A Travellerspoint blog

September 2010

Back In The Rice Fields Around Shaowu City

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Once upon a time there was a sleepy small village found on the banks of the Min River.

As the village grew into a town protective walls were built that soon enclosed it from the new world of warfare that was all the rage outside. These walls were built somewhere between five to seven hundred years ago and now, only several hundred meters from my happy home and school can be found the last remaining section of the city wall along with the last ancient city gate (see my last blog for a night shot) and as they were built along the river this small area also houses many ancient homes that are aged between three to five hundred years old. Today the city streets are lined with modern shops and homes but these new facades hide a well kept secret as enclosed within can be found many ancient homes and buildings.

Shaowu is a city of history and culture with its beginnings some one thousand seven hundred years ago

Also known as 'Tie Chen’ or ‘City of Steel’, Shaowu City is located near the Futun River at the south of Wuyi Mountain in the northwest of Fujian Province. The geographical location of the city once made it an ideal fortress for defense during the times of ancient warfare, hence the name City of Steel or a Fortress as Hard as Steel. The total area of the city is around three thousand square kilometers with a county population of three hundred and twenty thousand.

It has preserved some ancient dwellings that are famous in Fujian which include one of the eight most prominent Clan Dwellings along with one of the four ancient mosques. Throughout its history Shaowu city has given China two prime ministers, seven army generals, the Song Dynasty national hero Li Gang and the famous literary critic Yan Yu. Along with all of that, during the War of Liberation Shaowu was also once a Communist Revolutionary base here in Fujian Province and a monument to commemorate the former site of the Fujian Provincial CPC Committee can be found at the top of Xichun Hill in Xichun Park.

Shaowu is located within Fujian Provinces ‘Golden Triangle’ as it is only seventy kilometers away from Wuyi Mountain, around forty kilometers from Tianchen Valley, around seventy kilometers from the Taining Lake and Geo Park and one hundred and forty kilometers away from the Yuhua Caves and ancient Heping Ancient Town.

Putting all of the above aside, more importantly for me is the fact that the city is located deep into the north western mountains and as the city is so small it takes me only five minutes peddle time in any direction to leave it all behind and the sounds of silence soon make a wonderful soundtrack to the picturesque lush green surroundings.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS: Even though I just had two months off to travel through Hunan and Guizhou Provinces and three days off last week for the Mid Autumn Festival, as of eleven this morning I’m now on another weeks leave for Chinese National Day....Yeah! ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Ugly Kid Joe The album was ‘Ugly As They Wanna Be’ ____________________________________________________________

<u>Click on the links below to check out my visits to Fujians 'Golden Triangle'</u>

My Wuyishan First Day Adventure My Wuyishan Second Day Adventure My Tianchen Valley Adventure My Taining Lake & Geo Park Adventure My Yuhua Caves Adventure My Ancient Heping Town Adventure

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Offerings To The Moon Goddess & More

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Talk about being confused. At the moment half the time I have no idea what day it is. Add to that trying to remember what day’s classes I’m supposed to be teaching!

As the end of September mergers into the beginning of October we here in China are lucky enough to celebrate two separate celebrations one being the Mid Autumn Festival (a three day holiday) and soon Chinese National Day (a seven day holiday). Yes it all sounds great but the actual public holidays are only one for Mid Autumn Festival and three for National Day and to allow for so many extra days schools can throw calendars and timetables in to complete disarray and add extra days here and there at will and we then have to make up those days on weekends.

So this weekend we are doing classes to make up for both past and future holidays. So today’s were yesterdays and tomorrows are next Wednesdays…I think.

Anyhow I had a wonderful and relaxing time which began with a festive dinner with the school Tuesday night and Wednesday I spent with Jessica & Jasmine (who were two of my Grade 4 students last time I lived in Shaowu, both are now in Middle School) and Jasmines mother who tries so hard to learn more English whilst walking with us. Jessica’s father I have known for many years but I never actually knew what his position was in the city, I just knew he was/is important. I now find out that being the Leader of the Communist Party for the entire Shaowu area that he is 'the’ guy and not much happens or passes without his knowing and approval.

We ended up once eating dinner together at a lovely restaurant. Crocodile wasn’t on the menu though which is a pity as it is such a delicious food!

Ross and I joined Yan and the Crew on Thursday for the most awesome day spent beside a peaceful river. Thanks to Yan’s motherly and organizational skills the previous evening we started the day off by making BBQ sticks which takes much longer than I believed it would but it was also much more fun that I thought it would be. As each batch was finished it was cooked and then snatched and eaten by the hungriest person nearby.

When all the BBQ was finished and everyone was full it of course was time for lunch. Here in China it doesn't matter if you are full, if it is a meal time you then eat without question!

So carrying out full stomachs in wheel barrows we all headed over to the little Hut/Shack type thing and started on the fish that some of the other guys had caught and after downing several boxes of beer we all headed up the road to an old temple where we spent an hour walking around, some did the Bow Bow thing and other like Ross decided that it was more fun to throw firecrackers around.

Yesterday Ross and I joined Jessica and Jasmines families for an awesome day making our way through a river bed full of huge boulders and ups and downs to the same small waterfall where Yan & Crew and Canadian Jo & I spent a day making dumplings and BBQ last time I was here Let’s Go On a Picnic Chinese Style! Bring the Wok!

Ok that’s it from me, there’s only a few days left until we have another week off for Chinese National Day and I still haven't got my passport and visa back so I have no idea what I will be doing. I want to head to Shenzhen city to visit a beautiful girl named Jiang Ni who I travelled with in Shanxi Province several years ago but without passport I can't fly or get hotels.

Life is life and I'll just follow whatever pathway it places before me.

<u>Now For a Bit on the Mid Autumn Festival</u><u></u>

Moon Cake Day falls in the middle of autumn OR for the freaky people it falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month so its real festival name is the Mid Autumn Festival.

In ancient times, people would offer elaborate cakes as sacrifices to the Moon Goddess on this day. After the ceremony, family and friends would kick back, share some rice wine and eat these Moon Cake things. Just as with the chicken and the egg I’m a little confused which came first. I guess the rice wine would kill the taste of the moon cake but then again was the moon cake created to kill the taste of the rice wine? No one seems to know the answer and all I know is that it spells bad news for me. I’ll have to hide indoors for the next few days so I don’t offend anyone who invites me in to share moon cakes and rice wine!

So, time passes, the capital moves, civil wars are fought, people come and people go and now the custom has came to symbolise &#8216;family reunion’. On this glorious mid-autumn night the moon is huge and bright as buttons. Families get together and go for an evening walk, giggle at the foreigner who walks past and invite him home to share moon cakes.

He tries his best to pass up the invitation but they the Chinese won’t have any of that! The family and the foreigner sit together eating moon cakes whilst sharing rice wine. As the hours pass they all stare at and admire the moon in its perfect splendor. Soon the moon becomes a little distorted and hazy from the rice wine. So everyone eats another moon cake to kill the taste of the rice wine. They then have more rice wine to kill the taste of the moon cake. And so on and so on!

<u>Legendary Origins</u>

Like most Chinese holidays, the mid-autumn festival is rich in oral history and legend. According to stories, Hou Yi was a tyrannical ruler who won the elixir of immortality by shooting nine suns out of the sky with his bow. But his wife, knowing that the people's lives would remain miserable for all eternity if Hou Yi lived forever, drank the potion. The fluids made her lighter, and she floated up into the moon.

Even today, Chinese like to think of the moon as home of Chang E.

<u>A Historical Anecdote</u>

The Mongol Hordes of Ghengis Khan subjugated the Chinese, and established the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th Century. However, many Chinese resented the fact that they were ruled by a foreign regime. In the 14th Century, Liu Bouwen helped plot the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty by organizing resistance and secret messages were passed along in moon cakes.

<u>Moon Cakes</u>

The ubiquitous fare at any Chinese celebration of the Full Moon festival, moon cakes are a flaked pastry stuffed with a wide variety of fillings. Egg Yolk, lotus seed paste, red bean paste, and coconut are common, but walnuts, dates, and other fillings can be found as well. Most have characters for longevity or harmony inscribed on the top.

Special cakes can reach almost one foot in diameter. Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by the Dandy Warholes The album was an MP3 mix. ____________________________________________________________

Offereings To The Moon Goddess

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Offereings To The Moon Goddess

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Offereings To The Moon Goddess

Offereings To The Moon Goddess

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Transitions Back Into My New Life in Fujian

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Mate I couldn’t fit another thing in even if I was twins! It’s been a huge couple of weeks since my return to Fujian Province. The '2010 Miao & Dong Peoples Beers N Noodles Adventure’ has come to an end.

Seriously it was one of the most amazing and intrepid adventures I have had and I seriously had to look at where my last blog was actually posted from and found that it was from Sanjiang Town on the borders of Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi Provinces and since then there has been one hell of a lot of food and beer consumed and whilst catching up with my wonderful circle of friends new friends have been made and several new night BBQ stalls have been visited along with some old meaty haunts.

The fun all started on the two plane journeys that took us from Buckland’s in Yangshuo to Wuyishan.

Before I continue I must introduce the other two new foreign teachers, so everyone say a big G’Day Mate to Shaun and Ross who hail from the liquor lands of Leeds, England. Both are stage performers back home so being around them is like being in the musicals Rent and Footloose but I without the loose feet and as we don’t pay rent I guess it’s actually been more like a more a Grease reality than one where the young are either fighting for their right to dance or scrape enough money together to pay rent.

Actually, it’s been like none of the above but rather more like a living that silly &#8216;eddakaths’ blog from several years ago when he was living in Shaowu city in Fujian Province.

Anyhow, Shaun hates flying more than I, in fact more than anyone I have ever known and if he had an arm full of rosary beads he would have found a way to simultaneously count them from the little corner where he was found rocking back and forth speaking in strange tongues that only Father Karras could decipher.

But we’ll skip Regan’s slimy green foreplay and move on to my own &#8216;final destination’ moment.

Picture this….on a night flight with Regan (Shaun) rocking back and forth beside me whilst Father Karras (Ross) was trying to administer Priestly type affection (Don’t go there! Just stick with the Exorcist!), due to slight turbulence I’m holding on tight to my seat and out the window I spot a light. I get to thinking that it’s another plane which is cool as we don’t own the sky and the other plane has every right to share it with us but these thoughts quickly changed as it didn’t seem to move away. So I then get to thinking that it’s getting a little too close and maybe it should find its own air space as mine was getting a little cramped.

For those who don’t fly, the light was the small wing light but I of course I never thought of that at the time as I had Father Karras performing an exorcism on Regan beside me which made me all the more fearful of flying.

Now Picture This…..as we were nearing Wuyishan (only a minute or two had passed since I noticed the light and I was looking around the plane kind of wonderful why no-one else was staring out the window full of fear because there was another plane coming our way) all of a sudden the pilot turns on the big wing lights to make ready our landing. If I could have screamed I would have but thankfully for the rest of the passengers it got caught in my throat and as reality hit one of the scariest moments of my life passed by without notice.

I actually thought the other plane was about to crash into the side of ours…what a doofus! I soon comforted myself by giggling at Shaun counting his invisible rosaries beside me.

As we arrived around mid night we grabbed a hotel nearby and I happily introduced the Leeds Lads to the real way of eating here in China which is road side night BBQ and Beer and since they have never been the same and its now all about meat sticks, cold beer and Chinese girls (um…people…I won’t explain) in tiny denim shorts and high heels. The following day we were collected by the school at midday and as we drove further into the north western Fujian mountains I got to watch the excitement build on the faces of the Leeds Lads who had only the opportunity to see awesomeness of the Yangshuo area of Guangxi Province here in China.

Upon our arrival in Shaowu City the party began and believe me it hasn’t stopped since.

Before even reaching our school we stopped at one of Mr Du’s and the schools old haunts where the cold beer began to flow and succulent dish after succulent dish of the most delicious foods were placed before us and the Lazy Susan once again began its tantalizing twirl. She twirled her delights again that evening and then the following and she has been lap dancing her tasty treats before us almost every night since.

Between Susan’s tantalising twirls there has been a never ending supply of nightly meat filled BBQ stalls, home cooked dinners with friends, exquisite buffet dinners with some of my old students families, introductions and endless returns to Ting Tings Bar where we happily found deliciously new staff to drink with and get to know, several footloose and friendly KTV nights during which Shaun brought the room to their knees with his angelic voice and for me (besides returning to the warm hearts of my friends) the return to my Fujian bike rides.

I could expand the above list to fill several pages but I think I will simply allow not only the pictures attached to this page but also the following few blogs tell the rest of the story of what has been happening since Lazy Susan’s first sexy spin upon my return to a city that has unexpectedly felt and become more like HOME than home!

For all of my new readers I lived and taught here in Shaowu City from the end of 2006 to mid 2008 and ever since I have felt a strong calling to return. I didn’t return as I love to experience new places, new foods and new Chinese Cultures but since I left my friends and school here in Shaowu none of them have been half the school or offered the amazing life that I lived here.

Before we go onto the &#8216;bits and pieces of Fujian Province’ I must give not only a huge warm welcome to Shaun and Ross but also to thank the stars above for sending then my way. To have two such open and warm creatures to spend my time with is more than a dream come true. Ross loves to get out there and sweat in the fields and has never once complained about some of the crazy bike rides I’ve taken him on and Shaun, though not a bike rider, like Ross is more than open to drinking three cases of beer at a BBQ on the river side after shopping with Ting Ting.

Life my friends couldn’t be better if I was triplets!

<u>Now For a Bit of Information on Fujian Province</u>

Fujian Province, with its capital Fuzhou is found on China's south eastern coast.

It faces the island province of Taiwan across Taiwan Strait to the east and its neighbouring provinces are Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, and Guangdong to the south. Its permanent population is around thirty five million and many minority ethnic groups such as the Hakka, Hui, Miao and Manchu help make up its population. Fujian is also the birthplace and origin of around nine million overseas Chinese who also make up eighty percent of Taiwan's population.

To make things hard on its foreign guests Fujian also has dozens of its own dialects. As the terrain is mostly mountainous, at one time nearly every valley had its own language.

These dialects are usually described with the prefix &#8216;Min’ as Min is another name for Fujian just as is Hokkien. These dialects are not mutually intelligible but they do share certain common features. The &#8216;Min’ group of Chinese dialects is the most diverse of all the dialects in China and they share fewer similarities with Mandarin as English does with Dutch and Russian with Japanese.

Among the most important is Minnan Hua (Southern Min) which spoken in Xiamen, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and surrounding areas. There are slight dialectal variations of Minnan between the three cities and many people in Taiwan speak the same language, though to the rest of the world it is known as Taiwanese and in Malaysia and Singapore the same language is called Hokkien which is the Minnan word for Fujian.

The Mindong (Eastern Min) or Fuzhou Hua has a large number of speakers in the northern coastal areas and in Malaysia and Singapore it is known as Hokchiu which is the Mindong word for Fuzhou. There are dialectal variations as the Mindong dialects in Fuzhou and Fu'an (which are only four hours apart by car) are not mutually intelligible.

The Hakka people who are found mainly in the west of Fujian and also in several other areas of Southern China came as refugees from one of Northern China's wars centuries ago (Hakka means &#8216;guest people’) have their own Hakka language which is somewhat related to some Northern dialects rather than to any other Fujian or southern language.

Add to that central Fujian, west Fujian and a million other local village dialects in between.

Think about that when travelling solo and trying to order dinner in rural Fujian Province where tens sound like fours and fours like tens and mountains like threes and threes like mountains and BBQ sounds like a sour cow and not like a show cow and Sh’s and S’s are just as confusing as why I am known as Teacher Egg here in the south and Teacher Watermelon in the north.

Most of the time I have absolutely no idea what is happening! That’s the way I love my life because each day continues to be a new adventure!

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane PS: No we don’t have a Mc Donald’s nor do we have huge colourful karst peaks. They were taken in Yangshuo prior to me returning to Fujian. ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Melbourne’s You Am I. The album was &#8216;Snake Tide’ ____________________________________________________________

Transitions Back Into My New Life

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Transitions Back Into My New Life

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Teachers Day Fun & Adventure

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Respect for Teachers and Learning

In the history of Chinese education, Confucius is a paragon of all teachers, symbolizing the philosophy of "Educate all without discrimination, and teach according to the abilities of ones students." Using the six arts of rites, music, archery, chariot driving, learning (including reading and writing), and mathematics, Confucius had more than three thousand disciples during his lifetime. In practice of his credo, the Sage never refused a student because of his class or character, requiring only that his pupils possess a sincere desire to learn.

During the crisis of the 'Spring and Autumn Period', Confucius sought to end the chaos of the times. Believing this disorder to be a reflection of declining morals in society, he exhaustively toured the various warring Chinese states to advise rulers and officials on the merits of ethical rule. In his later years, Confucius reorganized the ancient texts, thus laying a solid foundation for China's enduring civilization.

In 1939 the Ministry of Education pronounced that Confucius' birthday would be celebrated on August 28, and designated it as Teachers' Day as well as a national holiday to remember Confucius' enormous contribution to Chinese culture and society. The date was changed to September 28 in 1952 in accordance with chronologists' new findings.

Today, Teachers' Day not only commemorates China's foremost teacher in history but also honors all teachers for their hard work during the year. The first Teachers' Day was in 1931, the date was June 6, organized by a group of famous teachers without being officially approved by the Kuomintang Government. In 1939, the Kuomintang Government decided to set the Teachers Day on August 28 (Confucius's birthday), due to the turmoil, it was never carried out throughout the whole country. In 1951, the New China government decided to set the Teachers' Day on May 1, the same day with Labour Day, this wasn’t ever popular. Finally, teachers found a day to celebrate their glorious career in 1985, since then, on September 10 every year, teachers all over the country get special attention and gifts for their services to this country.

Every year during Teachers' Day, the Confucius Memorial Service is solemnly held at the Confucius Temple to show respect and honour for the Sage. At the "Teachers Day Celebration" held by the Ministry of Education and the various local governments, teachers with the highest seniority and best qualities are recognized for their contribution to society.

Being a teacher in China is not simply a job, it is one of the most respected careers.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by AC/DC The album was 'Highway To Hell’ ____________________________________________________________

Teachers Day Fun

Teachers Day Fun


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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)