Archives for posts with tag: China

Toronto skylineMy son and I spent a couple of days in Toronto recently. It was a first visit for him, and I hadn’t been there in over twenty years. So much has changed in that time that I hardly recognised the place!

We arrived by bus, and that brought us into the city along University Avenue, where a striking new sculpture caught my eye. It’s a shiny, silver, twisted tree root covered in silver birds, and it stands in front of the Shangri-La Hotel. The sculptor is Zhang Huan, a Chinese artist who does impressive large-scale sculptures with a dream-like quality. This one is called ‘Rising.’

Detail of 'Rising' by Zhang Huan. Photo ©Craig White.

Detail of ‘Rising’ by Zhang Huan. Photo ©Craig White.

Our first stop in Toronto was the Royal Ontario Museum, where by chance we found some more sculptures from China in the William Charles White Gallery. These were ancient gold Buddhas and life-size statues of Buddhist scholars and teachers.

Painted wooden statues from Shanxi province in China. Photo @Royal Ontario Museum.

Mounted on two walls of the gallery were enormous murals taken from a Buddhist monastery from the Yuan Dynasty (over 700 years old). They were very impressive, and remarkably well preserved. It’s hard to imagine how they managed to move such large and delicate wall paintings into the gallery.

Yuan Dynasty mural. Photo ©Royal Ontario Museum.

Yuan Dynasty mural. Photo ©Royal Ontario Museum.

After all this ancient history it was time to get back out into the 21st-century city! We walked through Queen’s Park past the Ontario Legislature (where we had just missed all the Canada Day celebrations) and found Dundas Square where a street performer was juggling flaming torches on top of a very tall unicycle! We stayed to watch but kept well back, just in case!

Dundas Square opposite the Eaton Centre in Toronto.

Dundas Square opposite the Eaton Centre in Toronto.

When I lived in Toronto, Dundas Square didn’t exist. It’s similar in feel to Times Square in New York, though on a smaller scale. The bright billboards look best at night, and we were there to have dinner at the local Hard Rock Café. I thought my teenage son would enjoy a truly North American experience, but later I found out there are lots of them in the UK! We sat next to a wall mounted with backlit boxes displaying Stevie Nicks’ boots, a hat worn by Tom Petty, and a guitar played by a member of Kiss, among other things. The boxes went right up to the ceiling and we were craning our necks trying to read all the labels. Perhaps the restaurant should issue telescopes to all their customers!

Toronto is a great place to take photographs, and I found an excellent page on the Tourism Toronto website called Top Picks for Pics. We got to a few of these places but sadly only had two days in the city which wasn’t enough time!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about our visit to Toronto’s Harbourfront and a brilliant tour we took of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres on Yonge Street.

Inside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Inside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Spring is a good time to visit China. The searing heat of the summer has not yet arrived, and the parks and markets are full of life. China is a place of striking contrasts. Beijing and Shanghai are huge, modern cities, but there are also peaceful open spaces and amazing historic buildings.

The Great Wall of China.

The Great Wall of China.

No trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall (which they say is visible from space!) and of course Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Beijing is the capital of China and has a population of over 20 million people.

The school run in Beijing.

The school run in Beijing.

The traffic is very busy and never stops, so it’s tricky to be a pedestrian. Lots of children go to school on the back of a scooter!

Selling shoes in a street market.

Selling shoes in a street market.

There are lots of open-air markets where you can buy all sorts of things. The most impressive displays are in the food markets where a huge variety of fruit and vegetables are sold. With 20 million people to feed, it’s not surprising!

Fruit and vegetable stall in a Beijing market.

Fruit and vegetable stall in a Beijing market.

The city is full of life at night, with lots of people out shopping or going to restaurants.

Lanterns light up the streets in Beijing.

Lanterns light up the streets in Beijing.

In Shanghai there are boat trips at night on the Huangpu River to see the Pudong district which is beautifully lit.

The Shanghai skyline looks dramatic at night.

The Shanghai skyline looks dramatic at night.

Shanghai at night looks pretty impressive! The big purple tower is called the Oriental Pearl Tower and is a television transmission tower.

The view from the tour boat.

The view from the tour boat.

There are some amazing buildings in the historic district of Shanghai as well. They are made of wood, and provide a huge contrast to all the modern glass and steel.

Traditional buildings on stilts.

Traditional buildings on stilts.

To escape the big city there are lovely open spaces to enjoy. Parks are very popular and people meet to play music and do a little impromptu dancing.

A musical gathering in the park.

A musical gathering in the park.

This park has a boardwalk along a pretty lake. It’s clearly a place for taking special photos and just enjoying a stroll in the fresh air.

I think this is a fashion shoot rather than a real wedding.

I think this is a fashion shoot rather than a real wedding.

There were some surprising boats moored on this lake. Would you like a dragon boat? What a perfect houseboat!

It would be scary seeing this coming in the dark!

It would be scary seeing this coming in the dark!

This one is very elegant. I'd love to hop aboard!

This one is very elegant. I’d love to hop aboard!

If you want to escape the city altogether then a trip to the Yellow Mountains of Huangshan is in order. The scenery is incredible, even if you arrive in fog and rain. A cable car takes you close to the top, where there are pathways and viewpoints.

Climbing in the Yellow Mountains of Huangshan.

Climbing in the Yellow Mountains of Huangshan.

These trees and cliffs look just like the classic Chinese paintings we sometimes see on calendars and posters. They seem very mysterious in the fog!

Beautiful in any weather!

Beautiful in any weather!

The paths are steep and quite close to the cliff-edge at times. The barriers are strong but not all that high…

Best to watch your step, especially when wet...

Best to watch your step, especially when wet…

It’s a great place to visit if you are a nature photographer. Close to two million tourists visit these mountains every year.

A magical forest on the mountain.

A magical forest on the mountain.

What an inspiring place for storytellers! This must be the source of many ancient myths and legends. I hope I’ve inspired you to visit China some day.

One of the things my husband brought home from China was a beautiful red kite! It’s shaped like an octopus with eight long ribbons for tentacles. We tried it out on the weekend, and it flew very well thanks to its clever design which captures the wind in pockets all along the top.

The earliest kites were flown in China about 2,800 years ago. They were made of silk fabric stretched over a bamboo frame, and silk thread, which is strong and flexible, was used to fly them. Today it is still traditional in China to fly kites at the beginning of spring.

Kites need long tails to balance them, and they have to be extra light in order to fly high in the wind. My daughter had lots of fun trying to get our octopus kite up in the air. The wind was gusty so sometimes she had to run fast to keep it up! (She was also wearing leather gloves because the string can burn your hands if it gets pulled through them quickly.)

You also have to be very careful where you fly a kite. Make sure there are no overhead wires nearby as they are very dangerous. Tall trees are also a problem because your kite can get stuck!

It’s quite a skill to fly a kite, and there are thousands of people all over the world who take it very seriously. Every April an International Kite Festival takes place in Weifang City, Shandong Province in China. People come from all over the world to fly the most beautiful kites shaped like butterflies, birds, octopuses and all sorts of other things. Weifang also has the largest kite museum in the world and the city is known as the International Kite Capital.

Kite flying is just as popular in Japan, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. There are many other kite festivals in these countries too. Have you ever tried to fly a kite? It’s so exciting when you get it up really high and the wind holds it steady. They are always brightly coloured so they look beautiful, too! Why not try and fly a kite today?

My husband travels all over the world, and recently he had a wonderful trip to China. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, and he saw lots of amazing things. Best of all, he brought home some photographs that I can share with you.

One of the places he visited was a city called Yi Wu, where there is an enormous marketplace with thousands of stalls and small shops.

Inside this huge place you can buy teddy bears, toy mobile phones, brightly coloured balls and a million types of ribbon! And those are just a few of the many things for sale at this market. People come from all over the world to trade with each other. Do you see anything you would like to buy?

In China you can travel on super-fast trains with long, pointy noses. Some use the same kind of rails as our trains, but some Chinese trains balance on a single magnetic rail and travel at speeds of up to 330 kilometres per hour. I imagine at that speed the landscape outside must look like a blur!

In Beijing there is a beautiful palace with high walls that for many years was the home of Chinese Emperors and their wives and children. It was called the Forbidden City because no ordinary people were allowed inside. Now it is open to the public, and many Chinese people as well as tourists come to see the rich interiors and landscaped gardens. You can even dress up as an Emperor or Empress and have your picture taken!

This little boy is dressed up as the Emperor, just like the real Emperor Pu Yi who was very young when he came to power. I think Pu Yi was often as fed up as this little boy looks, because he had no friends to play with.

China is an amazing place with a huge population and a history that goes back thousands of years. Lots of things we use now were first invented in China, including paper, matches, fireworks, umbrellas and kites! But that’s a subject for my next post…

If you want to learn more about China, HERE is a website with lots of information.