Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

by Michael Paul Franklin, China Daily, 2011-05-15 —

Time-tested adages sing praises of Suzhou, and Michael Paul Franklin finds it’s not hard to understand why on a recent visit. Many cities have slogans to entice you to visit and spend your tourist dollars. These are usually written by some tourism office or travel agency, and no matter how clever or well thought out, they often fall on the deaf ears of seasoned travelers or the cynical. But there are adages that are time-tested – like this one, which roughly translates to: Up in the sky there is heaven, down on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou. That’s a pretty bold declaration when you consider the size of China and the many beautiful places to see within its borders. Yet, Suzhou’s beauty has won it boasting rights.

Suzhou, built in 514 BC, has a storied past. Marco Polo spent time there in 1276 while on the Silk Road. Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War in Suzhou when it was the kingdom of Wu.

While famous for its gardens, Suzhou has long been inspirational to artists, musicians and craftsmen. There is far more to Suzhou than its gardens – ancient temples, canals and respect for art, just for starters. There is a peaceful air that reflects the soul of the area. You can see that it is a city trying to remain very livable and keep its beauty even as it grows. The feeling is intangible, but you know it’s there. Perhaps it’s the smiles you see on the streets, or maybe the way they take care of the elderly in the city. Maybe it is the way they promote art and culture as the government provides studio space for artists to work on their traditional skills – or it could be that there are pockets of beauty all over the city.

You don’t have to go far to find one of these to escape the honking horns or the electric bikes, and find your own little piece of Heaven on Earth.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

Women in colorful traditional costumes prepare to take part in a parade, part of a fair to promote alcoholic beverages. Photos by Michael Paul Franklin

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

The Ruiguang Pagoda at Panmen Gate stands 43.2 meters tall and is known as the Pagoda of Auspicious Light. It was built during the Three Kingdoms Period.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

Suzhou is famous for the waterways and canals that run through the city. This picturesque example is near the Heng Jie Market.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

It is the hometown for Xi Shi, one of the Four Beauties of Ancient China, and Suzhou has no lack of modern beauties, either.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

At Heng Jie Market, locals shop for fresh vegetables, turtles and fish from Taihu Lake. Tourists shop for souvenirs.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

Suzhou is full of smiles, and 80-year-old temple worker Han Chow Yun flashes a brilliant one.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

The skilled hand of calligrapher Yan Lisheng glides in a studio off a street in Suzhou’s old city.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

The beautiful gilded statue of Buddha at Ding Hui Temple is a picture of tranquility.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

A lion-head door knocker graces one of the doors of the impressive Xu Gate.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

Wu Zixu was an army chief, strategist and urban planner in ancient Suzhou 2,500 years ago.

Suzhou: Heaven on Earth

A bridge filled with prayers

Mar 25, 2011

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People cross an arch bridge to pray for harmony, harvest and health during a folk gala in Anxian county, Southwest China’s Sichuan province, March 24, 2011. A total of 100,000 locals and people from other regions of Sichuan take part in the ritual, named Caiqiao – or bridge stepping – which has lasted for more than 200 years. People also beat drums and watch a traditional dragon dance during the blessing. [Photo/CFP]

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Performers donning ancient Chinese customs prepare for a show during the bridge crossing ritual in Anxian county, March 24, 2011. [Photo/CFP]. China Daily: A bridge filled with prayers.

How Ordinary Chinese Live at Home

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China Real Time Report – WSJ, March 14, 2011 — In western Xinjiang, a lamb carcass is slumped over a parlor table. In Shanghai, an elderly couple poses with a portable shower so anachronistic that it might as well be a time machine. Such are the scenes from Robert van der Hilst’s “Chinese Interiors” series, which opens March 12 at Shanghai’s m97 Gallery and will be on show until April 17.

The Dutch photographer has been working since 2004 on this study of people’s homes, the culmination of a career spent exploring people’s private lives for magazines such as Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue. The images have been compiled and published in a 280-page book as well. “Chinese Interiors” came out of a similar series in Cuba, says Mr. van der Hilst, and from being “fed up with walking around the streets with my camera equipment.” Although he did photograph members of the middle class in their comfortable Western-style apartments in China’s first-tier cities, Mr. van der Hilst most often found himself in the humble abodes of rural Chinese. “They’re not very rich and a can of paint is still quite expensive,” the photographer says. “They don’t mind if the walls are cracked and fading.” >>Continue reading on Scene

Will Sumo Become Sumo Inc.?

by Mariko Sanchanta, Japan Real Time – WSJ, Feb 24, 2011 —

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Photo/Reuters. Sumo receives tax breaks and other benefits in Japan, but a panel is debating whether this should continue. Could sumo in Japan morph from being a “public entity” to an incorporated company? This is one of the possible scenarios that could emerge after an independent panel concludes its investigations into allegations of match-fixing, according to Kan Suzuki, the Japan’s deputy minister for sports and education. Young people in Japan prefer watching soccer and baseball to sumo, and little has been done over the years to make the sport accessible to a younger audience. For years, fans have bemoaned that fact that matches take place during the day, finishing up by around 6 p.m., while everyone is at work. “The only people who can watch sumo are people in hospitals and retired people,” muttered one former sumo wrestler. The brouhaha surrounding the disgraced sport of sumo has quieted down as of late, as the independent panel continues its investigation into allegations of match-fixing. . . .

Happy Chinese New Year! Wish you have more money! 恭禧发财!!

Photo by Administrator, 2011-02-02 —

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Clipping along after the big shop

2011-02-01 —

Clipping along after the big shop

Thirteen-year-old Li Qiang and his mother Yang Fengyu, 34, make their way home to Yatou after shopping for the lunar new year at the market in the county seat of Zhouqu, Gansu province. Life has gradually returned to normal in the county since a catastrophic mudslide hit on Aug 8, 2010, leaving 1,501 dead, 264 missing and more than 15,000 homeless. [Photo by Wang Jing / China Daily]. . . . Source: Clipping along after the big shop

Once you’ve seen National Day crowds you’ve seen it all

2011-01-27 —

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They looked like rage zombies. Cast in the streetlights’ eerie glow, the crowds shrieked as they scrambled toward the buses, clawing their way through the vehicles’ doors, in what could have been a scene from 28 Days Later. Once inside, they dropped into their seats, as if deactivated. The parking lot’s giant wooden gate had become a floodgate for crowds. Every time a new fleet of buses arrived, the guards would swing it open and the human deluge dammed behind the fences would burst forth, whooshing out to engulf the vehicles. Some less patient and more daring individuals clamored over the fences from their spots toward the back of the line, eliciting a half-hearted pursuit by police officers positioned along the barriers to prevent that very thing.

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Some made it on the buses. Others zipped into the inky blackness of the surrounding forest, vanishing before our eyes. When the next convoys pulled up, these sprinters re-emerged from the wooded shadows in flashes of motion-blurred limbs, blasting toward the vehicles’ doors. These were the National Day holiday crowds at Hunan province’s Zhangjiajie – the Golden Week mash of travelers my wife and I had been warned about but had never seen in our more than four years in the country. . . . Source: by Erik Nilsson, China Daily, Once you’ve seen National Day crowds you’ve seen it all