Tag Archives: Parks

Manhattan Gets a Central Park

Noticing things that were not there before is a common part of city life, and this is especially true when that city is in China. Construction and development is a nonstop business here. Sometimes, shopping centers are built, and they they lay mostly empty for while the storefronts are slow to fill in. This is the case with the Risesun Manhattan Plaza in Xinbei. Currently, it’s most known for having a statue of Marilyn Monroe that exposes her panties.

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Actually, you have to walk behind the statue to see Monroe’s underwear.

Construction barricades are still in the area near this plaza, but a bunch of them recently came down and revealed a new park. This is on a plot of land adjacent to the shopping center. Whether it’s coincidence or product of urban planning, it bares the name of Central Park. Remember, the plaza has “Manhattan” in the name, and that borough of New York City is home to the greatest city park in America. So, does this new Central Park in Xinbei resemble the one in the Big Apple? Um, no. Not even close.

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This tract of land is home to lot of colorful planters with stone mosaics.

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Since this place is relatively new, there are patches of dirt that have yet to be covered with sod or seeded with grass. A lot of the trees that have been planted still have wooden supports to keep them upright. And, it seems one building is still under construction.

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While new, the place still seems unfinished and is still a work in progress. China gets some criticism for its relentless building of shopping center and apartment complexes. In Changzhou, at least, it’s always nice to know that open green space is always part of that urban planning. The new Central Park next to Risesun Manhattan Plaza is an example of that.

Hengtang River Wetlands Park

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Hengtang River Wetland Park is located in northern Tianning District and is between Dinosaur Park and Xijing Park (where they have that non-functioning Ferris wheel. You can actually see it from from some parts of Hengteng.

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For the most part, this ecological park stretches along side the river for a few kilometers.

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The long concrete paths make this area good for riding bikes. This also seems to be a pet friendly park. Many of the locals were walking their dogs. Not all parks in Changzhou allow dogs, and some park officials will actually kick people out if they have brought their pets. There is just one thing about this place.

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Where there certainly is enough area here to go for a stroll, this place is unfinished and a lot of it is still under construction. So, that just makes one thing certain. This place will look a lot different in a year.

Park Emergencies!

Xinbei’s central park is filled with lots of absurd Chinglish, but that is not the only weird thing to be see. The park is filled with lots of trully strange signs detailing EMERGENCY! situations. These seem out of place. For example, one talks about water, and there is no sign of publicly available water. For a time, I thought it was just unique to Xinbei’s central park. However, I started seeing similar signs over in Xuejia’s park. I also saw similar things in Hongmei, downtown. Then, I started seeing in other city’s parks — like in Jiangyin last sunday. So, naturally, I started taking pictures.

For a laugh, I showed the pictures to a friend while we were having coffee. She laughed at them just as I had, but then she pointed out something I hadn’t thought of. Maybe these signs are not just randomly placed? Maybe some parks are designated as places to go if a real emergency did happen? After all, Sichuan has had earthquakes. Cities in the south of China have seen flooding. Typhoons seem to be getting stronger every year. Maybe this signs are set purposefully to denote where stations for water, garbage, toilets, and more should be set up should the park actually be needed in an emergency. Given the Chinese zeal for urban planning, it seems plausible to me. I tried Googling an answer, based on this theory, and I didn’t find one. At any rate, here are some of those park emergencies.

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Emergency Fire Extinguisher
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Emergency Management District
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Emergency Parking
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Emergency Shelters
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Emergency Rubbish
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Emergency Water Supply
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Emergency Medical Treatment

 

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Emergency Toilets

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!

The Holiday Inn Snake Run

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“Are you our mayor?”

Laughably, this was not the first time in my life I have been mistaken for somebody’s governing municipal official. But, that’s a story for another time. This time, it was a little kid, and I was at a skate park in Long Branch, New Jersey. Pentagram stickers were plastered all over my helmet, and the person asking the question was nine years old.  His mother eyed me with extreme suspicion. If I could have read her mind, it would have been filled with What is this grown man doing by himself in skate park filled with children? The answer was simple: a half pipe or an empty pool is a good source of cardio.

That was more than ten years ago, now. Funny how life changes. Now I live Changzhou, but some things do not change at all. I still have a skateboard, and I think riding it is a fun source of exercise. While I seldom skate these days, I still keep an eye out for good spots. It’s an instinct drilled into me by my friends back in Belgium, when I was a teenager.

Changzhou does not have many good spots to go skate that I know of. There is a mini ramp and flat banks in Qingfeng Park. Yet, I have never seen anybody there. Its fenced in, and access has looked limited the last time I looked there about a year and a half ago. Over in Wujin, there is a place with no fence at all, and I have ridden my board there a few times.

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It looks like a concrete drainage ditch. When I first found it, it was covered with graffiti. Over the years, that graffiti has changed themes, but all that means is that concrete has several layers of paint, and paint makes concrete much more smooth against urethane wheels. My guess, though, is that the place is seldom used. The last time I went there two months ago, the concrete was covered with dirt and needs to be thoroughly cleaned before riding could be enjoyable.

This small set of flat banks is located in the park behind the Holiday Inn in Wujin. This is also in the part of Hutang that is close to the College City area. The No. 2 People’s Hospital is also nearby, as is a library and the Wujin governmental complex. Unfortunate for me, I now live in Xinbei and it’s a bit too far to go to. Yet, something inside me is itching to get the board out and go riding again. Part of me thinks its just middle age and a yearning for nostalgia and bygone years.

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Nevermind the Signs

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It was toward the end of July, the equivalent to the ‘san-fu’ period of the lunar calendar — the hottest days of the year. In China the heat was even more oppressive than usual.

–Qian Zhongshu, from Fortress Besieged

Rather ironically, I read these lines for the first time towards the end of July, where it was so hot I didn’t want to go outside. I decided to start reading a book instead of sweating to death while looking for things to blog about. I am sure I could have possibly found something that agreed with the weather, like swimming pools to cool off in. However, I’m not a swimming pool or beach sort of guy. It’s just not in my personality to put on a bathing suit.

I may not be a water person, but I’m still curious at heart. So, I still know where few places to cool off in the summer. Many people know of the man-made beach in Zhonglou’s Qingfeng Park. This is perhaps the most easy to get to when you live in Changzhou. There is another, but it’s either a car or ebike trip. This one is also not in Changzhou, it’s in Jiangyin, which is Wuxi’s northern satellite city. The place is Huangshihu Park 璜石湖公园, and it is not far beyond the city line Jiangyin shares with Xinbei.

Satellite view of where the park should be.
Satellite view of where the park should be. Notice the lake is missing.

Large parts of the park is a work in progress. If you were to visit here, you would see large fields of dirt likely to be further ecologically developed. There are also, however, a lot of bike paths and walkways around a rather large artificial lake with a sandy beach. I say “artificial” because if you look for the place on Baidu’s maps app under “satellite view,” it simply isn’t there. Also, a temple shares the park land, but the doors have never, ever been open to the public each time I have visited.

No swimming!
No swimming!

At the moment, the main draw is the lake’s sandy beach. A lot of Chinese families frequent the place with their children. You also see couples hanging out together, but you never see sunbathers. That is a concept quite alien to most Chinese people. The biggest irony, however, are the the “no swimming” signs. There are plenty of them, and seemingly all the park patrons ignore them. Even more, there is a guy there selling flotation gear that absolutely encourages swimming.

Go swimming!
Go swimming!

For the Love of Lotus Blooms

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Besides peaches, lotuses are perhaps one of the more culturally significant plants in China. It has a particular resonance within Buddhism, and they flower can take on multiple meanings as both a symbol and a metaphor. A lotus, for example, grows out of mud and muck — and that can be taken as a sign of rising purity.

One can ponder all of this significance, or one can just enjoy looking them. Lotuses are fascinating plants, the blooms are lovely, and the seed pods sometimes look downright alien and extraterrestrial when compared to simpler flowers.

In all of Changzhou, there is one park that is especially dedicated to this flower. It’s in the northern end of Zhonglou and near the border with Xinbei. It’s called He Yuan 荷园 — which translates as “Lotus Garden.” It certainly is an appropriate name, because lotus grows very thickly here.

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The park is laid out in such a way to give visitors many different ways to view both white and red blossoms, as well as a few other plants. A large pond lays at the center, and there are many wooden walkways. Around the edges of the place, there are also twisting and secluded stone paths. These seem to be preferable on very hot days, because these walkways afford a lot of shade and benches to sit on. One of these walkways leads to a second story viewing deck that allows a visitor to get a more panoramic vista the water and greenery.

I spent about two hours, in the middle of a hot July day, trying to find the most perfect specimen to snap a picture of. Only, it didn’t take me long to learn that I wasn’t the only one doing that. He Yuan was filled with people with cameras doing exactly the same. Some were just people and their cell phones striking dynamic poses with selfie sticks. However, more serious photographers with expensive zoom lenses were also wandering around, trying to find the most perfect lotus blossom to take extreme closeups.

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It was the first time, however, I also saw this park as crowded as it was. All other times, it seemed empty and largely ignored. But, then, I realized I had first found this place at the wrong time of year. When the lotus flowers are not blooming, there really isn’t much to see except barren stretches of still water.  When winter comes, the only real suggestion as to the park’s purpose is a metallic sculpture of seed pods.

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Xinhua Village Church and Park

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Like usual, my attempts to get a glimpse of the Yangtze River in Changzhou get a little side tracked. The northern most part of Xinbei is filled with industrial ports. This time, it was to a small place called Xinhua Village. Open entering the area, you see a stone with an Olympics symbol. Looking around, I had to wonder what those games meant to this tiny place. Later, on a wechat forum, a friend told me there was a rifle and bow and arrow shooting range out here. I think I passed it without realizing it.

After consulting the map, I was suprised to find a Christian church in the area. It looked a lot more well maintained then some I have seen around the city. The gate was locked and nobody seemed around, so I couldn’t walk in and investigate further. The area also had a small public park with the usual sort of abstract sculpture that is also highly common in Changzhou. There wasn’t much else in the park, with the exception of walkway to strange bunch of round, white pillars clustered together.

I didn’t stay long — as I still had afternoon classes to prepare for. Once I returned home, though, I was surprised when I looked at my digital display. A one way trip from Hohai University on Hehai Road to Xinhua Village looked to be roughly 38 kilometers. That’s just another reminder of how massive Changzhou is by western standards.

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Unreadable Corridor of Cognition

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The architecture looks futuristic. You are standing in Tianning’s Zijing Park 紫荆公园, and glass walls flank you. If you look forward, you are have a side-on view of the big spokeless Ferris wheel at its carrier cars.Both of the buildings are locked and unused. You are standing in what a park sign, in English, calls, “The Corridor of Cognition.” Sounds, fancy and literary, right? It did for me. I was wandering around this park, saw the sign, and said, “Ooooh! I want to be in the corridor of cognition! It might enhance my cognitive abilities! It might make me smarter!”

It didn’t. This is a weird place. The glass is frosted so that it displays white pictures and white Chinese descriptions. Both sides of the corridor have timelines from the dawn of history to the present. So, each begins with something prehistorical and ends with a display of wrist watches. I think one side is western themed, and the other is Chinese. I only say this because one time line as ancient Egyptian details. So, what is my problem?

It’s all really hard to look at. The white characters and illustrations are against a light colored background. There is no contrast. I couldn’t use my translation app to decipher anything, and if I had a Chinese friend they would just squint and have a hard time reading their native language. In short, this was really poorly designed. You would think that having a white fonts necessitates a darker background for readability. It’s design 101. Anybody who has tried to ever do a website knows this.

This is Not a Skatepark

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As far as I know, Changzhou has only two actual skate parks. One is in Qingfeng Park in Zhonglou. It has ramps and rails and the sort of thing you might expect from a skate park in America or Europe. The other is in Wujin, and it’s a spray painted concrete ditch / snake run. This one is closer to the College City, and it’s in the park next to a Holiday Inn. In both instances, I have never seen anybody with a skateboard at these places other than myself.

And then, there is something fundamentally misleading in Xinbei. Next to the Changzhou North Station, there are two ecological parks split by Huashan Road. Both are named for the high speed train that glides by overhead: Changzhou High Speed Rail Ecological Park 常州高铁生态公园,

For the most part, both the east and west parts are ecologically well maintained and manicured. There are also wide concrete paths that make the park excellent for bike riding — both pedal and electric varieties. What caught my attention, however, was a sign that said “Skateboarding Plaza.”

I spent an hour walking and riding around both the east and west sections. At one point the signs and the arrows began contradicting each other. And, no matter how many times I looked at the park’s posted map, I just couldn’t seem to find it. Eventually, I did, and it was utterly disappointing.

Many parks in Changzhou have amusement areas and rides for children. This place was no different. Only, the concrete in this area was very hard, and it had some twists, turns, and painted lines. Sure, you could ride a skateboard here, but it wouldn’t be any fun. It’s all just flat. And, then I realized something. This place was probably planned for Chinese kids on inline skates, not for middle aged Americans who still like riding a skateboard from time to time. IMG_20160518_145850