Mar 292011

My grandbaby is working on being born so I will write tomorrow. I am working hard to keep busy and not check my email and skype more than 40 times a minute.

How I look

Mar 292011

My grandbaby is working on being born so I will write tomorrow. I am working hard to keep busy and not check my email and skype more than 40 times a minute. I will try to go to bed and wake up a grandma.

How I look

I know everything will be fine. My son and his lovely wife, Silvia are the best people on earth to be parents. I’m a mess!

Mar 282011

For my birthday – the 29th – I dedicate this entry to silly window photos and silly window thoughts. Sometimes we have to be silly. Turning 52 is one of those times.

Here are a few funny photographs of windows in China – beginning with my apartment window here in Beilun. One morning while sewing I looked up and there were LEGS. I think they were attached to men fixing windows. They disappeared a few minutes later. They looked especially funny with my Pleasant Goat( 喜羊羊与灰太狼 – xǐ yáng yáng yǔ huī tài láng – Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf cartoon) doll attached to the inside of the window. Many Chinese stuffed animals come with a suction cup to stick to the window. Not sure why.

I like toys, stuffed animals and Pokemon action figures. China is my kind of place when it comes to these important issues. These Pokemon – Igglypuff (宝宝丁- BaoBao Ding or Baby Ding), Jiggly Puff (胖丁 – Pang Ding or Fat Ding), and Wiggly Tuff (Pang ke Ding – Very Fat Ding) come from Jacob and sit in the Kitchen Window. I LOVE their Chinese names! For a while Wiggly Tuff was lost, but he reappeared in the aloe plant. I can make friends with Chinese and ‘foreigner’ children by sharing play time with pokemon. Thank you, Jacob!

Store windows in China are often comical – especially with all the stuffed animals. Stuffed animals are an important part of Chinese life. Many people, children and adults, carry stuffed animals around – attached to their phones, purses and backpacks. I sat next to a woman at a lecture the other day who had a small toy afghan hound clipped IN HER HAIR. I’m not kidding! Didn’t have my camera that day 🙁

Window watching is also a popular pasttime. This stuffed animal Ferris wheel was in Shanghai. It was especially mesmerizing at night. It MOVED and made music! I had to wait a bit for others to move out of the way to get these shots. I was not the only one enthralled. Some children had to be dragged away.

I believe the tune was “Its a Small World after all.”

I took these pictures for Kristina, but I like them, too. I have learned to take pictures of everything that looks interesting, because you could return tomorrow only to find the store GONE.

I am very glad I had the camera for this shot: Manikins in anguish

I laughed so hard when I first saw this. Sometimes the fact that people are so often staring at me makes me less inhibited! Scary thought. Some would argue the impossibility of that statement.

This one, here in Beilun, looks like a strange stuffed animal zoo or jail cells for bad toys
Many stiffed animals have closed eyes, small eyes, small noses and mouthes. Hello Kitty has no mouth at all. I understand from my research that this makes her less marketable because you can’t have a cartoon without a mouth to move while talking. See NYTIMESHELLO KITTY

Some stuffed animal creations are beyond my understanding…a panda neck pillow?

Future projects will include the many plastic and stuffed animals seen in cabs. I plan to photograph them next. Cab photos are difficult – the key is to not watch the traffic.

Thank you for bearing with my silly pictures – serious work will return next time.

Mar 272011

Emma noticed last week that I like to photograph doors and windows. She thought I must have quite a collection of door/window photos. I went through my computer files to see – over 7000 pictures in iPhoto! I am posting a few of them here:

A favorite place for door and window contemplation is Ayuwang Temple 阿育王, on the outskirts of Beilun – a short taxi ride away from our home. This temple was first constructed in AD 300 and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since. It is a large, working temple. One time we went and it seemed like the monks (men and women) were having ‘family day’ with relatives arriving with food, taking pictures and looking proud of their family’s monk. All monks shave their heads and wear special clothes made with no animal products.

The Doors

I think on the left hand side it says 逍客止步 Traveler Stop – forbidden entry. I spend time deciphering characters on or asking my Chinese friends “what does it say?” I am illiterate here and I do not like the feeling! I now have a clue as to the pain of illiteracy at home or anywhere.

Some doors are more elaborate than others.

I enjoy the simple old doors the most.

Doors are sometimes carved, always massive. I always try to open them or peek through the key holes. Often there is a shrine or garden hidden inside. Haven’t been caught – yet! 🙂

This isn’t really a door, more of a passageway. They are all over the temple – beautiful and mysterious. Sometimes the monks run down the passageways when they appear to be late for temple service. There is a particular slap slap sound to their shoes on the stone walkways.


Windows sometimes have bars, lattice work or both. This window had piles of unburned incense on the sill. I wondered what happened to the piles and piles of incense given in offering. Some people burn their offerings and pray, others leave their offering on a table in front of the Buddha. Lovely colors.

This is a window-to-be in a new wing to the temple.

Here is a close up view of the tools and tangerines.

I like watching new construction in China’s temples, because they use many of the same old tools, but are also putting in wiring and plumbing so the monks can have some comforts of present day life. I believe the tool on the right is a planer. Perhaps my cousin Aaron the cool tool guy can enlighten me! 🙂

More doors and windows from other sites next time!

Mar 252011

My friend Emma is wonderfully patient with me – asking people questions for me – even when she isn’t sure WHY I want to know something. Like with FISHING.

Fishing does not seem to happen in boats – though there were lots of boats ferrying people to all the sights.

On East Lake in Wuhan, (4 times bigger than West Lake in Hangzhou) we observed many people fishing with seriously long poles. The poles are attached to pulley systems that raise and lower the pole or swing it around to the fisherman.

I insisted we ask one man WHY he used this kind of pole. He explained it best to be farther away from the fish, and the 40 ft pole was worth the extra effort.

This is the same rationale for fly fishing, except you have a very long line that you cast far away from you instead of a long pole. The man also said he fished for relaxation – and began his hobby as a 13 year old, to relax after school work. He told us that catching fish was not his priority, just to be on the lake with peace and quiet.

The lake is a peaceful place. Wuhan citizens are very proud of their park, pointing out its beauty and the special ‘Wuhan blue’ tiles on the roofs of buildings and pagodas.

And the little blue birds and animals on top of the roofs.

People told us in the fall West Lake is spectacular with the fall foliage – but very very crowded. I liked this early spring time because it was not crowded and there were no mosquitos!

This lady sat playing her 二胡 erhu (ancient instrument) quietly while people wandered around photographing the plum trees in bloom or having picnics. I think part of enjoyment in Chinese parks is acting like you are the only one there – people seem to respect each others solitude – especially if they are making music.

We also met this man and his granddaughter. He explained he brought her to the park EVERY DAY! How wonderful!
I want to be that kind of a grandparent – maybe I will be!

I did my best not to scare the child and hurried off before she started to cry!

Birds are also present at East Lake. They seem to take to me better than little children. After three tries I got this shot of the Azure winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) – found the name on line – hoping my birder brother could help me out with the ID! Dave – this one’s for YOU!

Sometimes I feel really good about a photo – this is one of those times!

Mar 252011

While walking around Wuhan University we saw two men flying kites. The machines they used for reels were impressive – and the kites were up really high in the air.

I imagined them to be retired engineering professors trying out new inventions.

This reel made a nice whirring sound when letting out line – reminded me of fly fishing reels.

By the amount of line I had trouble imagining how high it could go.

Because it was already up really high

With the telephoto I could just make out that there are characters on kite, but I don’t know what they say…

This man’s reel made a clicking sound as line played out – also pleasing – more like a ratchety sound. I liked the man’s special kite flying gloves.

His bat kite was also up high

Maybe he is the Chinese Commissioner Gordon calling Batman. Maybe he just likes bats. Batman would not have a lot to do here – people were very pleasant and helpful.

Sorry I missed yesterday — I will post two today. Keep those comments and emails coming!

Mar 232011

Ancient Chu Culture produced beautiful, simple art and architecture. The museum in Wuhan is designed in the Chu style, with roof covered pathways to each building. We had a wonderful time exploring and asking questions. There is a wonderful life size diorama of an emperor’s tomb with horse skeletons and chariots buried in formation. Because I was with Emma – I could ask questions through her excellent translation skills. I am very lucky to go places like this with someone so passionate about China and all the cultures within this country.

Here are a few of the pieces I really enjoyed. The gold symbol was translated as “Water” in ancient Chu script – very different than Mandarin. The Chu art had lost wax technique cast bronze vessels, reiku like pottery, brocade textiles and lacquer over wood. All simple, nature inspired geometric designs. Would love to find a tea set like the one in the museum — maybe someday.

This one means Chu if I remember correctly

This one means water. I love that a contemporary artist created these pieces with such love of the ancient work – and that the museum displayed the work so prominently. American Museums – take note – contemporary art and history can compliment each other!

This is a lost wax technique cast bronze urn

This is a detail from another bronze urn.

Here is the tea set I mentioned.
This is its lid.

This is a detail of the lid.

Two ancient figures from a tomb.

These figures reminded me of Akan Acua’abas from West Africa. No explanation for how these were used.

Close-ups of each.

My camera allows me to take pictures without flash, and then “processes” the picture for a few sections, making the image look like you used a flash. This is a great feature in a museum where flash photography is not allowed. My lucky day!

Mar 222011

Wuhan had many opportunities for us to listen to traditional music. We heard music in the Daoist Temple mentioned in a previous post — and we saw and heard two performances of traditional instruments from the Chu period/people, once at the Hubei Provincial Museum near East Lake park and at the 7 cranes park.

This image of the two headed Chu Phoenix sitting on tiger feet with a drum is repeated throughout the museum and the parks in Wuhan. This piece is in the 7 cranes park

And this one is in the Hubei Museum

The pictures were nice but the real drums were better.

We saw a performance at the museum that startled eyes and ears. Drums and bells, pipes, flutes and something that looked like an oboe.

This man played the big drum

And an oboe/bassoon kind of thing
And a tiny ancient pipe like an ocarina

He played a solo and a duet with the young lady in the next picture

This is the ‘ancient instrument’ kind of a zither-like instrument – very beautiful sound

Two other ladies played bamboo pipes

The hairstyles and costumes were also impressive

These are brass bells – they played several beautiful Chinese pieces and then “The Bells of St. Clemens” as a finale.

The bell players always seemed to be hiding behind the bells.

These are STONE bells. Several examples were in the Museum from ancient tombs around the state.
This example is really really old

The stone bells have a clear high sound

The bronze bells sound like church bells

This is a different ancient instrument (I think)

I love the designs on this instrument.

Keep the comments coming!

Mar 212011

Lao Tse, the famous Chinese philosopher and author of “The Way,” was from Wuhan. There are Daoist temples and shrines all over town. Emma and I visited this one in downtown Wuhan. It had a lovely statue of Lao Tse in an inner courtyard/parking lot, and a vegetarian restaurant that wasn’t open when we were there.

Temple Entrance

I enjoyed the temple’s bustling activity. Many people lived there, and they were walking around, working on renovations, playing music or doing chores. Everyone, men and women, has very long hair tied in a top knot. Some people wore an interesting hat that the topknot showed through like a cake with a round candle on top!

Man playing flute wearing the hat with top knot on top!

Another man with topknot playing a really long bamboo flute like instrument. People followed us through the shrine part of the temple while playing instruments. It was lovely. Maybe Daoists need music to pray.

This was the prayer wheel/pyramid we are used to seeing in Buddhist temples with a thousand tiny Buddhas behind little glass or plastic windows. This one had pictures of people, tiny sanskrit prayers written on strips of paper in with the pictures, and it spun around as we watched and made music, a giant music box of prayers.

In front of the musical prayer pyramid I noticed this pieced prayer stool cover. Quilting is world wide. Everyone started it and no one can claim to be first… Here that American Quilt world???


This is a mural of Lao Tse and his disciples. I believe his “first” disciple, Zhong Tse, is also in this picture. I am most curious about the one woman in the picture. I have not yet found a reference to her on line. I will ask the next time I am at a Daoist temple.

I like that the disciples are all holding books similar to the calligraphy books I buy here in Beilun, a simple paper book with red lines to guide your writing characters. Several of the men in the mural are squeezing their books, but the woman holds hers with her sleeves. A nice detail.

Lao Tse also rode around on a cow, not a horse like other people. An in this carving he also has a really big forehead (as do many pictures of philosophers) I don’t know why, and Emma didn’t know either. We didn’t ask but I will be sure to next time.

More on the temple later. Leave messages!

Mar 202011

These meat pastries were incredible. Flash seared in the wok – not oily but crunchy on the outside and savory in the middle.

The vendors explained to me, translated by Emma, how they made them with beef or tofu inside – using only the freshest ingredients!

Here you can see a man making the pastries to go in the wok. There are so many because many people buy them in the morning to take and eat on the way to work. The vendor lady is laughing at my exclamations about the wonderful food of Wuhan. I enjoyed myself immensely.

Its an assembly line of sorts – with one person making the dough, one getting the dough and meat together and one person frying. Everything is visible and people often stop to watch.

When I took the vendor ladies picture – they said — take a picture of our food! So i did:

Makes me want one RIGHT NOW!