Hiking at Qian Shan

I became a member of the International Club of Shenyang to meet new people, resources, and benefit from organized activities and meetings.  And this past Sunday, Tim and I took a day trip with several other couples/families.  We drove about 2 hours to Qian Shan, a national park near the city of Anshan, China.  The trip was planned for hiking and a picnic.  The weather was cool and we narrowly missed the rain, so a perfect day for rigorous hiking. The flyer for the day said:

Qian Shan is called “ A thousand lotus mountain as well and it is the branches of Changbai mountain. It is famous for its high hills, marvellous pine trees, and old temples. The main part of Qian Shan is made by 999 hills, which is why it is so called “ Qian Shan”. The highest peak is 708 meters with over 200 places of interests to visit.  


We can vouch for the gorgeous pine trees and amazing temples and buildings along the hills.  Here are some photos from our day. For a more detailed description of each photo, just click on it and read the caption.


Shenyang Imperial Palace

Two weeks ago, we went out to see the Imperial Palace here in Shenyang.  Most people have heard of or seen the one in Beijing, but there is one here too.  The construction began in the 1600’s.  It is mostly attributed to the Manchus and Qing (ching) Dynasty, though is blends many styles.  It is a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site since 2004. 

If you would like to read the rest of the history and palace information, I pulled this from www.chinaculture.org.

The Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is an excellently well-preserved cultural relic. In 1625 Nurhaci began construction on the palace and it was completed in 1636 under Abahai’s reign. After that, it was expanded in the Qianlong and Jiaqing reigns. It takes three hundred and thirty-two paces walking around the palace and there are eight gates. The streets in the city formed the shape of #. The palace was set up at the center of the #shape and was the imperial palace in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The palace was originally called the Imperial Palace of Shengjing and was renamed the Fengtian Xinggong (the imperial palace for short stays away from the capital) after the Qing Army entered the Shanghai Pass. Covering more than 60,000 square meters, it has over 90 buildings including 300-odd rooms and houses. Surrounded by red high walls and covered with golden tiles on the hall roof, the palace is richly ornamented and dazzlingly brilliant.

According to the natural layout and the sequences of the constructions, the Shenyang Imperial Palace can be divided into three parts. Main architectures on the east axis include the Dazheng Hall and the Shiwang Pavilion which were built when Nurhaci (1559-1626), the founder of the Qing Dynasty, began to establish the capital in Shenyang; the main architectures on the central axis are the imperial halls built during the reign of Abahai, including the Daqing Gate, the Chongzheng Hall, the Fenghuang Tower, the Qingning Hall, the Guanju Hall, the Linzhi Hall, the Yanqing Hall and the Yongfu Hall. On the west axis there are the Wusu Pavilion, the Jiayin Hall and the Yangxi Room, which were added to the palace during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. The Shenyang Imperial Palace is the second complete palace complex only next to the Forbidden City in Beijing.

The Chongzheng Hall, also called as the Main Hall, is located at the midmost of the front yard on the central axis. It was built during the Tiancong reign (1627-1636) in the Late Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). In the first year (1636) of the Chongde reign, it was renamed as the Chongzheng Hall, and is also widely known as the Gold Bell Hall. The hall has the front and rear porches and is surrounded by the stone railing carved with kylins, lions, sunflowers, lotuses and so on. The pillars supporting the porch are square. There are hornless dragons puffing water under the roof pillars. The roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles with a green edge. The pillars in the hall are round and two of them are connected with a carved dragon. The dragon’s head is stretching out of the eaves, while the tail is attacking straight into the hall. Hence the practicality and decoration are combined together, not only adding the imperial spirit to the hall, but also making the architecture appearance pleasing to the eye.

The ceiling has no decorations, and only patterns of blue lands and white clouds are painted on the roof boarding, making the hall look lofty and elegant. On the beams, purlins, rafters and square wood, there are colored paintings depicting dragons in the clouds, immortal peaches and others. In the center of the hall, a flight of steps was built in the shape of the Chinese character 凸 (convex). In front of the flight, there is a tortuous golden dragon in lifelike posture on a pillar. The folding screen, throne as well as the sundial, measuring tool and other articles on display were all set up during the Qianlong reign. This hall was used by Abahai to handle daily military and political affairs and meet foreign envoys and representatives of the minorities on the frontier. In the 10th year (1636) of the Tiancong reign, the ceremony of changing the title of the Late Jin to the Daqing was also held here. After the Qing Army entered the Shanhai Pass, the capital of the Qing Dynasty was moved to Beijing. Since then the emperors of all dynasties used it as a temporary court when they inspected the east area.

The Dazheng Hall, initially called as the Grand Hall, the Eight-Square Hall or the Big Yamun, was named as the Dugong Hall in the first year (1636) of the Chongde reign and was changed to the current name upon the order of Emperor Kangxi. In front of the hall, there is a space 195 meters long from the south to the north and 80 meters wide from the east to the west. Two ways were paved from the midmost. There are ten square pavilions arranged on the east and west, known as the Shiwang Pavilion (the Pavilion for Ten Kings). These were the places where the two kings and eight ministers handled governmental affairs. It is a unique characteristic of the layout for the Shenyang Imperial Palace. Behind the Shiwang Pavilion is the Dazheng Hall, which was structured with eight-square eaves and posts, connected by rabbets and rivets. The eight sides of the hall are wooden doors with grids without any bricks and stones, which can be opened at will. Under the Hall, it has Buddhist seat foundation and surrounded by bluestone rails with a variety of fine carving. The inside of the hall is bright with the sunshine penetrating from the top. The pendentive, sunk panel, ceiling and others are all extremely exquisite and unique. The roof of the hall, like the Chongzheng Hall, is covered by yellow glazed tiles edged with a green border. There are 16 ridges made of full color glazed tiles on the roof. In front of the main gate, there are two tortuous golden dragons carved on a pillar.

The Wensu Pavilion is the principal architecture on the west axis of the Shenyang Imperial Palace. In front of the pavilion, there is the stage and the Yangxi Room. Behind the pavilion is the Yangxi Room, which was first built in the 47th year (1782) of the Qianlong reign, specially used for treasuring up Si Ku Quan Shu (the Complete Library in the Four Branches of Literature) and also the place where the emperors read and enjoyed playgoing when they visited Shengjing on their eastern tours. The style of the architecture follows the Tianyi Pavilion in Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province. The Yangxi Room has front and rear porches, and its roof is covered with black glazed tiles edged with a green border. The front and rear eaves and pillars are decorated with green lichen.

Si Ku Quan Shu is a lager-scale collection compiled in the Qianlong reign, which had taken 10 years to complete since the 37th year (1772) of the Qianlong reign. The seven parts were separately kept in the Wensu Pavilion in the Shenyang Imperial Palace, the Wenyuan Pavilion in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Wenyuan Pavilion in the Winter Palace, the WenjinPavilion in Rehe, the Wenhui Pavilion in Yangzhou City, the Wenzong Pavilion in Zhenjiang City and the WenlanPavilion in Hangzhou City. Later on, except the part in the Wensu Pavilion fairly well preserved, all the other parts in other pavilions were either destroyed in wars or littered and lost. Now the part in the Wensu Pavilion has been moved to other places. There is a stele pavilion at the east of the Wensu Pavilion.

The Qingning Hall, originally named as the Central Hall, is midmost of the back yard on the central axis. It was first built around the 10th year (1625) of the Late Jin Dynasty. The palace was built on a foundation of 3.8 meters high and surrounded by high walls. The gate tower named the Fenghuang Tower stands tall and upright in front of the palace. On the left there is the Yongfu Hall and the Guanju Hall, while the Linzhi Hall and the Yanqing Hall on the right. Each of the side is all by itself, thus they form two separate castellar complexes.

The Qingning Hall is five-bay wide. There are the front and rear porches. The roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles edged with a green border. In the east of the palace, it is a warm room, which was the bedroom of Qing Emperor Taizong and his wife. There is a partition in the middle of the room, separating the room into the south and north parts. The Dragon Bed (bed of state) was set up in the north part. Under the window of the south part, a Kang (a heatable brick bed) was placed with some soft seats to the east, where Emperor Taizong rested and met important officials alone. There is a side door in the west of the hall., which makes the west part become a pocket type hall. This was not only the place where the emperor held informal banquets in the inner court, but also where the Manchu witches Shaman prayed for the emperor and the country.

The Fenghuang Tower, originally known as the Xiangfeng Tower, is in front of the Qingning Hall and is a gate tower. It was in construction from the first year (1627) to the 9th year (1635) of the Tiancong reign in the Late Jin Dynasty and rebuilt in the 21st year (1682) of the Kangxi reign in the Qing Dynasty. The tower was changed to the current name in the 8th year (1743) of the Qianlong reign. With three storeys, the lowest one is a passage leading to a high platform, which allows the platform and the five halls to form a castle alone. The tower has three eaves resting on the wall like three drops of water. Its plane is square. It is three-bay wide and long, and surrounded by a roofed corridor. The roof is covered by glazed tiles edged with a green border. The beams and pillars of the third floor are visible. There is a colored painting on the top of the rafter. After the Qing Army entered the Shanhai Pass, Shi Lu (the actual records), Sheng Xun (the imperial edicts), Yu Die (the jade writing slips), Sheng Rong (the imperial containers) and other jade treasures used during the initial period of the country were treasured up here. The Fenghuang Tower used to be the tallest building in Shengjing, so the morning sun over the Fenghuang Tower was reputed as one of the eight sceneries in Shenyang.

After many large-scale repairs, the Shenyang Imperial Palace now becomes the Imperial Palace Museum of Shenyang. In addition to its ancient palace complexes, it is also well known at home and abroad for the abundant treasures. Every year, it attracts streams of tourists to visit and study. It is the most well-preserved extant imperial palace complex next to the Forbidden City in Beijing.

A Second Spring 2010

Tim and I have the fortune to experience a second Spring this year.  Spring had arrived in Lexington SC in late March / early April.  Then we moved to northern China.  Of course, I write this before the sneezing and pollen has begun.  So far, we’ve only seen the budding trees and flowers.  Thankfully, we chose yesterday (May 8th) as the day to head out for a walk on the Wu Li River.  This is very close to our hotel and will also be close to our new apartment.  The sun was out and the temperature must have gotten to 75F or more.  Gorgeous!  I said “thankfully” about yesterday because when we were out int he city today, the temp went down to 60F and it was windy with rain approaching.  There are pictures below from our walk yesterday and a few today.  Open up the photos if you would like to see the descriptions. 

An interesting topic that I haven’t mentioned yet; the Chinese time zone.  China spans 3123 miles (5026 km) from east to west.  For perspective, the distance from San Jose, CA to Virgina Beach, VA is also about 3000 miles.   So thinking about that, imagine the entire US on 1 time zone, as China is.  So on on the east coast of China, where we are, the sun is rising at approximately 4:30AM and sets ~7PM at this point in May.  By mid June, the sunrise is estimated at 4:11AM.  (I hope our cats follow the alarm clock, not the sunrise by then.)  And in December, we will be experiencing sunrise at 7:15AM and sunsets around 4:15PM, more than an hour less sunlight than Atlanta.  The time zone is just one example of a centralized government you may not have thought about.

Today, we saw our second movie in China, Iron Man 2.  Yes, in English.  We have noticed that curse words are censored on the hotel’s HBO, and they were in the movie today too.  More interesting than that, the references to “Russia” and “Russian” were distorted so that the audience members heard a different word.  I read on a Shanhai blog a similar post; that at first you think it is something wrong with the sound.  The Shanghai expat can read Chinese characters though, and said the subtitles read “mother language”.  Maybe they don’t want Russia to be seen as the villian, and that is where Mickey Rourke’s criminal character is from.  Or maybe just this week since President Hu Jintao was in Moscow last week…. interesting.

Enjoy the photos.  Thanks for sharing our adventure and for staying in touch.

Weekend 2

This was a 3 day holiday weekend in China.  May 1 is May Day, like Labor Day in the US.  So Tim got an extra day off and we had a great weekend.  On Saturday, Rodney showed us around the area near his hotel, and we met Karen and Yusef too.  The sun was shining for the first day in many, and throngs of people were out.  Sunday, we opted for a French afternoon.  A group had invited us to go on a picnic to the Botanical Garden, but rain prevented that.  We ended up at Annique’s home for the indoor picnic.  Thankfully, the weather broke and the whole group (9 adults and 7 children) went on a walk along the river.  It was interesting for us to get the American perspective on Saturday and then the French perspective on Sunday.  Two languages will afford us the opportunity to broaden our relationships in Shenyang, and make more friends.  Finally, on Monday, we navigated something on our own.  We had read about Clash of the Titans showing in English, so we taxied up there and communicated with the ticket folks, 3D glasses guy, and even the bathroom attendant.  And the rest of the afternoon, we repeatedly said to each other, “We went to the movies in China today.”  Next week, Iron Man 2!

Things are going well so far for Tim at work.  It is busy, but his predecessor will continue showing him the ropes until sometime in June.  We should start our Mandarin lessons here soon.  We’ll do that separately, but with the same goal in mind; to communicate in daily life and in traveling.  It looks like we will move into our apartment around the 17th.  No pictures yet though.  The following week, the last week of May, our cats will arrive while Tim is gone to Poland and then Thailand.  I am not looking forward to Tim being away, but we are both excited and anxious about the cats’ trip and arrival!

Thanks for all the great emails and comments.  Continue to enjoy!

Weekend 1

On Saturday, we took the standard city tour.  It was an interesting mix of business and sights.  They were kind enough to take us to the supercenter to buy a phone, then to China Mobile for the sim card and service.  That’s how they do things here.  They also took us to the Metro superstore, which requires a membership, so that required some navigation.  We could not have done this without the guide/ translator.  Angela and Michele (their western names, of course) were lifesavers.

Among the sights we saw was the Shenyang Imperial Palace, built in the 1600’s, the only other Palace of its kind outside of Beijing.  It was a quick view so I’m sure we’ll go back and see it again for a closer look.  While there, we passed by a gorgeous little girl on a pedal bike.  Angela translated when the little girl’s Grandmother told her to send me a flying kiss.  So sweet.  So I blew one back and she posed for a sassy picture.

There is so much construction going on in this city.  It seems to be apartment buildings, for the most part, but there are hotels going up too.  That, and the wind off the desert, makes for a dusty city sometimes.  That, and a booming economy, make for a haze in the sky most days. 

For my fellow foodies out there, you will be happy to know there has been some traditional Chinese dining since we arrived.  On our city tour, the guides took us for lunch at a large local restaurant.  We had three kinds of steamed dumplings (egg & tomato, egg & leek, and pork & vegetable), fried dumplings of vegetables, soup with mushrooms and tofu, fried pumpkin slices, and sweet and sour pork.  They chose wisely and we were not disappointed.  Michele also wrote out the names of the dishes in characters so we could order it again if we wanted to, or we could just point and be surprised.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things we observed on this city tour was the traffic.  In a city of 7.5 million people, where the statistics say they are adding 400 new cars per day.  We have seen everything from the Chinese brands to Buicks, a Camaro and even a Bentley.  I guess I expected a lot of small cars like there are in Europe, but the newer cars are all full size.  Oh, and speaking of Europe, where I hated to see a moped coming, or rather, hear a moped coming, the mopeds and motorized bikes in China are electric.  They are not adding to the cacophony of noise on these crazy streets.  The Michelin folks had told us that we would not be able to drive here; they said it was because the rules are relatively the same, but the methods are very different.  Yeah, very different.  Tim believes that there is a system to all the honking, but I’m not sure.  Red lights seem to be only a suggestion for some.  And there is an unspoken accord between drivers, pedalers and pedestrians that one will not hit another.  Be aware, cars come very close when you are crossing the street, and you are expected to keep walking because there is timing to the whole relationship.

Observations from a 36 hour Trip

In no particular order, these are observations from our trip from Lexington, South Carolina (dep 4/21/10) to Shenyang, China (arr 4/23/10).

We thought our bags could only be 50 pounds, but learned the night before they could be 70 each.  That would have been a lot too manage, so it just saved us an extra carry on.  Tim and I, along with our 208 pounds of luggage made it 10,000 or so miles over the last couple of days.

It was interesting for us to realize that it would be the last time in South Carolina until Ann’s 2011 Clemson graduation.

Tim’s big observation was that business class = good.  And the lie “flat” seat with a real pillow and blanket make a 14-hour leg a little more bearable.  The dessert cart rolling up the aisle of business class was pretty darn impressive to me.

We were in 4 countries in 2 days with our various stops, which means I went to the restroom in 4 countries (and 3 time zones) in 2 days).  Tokyo was a model of efficiency, living up to their reputation.  On the flight from Tokyo to Seoul, we were served an amazing bento box with 2 rice dishes, a sesame meatball, and a pink gelatinous (sp?) blob that neither of us could identify.  We tried it all though; we won’t miss a food experience. 

Upon entering Asian airports, we noticed the heat sensors at the arrival gates.  These help identify if someone is sick.  If so, they are whisked off to a quarantine office a few steps away.  When we arrived in China, we had to complete a form as a part of the immigration paperwork, attesting to our lack of flu-like symptoms and that we hadn’t come into contact with any sick people recently.

We stayed overnight at the Air Garden Hotel at Incheon airport in Seoul. This hotel is within the security limits, inside the airport, which makes check out and departure very easy.  This 8 hour stay in a hotel helped us get some quiet rest and a shower before actually arriving in Shenyang bright and early on a Friday morning.  This stay also prevented us from having to sleep on the many benches, lounges and even floors in the airport.  We saw just how many people did though.  We were so thankful for the Korean Air lounge with food, coffee and a beautiful red can to greet me.

Before going to sleep at the hotel in Seoul, we got some bottled water at the 24 hour stand.  We had not gotten any Korean money, so Tim used a credit card.  I wondered if he had warned Capital One that there would be expenditures in China….

Here are some pictures in a slide show from our first day.  A view from our hotel room with a slight haze in the sky.  A view of one of the many construction projects in Shenyang.  Pictures of our first meals; noodles (Julie) and fried rice (Tim).  The well know red can welcoming us.

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Coming soon … Responses to the Top Ten questions we’ve been asked over the last few months.