Category Archives: Jiangyin

Down a Grape Flavored Rabbit Hole

grap1

Originally, the thought was to take my new ebike and seek out Cangshan Temple in Jiangyin, but as is usual, the weirdest things are always the ones not expected. The Huangtu Grape Corridor was one of them.

But first, where and what is Huangtu? It’s the part of Jiangyin that is right next to Xinbei. Actually, it’s considered a village. The part of it next to the Changzhou city line looks the most urban. The more east you go, the more rural things get. The prime industry here is agriculture, and more specifically, the cultivation of grapes.

So, on my way the above mentioned temple, I saw the “grape corridor” and said, well, why not? The things I ended up finding were not necessarily celebrating grapes. Rather, there were a lot of public signage and tiny parks dedicated to Chinese patriotism.

grap2 grap3

This includes a tiny park in honor of Lei Feng. This seems a little odd, since Lei Feng was born in Hunan Province, and he died in Liaoning when a telephone pole fell on him. As far as I can tell, he had no living connection with Huangtu or Jiangyin as a whole. Lei was a member of a transportation unit within the People’s Liberation Army. To this day, his image and likeness lives on as an intended symbol of being a “model citizen.”

grap4

There are other things to see in the area. It does function as an integrated green space as part of a residential community. Huangtu people do live around these parts — which gets into something else.

grape5 grap6

A lot of the buildings have vibrant, colorful pictures painted on them. None of it has anything to do with Lei Feng. But then again, Huangtu has little pockets like this in a few other places.

grap7

The more I wandered around, it got weirder. I eventually found an area of the village with cannons.

xuchao

I won’t include a picture of an anti-aircraft machine gun.

xuchao2

But here’s a rocket launcher!

Ok? What gives? Why does this town have old artillery pieces laying around? I was able to figure that out due to the ample signage, but none of it was in English. As I always say, the camera translator on Baidu Translate is sometimes my best friend. The military and patriotism theme in this part of Huangtu is likely due to this guy.

dav

 

This is 徐超 Xu Chao. There’s nothing on him in English on the internet. However, he was a battle hardened Chinese general. He had fought in both the war against Japanese Occupation and in the civil war that followed that. Unlike Lei Feng, Xu Chao was actually born in Huangtu.

xc

Although, it doesn’t look like his former residence is open to the public. Eventually, I moved on and found the temple I was looking for. It was closed and underwhelming, so you could say learning about Xu Chao was the highlight of this jaunt into Xinbei’s closest neighboring village. All of this is roughly five kilometers from where B1 bus turns west towards the Changzhou North Station. An intercity bus making local stops comes out this way. I do have to admit one thing. The last time I visited Huangtu, I left quite unimpressed. Times change, and so do perceptions.

 

This is Huangtu

There is an intersection in Changzhou’s northern Xinbei district sharing a map line with Jiangyin. The B1 bus turns here to pass the Trina International School  and end its route at the Changzhou’s northern rail station.  Make a wrong turn at this stop light, and you end up in Wuxi. Jiangyin, while an independent city, is actually part of Wuxi.  There are a few times I have crossed this red light border intentionally to see what was there.  One time, it was to see the town of Huangtu.

This is a very small town between Changzhou’s Xinbei district and Jiangyin’s dowtown “proper.” The intercity bus from Changzhou North Station makes local stops here. The bus from the downtown / Tianning station does not. That’s more of an express, and frankly, if you are going to downtown Jiangyin, it’s always better to take the express and not a local. It’s a faster ride. So what does Huangtu have to offer?

Not much, actually. However, that is more of a “city” point of view. And, it’s not meant to be condescending. It’s more of a statement that you can’t find a lot to be a “foreign tourist”  about here.

The local temples are actually places of worship — not places that charge admission and give you commemorative ticket. But, again, that’s the point in a way.  “Real” is a relative term. What applies to cities doesn’t apply to towns. “Real” also means “people live here” and “local.”  It’s also an interesting contrast. Appreciating and understanding urban China means also appreciating and understanding “small town” China. Maybe that’s just the key to understanding China in general? Maybe that’s the key to understanding the complicated dynamics of any country?

This post originally appeared on www.realjiangsu.com. 

A Newb’s Introduction to Dining in Jiangyin

img_20161211_193844While visiting Jiangyin either on business or as a tourist, there are a few western restaurants to consider eating at. While the city is smaller than Changzhou and belongs to Wuxi, Jiangyin is highly developed and quite modernized. There is one spot in the downtown area that seems to be central to dining and nightlife. Yijian Road has a lot of bars and restaurants.

img_20161211_193757

The biggest draw in the area seems to be a German establishment, Hofbrauhaus and a few others.

img_20161211_193732 img_20161211_193825

While Yijian Road seems to be a culinary hub, these are not the only places to eat when visiting Jiangyin. Take, for example, St. Marco. This European eatery is just down Chaoyang Road from Huangshanhu Park. That park, and the others near in close proximity, are the more well known Jiangyin attractions. People on a day trip from Changzhou could pair visiting those parks with eating at St. Marco. As stated earlier, these are likely not the only decent places to eat in this city, but this was only my third visit, and I’m still figuring out where things are there.

img_20161211_193027

Ni Hao, Jiangyin

img_20161127_1852341

Never judge a city by it’s Greyhound Bus depot. This is common sense in America, partly because most private, long distance coach stations are in the poorer, more dangerous parts of town. Back in the 1990s, I got hustled at the one in Pittsburgh. It’s also fair to think that, in China, one should also have the same attitude. Not about getting robbed, of course, but that bus terminals are not usually in the most convenient areas. I realized that while in Jiangyin. It felt like I walked for half an hour without seeing anything remotely interesting. Something similar happened the first time I went to Wuxi, too.

img_20161127_1857091

Jiangyin is a satellite city controlled by Wuxi.  An apt comparison would be Liyang; it has its own municipal government, but Liyang is still under control of Changzhou. Jiangyin borders Xinbei in the east, but the city’s actual downtown is about an hour away by long distance coach. Once I finally began to reach the city center on foot, I found myself falling under the city’s charm.

img_20161127_1903121

The first thing I saw was Xingguo Pagoda. This looks to be the remains of what was once temple grounds. If a visitor looks to the top of the tower, it’s damaged. There were a few other Buddhist attractions, like a stone pillar, but the place is now basically a walled-in public park.

img_20161127_1909461

From there, I found my way to a Confucian temple. The area before the actual temple entrance looked like a flea market, and those are just things I can’t help myself with. Luckily, I didn’t let myself buy anything. Yet, now I know where it is, and I will likely being back for a closer inspection and will probably end up buying a backpack full of old junk at some point. The temple itself was rather small.

img_20161127_1914451 img_20161127_1915091 img_20161127_1915391

Eventually, I ended up on the Renmin Road walking street. If comparing Jiangyin to Changzhou, this would be a little like Nandajie. It seems to be the commercial center of the center. However, walking through the area, it actually felt nicer to walk around there than Changzhou’s shopping pedestrian street. Partly, it seems, because Zhongshan Park is part of the whole complex, and a public art lover could spend a lot of time there snapping photos of statues.

img_20161127_1923421 img_20161127_1922191 img_20161127_1932051 img_20161127_1922511

Essentially, Jiangyin’s city center feels as developed and as cosmopolitan as Wuxi and Changzhou — just on a smaller scale. Getting to there is, as stated earlier, an hour by intercity bus from Changzhou’s downtown station. There is no train station here. And, it’s best for a newcomer to do a little research in advance and take a taxi from the coach terminal to a predetermined destination. It was roughly 19 to 20 RMB when I decided to call it a day and not hike back there from the city center.

I also realized, in terms of this blog, that places outside Changzhou are fair game, so long as this city is a starting point. So, expect a little more usage out of the travel category in the future. One thing is certain; I know i will be going back to explore Jiangyin in a little more depth, now.

Nevermind the Signs

IMG_20160803_174534

It was toward the end of July, the equivalent to the ‘san-fu’ period of the lunar calendar — the hottest days of the year. In China the heat was even more oppressive than usual.

–Qian Zhongshu, from Fortress Besieged

Rather ironically, I read these lines for the first time towards the end of July, where it was so hot I didn’t want to go outside. I decided to start reading a book instead of sweating to death while looking for things to blog about. I am sure I could have possibly found something that agreed with the weather, like swimming pools to cool off in. However, I’m not a swimming pool or beach sort of guy. It’s just not in my personality to put on a bathing suit.

I may not be a water person, but I’m still curious at heart. So, I still know where few places to cool off in the summer. Many people know of the man-made beach in Zhonglou’s Qingfeng Park. This is perhaps the most easy to get to when you live in Changzhou. There is another, but it’s either a car or ebike trip. This one is also not in Changzhou, it’s in Jiangyin, which is Wuxi’s northern satellite city. The place is Huangshihu Park 璜石湖公园, and it is not far beyond the city line Jiangyin shares with Xinbei.

Satellite view of where the park should be.
Satellite view of where the park should be. Notice the lake is missing.

Large parts of the park is a work in progress. If you were to visit here, you would see large fields of dirt likely to be further ecologically developed. There are also, however, a lot of bike paths and walkways around a rather large artificial lake with a sandy beach. I say “artificial” because if you look for the place on Baidu’s maps app under “satellite view,” it simply isn’t there. Also, a temple shares the park land, but the doors have never, ever been open to the public each time I have visited.

No swimming!
No swimming!

At the moment, the main draw is the lake’s sandy beach. A lot of Chinese families frequent the place with their children. You also see couples hanging out together, but you never see sunbathers. That is a concept quite alien to most Chinese people. The biggest irony, however, are the the “no swimming” signs. There are plenty of them, and seemingly all the park patrons ignore them. Even more, there is a guy there selling flotation gear that absolutely encourages swimming.

Go swimming!
Go swimming!

A Journey to Jiangyin

Taking this picture on this side of the sign means I’m still in Changzhou!

Wuxi is closer to Changzhou than what one might think. I know this because I accidentally found myself there, and I hadn’t taken a bus or train. I was on my eBike — yes, my eBike. As I was looking around me, I noticed that “常州“ was dropped from company names. Each time I passed a factory, I saw either “无锡“ or “江阴.”  How is this possible?

Well, let me clarify. I was in Jiangyin, and it’s separate municipal government from Wuxi proper. It’s much the same way that Liyang is a separate city but is still part of Changzhou. Plus, Jiangyin’s eastern city limits touch Xinbei in a way that if you take the B1 bus north, get of at a certain stop, and cross the street, you are no longer in Changzhou. The stop, by the way, is two beyond the Global Harbour shopping mall, right after the route turns towards the Trina International School and Changzhou North Station.

A tediously slow local ride from Xinbei to Jiangyin.

Knowing this, I returned there knowing that an Intercity coach line has a stop there.  Since I had nothing to do today, I thought I’d hop on the bus and see how long it would take to get to downtown Jiangyin.  I also learned that there are two types of Intercity busses that leave Changzhou regularly.

The one I took to Jiangyin was local. It basically stops every two kilometers or so. This bus would be a challenge for some foriegners; some basic knowledge of Chinese is needed. When you board, the driver asks na li?  You tell him, and he tells you the amount of the fare. I misheard and just shoved a 10 RMB note into the slot. Five people who boarded after me then crowded around to pay me back. I had paid their way by accident.

During the ride, there were several times I wanted to get off. Jiangyin has a Wanda Plaza, for example.  Other times, I saw I was passing cultural sites as I monitored the trip on my phone via Baidu Maps. In the end, I mentally marked those places for later trips and decided to just go all the way to the coach station.

Turns out, it looked to be in a rather uninteresting part of town. The station itself looks very strange — as if covered in an alien metallic web. I walked around, bought a map, and looked at the time. I had left a little too late. So, I just bought another bus ticket back.

This is where I learned about the other variety of Intercity bus. Turns out, if you buy a ticket inside the station, it’s for the express, and that takes you to Changzhou’s downtown bus station. It’s a lot quicker, too.

Jiangyin’s weird looking bus terminal.