Category Archives: Weird

The Weirdest Place in Changzhou

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Wujin is not the same as when I first came to Changzhou in 2014. Yes, there are places that have been slowly filling in over the years, but out of all of Changzhou, the Hutang part of Wujin seems the most ghostly, at times. By that, I don’t mean that spirits of the dead and departed are drifting around. I mean it sometimes seems that this is the part of the city that has the most abandoned or yet-to-be-filled places at times. There are parts of the district that absolutely feel like it belongs in a ghost town.

One of these places is the TV Tower in Wujin. It’s next to Xintiandi Park, and both Jagerwirt and Kaffa are not that far away. This used to be a vibrant place, Hutang locals have told me. The top of the tower had a restaurant, and a subterranean shopping mall extended below that. There used to be a market for glasses here, a supermarket, and even a bunch of shops catering to the wedding industry. Even more, there was a parking level even deeper than that. All of that is largely abandoned now.

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A year and a half ago, I used to go here often. This was towards the end of my two-year stay in the College Town. There was just something about the place that seemed a little haunting. A person could walk around, and the silence was either deafening or interrupted by the squabbling of the birds nesting in the tower’s underside. But then, there were some truly eerie things down here.

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Lots of birds call this part of the tower home.

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For example, a lot of abandoned children’s rides. Many of these were stacked upon each other and gathered layers of dust. These wide-eyed faces looked a little creepy when they were in broad daylight. Stow them in some forgotten corridor in the dark, and they look even more odd and out of place. However, that’s not the most off-putting thing about here. If you go down a service corridor, you end up confronted by something that seems out of place.

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This picture of children is next to an elevator. The dim light overhead flickers and gives this an even stranger ambiance. Add to this that most of the children’s faces are quite somber. I sent the above pictures to a Chinese friend asking for a translation, and she told me it was a class photo for a private dance school. But even when you to this quiet bit weirdness into account, this end up becoming even more surreal.

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At times, I would come down here and find old, dried bits of meat hanging from the doors. These usually had even knife marks from somebody slicing off chunks. So, that means that somebody had been steadily eating these. And it wasn’t just one random piece of meat. At one point, this place had two hanging from abandoned shop doors. That’s not all of it. One night, I came down here, and I saw an old man and a young woman singing karaoke in an empty room that had disco lights. Nobody else was with them.

I am a man that does believe in ghosts, but I don’t fully believe in the supernatural. I am a secular agnostic, after all. All that means is that I am not convinced religiously of anything, and I am open minded enough for a spirited discussion. To me, ghosts are metaphors for the things that have gone wrong in one’s life: loved ones who have died, long term relationships that have gone really bad, meaningful friendships that have fallen apart, and so on. Ghosts live in your memory more than anywhere else. So, there are perfectly rational explanations for all of the creepiness I have found beneath Wujin’s TV Tower. However, once I consider the total sum of the experience, I still have to conclude that walking through the place can feel a bit odd.

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Zombie Spongebob

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To an extent, I can say I have seen Spongebob Squarepants turn into a zombie, and I wouldn’t be lying. But first, let me back up and explain something. I have lived in Changzhou now since 2014. For my first two years here, I taught English at a vocational college. At this college, they had stone traffic blockers painted like famous cartoon characters. Angry Birds? Yes. Baymax? Totally. Doraemon? Many of him. Pikachu? Yup! And then, of course, Spongebob.

Years later, and the weather has not been kind to Spongebob. I have since moved on from that vocational college and have moved out of Wujin completely and am now in Xinbei. However, each time, I have returned to that college, Spongebob has beginning worse and worse. Does he still look a bit too chipper? Yes. Does he also look he walked off the set of The Walking Dead and like he wants you eat your brains? Also, yes.

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The Voice from the Grave

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I was standing by myself in large Chinese graveyard when I heard a voice. This was at Qingming Mountain, in eastern Changzhou. At the time, I had my Canon camera with me, and I was taking photos for a magazine article I was writing. So, I glanced around. For a moment, I thought maybe a Chinese person might be angry with me. Customs and cultural sensibilities regarding the dead are different in China than they are in the west. For example, people do not go on cemetery walks, here, but in America, it’s quite common.

Yet, once I carefully looked around, I saw nobody.  I stood on a downward sloping path between white stone burial markers complete with names and pictures of those interred. Yet, there was still a gruff sounding male voice. Instead of leaving immediately, I walked towards the the source — it wasn’t that far away.

Was it a ghost? Not likely. The more I carefully listened, the more I understood what was happening. My Chinese was very bad, and I didn’t understand a word. However, I could tell that is was a recorded message set on a loop. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that message was likely linked to a motion detector, and my presence he tripped it. In a way, such things are not that unusual now, at least in America. There are audio and video enhanced tombstones available. Now, I know China might have something similar. I also realized that I had taken enough photos, and that it was time to leave the dead to rest in peace.

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Return to Headless Buddha Alley

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If you were a Christian, imagine walking into an alley and finding a lot of headless statues of Jesus Christ. Now, nearby, imagine the Virgin Mary without arms. Also imagine also headless angels that are missing one of their two wings. Think of it as a small space filled with crippled iconography.  It would be a little off putting and creepy, right? Surreal? Like walking through a three-dimensional recreation of a Slayer CD cover? I am not even remotely Christian, and I would find myself peering over my shoulder from time to time. But then again, I have too much of an overactive imagination, and I have watched too many horror movies.

Still, something similar happened to be me in Changzhou, once. I was zipping down the road on my ebike in northeastern Wujin — the part closer to Jiangyin, Wuxi. I passed an alley that was filled with headless Buddhas and unfinished statues of louhans and some figures from Taoism. There was even a sitting, laughing Buddha covered with splintered wooden planks. I snapped a few pictures and moved on. I looked at all the businesses in the area, and I took photos of those, too. Turns out, the nearest was a water plant. I never found out who was responsible for the headless Buddhas.

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Upon a recent return visit, I was able to figure out a little more. First, some of the statues were gone, and some new ones had taken their place. And, some of them had remained the same. Like before, some of them unfinished. The poor laughing Buddha was still covered with scrap wood. This meant the place was active. These half finished sculptures were not abandoned derelicts. Somebody was responsible for them.

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I did, however, take a picture of one business I missed upon my earlier visit. Turns out, it was as I originally suspected. These disembodied religious figures actually do belong to a nearby workshop. You would think this would be a major industry given how many temples there are around the region — and that both Dalin and Bailong Temples are nearby. But, as one of my Chinese friends told me, it’s not as lucrative as I suspected. Once you make a religious statue, there is not much else to do. Temples only have a finite amount of space. Plus, regular maintenance may only be paint jobs once the color begins to fade in a few years.

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These Were Not Autons

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1744737
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1744737

If you were to say, “Store window mannequins were running amok and shooting people in the street,” people might think you were a bit loony. For the most part, they would be right. But, it did happen a few times — on a TV show.  The Autons have been a part of Doctor Who going back 1970 when Jon Pertwee (the third doctor) faced off against them in the serial “Spearhead from Space.” Essentially, a disembodied consciousness is able to control plastic. As a result, shop window mannequins come to life and chaos ensues. These nasty Autons have returned to the show from time to time, but the good doctor always saved the day in the end.

I was daydreaming about this once, while wandering around a huge market in downtown Changzhou. Culture City 文化城 stands between the downtown train station and Hongmei Park. It consists of intersecting streets and large warehouses. One section is nothing but books, but other parts offer the type of display refrigerators you can find in bars and convenience shops.

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Most importantly, Culture City has a massive amount of furniture than can be found for a bargain. This is what had brought me here. A friend had recently moved, I went there to see if I could price a desk chair for them. Most of the furniture is indoors, and on the second floor of a warehouse. It almost seems endless. There are stacks of desks, chairs, book cases, empty retail modular shelving, and more. Oh, and yes, mannequins. There are lots and lots of faceless mannequins.

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Once I left the main corridors, I found myself roaming through narrow paths of between wood and particle board. Sometimes, it seems every time I rounded a tight corner, I came face to face with those smooth, naked, and genderless pieces of plastic. Sometimes there were crowds of them huddled together, other times, one would just be sitting cross-legged on shelving.  One “child” was armless while still wearing a bicycle helmet and a necklace. In a stranger juxtaposition, a bunch were lurking not that far from an antique Taoist shrine.

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Given that I have an extremely overactive imagination, I started laughing and trying to think of all the short story plot lines I could come up that included haunted mannequins. That’s when I remembered the Autons and Doctor Who. It just goes to show: no matter how silly the premise in science fiction and horror, somebody else has likely thought of it first.

So, with that in mind, I pushed the Autons and the good doctor from Gallifrey out of my mind. I resumed looking for a chair for my friend. Even with my extremely limited Chinese, I was able to get one seller to offer something wooden for as low as 50 RMB. Of course, that day I was just there to look and not buy.

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Chinglish Park

For some, hunting for Chinese translated very badly into English is a sport. Once you find something absurd enough, you snap a picture and post it on social media so that you and your friends can giggle about it. For others, Chinglish is just another weird aspect of day to day life in China and Changzhou specifically. For them, Chinglish just melts into the background. However, if you are the laughing type, the worst abuses of the English language can be found in Xinbei’s Central Park. You can easily kill an hour wandering around and finding WTF moments. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but sometimes I couldn’t resist and added a caption. I saved the best for last.

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I thought paradise was lost? John Milton said so! Wrote a book about it!
I thought paradise was lost? John Milton said so! Wrote a book about it!
Someone felt the need to use correction tape on this one.
Someone felt the need to use correction tape on this one.

 

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Just in case you can't read this. The last line is "You will have the multidimensionai plensure when visiting the park!" Indeed!
Just in case you can’t read this. The last line is “You will have the multidimensionai plensure when visiting the park!” Indeed! Remember, this is an introductory sign. And this is just one example of the weird nonsense this sign contains. For example, a lot of the “e”s are replaced with the letter “c.”

 

Inseminating? Coagulating! Ewwww! Get a room!
Inseminating? Coagulating? Ewwww! Get a room!

Urinating Mystery Man

From time to time, you will find the strangest things on public display in Changzhou. The Jiu Zhou New World shopping mall has one such oddity. Technically, it’s not in the mall, at all, but in the sunken fashion plaza beneath Lanling Road . You can, however, walk from the mall’s basement level to the fashion plaza easily. It’s a wall mural the features the Incredible Hulk standing at a urinal. His hand is on the wall, and he is straining. The wall is crumbling under the might of his grip.  And his pants are falling down, revealing the crack of his buttocks.

Spiderman is standing next to him, and he is looking down. You can easily assume what Spiderman is looking at. Lighting bolts of surprise emphasize his shock. Now, I am not going to speculate what Spiderman is thinking or contemplating. You can look at the picture and figure that out for yourself. The empty space next to Hulk is what I am curious about. There are also concern lightning bolts, but there is nobody standing at that urinal.

So, this leaves me to wonder. What Marvel characters have the power of invisibility? I didn’t know, so I Googled it. As it turns out, the ability to vanish is not a common ability i the Marvel universe. Most of the characters I found were minor and mostly apocryphal. The biggest of all the names seems to be Dr. Stephen Strange — who is currently being played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Or, as Chinese women love to call him, Horse Face. So, my guess is that it’s him, and he’s mystified.

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Mannekin Pis Has a Chinese Brother

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A naughty statue in Tianning —  near where Tesco used to be on Zhongwu Da Dao 中吴大道

 

“I once walked into a housing estate and saw fountain statues of little boys peeing.”

A friend of mine once said this to me over dinner. She said she was new to Changzhou at the time, and like me, liked to aimlessly wander as a way to learn about a new city.

“Where is this?”

“Sorry, I forgot.”

“You know,” I said, “I am now going to obsessively look for that housing estate, now.”

She flashed an evil grin. “That’s why I told you about it.”

And, I went looking. I walked onto many housing estates over the course of a week, and I almost never found the weirdness my lady friend described. Eventually, I discovered something close, but it was not the urinating fountains my friend spoke of. It was a small statue of a naked little boy. This was on a housing estate on Zhongwu Avenue 中吴大道 near the bridge to Wujin / Hutang.  As soon as I saw it, I started laughing, hard. It was not the first time I had seen this little boy.

Actually, it was a replica of an infamous fountain in Brussels, Belgium. It looks forged in bronze, and it depicts a little boy urinating into a small pool of water. The statue’s name is Mannekin Pis, and it’s a famous landmark, and souvenir shops make a fortune selling related merchandise to bewildered tourists with WTF on their minds. It’s even to the point where the statue has a dedicated blog.

The fact that there is a replica in Changzhou doesn’t surprise me. There are lots of new construction that actively tries to imitate European architecture and atmosphere. This housing estate, and the mostly empty shopping center next to it, has a decidedly Euro theme. As a reference point, there used to be a Tesco on Zhongwu. It’s that area. At Global Harbour in Xinbei, for example, there is a whole atrium with European style faux paintings. This is at the uppermost level, on the interior of a dome ceiling. As for the housing estate my friend stumbled onto, I largely suspect what she saw there were also Manekin Pis replicas.

Mannekin Pis in Brussels. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Mannekin Pis in Brussels. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Random Weirdness at Global Harbour

The Global Harbour shopping mall is a new, few-months-old addition to Xinbei and Changzhou as a whole. This place is freakishly massive, and it’s a relative gold mine for a city blogger. There is one part where I just can’t figure out what the story, rhyme or reason is. It’s closer to where the Yuexing International Furniture mall is — and that has been incorporated into the Global Harbour complex. It’s a little park area at the intersection of Tongjiang 通江路 and Huanghe 黄河路 roads.

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A Church in a Wasteland

IMG_20160601_202043[1]To put it bluntly, parts of the former Qishuyan district look like somebody dropped a bomb on it. Take a wrong turn, and all of sudden you are surrounded by rubble. There are a number of old buildings where only some shattered grey walls remain, and people around them scavenge for bricks and bits of scrap.

Of course, this just the beginning of urban redevelopment. Many parts of the former Qishuyan district look really old and decripit. My guess is that it was shuffled into Wujin for the same reason why Jintan ceased being an independent city: accelerate development at a faster pace. That’s just a guess. I could totally be wrong about Qishuyan.

It’s there, however, that I found another weird juxtaposition. Over near Metro, there’s a statue of Chairman Mao that’s surrounded by something similar. It’s like everything but Mao met the wrecking ball. In the former Qishuyan, I found a Christian Church much in the same situation. Everything around it was destroyed, and that leads me to assume that it’s being perserved and things will be build around it.

When I found this place, it was in the middle of a working day. There was no way for me to tell whether people actually attend services here. Cars were parked outside of it, but that could for the foreman and the construction workers excavating a huge hole nearby. Unlike other wastelands in Changzhou, this one actually had heavy construction equipment beginning to create the foundation of something. However, I do not know what that something is.

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