Phreaky Essays: Chinese Gardens and Town-sized Museum


Taiyuan, the big industrial city was our next destination to spend there one night and

Taiyuan, the big industrial city was our next destination to spend there one night and
see at least two interesting sites. We’ve unsuccessfully tried some hotel, mentioned in “Lonely Planet” and were redirected (by the hotel staff!) to “National Defense Hotel” nearby, with very clean and sunny rooms, hot water around the clock and tea sets. After three cold days in mountains it was a true return to civilization :)

From there, we caught the bus to Jinci Temple On the bus I was massively (and of course politely) interviewed by a local student. The interest to foreign cultures is very high and Chinese use every single option to practice their English. Among the subjects one after the common question “how do I feel about China” was the impact of the economic crisis.

After one hour ride we’ve arrived. In fact, Jinci is not only a temple, but also a very impressive Chinese style garden, surrounded by a bigger park. Matthias (his job is architecture, by the way) told us that the main idea of the gardens of that kind is to create an illusion of space within very limited dimensions. There are number of “tricks” to reach the purpose: artificial rocks and stairs, landscapes borrowed in big mirrors, windows in the right places to create more observation perspectives, and even the some of the bridges are of a zig-zag shape not only to make `em longer, but also to make the devil harder to follow you :)

The most famous building in the complex is “Hall of Holy Mother” – a completely wooden structure that successfully survived for 1000 years!

The next day we’ve made a quick jump to Twin Pagodas (I can never miss pagodas :) – climbed on one, took some Fisheye-lens multiexposures and got on a bus to Pingyao.

Pingyao, like most of the famous Chinese historical sites, dates its records to thousands of year ago (2700 to be more or less precise). It was rebuilt dozens of times since then, but the old area had always kept same dimensions within well-preserved
brick city walls.

Pingyao is a huge museum that not only exposes its architecture, but also demonstrates a way of life, kept for centuries: since there are no lights on the streets, the locals’ day schedule is guided by the principle “to work from the dusk till dawn”.

What do the locals do? The main income of the city economy is tourism :) They build and restore houses, produce and sell souvenirs, prepare tasty food in restaurants, maintain tea shops, and work in hotels and hostels. Pingyao is a famous destination both for Chinese and foreign tourists, so that western style restaurants and good English are not uncommon there.

Where do the locals live? In “sìhéyuàn”-s – kinda backyard with houses on its sides and also in small houses that look very ancient.

Only small vehicles (like electromobiles) are allowed to transfer passengers within the city walls.

The city walls also finally inspired me to experiment with photographic planes, so this
is how the lomotip had emerged.

Wherever you go in China, you will hear people, waving “Hello” to you and smiling. This is probably the only English word that every Chinese learns since being born :) This is a true ritual and you should answer “Ni hao!” to make them really laugh :)

We’ve explored Pingyao maze for one day and a half and took the bus back to Tayuan to
catch the train to our next touristic attraction – the legendary Kaifeng city. The story will follow.

written by breakphreak on 2009-01-23 in #news #diana-f #preaky-essays #city-walls #taiyuan #china #pingyao


  1. myloveletter
    myloveletter ·

    I loved this! Amazing picture of what I think is the temple? With water under it... and also the double exposure of the two people waving from above the wall with the moon (what it looks like) double exposed. Well done!

  2. azurblue
    azurblue ·

    Breakphreak, thanks for making us discover China ! It's very interresting !

  3. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    @myloveletter: actually the main "Hall of Holy Mother" is on the 3-rd pic :) That with the water under is one of the magnificent pavilions of the park :)

    @azurblue: thanks for dropping by - the storrrrrry shall be continued!

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