Tag Archives: Historical sites

Dacheng #3 Factory, Then and Now

Back in 2017, I visited a canal-side historical marker. It was for an old factory.  I knew of it’s existence, but I had trouble actually finding it. So, getting there, at the time, involved randomly riding my ebike down narrow alleys in Tianning, but across the grand canal, in a very diagonal and distant sort of way, from Dongpo Park

IMG_20170528_201153

It claimed that the area was being preserved, but in actual fact, the whole area was in the process of getting gutted and demolished.

IMG_20160717_195906[1]

IMG_20160717_200931[1]

IMG_20160717_202619[1]

The actual English language historical marker was next to a rather derelict looking door.

IMG_20170528_201218

These photos not only come from 2017, but also the year before. Recently, I returned to the area out of curiosity. Vast changes are underway. The above door now looks like this.

IMG_20181003_202943

The walkway in front of this door, about a year ago, looked like this.

IMG_20170528_200652

People were basically cultivating the land into tiny vegetable plots. Now, the area looks like this.

IMG_20181003_202655

So, what is going on here? Whatever is being built here is not actually not finished, yet. However, it seems to be a development project with the English moniker Legends of Canal. My guess says real estate, and not a historical district. I say this, because I walked through the gate and wandered around. I was not the only person wandering, either.

IMG_20181003_203011

IMG_20181003_211104

At first, with all of the old industrial machines encased in glass, as well as the public sculptures, my mind went immediately to Canal 5, which has a similar sort of vibe. However, as I was walking around, somebody stopped me and asked me why I was there. It wasn’t the security guys by the gate, either. It seemed to be a salesman asking if I was wanted to possibly invest into real estate. So, my guess is that this area is now the grounds of a business office for a future development project. I could still be totally wrong, of course; the guy’s English was terrible, and my Chinese only exists in survival mode. Given that there are still huge barricades around the rest of the area, there really will not be much else to see here for at least a year or two.

 

Between Nothing and Something

IMG_20170528_202117

Searching for history in Changzhou can lead to amazing finds like a tiny museum dedicated dragons and another dedicated to cigarettes, and sometimes it’s downright quixotic. Searching for the Dacheng #3 Factory historical site was one of those quixotic searches. I first noticed this place from across the canal. I saw a historical marker and some traditional-looking roof lines, and curiosity ensnared me. I actually spent a month or two looking how to get to this place. Finding it actually meant riding my bike down random narrow alleys.

IMG_20170528_201015

This is basically a poor neighborhood, so the sight of a tall white dude on an ebike garnered weird looks. “Why is he here?” I have grown immune to it. In fact, I just smile, wave, and say 你好!That usually generates enough good will that people smile back. That especially helps when I had to get off my bike and do some searching on foot. A genuine smile, I have learned, can go miles while you do not have adequate Chinese skills. I still have no doubt some of the locals are still thinking, “What the hell is this weirdo doing in this obscure part of Changzhou?”

IMG_20170528_200652

If you have roamed around Changzhou long enough, you will find that people will actively seek out every bit of space possible to garden and grow vegetables. It doesn’t matter how tiny the plot. Eventually, I found the historical site that had alluded me for a month or two.

IMG_20170528_201218

Yeah, it was a little bit overgrown. The historical marker was still intact.

IMG_20170528_201153

So, I mentioned the word “quixotic” earlier. So, what is was useless and silly about this search? What was the windmill I was tilting at? Remember the sign says “protected” for “historical and cultural value at the provincial level.” Yeah, right. This is what the place looks like behind the wall.

IMG_20170528_201236

Believe me, stuff like this is so normal in Changzhou. It’s the one of the many signs of a city rapidly changing. Like or not, Changzhou is undergoing a rapid transformation and metamorphosis. Right now, that means a lot of rubble, everywhere. But sometimes, idle wanderings lead to things you don’t expect.

IMG_20170528_201053

IMG_20170528_211434

IMG_20170528_211457

Apparently, in the back alleys next to a canal, I found a grave site. The two huge stone boxes are caskets. Lots of people were buried in them. The signage did not say if they were local, or if these things were simply moved here because there was open space and it was convenient. Honestly, in China, you can never tell, especially if you are a foreigner trying to figure out a local culture that is not in your native language. From the signage, I eventually that two important people were among the interred.  They were 白埈 Bái jùn and 样淑 Yàng shū. I was told these two guys were important in Changzhou. Funny, thing, Baidu searches go nowhere. I can’t find anything on who they are. So, these stone caskets will linger in my mind until I can understand the story behind them. In short, the search to understand China continues. I always will.

 

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?