Tag Archives: 东门大街

Grinding Needles in Jintan

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Wisdom proverbs are a big part of a Chinese culture. So are poets and their writings. Sometimes, the two converge and overlap. For example, there is this idiom: 磨杵成针, or Mó chǔ chéng zhēn in Pinyin. If you translate it almost literally its “Grind pestle into needle.” More commonly, it means “To grind an iron bar into a needle.” This saying is often used to say persevering at a hard task is worthwhile.

This proverb is often attributed to Li Bai, who is often considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history. The story goes like this. Li Bai, at a young age, came upon on an old woman who literally was trying to grind a thick iron bar into a thin needle. The poet-to-be took the iron bar and tried to do it for the old lady, but he eventually gave up quickly. Li told the woman she was being foolish — that it would take forever to do such a thing.  The old woman chided the young Li and reminded him that hard work can lead to good results. The young boy took that to heart and grew up to be one of China’s greatest poets. Eventually, “grinding an iron bar” also became a metaphor for succeeding at something hard.

As for the statue pictured above, it can be found in Jintan — Changzhou’s most westward district. It’s one of three idiom statues that can be found at Jintan’s Hua Luogeng Park 华罗庚公园. The district’s central shopping area, Dongmendajie 东门大街is nearby. The bus terminal, and the express bus back to downtown Changzhou, is also in walking distance.

Shopping Locally in Jintan

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When shopping in Jintan, a trip to Dongmendajie is essential. After all, there’s a supermarket beneath the city square, and three floors of shops can be found in two separate commercial centers. Lots of the stores here tend to be higher end chains that you can find across China. As has been said elsewhere, this area is practically the district’s version of Nandajie in Changzhou’s city center.

This isn’t the only shopping to be had. Down the street — and closer to the intercity coach station — stands Wenhua Dasha 文化大厦. This loosely translates into “Culture Mansion” or “Culture Big Building.” And yes, it’s massive. It is one seemingly unending corridor of shops. It’s almost as if you can buy anything here from clothing to gas burners for stoves. The chief difference, however, between this place and Dongmendajie is how “local” it is.

When you shop at a chain store or franchise, money eventually leaves the area. If you shop at a place locally owned, you are giving your money directly to your neighbors. The cash tends to stay in the neighborhood. Things are also much cheaper at local markets, but there are other things to beware of. You have to look at everything a little more carefully when shopping in a place like Wenhua Dasha. The quality of goods may be lesser. For example, you could by a backpack and then have it fall apart after a week. That’s happened to me, but not specifically at this market in Jintan. IMG_20160515_115201

Jintan’s Shopping Hub

IMG_20160506_113605There are many places to go shopping in Changzhou. The city has two Injoy Malls and two Wanda Plazas. Downtown, Nandajie awaits with many shops, cafes, and restaurants. Plus there are many other markets and retail locations along Yanling, Jinling, and other roads. If you keep your back turned long enough, new malls seem to spring up out of nowhere. This doesn’t seem as true for Jintan, however.

Shoppers crowd Dongmendajie 东门大街. If you had to compare this to Changzhou proper, this would be the district’s downtown and center. The best analogy would to say this is “Jintan’s Nandajie.” Typically on a Sunday afternoon, this place is busy. There is a huge open square with a supermarket beneath it. Also, this is flanked by two shopping centers with three floors apiece. This is basically if you are looking to do a more fashionable sort of shopping. Jintan also has a huge market, but those tend to be for cheaper items.  If you are looking for western food, here, you are mostly out of luck. The area has a large KFC and that’s it.

My Journey to the West

Marmoset!    Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Jintan is not India, and I am not the Monkey King. Although, some people will think of my rampant ADHD and know I possess the attention span of a monkey. On a hot spring day, I might sweat enough to smell like a monkey, baboon, or a gorilla — but definitely not marmosets. They are too small, and they have white skull mullets. I would look absurd with a skull mullet.

But, I digress. I went to Jintan to look for Zapfler’s, a German restaurant which brews its own beer. I had went looking for it once before, but this time I thought I had a solid lead. I had found its website.  However, my blundering around and Chinese map reading errors were epic. (Hence the “Journey to the West” reference. Jintan is Changzhou’s most western district.)

First, I was stupid enough to wear a hoody, and I realized it was a hot spring day. Sweat ran down my face. Eventually, I pulled the hoody off and tied it around my waist, much the same way grunge rockers did in the 1990’s. But they did that with flannel shirts. I cooled down a little, but I continued to sweat. Especially since I ended up walking around for essentially three hours nonstop.

My next error involved not eating breakfast or buying any water. I thought I was going to have a nice, big German lunch with a lager. So, I was incredibly thirsty and sweating, which led to dehydration.

In terms of navigating Jintan, I mistook 金沙园 Jinsha Park for Dongmendajie  东门大街 — which is the shopping center of the district. Think of it as Jintan’s Nandajie. I walked around every floor of every shopping area. Entering the Chinese for “German Restaurant” into Baidu Maps didn’t help. Eventually, I gave up and texted my friend from this area. Given how stubborn I can be in refusing help, that says a lot.

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A one-armed kung fu master.

He told me I should have been entering the Chinese characters for  “German Beer.” I did the whole facepalm thing, wondering why I didn’t think of that.  Within a minute, he sent me a screen shot from his phone’s map. Now, would this be the end of my blundering? No.

Jintan has a lot of parks clustered together. Instead of simply buying water, I thought, “No, you will find this restaurant in five minutes, and you drink water with lunch.” So, I tried cutting through the parks — only to get distracted by a series of states with missing arms.  Eventually, I walked around Jinsha park for an hour, and I didn’t find Zapfler’s. I was about to give up and return to the coach station, defeated. And, of course, that’s when I finally found it.

Did I get to have yummy German food, lots of cold water, and beer? No, they were closed. The Chinese waitstaff were sitting outside. So, imagine their facial expressions when a six foot two sweaty American — with a hoody tied around his waist — showed up. I hadn’t shaven in two days. Even though I didn’t look like a marmoset with a skullet, I probably smelled like one — contrary to my earlier position on the matter. They were very, very generous to me. I am extremely grateful for that. They let me drink a couple of glasses of water, and they even called a taxi for me. I was in no mood to walk back to the bus station. Most importantly, I left with a business card.

So, learn from my mistakes. If you are looking for Zapfler’s for the first time, either go somebody who knows or just take a cab there.

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Zapfler’s aka the end of my silly quest.