didn’t try any of the food on their menu. Many of the locals suggested the pizza for next time I am in town.

Truth be told, I don’t know when I will back in that part of Nanjing again. For a Nanjing out-of-towner, Xianlin is like a 50 to 60 minute ride from the central station. That includes an interchange at Daxinggong or Xinjiekou if you are riding Line 1 or Line 2.  It’s hard to build an easy day trip around that. However, the more relaxed feel of Xianlin as a whole is a welcome change if all you know is the more cosmopolitan parts of Nanjing.  In short, I feel sort of drawn back here to see more of this area of the city.

Nanjing’s Confucian Temple

Sometimes, visiting a big city like Nanjing or Shanghai can be a bad idea, especially if it’s during a national holiday like Spring Festival. Literally, tens of thousands of Chinese people have the same idea, and places like Fuzimiao 夫子 — the Confucian Temple — become so crowded it becomes hard to navigate or even walk sometimes.  For example, this is a recent picture of the temple’s entrance. You can see the doorway into the place, as well as Confucius himself, right above the Chinese guy’s head.  This place was that crowded.

The temple itself is thousands of years old. It has been destroyed and rebuilt. At one point, it was so disregarded that the Kuomintang (KMT) once used the place as a barracks during the civil war / revolution that they lost to the communists.  The place didn’t start undergoing renovation and historical preservation until 1985. Although it’s a tourist trap now, historically the area had been dedicated to studying Confucian thought. Some of the other musuems in this greater area are also dedicated to higher learning and taking the imperial exams. After all, Nanjing used to be the capital of China.

The following are some pictures I found recently on an old phone. This is when I could get in two years back. At the time, I visited the place with my father when he had flown out from Monmouth County, New Jersey, for a visit. I had other photos of the place, but that was on a camera that I eventually lost in Beijing at the Great Wall.

The thing I always find interesting about Confucian temples in China is that it’s not really a “religion,” but you still see altars and places to burn incense and light candles. Confucius never claimed to be a mystical figure, and his book, The Analects, reads more like sagely advice on governing and living — not something about the supernatural regarding god or a pantheon of deities. But, sometimes in Chinese Culture, the line between “religion” and respecting one’s elders and ancestors can be thin.

Greater Fuzimiao

Foreigners misjudge the size of Chinese cities all the time. It can still happen to those of us who have lived in the Middle Kingdom for a couple of years. It can especially happen if your “China experience” is mostly in a smaller city like Changzhou. That’s what happened to me in Nanjing. I went back to Fuzimiao, aka The Confucian Temple, thinking I can spend a few hours and take everything in. There’s a problem with that: it’s too big, and seeing everything would entail more than three hours. There’s not just the temple itself, but other museums.

Plus, once you stray away from the Temple area, you end up in other attractions.  For example, White Egret Park is just down the road, and not by far. It’s walking distance.

There are easily a few things here besides the White Pagoda to occupy a person’s time. The park itself is large with several bridges to a few islands.  Also nearby is this…

In trying to get out of White Egret Park, I accidentally ended up in Dongshuiguan Relics Park. This entails part of an old city wall, but there is more to it than just that. Nanjing has a history stretching back thousands of years. Parts of Nanjing, like the Qinhuai River area has a history stretching back to the Stone Age. So, lesson learned. This is no going to part of Nanjing to “see everything  in a few hours.” In Changzhou, yes, but apparently not in Nanjing.

An Artistic Prelude to Real Horror

Art does not exist solely to make people happy. It’s there to evoke emotion, and by doing that, make people think.  This is definitely the case with the statues outside the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum.  There, a series of sculptures help set a somber and sobering tone before a visitor even steps onto the premises. This is especially effective if a visitor comes on a busy national travel day. The line can be long to get in, and a visitor is forced to stare at these metal figures and the bilingual captions that came with them. That said, even though it does the proper mood, nothing can actually prepares you for the horror of historical relics and displays of the Japanese slaughtering 300,000 people.