It’s not long until the Chinese New Year (28th January 2017) will be celebrated – this year it’s the year of the rooster. I am a rooster.
And, oh no! I have just found out that when it’s the year of your Chinese birth zodiac sign it’s never a good year for you. That fortune in all aspects of your (my) life will not be very good and therefore, we roosters should be careful during 2017 – it’s a fire rooster year.
Apparently 1945 was a wood rooster so maybe I’m safe from a bad year. Also, just so you know a wood rooster is ‘energetic, overconfident, tender and unstable’ I of course, couldn’t comment!
It seems to bring myself good luck in this zodiac year of my birth I need to wear red so will check my wardrobe – I don’t think I have a lot of red although my winter coat is full-length and red, so covers me completely so I’m ok for winter
Red of course is one of the luckiest colours in Chinese culture, standing for prosperity, loyalty, success, and happiness. Apparently, it can also drive away bad luck and evil spirits.
Research tells me I can wear red belts, socks, shoes, or other red clothes. Apparently red underwear is highly recommended but another ‘rule’ that we roosters need to pay attention to, or the red won’t ward off bad luck, is I cannot buy red underwear for myself.
Now you know what I need for gifts this year!
One good thing, as well as wearing red, I also need to wear Jade accessories– so will be wearing more pounamu (NZ Greenstone/Jade) and that’s easy for me.
However, it gets even more complicated, it also seems I need to adjust my furniture and dwellings to face east “to get Tai Sui behind them”.
All I can say is crikey, Gong Xi Fa Cai, Gong Hey Fat Choy and 新年快乐
During my trip to Fujian province in China we visited the Nanjing tulou area which I found absolutely fascinating. Built between the 12th and 20th centuries these earthen buildings are unique to the Hakka people in the mountainous areas of south-east Fujian.
These, mostly round, enclosed buildings with thick rammed-earth walls, are many stories high, and can often house about 800 people.
Forty-six tulou sites were inscribed (2008) by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, and as “exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization [in a] harmonious relationship with their environment.
We only spent a few hours in the area, and as I knew nothing about them before visiting, I will let my photos do the talking – hover over the picture to see the captions.
However, Wikipedia tells me that the one we visited is called “Yuchanglou(裕昌樓) is a five-storey tulou located at Nanjing County, Shuyang Town, Xiabanliao Village. It was built in 1308 Yuan dynasty by the Liu family clan. It is one of the oldest and tallest tulou in China. Yuchanglou has been nicknamed the “zigzag building”, because the vertical wooden post structure is not straight and perpendicular, but zigzags left and right. It was built that way due to an error measuring the building materials. But in spite of this apparent infirmity, this tall tulou withstood 700 years of natural elements and social turmoil. Yuchanglou’s outer ring is 36 m in diameter and boasts five storeys, with 50 rooms on each floor, 270 in total.
Each of the 25 kitchens on the ground floor at the back half of the circle has a private water well beside its stove. This is the only tulou in all Fujian with such convenient water supply”.
Our first view from above
Zooming in on their lives
And from below, and the gardens
the tulou we visited
a wedding had occured the day earlier
the only entrance
Janet tries to hurry us in
Sweet potato getting ready for planting
Would love to have spent more time here
a temple sits in the centre
Kids on tablets worldwide
And tea ceremony as usual
the lowest floor is the kitchen and shop
all sorts for sale
very thick walls … this one is 5 stories high
I’d certainly visit here again, and stay longer if possible – apparently you can be hosted in one of the tulou.
The Duishan Art District, near Jemei University in Xiamen, China has a gallery to display contemporary work by regional, and prominent, artists. Like the art I saw at the University was thought provoking and different to our (my) expectations.
Our group, all coffee aficionados, were also happy to drink the excellent coffee served at the café.
Despite the coffee, tea plays an important part in the artists lives – each had a tea ceremony area in their studio.
An artists tea area at Duishan Art District
Janet values the art work shes seeing
this was a challenging and thoughtful piece
A Japanese ‘Marilyn’
Qi Yu 1969 – present. HoD dept. visual communication design
On my recent trip to Xiamen, China I was interested to see local art and, as our Kiwi tour leader, Janet Andrews, had attended the Arts Academy at Jimei University as an exchange student just a few years ago we were lucky enough to visit the Fine Art College there.
She was treated like a visiting rock star and we rode on those coat-tails. An exhibition of the students end of the semester work was very different to our preconceived ideas about Chinese art.
Here are some of their work and the fantastic artwork around the University grounds.
If you have the chance to visit this Uni, grab it!
My next post will be about the Duishan Art District and some of the artists, who graduated from Jemei Uni, and have studios there.
NOTE: thanks for the assitance to travel in this region as part of the cultural delegation from Xiamen’s sister city Wellington, New Zealand.
Wikipedia, that oracle of facts, tells me that we Kiwi are not big tea drinkers: seems we are 45th in the world – way behind Turkey, the Irish and British. The Chinese put it on our culinary world map in the 10th C when they began drying, then steeping, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis.
International Tea Day is December 15 and it seems tea is the most widely used drink – after water.
On my recent trip to Xiamen, China, (as part of a cultural group from its sister city Wellington, New Zealand) we drank tea daily, often many time daily – many times at tea ceremonies.
Here are just a few of those tea drinking events.
Hui’an woman pour tea
women in my group offered tea at Huihe Stone Park
We are welcomed with tea at our hotel
An artists tea area at Duishan Art District
another artists tea ceremony table
tea again – near Nanjing Tulou
Formal tea demonstration SUMGO Tea House
Demonstration tea ceremony
table before ceremony starts
I’m served tea at SUMGO
Tea for sale
I buy white tea for a friend
tea is poured
tea table trays are fabulous
White tea is the most expensive
more tea containers
Note: I travelled to Xiamen as part of a cultural delegation from its sister city Wellington, New Zealand. Thank you for the help for me to take part in this trip.
Fujian province, China, is unknown to most Western travellers but is the most famous and perhaps the most visited area for local tourism.
‘Secretive and reclusive’ were terms often used about China but things are changing.
You will know it’s home to chopsticks, calligraphy, acupuncture, the Silk Road, and Tiananmen Square, and of course the Chinese invented paper, printing, gunpowder and the umbrella.
Xiamen, the city by the sea, is at the mouth of the Nine Dragon River, and has frequently been labelled one of China’s most beautiful cities. It’s also been called a garden on the sea and is consistently named one of China’s most liveable cities, and was once called Amoy by Westerners. The climate is subtropical, and as it is on the coast and with very little heavy industry, and no coal for domestic heating, it’s here is cleaner than most Chinese cities.
This island city, opposite Taiwan, has been an important trading port since the Song Dynasty 960 until 1279 and was a seaport open to foreign trade. The Portuguese with the first European traders in 1541. It is still an important trading place especially as it was one of the first four special economic zones in 1981.
During my week in the area we visited their amazing library which had originally been a foundry. It retains the huge features of such a building and has been converted amazingly.
Follow my footsteps on our trip via this slide show.
NOTE: I travelled in this region as part of a cultural delegation from Xiamen’s sister city Wellington, New Zealand. See more here – http://www.wellingtonxiamen.com and check #Xiamen for photos on Instagram.
Fancy some good artwork on your walls? Van Gogh perhaps, or a Rembrandt? Can’t afford it? Oh yes, you can buy artwork in Xiamen!
It seems many people can buy, not the originals, but copies made by talented artists and which are sold around the world. They hang in private homes, hotels, motels and conference centres and it seems most are painted and sold in Xiamen, Fujian province, China.
I visit the Xiamen oil painting ‘village’ (within the city) which has evidently been named one of, if not the top, centres of the world’s oil painting areas: most of these paintings are exported to America and Europe.
Some 5000 artists (mostly graduates from Art Schools) produce the paintings and it appeared that each had their own specialities. Many will paint your family or home from a photograph to your specification or styles.
After sheltering from a monsoon type downpour I later wandered around the streets full of little shops selling completed canvases, paint brushes, frames, and other art paraphernalia.
Needless to say I too bought an “original” artwork – not Mona Lisa or Chairman Mao, but a bright green frog with four shopping bags. I asked the artist where he got the idea from. He responded “Look up Google”.
I have done as he suggested and the closest I can find were on UK, reusable shopping bags: my frog is a boy, the bags were of naked frogs or frogs in dresses. Perhaps this is how they get around the original artist’s copyright, by making small changes.
My quirky green frog takes pride of place on my wall and he always gets favourable comments about his cuteness – not what people expect to see as a souvenir from China. (of course I have other more Asia-obvious things too)
My next blog (s) will be about the Jimei university’s JMU Fine Art College and the artist in the Duishan Art District. Now take a walk with me through the village … all these photos were taken on my phone.
Yes, you can find coffee in a tea drinking, tea growing, and tea ceremony country.
Multinationals in the coffee world seem to have cornered the coffee market in tea drinking China. But, on Gulang Yu, a car-less island off Xiamen, we discover a little coffee café. While most of the group I was travelling with climbed Sunlight Rock for fabulous views, three of us explored a little area that our guide had said was boring, had nothing of interest. How wrong she was; we loved it.
This tiny island has brides galore, all with their make-up artists, clothing assistants and photographers who also have their assistants. Of course, a very bored groom is also at hand. It’s not an easy task in the 30° plus heat and their often large Western style wedding dresses – which they efficiently tuck up while walking from site to site for the photos.
As tourists we too were taking photos while the locals, and many Chinese tourists, are photographing us. I lost count of how many stranger’s selfies I ended up in – and I wonder what they will say about us when showing their holiday snaps.
We explored a little cake shop and bought some local pies to take back to New Zealand where my book group enjoyed them!
Despite not having six Chinese words among us we loved checking out the shops and especially a fabulous clothes shop, all of which were made in India. We didn’t buy any pearls but one of our trio had her portrait drawn. The other, was most excited to find a real coffee shop alongside the pearls and artists so in we went.
I had a local iced drink the others had coffee which they declared fabulous. I also bought postcards and stamps from the eclectic little coffee shop. But let my photos tell the story – and if you visit them, make sure you tell them you read a blog about how good their coffee is!
GREAT COFFEE AND POSTCARDS (PLUS STAMPS)
this is the coffee shop
you are only 15 seconds from the coffee shop
now 10 seconds away
ALL SORTS FOR SALE
what does this say?
And, I wish I knew what this said
next door to the artist’s shop
one of you group has her portrait drawn
we swap email addresses
NOTE: Gulangyu is directly off the south-eastern coast of China, (opposite Taiwan) This huge tourist attraction (especially for Chinese) is part of the bustling city of Xiamen. The island is famous for its natural beauty, colonial style architecture and a myriad of museums – including the Piano Museum. Xiamen has consistently been voted as one of China’s most liveable cities, and Gulangyu Island has been recognized as one of Fujian Province’s most scenic places.
Huasheng Tang, otherwise known as peanut soup, is really popular in Xiamen, as is hailijian, oyster omelette – this is made with sweet potato flour as well as oysters. This was popular among the group I was travelling with but it was not a taste I acquired.
I also tried the sand worm jelly (tusundong), a local delicacy, and although it was not unpleasant I don’t like many jellied dishes, and after reading the article (see link above) about them I’m not sure I would eat them again.
One of the most interesting dishes (see main photo) was one of black chicken. I thought it had been dyed with perhaps squid ink, but in fact these chickens which apparently originate in Indonesia actually have black flesh, and actually tasted like any other chicken. It was not until my last morning in Xiamen, exploring some local streets near the hotel that I actually saw a black chicken for sale.