Category Archives: Parks and Gardens

Jintan’s Genius

In the memorial hall at Yuchi Park.

If humankind ever receives a signal from an alien species, that signal would likely be in something like prime numbers or an equation of some sort. This is something that scientists often argue, especially the ones at SETI.  Math, it has been said, is the only universal language. While true, it’s also one of a many clever ways math nerds can argue the importance of the their academic field. As for me, simple arithmetic can be agonizingly frustrating. I have trouble with numbers when I don’t have a calculator nearby. Even then, I’m still pretty stupid. I realized this because, well, mathematics from a humanities perspective is still fascinating. Recently, I was confronted with this while trying to figure out a prominent figure in Jintan’s history.

Huo Luogeng hailed from Changzhou’s Jintan district. He made significant contributions to number theory, but trying to figure out what “number theory” actually is made my head spin. Eventually, I gave up and just started doing Google searches on SETI’s hunt for aliens, instead. Once I regained courage to look at math theories again, I found myself distracted more by Huo Luogeng’s biography. Again, this would be looking at academic field from a humanities perspective.

The statue in a park named in Hua Luogeng’s honor.

Huo was born in Jintan in 1910. Like most prodigies, he excelled early and was nurtured by a teacher. He then went on to teach himself math and the corresponding advanced theories. The word for this type of person is “autodidact.” Huo was an autodidact. Most of these people, in my reading and studies, have been writers. The famous American playwright Arthur Miller, for example, had no formal training or college education. Same with Huo. He never got a PHD in mathematics, but he went on to make significant contributions.

Think about that. He never got a doctorate. And he ended teaching at Tsinghua University in Bejing. That’s China’s Ivy League. Speaking of that, he also taught at Princeton in the USA. And Cambridge in the UK. Over his career, he was lauded with many honorary degrees, but he never really earned a real one. Eventually, he died from a heart attack after finishing a lecture in Japan.

Jintan remembers this man well. There is a park named after him in the district’s center. There, you can find a statue of him sitting and holding a mug of some hot beverage. This is Hua Luogeng Park 华罗庚公园, and it’s not that far from the district’s intercity coach station. And, by the way, it takes an hour to get there from Changzhou’s downtown station on an express bus.

Much farther away, you can find a memorial hall in his honor. Its in a different place altogether —  Yuchi Park愚池公园. In theory, you can walk there from the bus station, but its a long distance and a taxi would be much easier.

Cruising in Xinlong Ecological Forest

Once you pass the Global Harbor mall on Tongiang Road, there doesn’t seem much. Sure, you will eventually pass the Trina International School but scenery changes to either construction, factories, or open landscape.  It’s a reminder that the greater Wanda area serves as Xinbei’s downtown, but there is so much else to Xinbei than just bars and restaurants.

Take Xinlong Ecological Forest 新龙生态林, for example. It’s on Tongiang if you are heading north and towards the industrial port on the Yangtze River.  The place is huge, as it straddles both sides of Tongjiang Road, and bridges connect it over a river and an additional road. It’s also filled with a variety of plants from white dandelions to banboo, pine trees, and more. There are plenty of places to sit near the water and soak in the scenery. In a way, this place is the antithesis of Wanda Plaze, honking cars, and pollution belching BRT buses. It’s actually quiet, too.

The park is also filled with winding concrete roads.  It’s an ideal place to go for a bike ride, too — eBike or the traditional pedal-driven variety. These small pathways fork and diverge so many times that you can vary your routes on return visits. There are also small hills and bridges here if you are biking for a workout.The one bad thing, however, is that cars are allowed into the forest and onto these roads, so you still have to be careful and keep an eye out.

Ni Hao, Jintan: Hua Luogeng Park

“A lot of people died here,” a Chinese friend once told me. “Tai Ping rebels killed them and dumped them into this canal.” He peered over the railing and at the murky water. ” There may even still be bodies at the bottom.” He said this with a matter-of-factness that I just believed outright. I didn’t see any historical markers to this effect, but Jintan is his hometown — something he takes pride in.  And, when talking about Tai Ping Rebels, he’s referring to The Heavenly Kingdom (太平天国); as civil conflicts goes, this was not only the bloodiest in Chinese history, but global history in general.  It happened around the same time America had its own civil war.

But let me back up a bit. My friend and I were standing on a bridge, There was a remnant of an historic wall gate behind us.  Old skeletons might or might have been in the water beneath us, and Hua Luogeng Park 华罗庚公园 surrounded us.  So did Jintan. Two years ago, it was an independent satellite city under Changzhou’s jurisdiction.  Last year, it lost its independence and became

Jintan’s mathematical genius, Hua Luogeng.

Changzhou’s newest district.  The same thing happened to the once-city of Wujin many, many years ago. Such things happen when

Chinese urban centers rapidly expand.

As I result, I found myself intrigued by this new,  remote section of the Dragon City.  Hua Luogeng Park, I found, is the most ideal place to start when venturing into Jintan for the first time. Why? It’s the closest to the district’s long-distance bus terminal.  And by the way, it costs 15 RMB for an express bus to this part of Changzhou. The trip from and to the downtown station takes a little over one hour.  The park is also part of the city center. A visitor could easily take a

walk here before and/or after doing other things. But convenience is not the only reason to come here.

The park is named after Jintan’s most famous son, Hua Lougeng. He was a world-renowned mathematician. Amazingly enough, he had no formal training. All of his contributions to number theory and more resulted from years of dedicated study and self-teaching. He was never actually a university student; he was just a man with a passion for numbers. There is a prominent statue of him here seated and holding a cup. The American in me assumes the beverage is coffee, but this is China. It’s more than likely tea.




Yueyuan Garden

IMG_20151018_122819Changzhou is not particularly well known for private gardens. Bigger cities like Suzhou and Shanghai usually get more attention for that, and well they should. This doesn’t mean th

at Changzhou is a wasteland, either. There are some great public parks like Hongmei, Dongpo, and Jingchuan, but they are more recent creations. Many private gardens in Suzhou are also historical sites that have been around for at least two generations or more. I found such a place in downtown Changzhou, recently that dates from the Qing Dynasty. In fact, I have often passed by it since 2014 without even really knowing it was there.

Yueyuan Garden (约园) is practically right on Jinling Road, and the north-bound 302 bus passes it before crossing over Yanling Road. It’s also easy to walk to from Nandajie. If you walk south on Jinling, pass Tartine Bakery, it’s actually one of the immediate turn offs.

The garden itself is encircled by a circular road and some parking spaces and buildings belonging to Changzhou #2 People’s Hospital. The Garden has two pavilions. One sits atop gray and weathered rocks. The other is on an island in the middle of the pond. A concrete walkway with railings provides access. Besides sit – and possibly eat a takeout lunch – in peace and quiet there is not much else to do here. It is a realatively calm space where you hear the burbling of water more than Changzhou traffic.Yueyuan Garden in Tianning District, Changzhou