Tag Archives: Travel

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.

This is Huangtu

 

There is an intersection in Changzhou’s northern Xinbei district sharing a map line with Jiangyin. The B1 bus turns here to pass the Trina International School  and end its route at the Changzhou’s northern rail station.  Make a wrong turn at this stop light, and you end up in Wuxi. Jiangyin, while an independent city, is actually part of Wuxi.  There are a few times I have crossed this red light border intentionally to see what was there.  One time, it was to see the town of Huangtu.

 

This is a very small town between Changzhou’s Xinbei district and Jiangyin’s dowtown “proper.” The intercity bus from Changzhou North Station makes local stops here. The bus from the downtown / Tianning station does not. That’s more of an express, and frankly, if you are going to downtown Jiangyin, it’s always better to take the express and not a local. It’s a faster ride. So what does Huangtu have to offer?

Not much, actually. However, that is more of a “city” point of view. And, it’s not meant to be condescending. It’s more of a statement that you can’t find a lot to be a “foreign tourist”  about here.

The local temples are actually places of worship — not places that charge admission and give you commemorative ticket. But, again, that’s the point in a way.  “Real” is a relative term. What applies to cities doesn’t apply to towns. “Real” also means “people live here” and “local.”  It’s also an interesting contrast. Appreciating and understanding urban China means also appreciating and understanding “small town” China. Maybe that’s just the key to understanding China in general? Maybe that’s the key to understanding the complicated dynamics of any country?

Ni Hao, Yangzhong

Usually, my first visits to a new city are not all that exciting in terms of adventure. I usually do no planning other than, “Hmm? I have a day off. Where to go?” I arrive at places blind, sometimes, and that’s because sometimes walking into the sheer unknown sounds exciting. That sounds good in theory, but in my experience, it hardly works out. My recent foray into Yangzhong was no different.

This is a city that takes up a one very large island in the Yangtze river, and it technically part of Zhenjiang. It is not as industrialized as other nerby cities like Changzhou or Yangzhou. As some cities go, this one has a a less developed and small town feel. Then again, that’s just an impression based only on a few hours of walking.  Here are some photos from that walk.

 

 

This is the long distance bus depot. I live and work in Changzhou, and the ride was an hour and twenty minutes.

 

I have a trick when I go to a new city for the first time. I pull up Baidu Maps and see if the area has a Starbucks. If so, I make it my mission to find it. Yes, I like coffee, but the practicality is that Starbucks is an expensive luxury for many Chinese people. So, these coffee shops are usually in built up, commercialized areas. Yangzhong, according to Baidu Maps, has only one Starbucks, and so here is what I saw in my trek to that Starbucks.

 

Eventually, I had to get back to Changzhou because of business / dinner arrangements. I had misjudged how long the ride to this place was. I needed to give myself ample time to get back.

 

Yangzhong is mostly a rural place, and one of the major industries here, historically, has been farming. When you live in a Chinese city, sometimes you are not used to the wide open spaces that surround place like Yangzhong.

While I didn’t see anything too exciting this time around,  I left saying to myself, “I missed out on something there.” So, I need to go back and find out what that “something” was.