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  • 19 Feb 2019
    Do you know what the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven in Beijing and Chengde’s Mountain Resort sites have in common? All of them were built by a dozen members of the Lei family, architects for eight generations, and their creations are today known in Chinese as Yangshi Lei, meaning “Lei style” architecture. Fast forward to the present, and the architecture of China seems to be following only one style - strange, perplexing, and of course, enormous. After monitoring trends closely, we have made a list of the 10 most instragrammable buildings of China: New library in Tianjin Is it a real library or just background for the latest Instagram photo? All the images show people walking around with the latest smart phone in their hands but not the books. Can anyone advise if you need to be a member of the library to get the best Instagram shot? The Piano House in Anhui Some people say it's the most romantic building in China - I'm not sure about that but it's certainly one of the most distinctive! It was designed by architecture students at Hefei University and constructed from transparent and black glass  in the shape of a violin that houses the staircase and escalators, and a grand piano that is the main building. The Shanghai Tower The Shanghai Tower has the world's highest observation deck within a building or structure (Level 121, 561.25 m), and the world's fastest elevators at a top speed of 20.5 metres per second (74 km/h; 46 mph). It is the world's second-tallest building by height to architectural top. The Birds Nest in Beijing Open just in time for the magnificent 2008 Olympic and it’s called Beijing National Stadium or the National Stadium, but best known as the Bird's Nest or just simply a stadium in Beijing. Guangzhou Opera House Is it a rock or a house? It was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid who conceived the idea as two rocks washed away by the Pearl River. It does look spectacular on Instragram but it’s not seen very often. Who goes to Guangzhou? Chongqing Cities are very popular on Instagram but people are getting bored of Hong Kong and old Shanghai. A new city has been declared as the World's fastest-growing tourism destination – Chongqing. It looks magnificent…during the night when all the lights are switched on.  Beijing South Railway Station To house their high speed trains, the Chinese government decided to build a depot in Beijing in the shape of a saucer. Yes, a saucer. Actually, it feels a bit like an airport, it's so spacious and modern, but you really need to see it from above to admire the architecture - find the bird's eye view shots on Instagram.  Forbidden City I was under the impression the Great Wall would make this list but it seems people prefer an image of the Forbidden City. Any idea why? Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort Also known as "Horseshoe Hotel" and "Doughnut Hotel" due to its geometrical shape which looks amazing when the lights are lit. Underpants of Beijing Or the CCTV building. It involves two L-shaped high-rise towers linked at the top and the bottom at an angle to form a loop. My favorite is the Grand Hyatt Hotel In Shanghai - not because they have the best bar in the city called Cloud 9, but because of the atrium of the hotel. Highly recommended for getting vertigo.    
    15 Posted by bossgate
  • Do you know what the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven in Beijing and Chengde’s Mountain Resort sites have in common? All of them were built by a dozen members of the Lei family, architects for eight generations, and their creations are today known in Chinese as Yangshi Lei, meaning “Lei style” architecture. Fast forward to the present, and the architecture of China seems to be following only one style - strange, perplexing, and of course, enormous. After monitoring trends closely, we have made a list of the 10 most instragrammable buildings of China: New library in Tianjin Is it a real library or just background for the latest Instagram photo? All the images show people walking around with the latest smart phone in their hands but not the books. Can anyone advise if you need to be a member of the library to get the best Instagram shot? The Piano House in Anhui Some people say it's the most romantic building in China - I'm not sure about that but it's certainly one of the most distinctive! It was designed by architecture students at Hefei University and constructed from transparent and black glass  in the shape of a violin that houses the staircase and escalators, and a grand piano that is the main building. The Shanghai Tower The Shanghai Tower has the world's highest observation deck within a building or structure (Level 121, 561.25 m), and the world's fastest elevators at a top speed of 20.5 metres per second (74 km/h; 46 mph). It is the world's second-tallest building by height to architectural top. The Birds Nest in Beijing Open just in time for the magnificent 2008 Olympic and it’s called Beijing National Stadium or the National Stadium, but best known as the Bird's Nest or just simply a stadium in Beijing. Guangzhou Opera House Is it a rock or a house? It was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid who conceived the idea as two rocks washed away by the Pearl River. It does look spectacular on Instragram but it’s not seen very often. Who goes to Guangzhou? Chongqing Cities are very popular on Instagram but people are getting bored of Hong Kong and old Shanghai. A new city has been declared as the World's fastest-growing tourism destination – Chongqing. It looks magnificent…during the night when all the lights are switched on.  Beijing South Railway Station To house their high speed trains, the Chinese government decided to build a depot in Beijing in the shape of a saucer. Yes, a saucer. Actually, it feels a bit like an airport, it's so spacious and modern, but you really need to see it from above to admire the architecture - find the bird's eye view shots on Instagram.  Forbidden City I was under the impression the Great Wall would make this list but it seems people prefer an image of the Forbidden City. Any idea why? Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort Also known as "Horseshoe Hotel" and "Doughnut Hotel" due to its geometrical shape which looks amazing when the lights are lit. Underpants of Beijing Or the CCTV building. It involves two L-shaped high-rise towers linked at the top and the bottom at an angle to form a loop. My favorite is the Grand Hyatt Hotel In Shanghai - not because they have the best bar in the city called Cloud 9, but because of the atrium of the hotel. Highly recommended for getting vertigo.    
    Feb 19, 2019 15
  • 18 Feb 2019
    Yes we are late with Taj Mahal full moon dates for this year but we have been very busy with publishing our Travel Guide to China!   In the meantime below is a list of the full moon dates for 2019. Month 2019 2020 January 21 10 February 19 9 March 21 April 19 May 18 June 17 July 16 August 15 September 14 October 13 November 12 December 12 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    17 Posted by bossgate
  • Yes we are late with Taj Mahal full moon dates for this year but we have been very busy with publishing our Travel Guide to China!   In the meantime below is a list of the full moon dates for 2019. Month 2019 2020 January 21 10 February 19 9 March 21 April 19 May 18 June 17 July 16 August 15 September 14 October 13 November 12 December 12 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    Feb 18, 2019 17
  • 15 Apr 2018
    Sitting at the long table in the busy restaurant on the outskirts of the capital city of Shandong Province, Qingdao, irritated by constantly hitting the gas bottle every time I tried to stretch my legs, and desperate to see Stella on the list of beers, but disappointed at finding only Qingdao, annoyingly listed as can, two sizes of draft and two different sizes of bottled beer, I opted for a bottled water much to the horror of my hosts. The lunch party which consisted of a very polite guide and five members of the different bodies at the local council, were disappointed. After all it was a business lunch paid by someone else which meant free rein on the food and drinks. The finest bottle of snake wine was placed in the middle of the table with the usual question - have you tried it before. Of course, I have. And of course, I hated it. It leaves you with an oily, sweet taste in the mouth which doesn’t make you drunk, just sick. But then Qingdao beer is the same, sweet and no matter the quantity you take the only thing it's good for is your kidney stones which you may pass with the amount of pointless liquid drunk. It's pointless because it doesn’t make you drunk!  I politely smiled at my 6 boys, my 6 hosts for lunch, and stuck to the water. The Chinese cannot handle their drink except for hard core military serviceman coyly dressed in suit and tie, and they are easily recognisable as the soul of the party, going around calling on everybody to drink the large glasses of snake wine in one go. To refuse is a grave offence, even if you are Chinese. The first person to pass out is usually some naive underage girl employed as a secretary but brought in as a body for one of the big bosses who, after free food and immense hectolitres of alcohol, would like some personal company too. I wondered what they were thinking of me, the foreigner, a woman, without make up but with worn out trousers, who they have to entertain for next few hours, even though they don’t speak any English or me any Chinese. There is only a certain amount of staring and nodding you can do at these business lunches without coming across as a weirdo. The food was Mongolian hot pot. I had been hoping for a nice plate of rice and some soy sauce mixed with garlic on top, but that would have caused grave offence. Imagine going to a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for a fried egg on toast.  The number of people around us, mainly families, put me at ease and I started to concentrate on the conversation which I didn’t understand but with my over 40 visits to the country, I had learned how to look engaged. We swapped business cards. We bowed to each other, holding the cards with both hands, showing respect, reading them, scanning the letters on the cards, pretending that we understood what was printed on each side of the card, then put them on the table. Not in the pocket. You have to show respect. The families around us stopped for a moment, thinking they were witnessing some kind of star presence in their local restaurant, but my peroxide hair, done meticulously at home before the trip, would make them think that. You are in the world of people with dark hair. Of course, anyone with a little bit of bleach would be a star to them. While we were doing all the businessy things hordes of waiters brought bundles of delicious, live food and laid it all on our long table covered in a plastic sheet. The excitement began. Or the game. Without any rules. You just throw food in the boiling water whose bubbles are bursting on the table and wait until vegetables, fruits and meats change colour, structure or until it disintegrates. In the meantime, you drink. And you nod a lot. You don’t talk about business. The main eating etiquette around hot pot is patience. Sometimes there is not enough butane gas hissing from the bottle under the table to the bucket filled with the water on the table. Or the water in the bucket is too cold and takes a long time to come to the boil. Sometimes there is too much water and when its boiled its starts overflowing on the table. Or the bucket is too small to accommodate the food needs of 4 people, and then order has to established like a queue for a bus. You would take first place in the queue as a foreigner and as a guest. Felling hungry I loaded hot water with everything laid on the table, ignoring the needs of the guide, local council guy in charge of the tourism in his area and his assistant whose only job was to make sure the bosses glass was never empty. He didn’t speak or drink. He would occasionally get up, with more grace than the Queen, and with his right hand pick up the bottle, fill the bosses glass and then triumphantly sit down. He just won the battle of a very long and prolonged war for the best service, determination and loyalty. He wanted a tap on the shoulder, some recognition but what he got was only a request for matches from his boss.  The Chinese love their cigarettes and a ban on smoking similar to the one brought out across Europe would bring the government down. Not freedom of speech, the one party system or any lack of democracy. My bacon, mushroom and bok choy were stubbornly circling in the water refusing to be boiled. I turned them upside down hoping for some quicker results only to be sneered at by a waiter who mentioned something about patience and salvation.  Nothing about hunger. As guest of honour, I was sitting at the middle of the table enjoying a wide view and witnessing the progress of the cooking. The left side of the table was happily tucking into beef while the right was in the process of dropping a live crab into the boiling water. The creature, tied up like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, dressed in a similar colour, was still moving his whiskers hoping for escape. Not able to watch the execution I turned to my guide to ask about our next stop, at Mt Taishan. While he was explaining the time difference between taking a cable car to the top and walking, a huge commotion broke out on the right side of our table. The guide jumped quickly up, pulling me with him while the rest of the group was already standing on the chairs. The whole restaurant was staring at us in bewilderment. Then I saw him, a little creature, not orange anymore but red, running across the restaurant, trying to save his life. He had escaped from the cauldron, jumped from the table, frightening all my hosts, and now was heading to freedom. I smiled and quietly cheered him on, under my breath, “Go, go, go”. Where to I didn’t know. The quest for freedom didn’t last long. The finishing line was somewhere between the end of the restaurant and entrance to the kitchen when one of the slimmest chefs I have ever seen who looked like he had never eaten anything in his life, come out with a big metal tray. Coolly,as if he had been in the same situation before, he lifted the tray high and dropped it heavily onto the crab. The small creature made another two side steps and then stopped. The restaurant started to applaud and the skinny chief bowed with pride hiding the murder weapon behind his back.  The waiter became a professional cleaner, picked up the crab carefully, making sure he was dead and took him back to the kitchen.  Order resumed. I requested a big bottle of Qingdao Beer.  
    127 Posted by bossgate
  • Sitting at the long table in the busy restaurant on the outskirts of the capital city of Shandong Province, Qingdao, irritated by constantly hitting the gas bottle every time I tried to stretch my legs, and desperate to see Stella on the list of beers, but disappointed at finding only Qingdao, annoyingly listed as can, two sizes of draft and two different sizes of bottled beer, I opted for a bottled water much to the horror of my hosts. The lunch party which consisted of a very polite guide and five members of the different bodies at the local council, were disappointed. After all it was a business lunch paid by someone else which meant free rein on the food and drinks. The finest bottle of snake wine was placed in the middle of the table with the usual question - have you tried it before. Of course, I have. And of course, I hated it. It leaves you with an oily, sweet taste in the mouth which doesn’t make you drunk, just sick. But then Qingdao beer is the same, sweet and no matter the quantity you take the only thing it's good for is your kidney stones which you may pass with the amount of pointless liquid drunk. It's pointless because it doesn’t make you drunk!  I politely smiled at my 6 boys, my 6 hosts for lunch, and stuck to the water. The Chinese cannot handle their drink except for hard core military serviceman coyly dressed in suit and tie, and they are easily recognisable as the soul of the party, going around calling on everybody to drink the large glasses of snake wine in one go. To refuse is a grave offence, even if you are Chinese. The first person to pass out is usually some naive underage girl employed as a secretary but brought in as a body for one of the big bosses who, after free food and immense hectolitres of alcohol, would like some personal company too. I wondered what they were thinking of me, the foreigner, a woman, without make up but with worn out trousers, who they have to entertain for next few hours, even though they don’t speak any English or me any Chinese. There is only a certain amount of staring and nodding you can do at these business lunches without coming across as a weirdo. The food was Mongolian hot pot. I had been hoping for a nice plate of rice and some soy sauce mixed with garlic on top, but that would have caused grave offence. Imagine going to a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for a fried egg on toast.  The number of people around us, mainly families, put me at ease and I started to concentrate on the conversation which I didn’t understand but with my over 40 visits to the country, I had learned how to look engaged. We swapped business cards. We bowed to each other, holding the cards with both hands, showing respect, reading them, scanning the letters on the cards, pretending that we understood what was printed on each side of the card, then put them on the table. Not in the pocket. You have to show respect. The families around us stopped for a moment, thinking they were witnessing some kind of star presence in their local restaurant, but my peroxide hair, done meticulously at home before the trip, would make them think that. You are in the world of people with dark hair. Of course, anyone with a little bit of bleach would be a star to them. While we were doing all the businessy things hordes of waiters brought bundles of delicious, live food and laid it all on our long table covered in a plastic sheet. The excitement began. Or the game. Without any rules. You just throw food in the boiling water whose bubbles are bursting on the table and wait until vegetables, fruits and meats change colour, structure or until it disintegrates. In the meantime, you drink. And you nod a lot. You don’t talk about business. The main eating etiquette around hot pot is patience. Sometimes there is not enough butane gas hissing from the bottle under the table to the bucket filled with the water on the table. Or the water in the bucket is too cold and takes a long time to come to the boil. Sometimes there is too much water and when its boiled its starts overflowing on the table. Or the bucket is too small to accommodate the food needs of 4 people, and then order has to established like a queue for a bus. You would take first place in the queue as a foreigner and as a guest. Felling hungry I loaded hot water with everything laid on the table, ignoring the needs of the guide, local council guy in charge of the tourism in his area and his assistant whose only job was to make sure the bosses glass was never empty. He didn’t speak or drink. He would occasionally get up, with more grace than the Queen, and with his right hand pick up the bottle, fill the bosses glass and then triumphantly sit down. He just won the battle of a very long and prolonged war for the best service, determination and loyalty. He wanted a tap on the shoulder, some recognition but what he got was only a request for matches from his boss.  The Chinese love their cigarettes and a ban on smoking similar to the one brought out across Europe would bring the government down. Not freedom of speech, the one party system or any lack of democracy. My bacon, mushroom and bok choy were stubbornly circling in the water refusing to be boiled. I turned them upside down hoping for some quicker results only to be sneered at by a waiter who mentioned something about patience and salvation.  Nothing about hunger. As guest of honour, I was sitting at the middle of the table enjoying a wide view and witnessing the progress of the cooking. The left side of the table was happily tucking into beef while the right was in the process of dropping a live crab into the boiling water. The creature, tied up like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, dressed in a similar colour, was still moving his whiskers hoping for escape. Not able to watch the execution I turned to my guide to ask about our next stop, at Mt Taishan. While he was explaining the time difference between taking a cable car to the top and walking, a huge commotion broke out on the right side of our table. The guide jumped quickly up, pulling me with him while the rest of the group was already standing on the chairs. The whole restaurant was staring at us in bewilderment. Then I saw him, a little creature, not orange anymore but red, running across the restaurant, trying to save his life. He had escaped from the cauldron, jumped from the table, frightening all my hosts, and now was heading to freedom. I smiled and quietly cheered him on, under my breath, “Go, go, go”. Where to I didn’t know. The quest for freedom didn’t last long. The finishing line was somewhere between the end of the restaurant and entrance to the kitchen when one of the slimmest chefs I have ever seen who looked like he had never eaten anything in his life, come out with a big metal tray. Coolly,as if he had been in the same situation before, he lifted the tray high and dropped it heavily onto the crab. The small creature made another two side steps and then stopped. The restaurant started to applaud and the skinny chief bowed with pride hiding the murder weapon behind his back.  The waiter became a professional cleaner, picked up the crab carefully, making sure he was dead and took him back to the kitchen.  Order resumed. I requested a big bottle of Qingdao Beer.  
    Apr 15, 2018 127
  • 23 Jan 2018
    Check if Taj Mahal changes the colour under the full moon nights. Below is a list of the full moon dates for 2018. For more inforation about how to get tickets please check our previews entries.  1st January 2018 31st January 2018 1ST March 2018 30th March 2018 29th April 2018 28th May 2018 27th Jun 2018 27th Jul 2018 25th August 2018 24th September 2018 24th October 2018 22nd November 2018 22nd December 2018 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    263 Posted by bossgate
  • Check if Taj Mahal changes the colour under the full moon nights. Below is a list of the full moon dates for 2018. For more inforation about how to get tickets please check our previews entries.  1st January 2018 31st January 2018 1ST March 2018 30th March 2018 29th April 2018 28th May 2018 27th Jun 2018 27th Jul 2018 25th August 2018 24th September 2018 24th October 2018 22nd November 2018 22nd December 2018 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    Jan 23, 2018 263
  • 17 Dec 2017
    A few years ago, we went for a long weekend to Morocco and as a responsible traveller we arranged insurance which clearly stated that Morocco was in Europe. Then we went to Slovenia which was referred as the most progressive country of Eastern Europe. Of course, the Slovenians were not impressed being positioned in Eastern Europe when they are clearly ‘an Alpine country bordering Italy and Austria '. Here in the UK they refer to Europe as a continent. “We are going to the continent for a holiday” means two weeks in Provence. So where are the borders of Europe? And does a single Europe exist? Or are there   Eastern, Western, Scandinavian, Balkan, Alpine, Central, South Eastern Europes …And this divide is valid only if you are coming from the Western Hemisphere. If you are flying from China then Eastern Europe is Germany, Holland, UK, France! The most significant eastern border of Europe was established by the Swedish geographer and cartographer von Strahlenberg as lying in the Ural Mountains. But that border is not in accordance with the EC divide which has members of the EC, non-members of the EC and prospective candidates. As someone who comes from Eastern Europe, from a country which is not a member of the EC and a long way from even becoming a candidate, I find it very difficult to explain to people when they ask me where I come from. Sometimes I make a terrible mistake saying “the former Yugoslavia” and we end up talking about the Iron Curtain in Europe when there was a clear divide based on political systems. We were communist and the rest of Europe capitalist. Then in accordance with political preferences the United States and Western Europe established the NATO alliance and later the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe established the Warsaw Pact. I felt for the Germans being divided into East and West but also divided into NATO and the Warsaw pact. Then after forty-four years Germany was reunited, after the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the maps of Eastern Europe were redrawn once more. I think only the Europeans define themselves so much by division -  mainly by geography but usually by wars - while the rest of the world see us just as ‘Europe’. There are various descriptions of Europe's boundaries, some sources include territories that other sources do not include in Europe. For example, Cyprus is close to Turkey but is often considered part of Europe and is a member state of the EU. For Western Europeans, Eastern Europe is Bulgaria but for the Bulgarians themselves Turkey is Eastern Europe as far as the Bosporus Straits, but for Western Europe Turkey is not Europe at all. Lots of people think that Malta belongs to Africa.  Would you say Finland was in Europe or Scandinavia? Or is Bosnia in the Balkan’s or Europe? When you search for your next holiday please have a look at which countries are really 'Europe‘.  The   travel industry is the biggest culprit for dividing Europe. Usually by price.
    313 Posted by bossgate
  • A few years ago, we went for a long weekend to Morocco and as a responsible traveller we arranged insurance which clearly stated that Morocco was in Europe. Then we went to Slovenia which was referred as the most progressive country of Eastern Europe. Of course, the Slovenians were not impressed being positioned in Eastern Europe when they are clearly ‘an Alpine country bordering Italy and Austria '. Here in the UK they refer to Europe as a continent. “We are going to the continent for a holiday” means two weeks in Provence. So where are the borders of Europe? And does a single Europe exist? Or are there   Eastern, Western, Scandinavian, Balkan, Alpine, Central, South Eastern Europes …And this divide is valid only if you are coming from the Western Hemisphere. If you are flying from China then Eastern Europe is Germany, Holland, UK, France! The most significant eastern border of Europe was established by the Swedish geographer and cartographer von Strahlenberg as lying in the Ural Mountains. But that border is not in accordance with the EC divide which has members of the EC, non-members of the EC and prospective candidates. As someone who comes from Eastern Europe, from a country which is not a member of the EC and a long way from even becoming a candidate, I find it very difficult to explain to people when they ask me where I come from. Sometimes I make a terrible mistake saying “the former Yugoslavia” and we end up talking about the Iron Curtain in Europe when there was a clear divide based on political systems. We were communist and the rest of Europe capitalist. Then in accordance with political preferences the United States and Western Europe established the NATO alliance and later the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe established the Warsaw Pact. I felt for the Germans being divided into East and West but also divided into NATO and the Warsaw pact. Then after forty-four years Germany was reunited, after the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the maps of Eastern Europe were redrawn once more. I think only the Europeans define themselves so much by division -  mainly by geography but usually by wars - while the rest of the world see us just as ‘Europe’. There are various descriptions of Europe's boundaries, some sources include territories that other sources do not include in Europe. For example, Cyprus is close to Turkey but is often considered part of Europe and is a member state of the EU. For Western Europeans, Eastern Europe is Bulgaria but for the Bulgarians themselves Turkey is Eastern Europe as far as the Bosporus Straits, but for Western Europe Turkey is not Europe at all. Lots of people think that Malta belongs to Africa.  Would you say Finland was in Europe or Scandinavia? Or is Bosnia in the Balkan’s or Europe? When you search for your next holiday please have a look at which countries are really 'Europe‘.  The   travel industry is the biggest culprit for dividing Europe. Usually by price.
    Dec 17, 2017 313
  • 04 Dec 2017
    His short legs were dangling from the chair like ripe cherries ready to drop, making him look like a naughty child punished by sitting on a high chair but still wriggling about. His left arm was comfortably spread on the square table made of the same wood as the horse-shoe backed armchair – reddish-brown, worn out, but very pleasing on the eye. Sitting comfortably high above all of us he displayed all the mannerisms of the Emperor proudly sitting on his throne. Except the high chairs and table barely fitted into the small space that housed lounge, kitchen and bedroom all together. Tim, my loyal guide, and I were sitting on very low and uncomfortable stools, staring at the Emperor like a pair of eager-to-please courtiers, hanging on every single syllable. The Emperor was making sounds but I didn’t speak any Chinese. For Tim the Emperor was making sense, talking about his life before he retired to the hutongs in Beijing instead of one of the high-rise flats scattered around the city. The squat houses lining the busy street somewhere in the hutongs area of Beijing all feature one outside window and one door. Once inside the establishment and under the impression that you are entering one household, the natural light and greenery of the courtyard challenge your expectations. You are entering a fortified dwelling in the centre of Beijing where few families are squeezed into a small space within the rectangular configuration. Those dwellings are mainly built  of brick and plastered with cement for protection in the long and cold Beijing winter, but in some parts of the houses, the oldest parts, you can see mud used as a building material. From the main street the houses all look the same to me and I would probably get lost here while venturing out to get a newspaper or on the occasional night out. The main colour of the street is grey, broken by a gust of gold coming from the random basswood trees.  The street is so dynamic even though there are not many shops around and if it were not for so many people around, one might mistake it for an affluent area of Beijing. The Emperor, sensing my doubts about his abode in this part of Beijing, reinforced his decision to move here, in the hutongs, where chickens would cross the paths of fast paced rickshaws, commented on the fresh air of the courtyard which was, I must admit, in short supply all around China. Mrs Chu, a humble and gracious lady, was carefully listening to the conversation while making tea, but without any desire to join in.  I was worrying how I would cope with her best porcelain without making a fool of myself, when she, as a great host, pulled a smaller table of lesser quality and placed it in front of Tim and me. She sat alongside her husband and my wondering mind could see them wrapped in deep yellow, almost golden, robes covered in dragons, nine preferably to fit the Emperor's status, mimicking Yongle and his wife, Anne. I couldn’t remember the Emperor Yongle wife's full Chinese name as there are too many consonants and my little brain can’t put them in the right order. And her name Anne was given to her after she converted to Catholicism. Could Mrs Chu's secret name be Anne? I looked at her again with the biggest smile I could produce without showing the shiny plate inserted in my gum holding a few teeth together, courtesy of extreme pub-hopping around London. “No. She is too obedient and dedicated to her Emperor to convert.” Before tasting the tea, I obeyed all the unwritten rules – I sniffed it tenderly with my left hand holding the bottom of the cup, lifted it to Mr Chu first and then to Mrs Chu, thanking them for their kind hospitality. The Longjing tea, the best in the country, produced in the tea capital of China, Hangzhou, and bought at the local shop, tasted sumptuous. “How old is this?” Devilishly smiling, Mr Chu tapped the table with his short finger. I had seen those tables in the Forbidden City where the guide would make a point of saying they were not antiques but fake. With the Cultural Revolution everything was gone. Where? He didn’t know. “No nails or glue.” the Emperor added proudly. “And it’s from tree grown on the Hainan Island.” translated Tim. The only thing I could remember from the tropical island of China, Hainan Island, was the overcrowded beaches with people offering live crocodiles for souvenir photos.  Not trees! And my knowledge of Chinese antiques was based on a few trips to Panjiayuan market in Beijing where the artefacts spread on newspaper in the street looked the same as the multi-million exhibits shown in glossy Sotheby's brochures. I was hoping to see original antiques in palaces across the country but instead I was finding empty rooms with bare walls and the occasional modern piece of furniture. The inventory at the tea room in Chengdu looked the same as the table and chairs Mr and Mrs Chu were using. Considering there was no protection on the surface of the table, like a cloth or tray to put the hot teapot on, I guessed that the wood, even though it looked so nice, wasn’t that old. “The table must be younger then you.” And the corner of his lips, tightly closed until now, opened up showing teeth in a variety of yellow hues. I felt stupid. Tim took his jacket off and started translating very fast. “Ming Dynasty, 300 to 350 years old.  Mr Chu was working as architect in 1925 and was given a table and two chairs as a token for the good work he did preparing the city for its opening to the public for the first time.” “Is the teapot from the Ming Dynasty too?” “Oh no, no, no…we got it from our daughter for our wedding anniversary.”      
    364 Posted by bossgate
  • His short legs were dangling from the chair like ripe cherries ready to drop, making him look like a naughty child punished by sitting on a high chair but still wriggling about. His left arm was comfortably spread on the square table made of the same wood as the horse-shoe backed armchair – reddish-brown, worn out, but very pleasing on the eye. Sitting comfortably high above all of us he displayed all the mannerisms of the Emperor proudly sitting on his throne. Except the high chairs and table barely fitted into the small space that housed lounge, kitchen and bedroom all together. Tim, my loyal guide, and I were sitting on very low and uncomfortable stools, staring at the Emperor like a pair of eager-to-please courtiers, hanging on every single syllable. The Emperor was making sounds but I didn’t speak any Chinese. For Tim the Emperor was making sense, talking about his life before he retired to the hutongs in Beijing instead of one of the high-rise flats scattered around the city. The squat houses lining the busy street somewhere in the hutongs area of Beijing all feature one outside window and one door. Once inside the establishment and under the impression that you are entering one household, the natural light and greenery of the courtyard challenge your expectations. You are entering a fortified dwelling in the centre of Beijing where few families are squeezed into a small space within the rectangular configuration. Those dwellings are mainly built  of brick and plastered with cement for protection in the long and cold Beijing winter, but in some parts of the houses, the oldest parts, you can see mud used as a building material. From the main street the houses all look the same to me and I would probably get lost here while venturing out to get a newspaper or on the occasional night out. The main colour of the street is grey, broken by a gust of gold coming from the random basswood trees.  The street is so dynamic even though there are not many shops around and if it were not for so many people around, one might mistake it for an affluent area of Beijing. The Emperor, sensing my doubts about his abode in this part of Beijing, reinforced his decision to move here, in the hutongs, where chickens would cross the paths of fast paced rickshaws, commented on the fresh air of the courtyard which was, I must admit, in short supply all around China. Mrs Chu, a humble and gracious lady, was carefully listening to the conversation while making tea, but without any desire to join in.  I was worrying how I would cope with her best porcelain without making a fool of myself, when she, as a great host, pulled a smaller table of lesser quality and placed it in front of Tim and me. She sat alongside her husband and my wondering mind could see them wrapped in deep yellow, almost golden, robes covered in dragons, nine preferably to fit the Emperor's status, mimicking Yongle and his wife, Anne. I couldn’t remember the Emperor Yongle wife's full Chinese name as there are too many consonants and my little brain can’t put them in the right order. And her name Anne was given to her after she converted to Catholicism. Could Mrs Chu's secret name be Anne? I looked at her again with the biggest smile I could produce without showing the shiny plate inserted in my gum holding a few teeth together, courtesy of extreme pub-hopping around London. “No. She is too obedient and dedicated to her Emperor to convert.” Before tasting the tea, I obeyed all the unwritten rules – I sniffed it tenderly with my left hand holding the bottom of the cup, lifted it to Mr Chu first and then to Mrs Chu, thanking them for their kind hospitality. The Longjing tea, the best in the country, produced in the tea capital of China, Hangzhou, and bought at the local shop, tasted sumptuous. “How old is this?” Devilishly smiling, Mr Chu tapped the table with his short finger. I had seen those tables in the Forbidden City where the guide would make a point of saying they were not antiques but fake. With the Cultural Revolution everything was gone. Where? He didn’t know. “No nails or glue.” the Emperor added proudly. “And it’s from tree grown on the Hainan Island.” translated Tim. The only thing I could remember from the tropical island of China, Hainan Island, was the overcrowded beaches with people offering live crocodiles for souvenir photos.  Not trees! And my knowledge of Chinese antiques was based on a few trips to Panjiayuan market in Beijing where the artefacts spread on newspaper in the street looked the same as the multi-million exhibits shown in glossy Sotheby's brochures. I was hoping to see original antiques in palaces across the country but instead I was finding empty rooms with bare walls and the occasional modern piece of furniture. The inventory at the tea room in Chengdu looked the same as the table and chairs Mr and Mrs Chu were using. Considering there was no protection on the surface of the table, like a cloth or tray to put the hot teapot on, I guessed that the wood, even though it looked so nice, wasn’t that old. “The table must be younger then you.” And the corner of his lips, tightly closed until now, opened up showing teeth in a variety of yellow hues. I felt stupid. Tim took his jacket off and started translating very fast. “Ming Dynasty, 300 to 350 years old.  Mr Chu was working as architect in 1925 and was given a table and two chairs as a token for the good work he did preparing the city for its opening to the public for the first time.” “Is the teapot from the Ming Dynasty too?” “Oh no, no, no…we got it from our daughter for our wedding anniversary.”      
    Dec 04, 2017 364