Tag Archives: 邹区

Zouqu’s City of Lights

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Certain parts of Changzhou cater to different industries. Trina and solar power, for instance, plays a big role in parts of Xinbei. Over in Qishuyan, which became part of Wujin last year, the train industry is central to local economics. Zouqu, oddly enough, is big on all types of lights. Want to buy a chandelier? You can find a deal in Zouqu. The same can be said for most types of fixtures for home and commercial business like bars and restaurants. You can even purchase street lamps there. Yes, street lamps.

I didn’t know how big a deal this was until recently. I had been to this part of Changzhou before while looking for a Buddhist temple. I saw street lamps crowding the side of the road, but I didn’t stop. Eventually, I heard about “light market” in that part of town, I wondered if I had passed it or not. Turns out, I did. And the place is massive. Think of something that spans several city blocks, and you can drive a car through it — even park. But the market itself is not the end of it. A huge shopping mall stands across the street, and specialty carries on into there and several other large retail locations in the area.

Zouqu itself is located in the western part of the city. It’s in Wujin, but it’s in the western arm of that district. For instance, the huge light market like five to eight kilometers from Qingfeng Park in Zhonglou.

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To Smile at Zouqu’s Laughing Buddha

IMG_20160504_185957For many Americans, Buddhism is a frequently misunderstood religion, and like Christianity, there are many variants.  Most Americans know maybe a fleeting little about Zen — thanks to America’s occupation of Japan after World War Two. Occupying a country and not having them hate you afterwards involves a lot of cultural exchange. Yet, this understanding of Buddhism revolves not really around worshiping the supernatural but as a way means of finding inner peace through meditation. This idea is sometimes reflected in popular books like Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — even though the author has openly admitted he really wasn’t writing about Zen in the real sense.

Of course, visiting an actual Buddhist temple in an Asian country shatters these preconceptions — especially when looking at artistic renditions of Buddha. There isn’t just one; there are many, and they are / were different entities or people. The laughing one isn’t the same as the standing one with a hand to heaven and a hand to Earth. They jolly and portly guy is 布袋 Budai, because he usually can be seen carrying a cloth bag. However, I never hear Chinese people call him that. They usually refer to him as 弥勒佛 Milefo. That’s sometimes considered a different Buddha completely. That’s the “The Buddha to come.” However, some religious practitioners believed that Budai fulfilled that role. I learned this recently after visiting 会灵山寺 Huilingshan Temple  in Zouqu, a part of Wujin’s Western Arm that’s near Qingfeng Park.

IMG_20160504_191235The temple itself seemed deserted. Two cars were parked there, but the main facilities and were all padlocked. However, the most interesting thing there didn’t consist of altars or places to light candles or burn joss paper. A huge sitting Buddha greets you once you walk through a gate. He’s smiling, big, and fat. He’s sitting in what looks like a large man-made cave. Vertical lines of Chinese text flank him. One talks about his smile, and the other talks about his big belly.  Essentially, the text expresses the values of happiness and generosity of spirit.

The exterior features other things, like elephants and a few other figures. But the concepts of generosity and happiness carry into the man-made cave. There are two tunnels that lead to the smaller, more modest (at the time locked) temple facilities. In several nooks, fatty, happy Milefo statues await.

I also saw a small opening where lots of religious objects were clustered together on the ground. Part of me pondered if this had a story, or if this functioned as a storage area. And, then, I started try and figure out why everything was locked. Was this place still under construction? Was it closed to visitors, and I was trespassing? Were angry Chinese people about to yell at me and demand that I leave? And then I laughed. Out loud.  Shaking my head, I told my obsessive, neurotic brain to just shut up. To just feel and enjoy the wonderful sense of discovery this place gave me. In the end, I left with the same broad smile as the Buddha behind me.
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Zouqu’s Starbucks

As is often pointed out, Starbucks in China is often taken as an economic indicator. As coffee goes, it’s not cheap when compared to Chinese cafes, and Chinese friends sometimes tell me that some people go there more as a fashion statement than for the cakes or the drinks. Going to Starbucks 星巴克 is a way to show off that you have money.

When it comes to Changzhou, I used to think Starbucks were mostly just centralized in denser parts of the city. Hutang in Wujin, the city center, and the greater Wanda area in Xinbei, for example.  Well, that’s starting to change. Xinbei just got two more, and they are not near Wanda.

More interestingly, I found one in Zouqu 邹区 . This is a small township in far western part of Zhonglou District. Technically, it’s not in Zhonglou at all, according to Baidu Maps — rather, in one of the oddly contorted norther arms of Wujin. Still, I choose to lump it in to Zhonglou, partly because Qingfeng Park is like five or more kilometers away.

Zouqu doesn’t strike me as “cosmopolitan Changzhou.” It seems far more industrial and developing economically. Its in Taifu Plaza 泰富时代广场, and that seems pretty new. When I stopped in for a cafe Americano and a bacon and egg sandwich, the place seemed empty. But, it was also late morning on a Thursday when most people would be working. To find a Starbucks here is a real indication of the company’s rapid expansion in China in general and Changzhou in particular.

And yes, they have a western sit-down toilet.