Tag Archives: Public 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.

IMG_20180210_114924
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.

IMG_20180210_113603

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

IMG_20180210_113639

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.

IMG_20180210_113825

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.

Algae Park and Three Goats

IMG_20170713_204016

 

You can say about 95% percent of the Changzhou’s public parks have a unique identity. Xianhu Park 仙湖公园 is no different, but this one has a subtly strange and schizophrenic vibe to it.  This place is located in Yaoguan Township 遥观镇 in Wujin, in what used to Changzhou’s eastern Qishuyan district. This is nowhere near Hutang and the parts of Wujin most expats know. Yaoguan is definitely small town China within Changzhou’s city boundaries. I am sometimes out around these parts because of corporate trainings Hohai University organizes with some of the railway companies like CRRC out here. The park itself is split into two by Jianshe Road 建设路.

IMG_20170713_204838
Notice the white car? The owner is washing it using buckets of the “canal-pond water.”

 

One half of the park has a lot of brick and stone work, giving the water a canal-like feel without actually feeding into any canals. In this regard, it looks a lot like a man made urban pond.

 

IMG_20170713_204124

IMG_20170713_204335

There are two sets of statues here suggesting industrial themes. Unlike other parks, there are no explanatory plaques or Chinese wisdom idioms attached to give a greater meaning. Perhaps the biggest “this is not urban Changzhou” indicator was this …

 

IMG_20170713_204246

 

There were three goats roaming around and eating everything from the grass and the bushes. Some of these animals had collars and leashes, so it is safe to assume that these are not feral, marauding goats. These were domesticated. Nearby, there was a woman washing something in the “canal-pond” water. I didn’t feel like being nosy about what she was actually washing. So, I didn’t take a picture of her. It is likely safe to assume the goats were hers. If you were to cross Jianshe Road to the park’s other half, you would see this.

 

IMG_20170713_204429

 

There are a lot of walkways, but notice the surface of the oibd. There is a thick, very green algae skin to the water here. By the way, the person with net is not fishing. Typically, a very big algae population like this makes water low in oxygen an not habitable. This person was not fishing out garbage, either.

 

IMG_20170713_204510

 

This person was actually harvesting the algae itself. While that may sound weird to some, algae has a lot of uses like as a farmland fertilizer. There are also chemical compounds that can be extracted and multi-purposed in food production, wastewater treatment, and much more.

Essentially, this is a profoundly local park. Changzhou has places like Qingfeng, Hongmei, and others that are meant for mass public and tourist use, and Xianhu Park is not one of them. I found this place because I was already in Qishuyan on a teaching assignment and just wandering around my ebike.

However, this place is also a positive reminder that what I like to call Real Changzhou; this city is vast and more storied than what some foreigners might think. There is life beyond Xinbei, the city center, and Hutang. I don’t mean that as, “Ooh, this is quaint.” I mean that in this exists, it is here, and it is part of Changzhou.

 

IMG_20170713_205130

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.

img_20161215_204145
Emergency Fire Extinguisher
img_20161215_204217
Emergency Management District
img_20161215_204105
Emergency Parking
img_20161215_204047
Emergency Shelters
img_20161215_204026
Emergency Rubbish
img_20161215_203945
Emergency Water Supply
img_20161215_203933
Emergency Medical Treatment

 

img_20161215_204005
Emergency Toilets

The Truth About the Qingfeng Skatepark

img_20160925_165831Changzhou has a skatepark, and it looks like something BMX riders and skaters would ride in the X Games. It has transitions, flat banks, and rails. It even has a mini half. It can be found in Qingfeng Park in Zhonglou. The park in general is accessible from the city center via a doubledecker bus.

Sounds great, right? Before anybody grabs a skateboard and runs out there, there’s something one should know. The whole thing is useless and unusable. First, the skatepark is fenced in, and access is restricted. Even if they let you in, the ramps and banks are unsafe to ride. Patches of rust heavily dot almost every surface. So, it’s basically a useless piece of urban blight now. The Qingfeng Park manager has also treated it as a place to store scrap metal.

img_20160925_170127

The Holiday Inn Snake Run

IMG_20160829_111507

“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.

IMG_20160829_111530

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.

IMG_20160829_111653

The Children and the Faceless

IMG_20160731_204120

Lanyuan Park is located next to the Changzhou Women and Children Activity Center. If you were to walk away from downtown, go over a bridge, you would pass this building. The street name changes from Nandajie to others several times, but it is the same road. This is a building maintained by the municipal government, and it works as an educational resource center. There, families have access to discounted educational programs that cover everything from English lessons to art and more. So, it is fitting to find statues of children in the adjoining park.

One is a group of kids craved from white stone. It depicts two boys and two girls holding on to each other in what looks like a conga line. Their expressions are mostly of mischief. One boy, at the end, is falling down, but he has his hands on the belt line of a girl’s trousers, suggesting he is about to accidentally pull her pants down. The other statue is worked into fountain. A boy and a girls are laying down and watching the water splash into the pool below. IMG_20160731_204742

Again, because there is a family oriented governmental building nearby, this makes sense. There is an odd juxtaposition, though, in Lanyuan. It is strange, surreal, and oddly beautiful. A series of concrete planters showcases bamboo thatches. There is a bronze-looking metal sculpture of two people sitting on a bench. They have no faces and the are huddled together, wrapped in a single blanket. Are they refugees? Old people? It’s hard to tell when the front of their heads are smooth and featureless.

IMG_20160731_215730

If I was had to guess, I would have to go with the elderly. That’s just a snap judgement based on my experiences in Changzhou’s public parks. Often, you will see the elderly sleeping and exercising in most public parks. Lanyuan is no different. Even during hot and humid days, you can see somebody’s grandfather swinging and flailing is arms while walking in circles.  I once saw a guy doing the “raise the roof” gesture with his upturned palms in the air. It’s not just the weird excercise. My favorite was an old guy who used to wear a white tanktop and a red sweatband around his head. In one hand, he held a portable radio. At the top of his lungs, he belted out Chinese opera. No matter where you went in Lanyuan, you could hear him. IMG_20160731_212751

Xinhua Village Church and Park

IMG_20160613_142439[1]

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.

IMG_20160613_142940[1]

IMG_20160613_143744[1]

Lushu Park in Zhonglou

IMG_20160526_203833[1]

Lushu Park 芦墅公园 is a rather small public place in Zhonglou. In theory, Canal 5 is not that far away — but there is the actual canal in the way. Qing Feng park is also many kilometers away, and that usually acts as the bigger distraction. Lushu is more of a place where you see locals sleeping on the benches. Typically, older men sit around here during the day to play cards. In the many times I have been here, I have seen a number of stray cats huddles into the corner. Essentially, this is a small recreational area serving the residential estates nearby. It’s a nice place to take a stroll in the area, but honestly, this isn’t worth a special trip — especially on a very hot, very wet, very muggy day.

IMG_20160526_204234[1]

IMG_20160526_204435[1]

 

This is Not a Skatepark

IMG_20160518_152124

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

Trina and Xinbei’s Blue Men

IMG_20160415_111913In Changzhou, “Trina” is a name often associated with Xinbei. One of the major schools expats send their children bares this moniker. It’s also at the center of a huge scandal, as the school was allegedly built on toxic and polluted land — as reported by China Daily. The name Trina, however, is not exclusive to the school. You see it in a few places once you are north of Global Harbour Mall on Tongjiang Road. It’s because it’s the name of a major industry in Changzhou and around the world.  Trina Solar is a player in the global international green energy sector. It develops and manufactures solar power components, and it’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s that big of an industrial deal.

The name is also associated with Trina Photovoltaic Industrial Park 天合光伏产业园 on Tongjiang Road. It’s a little south of Xinlong Ecological Forest.  Like that nature preserve, there a plenty of concrete paths to ride bikes. Although, parts of Xinlong are more lovely to look at. Since this is a wide open space, you can see people flying kites here on windy days. The park itself dates back to April, 2008, and it is in a place the municipal government zoned as a “high tech industrial area.”

The strangest thing, however, is the monument here.  It made me think of the Blue Man Group in America. For those who do not know, this is a performance art / musical troupe. They often play outlandish, weird, and alien looking instruments. Oh, and each member is completely painted blue.  It the park’s center, there are a group of unisex blue figures standing in a circle. They are holding up a globe of planet earth. When looking at this, I got to thinking that the association was purely coincidental. However, the outlandishness of both are too hard not to notice.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.