Tag Archives: 武进区

Fushou Temple

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Qingming Mountain, over in the northeastern arm of Wujin, seems to be a spiritual destination in Changzhou. Dalin and Bailong temples are located there, and both are equally large as Buddhist and Taoist religious destinations. Both cost about 10 RMB to get in. But Qingming seems home to other places. A cemetery covers a lot of the hill. There is also a perpetually closed martyr’s graveyard, and then there is also Fushou Temple.

Every time I have visited Dalin or Bailong, the doors were usually closed and locked. Recently, I returned to Qingming Mountain to visit Dalin — as part of ongoing research into who and what louhans are in Buddhism. This time, Fushou’s doors were open, and there was a red and yellow banner over the entrance. Cars were parked there. I parked my bike and I walked in.

Unlike Dalin and Bailong, nobody was at the door to collect an entrance fee. I have seen this in temples around Changzhou when they are attempting to focus more as a place of worship and less as a tourist destination. As I walked around the temple grounds, one other thing just reinforced this. I passed by the main hall and heard chanting and a drum. I stopped to peer in. However, whenever I hear religious activity in progress, I tend to leave it alone. So, I didn’t enter that hall. Half an hour later, as I was leaving, I noticed the door to that big altar hall had been closed.

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One of the most intriguing things, however, was not that shut entrance. Fushou Temple is the home to three large golden statues. There is also a room of what looked to be white-jade sculptures — one of which is a reclining Buddha. In this building, I climbed a set of stairs to the second level and found an empty space. Still, I was able to get a good shot of the three gold statues from behind.

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The empty space reminded me of something else about Fushou. A lot of it seems to be renovation in progress. This isn’t like what you see at neighboring Dalin Temple, where new additions like an underground parking lot is being added. This looked like Fushou’s main facilities are getting an upgrade. After all, there was a cement mixer laying out in the open, as well as large stacks of concrete tiles. This puts the temple, like so many other places around Changzhou, on my “to watch list.” With a lot of facilities under renovation, this place could look completely different in one year. My guess, though, is that the three statues will remain.

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A Statue of Street Cleaners

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There is one municipal employee in Changzhou that is perhaps the easiest to find — street cleaners. If you think about it, it is probably one of the most thankless jobs in the city. Even in humidity and high heat, these people are out picking up cigarette butts and other errant bits of trash on roads and sidewalks.

There is a statue dedicated to these workers. It’s located at a cheng guan — municipal code enforcers — headquarters in Wujin. There is another statue of the cheng guan nearby. Like that one, the street cleaners are depicted in a strange sort of buttery yellow. The chinese on the statue reads as 奉献, which loosely translates as devotion.

Allegedly Metro

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Oh, and you can do all your shopping at Metro! They have a lot of western items!

— An enthusiastic, but misinformed Xinbei expat to a Wujin newbie.

As I have pointed out before, nothing can be more infuriating than living in Wujin and being told that Xinbei is the center of Changzhou. Most of the time, this advice is well meaning, but it doesn’t keep it from being factually wrong. This is so much the case with Metro. When you live in Wujin — especially College Town — Metro is just a far off wonderland that just isn’t practical. Why? Given rain and traffic, it can take up to an hour to get there on the B1 — one way.

Then, there are the rumors that Wujin will eventually get its own Metro. These whispers have been going on for years now, and when I lived down in the College Town, I depressingly chalked up to wishful thinking more than anything else. However, there has been real progress, as of late, towards Wujin expats finally getting something they really want. Now, there is a real location for the new Metro.

The B1 BRT bus route passes it. Its in a new and unfinished shopping development called CoCo City. This is about one stop after / before Wujin’s Injoy mall, depending on whether you are going north or south. The last time I rode by on my eBike, the location was empty and undeveloped. All you could see was the blue and yellow METRO store marquee. I snapped a picture of it and sent it to a friend with lots of Changzhou experience. Even she didn’t know about it.

Later, a separate friend of mine passed it more recently. She currently lives in College Town and was headed north on other business. She, too, was tired of having to take the bus for an hour just to get something simple like bagged salad mix. She told me that she asked around and couldn’t find an answer to when it a grand opening was planned. She even tasked a Chinese friend to call Xinbei’s Metro for further information. Even they didn’t know anything.

So, as of this writing, Wujin is still getting a Metro. You can actually visit and see where it will be, but there seems to be no hard evidence as to when a grand opening will actually come to pass. For a Wujin expat, this is both tantalizing and extremely frustrating. It’s like dangling something nice in front of somebody, but still keeping agonizingly out of easy reach.

Who are the Cheng Guan?

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A Statue outside of a Cheng Guan 城管 office in Wujin.

An old lady flees while holding a basket of peaches. A look of profound concern and consternation twists her mouth into a scowl. As she runs, some of her peaches fall, hit the sidewalk, and roll behind her. She doesn’t care. She can’t sell those peaches now; eluding those chasing her is far more important. Who are they?

They are called cheng guan 城管. Foriegners in Changzhou — and China in general — often mistake these guys for the police. They are not. Policemen wear black uniforms, and the cheng guan wear green. These guys are municipal code enforcers, and typically that involves inspecting business to make sure they have all the right permits. For example, if they think your exterior awning is too big, they will come in and try to levy a fee. Honestly, some Chinese people think they are corrupt and are fishing for bribes half the time.

That’s half the story with these governmental officials. They are notorious for going after unlicensed street vendors. The scene is usually the same: six officers on two eBikes would roll up. (Yes, three cheng guan per bike). And dozens of vendors frantically gather their wares and flee. In Changzhou, sometimes they are there to just scare the illegal street merchants. Other times, they actually enforce the city’s codes. Once, outside my former vocational college, I saw about eight of these officers surrounding one person. One officer held a video camera, and the merchant tearfully confessed to selling illegal noodles. Another officer impounded his food cart and pedaled it away.

I thought about this, because, well, I happened into a statue dedicated to the cheng guan and all they do (or illicitly don’t or illicitly do). It’s in Wujin on Yanzheng Road. It’s just across the street from a relatively new Starbucks. This is just two east-to-west roads north of Changzhou University’s north gate.  The most odd thing here, is the color. It’s completely yellow — but not the golden hue you’d find in Buddhist temples. This monument has an odd buttery color. That was also when that coat of paint has seen better days. Now, you can see the pale stone beneath in some spots. The real irony here is the Chinese; it says, “harmony.”  That is a feeling not shared by many who deal with the cheng guan. 

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The Value of Picking a Good Ebike Shop

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Where I bought my current bike in Wujin. Their mechanics know some English — enough to communicate issues and concerns.

There are definite benefits of buying a used eBike from a departing expat, but there is also reasons to buy something brand new. Those reasons can be saved for another time. If you are new to Changzhou, and you are considering an electric scooter, figuring out where to buy it is important.

You shouldn’t buy such vehicles from a supermarket like Auchan or RT Mart. A colleague at an old school did that, and he ended up paying way too much for something mediocre. However, there is an even more important reason. Every time he had a tire or mechanical issue, he complained to me about not knowing where to take it service. I refrained from telling him “I told you so” several times.

Buying from a specialized shop leads to building a relationship with their mechanics. They get to know your bike specifically and the issues they have worked on in the past.  And if the issues are minor, they will sometimes not even charge you for service. For example, I bought my current ride in Wujin’s College Town. On several occasions, I have returned their with an issue, and the repair has been free of charge. Not once have the charged me for labour and time spent. Ever since I moved to Xinbei, going to other shops for minor upkeep has lead to some sort of bill, even when small.

Cian Still in Progress

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Most westerners tend to think the elderly are well taken care of in China. This is because the structure of family in the Middle Kingdom is much different than in west. Quite often, you see grandparents taking care of their grandchildren and often live with their children. This is not always the case. For example, what if you do not have children? Who takes care of you then?

China has old folks homes just like America and Europe do. Sometimes, they tend to be in Buddhist temples, however. It’s a growing trend, as China Daily points out — especially since the population of the elderly is growing due to now cancelled one child policy. This could also be why more temples are being built. This could also be why a great many current temples are having new additions being constructed. Most temples I have been to in Changzhou has some building activity going on.

One such ongoing project is Cian Temple on Wunan Road. This would be very close to the College Town area of Wujin. Wunan runs a parallel to Mingxin Road, where the southern gates of three colleges are located.  It’s essentially one street down. I first learned of the construction two years ago. I had just bought my first eBike and I had gone on my first bit of cruising and exploring. Since then, out of curiosity, I have returned there from time to time to see how the construction has progressed.

Screenshot_2016-06-11-21-05-55-04[1]Two friends recently went there, and one of them shared her experiences. As a result, I was intrigued as to whether the temple was finally open. So, I went there myself. The answer is “sort of.” It is semi-open. There is a hall with a giant gold Buddha. There are a few other places to pray. The place where people often burn joss paper to remember their dearly departed has definitely looked used. However, there are still buildings that are unused and empty. One of the main display halls still has active building with construction workers. My two friends didn’t see this, because they were given a tour by a monk. I just walked around, alone and unguided.

Doing that, however, came at the expense of a lot of information. My two friends got to see the old folks home and I didn’t. The rooms and facilities are all new. Even more, there is a vegetarian restaurant there too. However, it’s more like a cafeteria and the dining times are fixed for only half hour servings. Guests of the temple are welcome to eat there for a 5 RMB minimum donation. Essentially, you are eating with the old people who live there, as one of my two friends pointed out. The tables are segregated into male and female only, and there is no talking. One of my friends noted that the food seemed like light and easy vegetarian fare. Things like tofu and vegetables. Easy to eat again, but it comes at the expense of thinking you might be taking food from somebody else. It’s easy to see how somebody might be skeptical about going. It’s not a culinary destination.

As a religious attraction, it would be interesting to visit. The buildings are ornate with red and gold colors. The are a number of five headed dragons and other mythical creatures to be seen. You can also see a small statue of Wei Tuo 韦陀 and his middle finger. But the truth is this, as a cultural site it is not finished the way Baolin, also in Wujin’s Hutang area, almost is. All this means for me, personally, I will be going back in six months time to see how it has changed. It seems to be an ongoing story for me and  Cian Temple for years now.

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Weird Name, Good Salad

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The name “Italian Duck Salad” strikes me as a little odd. Being half Italian-American, it is something I have never, ever heard about growing up. It’s never been mentioned in conversation with Italians, either. Duck is a meat I have seen more of in China than in the USA or Europe in general. When I saw this on a menu in Hutang section of Wujin, I was a bit perplexed. So, I ordered it.

This was at Eco, a new salad specialty place in the Grand Metropolis Mall. This is the part of the Golden Eagle center that didn’t shut down once Golden Eagle exited Wujin. For another point of reference, RT Mart shares the same premises. Eco is on the upper most floor and in the Spade Street thematic area. But enough of that. Was the salad any good?

Apart from the weird name, yes. The only thing remotely Italian here may have been the rotini pasta noodles and the dressing. The rest was a mix of greens, tomatoes, and corn. Oh, and there was the duck meat. It was served tender and cold, which suited the salad nicely. The more important question would be: would I order it again? Yes, I would.

Places like this are important for Hutang. There are not a lot of options in the area beyond Jagerwirt, Kaffa, and others. This is often something that people in Xinbei take for granted. I know this because of having lived in Wujin for two years. So, whenever a new place like this opens, it feels like a major event. Try the place out. The ingredients are fresh and low in sodium. The menu has pictures and is in English. The manager also has excellent English skills.

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Weidun Museum Always Closed

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When it comes to China, there is always a lack of information in English. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this blog — that at least somebody is explaining something in English. But, there are challenges that come with that. Take prehistoric Changzhou, for example. People have been living in this part of Jiangsu since the stone age. This is over 6000 years ago. However, if you google “Weidun” or “Weidun People” or “Weidun China,” the results are less than meager.

I’ve been trying this because there is the Weidun Relics Park over in the former district of Qishuyan. The park has a museum dedicated to the Weidun civilization, but the problem is this. It’s closed. It’s been closed every time I went there. This is even back in 2014 — the time before having an eBike and I randomly found it by jumping onto a bus and taking it to its terminal point. I had no clue where was going at the time. As for this musuem, It doesn’t matter the time of day or the day of the week. It’s always closed. And that’s a shame. The internet can’t tell me much about the Weidun people, and the only thing that can seems to be a few displays in the Changzhou Museum.

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Something is Happening with Li Gongpu’s Home

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

In 1946 and in Kunming, Li Gongpu 李公仆 had just finished watching a movie with his wife. As he left the theaters, secret agents of the nationalist Goumindang government shot him dead. Li was not a member of the Chinese Communist Party. He was a member of the China Democractic League, which can be seen as a “third way” between the Goumindang and the communists. However, the CDL and the CPC were sometimes allies in agitating against the nationalist government. It’s important to note this. While Li wasn’t a party member, he is still remembered as a hero and a martyr by some Chinese people — both for his politics and for his acumen as a scholar and academic.

I say this because he once lived in Changzhou, and his home is a preserved historical site in Wujin. However, the state of his home, last time I visited was sort of sad. It sits on a road bearing his name, which intersects with Changwu / Heping Road in Hutang right before a big bridge to Tianning. There is also a school baring his name and a picture of his face. The first time I went there, I didn’t even think his former home it was open to the public. The gate was slightly ajar, but the front door was wide open.  I mustered up some courage and slipped in. Inside, I saw a bust of him, but all the Chinese informational displays were weathered and cracked. The place looked abandoned.The informational area was so tiny that it didn’t take long for me to snoop around. I tried to walk further in, but I saw a Chinese woman sitting behind a computer. I got scared. I said a quick ni hao 你好 and left. When I returned a week later, a metal chain bound the gate shut..

That was more than six months ago, and from time to time, I always drove by the area just out of curiosity. The metal chain stayed for a long time, but recently it vanished. I have come to a definite conclusion. The Changzhou municipal government, the Wujin District government, or somebody is clearly doing something here.  Every time I returned, something has been different. For example, new retail buildings and spaces — I think — has been added next door. Also, a new wing is being added to Li Gong Pu’s original home to double the size of the historical location. Obviously, there are plans and ongoing investment. If Li Gongpu is getting a bigger, higher tech memorial hall with informational displays that are not fading and cracked, that’s a very good thing.

An new wing to Li Gongpu's former residence?
An new wing to Li Gongpu’s former residence?

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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