A Surreal and Ambient Place in Zhonglou

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Imagine you are eating a chicken dinner drinking red wine. Above you, clouds move, but they are not exactly white. They seem more of a soft yellow, and they are swirling in a way that normal sky clouds wouldn’t. Eventually, these whisps fade and change into abstract and gradually shifting gradients of red. You’re not really paying close attention to this at first. After all, you are eating chicken and sipping on a glass of wine. In front of you, there is also a stage. A woman is singing with a band. You are also idly chatting with a friend sitting next to you. The next time you look upwards, the red gradients are gone. They have been replaced by images of rippling water — which eventually morphs into a cityscape.

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All of this is supposed to sound like an otherworldly dream. However, such a surreal place exists in Changzhou. It’s a special events venue in Zhonglou on the grounds of the Dusit Thani Hotel near Qingfeng park. This space is as avant garde as it sounds. The structure consists of interlocking inflatable domes. A network of lighting equipment and video projectors creates a 360 degree multimedia environment. Images and patterns of smoke, fire, clouds, and a lot more are projected onto the curved walls and ceiling. The technology involved is advanced to the point where video with sound can also be played — a commercial for a automotive company, for example.

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All of this is the product Oracle Projects, an international entertainment and special events production company. Before coming to Changzhou, Oracle has helped host events at the Beijing Olympics and other places around the world. Essentially, it is a high-end venue space for hire. While Oracle is working and consulting on this project, it is actually locally owned by the Shanghai Aviation Future Cultural Development Company 上海中航未来文化发展有限公司.

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The event I attended was sponsored by Borgward. This is a German automotive company with a long history dating back nearly a hundred years. For a long time, this car brand was dormant, but Chinese investors helped relaunch the company recently. The evening consisted of a catered dinner, live music, dancers, a fashion show and more. To celebrate their relaunch, Borgward screened a new commercial on the venue’s curved walls. This was not a one-off event, either. Oracle Projects and its local partner have long term plans in Changzhou with other events to come.

A Newb’s Introduction to Dining and Nightlife in Jiangyin

img_20161211_193844While visiting Jiangyin either on business or as a tourist, there are a few western restaurants to consider eating at. While the city is smaller than Changzhou and belongs to Wuxi, Jiangyin is highly developed and quite modernized. There is one spot in the downtown area that seems to be central to dining and nightlife. Yijian Road has a lot of bars and restaurants.

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The biggest draw in the area seems to be a German establishment, Hofbrauhaus and a few others.

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While Yijian Road seems to be a culinary hub, these are not the only places to eat when visiting Jiangyin. Take, for example, St. Marco. This European eatery is just down Chaoyang Road from Huangshanhu Park. That park, and the others near in close proximity, are the more well known Jiangyin attractions. People on a day trip from Changzhou could pair visiting those parks with eating at St. Marco. As stated earlier, these are likely not the only decent places to eat in this city, but this was only my third visit, and I’m still figuring out where things are there.

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Cross posted from Real Changzhou. 

Searching for Wuxi’s City God

Other than Taoism or Buddhism, there was one other faith indigenous to China: Chinese folk religion. This is what predates even Taoism and it has shaped and influenced the Chinese variety of Buddhism as well. The pantheon of deities here is tremendous, and it even stretches down onto the local level. Each town and city is said to have their own god who safeguards the land and the people. Finding out further information on these local legends has not been an easy task. Not all city god temples survived the Cultural Revolution.

Part’s of Wuxi’s local god shrine still stands, and it can be easily found downtown and not that far from the Sanyang Plaza subway station. It’s behind the Center 66 恒隆广场 shopping center. In a way, there really isn’t much to see here. There is no statue or image of who Wuxi’s city god was. There are three separate structures, and they are empty and almost devoid almost anything cultural. One of the buildings has a second floor, but the twin staircases to that level are blocked off. There are some things historical, here, however, and if you don’t look carefully, they are easy to miss. Six stone tablets are embedded in the wall, and they are filled with Chinese characters. These can be sometimes hard to read, even if a visitor is fluent in Chinese. The engraved writing is so worn and faded in some spots, it’s hard to make anything out.  So, in terms of trying to figure out the story behind Wuxi’s local god, this seems like a place to start looking, but it certainly isn’t the end of the search.

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.

Ni Hao, Danyang

Danyang is a small little city on the periphery and under the jurisdiction of Zhenjiang. The most prevalent industry here is the carving of lenses and the manufacture of eyeglasses.  As of this writing, I have only visited Danyang twice, and the areas I have seen seem bisected by the high speed rail line.  The amount of construction going on here seems to be equal on both sides. This is a city that is steadily expanding and upgrading and growing.

The Shanghai-Nanjing line runs north to south here, and sometimes trains pass through here without stopping as they hurtle towards Zhenjiang or Changzhou (the two stops before and after the city when travelling from Nanjing to Shanghai).

The Western part of the city seems to be home to the downtown. A large city square can be found here with a subterranean supermarket. Also, there are a lot more department stores, boutique shops and more.

The eastern part of the city is home to a large radio tower, and unlike others throughout China, this one is not rigged to light up at night. East of the train tracks is also home to Injoy Plaza. There are Starbucks to be found on both sides of the rail line. So, far, I think the city has four total.

This is just an initial impression of the city. As I said, I have only been here twice, and Danyang does have a northern high speed rail station on the line connecting to Shanghai to Beijing. So, I get the feeling that I am missing out on something here, and that’s why I plan to return a little more often.

Park Emergencies!

Xinbei’s central park is filled with lots of absurd Chinglish, but that is not the only weird thing to be see. The park is filled with lots of trully strange signs detailing EMERGENCY! situations. These seem out of place. For example, one talks about water, and there is no sign of publicly available water. For a time, I thought it was just unique to Xinbei’s central park. However, I started seeing similar signs over in Xuejia’s park. I also saw similar things in Hongmei, downtown. Then, I started seeing in other city’s parks — like in Jiangyin last sunday. So, naturally, I started taking pictures.

For a laugh, I showed the pictures to a friend while we were having coffee. She laughed at them just as I had, but then she pointed out something I hadn’t thought of. Maybe these signs are not just randomly placed? Maybe some parks are designated as places to go if a real emergency did happen? After all, Sichuan has had earthquakes. Cities in the south of China have seen flooding. Typhoons seem to be getting stronger every year. Maybe this signs are set purposefully to denote where stations for water, garbage, toilets, and more should be set up should the park actually be needed in an emergency. Given the Chinese zeal for urban planning, it seems plausible to me. I tried Googling an answer, based on this theory, and I didn’t find one. At any rate, here are some of those park emergencies.

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Emergency Fire Extinguisher
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Emergency Management District
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Emergency Parking
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Emergency Shelters
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Emergency Rubbish
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Emergency Water Supply
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Emergency Medical Treatment
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Emergency Toilets

 

This has been cross posted from Real Changzhou. 

Ni Hao, Jiangyin

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Never judge a city by it’s Greyhound Bus depot. This is common sense in America, partly because most private, long distance coach stations are in the poorer, more dangerous parts of town. Back in the 1990s, I got hustled at the one in Pittsburgh. It’s also fair to think that, in China, one should also have the same attitude. Not about getting robbed, of course, but that bus terminals are not usually in the most convenient areas. I realized that while in Jiangyin. It felt like I walked for half an hour without seeing anything remotely interesting. Something similar happened the first time I went to Wuxi, too.

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Jiangyin is a satellite city controlled by Wuxi.  An apt comparison would be Liyang; it has its own municipal government, but Liyang is still under control of Changzhou. Jiangyin borders Xinbei in the east, but the city’s actual downtown is about an hour away by long distance coach. Once I finally began to reach the city center on foot, I found myself falling under the city’s charm.

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The first thing I saw was Xingguo Pagoda. This looks to be the remains of what was once temple grounds. If a visitor looks to the top of the tower, it’s damaged. There were a few other Buddhist attractions, like a stone pillar, but the place is now basically a walled-in public park.

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From there, I found my way to a Confucian temple. The area before the actual temple entrance looked like a flea market, and those are just things I can’t help myself with. Luckily, I didn’t let myself buy anything. Yet, now I know where it is, and I will likely being back for a closer inspection and will probably end up buying a backpack full of old junk at some point. The temple itself was rather small.

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Eventually, I ended up on the Renmin Road walking street. If comparing Jiangyin to Changzhou, this would be a little like Nandajie. It seems to be the commercial center of the center. However, walking through the area, it actually felt nicer to walk around there than Changzhou’s shopping pedestrian street. Partly, it seems, because Zhongshan Park is part of the whole complex, and a public art lover could spend a lot of time there snapping photos of statues.

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Essentially, Jiangyin’s city center feels as developed and as cosmopolitan as Wuxi and Changzhou — just on a smaller scale. Getting to there is, as stated earlier, an hour by intercity bus from Changzhou’s downtown station. There is no train station here. And, it’s best for a newcomer to do a little research in advance and take a taxi from the coach terminal to a predetermined destination. It was roughly 19 to 20 RMB when I decided to call it a day and not hike back there from the city center.

I also realized, in terms of this blog, that places outside Changzhou are fair game, so long as this city is a starting point. So, expect a little more usage out of the travel category in the future. One thing is certain; I know i will be going back to explore Jiangyin in a little more depth, now.

Reposted from Real Changzhou. 

Welcome to Real Jiangsu

This is a blog meant to document traveling around Jiangsu Province in the People’s Republic of China. The idea for this blog came from another — Real Changzhou. The idea is to document travelling around the province and covering everything from art to food, culture, history, weird stuff, and more. The rules here are the same on Real Changzhou. There, every post must be about a different district than the preceding one. Here at Real Jiangsu, every post must be about a different city than the post before it. Unfortunately, this blog will have a slight prejudice towards the Jiangnan area. After all, I live in Changzhou, and travelling takes a lot of time and money. But, hopefully, I will get to the northern part of Jiangsu eventually.

— Rich Ristow