To celebrate 50 years of Independence, Singapore announced an additional public holiday which gave us the chance to escape for another long weekend - this time to Macau, a special region of China. In 1557, Macau was rented to Portugal as a trading port. The Portuguese administered the city under Chinese authority until 1887, when Macau became a colony. Macau transferred back to China in 1999.
After a quick trip up the hill to the lighthouse, our first day was spent walking around the Historic Centre of Macau, a collection of over twenty locations that witness the unique co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Summer 2008 has been busy, starting with a two-week course in London as part of my certification in order to become a school principal. The two courses this year were 'Leading and Administering Effective Schools' and 'Curriculum in an International School'. I have two other courses to complete next summer in order to graduate and have the opportunity to become Principal of an International School. While I was busy learning, Shanhong went to see 10 different musicals as well as visiting the tourist sights. She even saw the queen! Another highlight was visiting Hillsongs church at the Dominion Theatre - where Shanhong came away with a free CD and DVD of the latest album!
We then went to Shrewsbury to stay with my mum - she's making good progress after her stroke - although not fast enough in her own eyes. It is difficult, but it is so good to see her up and about, even if tiring easily at times. We did do a bit of redecorating while home - wallpapering and painting the bathroom and toilet, but we still have the doors to do when we are back at Christmas. It's funny how housework and home improvements never seem to end - it is the same in our own home - where we really are going to have to find a cleaner to look after it when we are away. The Shrewsbury trip ended with the wedding of my nephew - a good chance to bring all the family together - here are a few quick pics of the happy couple and the event.
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On the 27th/28th July we flew to Beijing in order to try and find a place to live. I still don't understand why, but it was cheaper to fly Birmingham - Munich - Frankfurt - Beijing with Lufthansa, than to fly Birmingham - Frankfurt - Beijing with the same company! It nearly caused a problem as German customs didn't want to let Shanhong fly across Germany without a Visa, but in the end we were allowed through - and the journey was pretty smooth! I did have a medical here so that school can arrange my documents as quickly as possible (then we can get our shipping) - but the main purpose was definitely apartment-hunting! Shanhong had arranged to meet one agent in the morning, and I had arranged to meet another in the afternoon. Between them we saw more than 20 apartments, and it could have been more, except the second agent wanted to show us many of the properties we had seen in the morning with the first! Two properties stood out, a smaller one very convenient for Shanhong's school and for shopping, and a larger one a little further away. Both could have been possible, but with the difference in price, going for the smaller property also allowed some regular bills to be included in the price - and that swayed our final decision. So, the following day we signed contracts for a 12-month rental of the property and here are the first pics, and the official address.
Landgent International, Apt 1905,
Building 2, Unit 1,
76, Bai Zi Wan Nan 2 Lu,
P.R. of China
The apartment is on the 19th floor of an apartment block, so well above the noise, dust, and mosquitoes of thecity! There are just 5 apartments on each floor - so it is not too crowded, and security is excellent! It is literallyacross the road from Shanhong's school (2 minutes walk) and also just 5 minutes from a large Carrefoursupermarket and department store - so it is extremely convenient. (Although I, of course, will have a longcommute each day - we will need a car!)
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The apartment has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and is fully furnished - even down to a 42 inch flatscreen TV ! The agreed rental will include management fees, central heating in winter, a parking space in the basement, cable TV and internet, water, gas and electricity. So, we think we have done pretty well - especially as it is within the budget allowed, and so school will be paying for everything!
Feel free to visit the newly updated www.mrhughes.net for further pics as we take off all the dust covers andmove our own things in when they arrive at the end of August. It will also give you some idea of our new rolesin Beijing.
Keep in touch! Trevor & Shanhong xx
02 - Beijing - Settling In
You will have noticed there have not been many reports!Life has not been particularly adventurous over the last few months, it has been a case of ‘settling in’ to a new country, new jobs, new accommodation and a new lifestyle. Having said that, we have been happy, have done some exploration, some spending, and are enjoying our time in Beijing.It is, however, time for another report. So, here is an update.
Our shipping has arrived, and the apartment is looking a bit more like ours! A lot of things we really like have been packed to go to Beihai, to stay safely and permanently at home. A lot of books, especially for maths, were not needed this year, so have gone into storage in Shanhong’s school. So, the apartment is not too crowded … although I still have one room to sort! The accommodation has been working very well – and now the heating is on (and included in the rent), we are very cosy indeed – don’t notice temperatures outside now regularly go below zero!
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We bought a car! After much debate on the merits of a good second-hand car, or cheap new car, we ended up buying new. The bike battery was flat, we were walking home, and we passed a Nissan dealership. So, we went and asked if we could charge the bike battery while looking at cars… they agreed, and so we looked, and discovered the Livina (cheap version) was within budget! So – here we are. It looks good, is very comfortable, drives well… but it is cheap… no central locking even! Still, my journey to school each day now only takes around half an hour, and I stay warm!
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One of the disappointments of Chiang Mai, was the lack of theatre shows or musical concerts. Apart from ‘Cats’ which was a weekend trip to Bangkok, we saw very little. So, part of coming to Beijing was a decision we would try to go out once a month. The good news is, we are doing so – there are a number of shows passing through Beijing regularly! So, last month we went to see a Rogers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella, as well as a classical concert of orchestra and voice, and last night we saw the Elton John/Tim Rice version of Aida. Next month it is the turn of ‘pop’ as we are going to see Kylie Minogue!
Most people, thinking of Beijing, seem to think of a dirty, polluted, busy city. That may be true for the downtown centre on a bad day – but the suburbs are clear and sunny – and a one hour drive takes you into beautiful countryside. We joined a group for a hike around the foothills of the Great Wall one Saturday and these pictures show just how beautiful it can be.
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PonsVista International Study Centre
For the first time in many years, I am not teaching. My job this year has been to set up and create an International Study Centre for visiting school groups to be able to come and visit Beijing and experience a little bit of Chinese culture. The centre is now open, and in September we had our first group come to stay. The photos below show the PonsVista centre, and our visitors enjoying their stay. Please help me to spread the word. Tell your friends in schools and universities, that we would be very happy to host a group from their school or college! If you have friends who are teachers, tell them about our centre! Thank you! Our website is http://www.ponsvista.com/
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While I have been enjoying setting up PonsVista, Shanhong has been very busy in her new school, teaching Music to older Elementary School students. The school is still young, but growing fast, and there are many activities and extra-curricular events to organize. Last week it was ‘an evening of music’ for students to demonstrate their playing of instruments, next week it is the winter concert in school, and carol singing in a major hotel. The school itself is beautiful, with a fantastic blend of traditional Chinese furniture and furnishings, and modern school spaces. Unfortunately, the best pics on the website cannot be copied, so head tohttp://www.bcis.cn/ and look for yourself!
Trevor, Shanhong (&Teddy)
03 – Christmas/New Year 2008/9
At last, a short trip or two means I have something to put in a new report. Christmas 2008 saw us back in the UK for a short visit. It was in some ways difficult, the first Christmas without Pappy (dad) and with Maw (mum) not back to full health, but it was also good to be home. We may not have had quite the level of decoration of previous years, but we got the tree up, and presents were more than plentiful! Even teddy did well! Anyone reading these reports should know who ‘teddy’ is by now! The two brown bears, ‘George’ and ‘Clare’ belong to my lovely mum, seen wearing her dressing gown!
I must just include a wedding pic or two… you may remember that in the summer we were back for the wedding of my eldest nephew. Well, just before we got back, my eldest niece also tied the knot. That’s not the end either – my next nephew got engaged, so there is another wedding to come!
We were back in Beijing for New Year, although arriving after long flights from the UK and a 10 hour stopover in a German airport, we were in no mood for going out to celebrate – it was a case of going to bed!
Shanhong had her birthday on the 17th. We didn’t do anything too exciting – but I did find a nice cake and a new set of DVDs to watch! There were actually two sets of DVDs, but the other was one of my own favourites, that we are still watching now. This is our lazy lifestyle now, a good TV series or two on DVD, so we can watch a whole years worth of a show, in just a week or two! Recent watching include ‘Lost’ season 4, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ seasons 1 – 4, ‘Army Wives’ seasons 1 and 2, and now we are on ‘Boston Legal’ season 4 – and we are now on season 5. If you have any recommendations of good shows, let us know. Fortunately DVD’s are cheap here, and Shanhong has also managed to find a few websites where new seasons are streamed. All I need to do now, is work out where I can find some good Sangria to go with the TV, I can’t find any in the shops here!
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For Chinese New Year we went back to our home in Beihai. Unfortunately Shanhong was quite ill for the first couple of days – but she recovered in time to spend some good days with her family. For the first time in a long time, the whole family were together for Chinese New Year – so now is your chance to meet everyone!
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Not a lot of other news, we did go to one concert, the Christian band ‘Delirious’ were playing one night in Beijing, so of course we had to be there! We took a couple of Shanhong’s friends from work – but I have no idea what they really made of it! We are now both back at work, Shanhong in ‘production mode’ as she gets everyone ready for a Robin Hood musical, and myself desperate to find some clients for ponsvista! We did have an enquiry from a school in Australia today though, so you never know, maybe things will begin to look a bit better in the near future!
Next holiday is a week in April – no plans as yet. Then, the summer, and we’ll be back in London. I am finishing the course I started last summer, and Shanhong will be seeing all of the productions that she hasn’t yet seen (plus a few favourites that she’ll want to see again!)
Take care and keep in touch, love from us all….
Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy!
04 – Beijing – Leaving Beijing
Well, for those of you who have been in touch regularly, it is no surprise that we are leaving Beijing soon (or, by the time you read this – have already left Beijing!). The study centre is an excellent project, and I would still recommend it to any groups wanting to visit China… but it was not for me, I need a school. Shanhong has been wonderfully accepting of my highly annoying desire to change jobs again, and we shall leave Beijing on the 27th June.We will be going to teach at SJI International School in Singapore. SJI, St. Joseph’s Institute, is a well known and very old Catholic Boys’ school in Singapore. More recently, just three years ago, the International School opened for boys and girls, following a UK and IB curriculum. Shanhong will be the Primary Music specialist, and I will be teaching maths – no responsibilities this time – it’s back to the classroom.
Spirituality, Mutual Respect, Internationalism, Leadership, Experiences, Service
No doubt there will be plenty more about the new school once we are settled. We’ll have apartment pics too once we’ve found somewhere to live!So, once we leave Beijing, no mail will be forwarded, so please either send mail to Shrewsbury before the end of July (1, Longville Road, Heath Farm, Shrewsbury, SY1 3HN, UK), or send to our Singapore address! We will be using the school address for mail, so send to Trevor or Shanhong:c/o SJI International School, 490 Thomson Road, Singapore, 298191.We are intending not to move quite so quickly next time, so hopefully this address can be written in ink in your address books!
The final trip?
Knowing that we do not have long left in Beijing, it was time to get out and see some of the places we have been ‘putting off for another day’. So, last Saturday, we got an early Metro to the North West of the city, to ‘Fragrant Hills’, with the plan of getting the cable car to the top of the hill, and having a slow, leisurely walk down. Unfortunately, we were greeting by a ‘cable car closed due to gales’ sign … and so a difficult decision was to be made. Shanhong said ‘up we go’! Needless to say, it was a long uphill walk, but the weather was great and the view, exceptional as the photos should show.
Teddy enjoyed it too… he found a nice place to live, but we couldn’t let him stay there… he needs to come with us to Singapore!
As an indication of just how unfit we have become, the next day, I could hardly stand up, and 4 days later I could still feel the muscles of my leg complaining about the walk!!
Keep in touch – come visit us in Singapore! Trevor, Shanhong, and Teddy. xx
This will not be too much of a surprise to those who knew we were looking – although there will be BIG surprises even for those. This week we signed documents and paid a deposit on a house – we now have a permanent home!
The house is part of a new development, and we were fortunate to be able to buy the showhouse which means we have it fully furnished from day one. So, for those who are wondering just where in Chiang Mai it is… it isn’t! It turns out there are laws here preventing foreigners from owning property – and so, after examining prices in various places – we have bought in the South of China, just a boat ride from Vietnam
Beihai is currently not very developed, but like much of China, as it opens up to the west, there is growing demand both for tourism, and for homes. Beihai is a coastal town with a 25km white sand beach (incidently – less than 1km from the house we have bought) and a climate where temperatures are rarely outside of 20 – 30 degrees. The following photos are all from the city and surroundings of Beihai. Doesn't it just look perfect? You can even take a boat direct to Halong Bay, and those who have seen my pics from Vietnam know how good that place is!
So, what about our home? Obviously the ‘real’ pics will have to wait – we’ll be there at Easter – but here are the plans. The home is semidetached and on three floors, with a basement for parking. The ground floor is split level, providing an extra little quirk that we liked a lot. It is part of a large compound of other houses and apartment blocks with a central 'mini beach' and other facilities. We are less than 1km from the sea – and are on one of the few public bus routes for getting into the city itself.
Trevor & Shanhong xx
You will remember from an earlier report that we bought a house in Beihai, southern China just before Christmas. April saw our first opportunity to go and see the house in person. Fortunately it was as lovely as we had hoped from the pictures we had seen, and this report is one of proud new home-owners showing off their new home! Hope you like it.
The home is semi-detached in a compound, just 5 minutes from a long beach. We have three floors, with 4 bedrooms (one being used as a computer room), bathrooms for every room, and lounges on every floor. Here is the third / top floor – note the attic space in the first photo!
This is the second / middle floor – the floor we are mainly living on, with the all new curtains that Shanhong loves and the themed ‘yellow’ and ‘blue’ bathrooms! If you look closely, you’ll find teddy came with us – as always! The bath was a huge bonus – big enough for us both to enjoy!
Below is the first/lower floor – there is also a basement for the washing machine, cleaning materials etc, and a nice garage for our electric bike!
Hope you like our home - let us know if you would like to visit! Trevor & Shanhong xx
In the last report, you saw the house we bought in Beihai, in this one I want to show you the area of Beihai itself, the area immediately around our home. Firstly, as is common in China, the house is built as part of a compound, which means an area which is walled with gates and security, the idea being only people that live there can get into the compound making it more secure. A compound always has a communal outside and ours is no different… this is our compound:
Nice, hey? We bought an electric bicycle to get around, and just five minutes from our garage door takes us past a local market to ‘our beach’. These photos are all on ‘our beach’ and yes, it is normally this empty!
The crabs are excellent – they scamper over the beach in front of you, diving down into holes as you approach, popping back out as you go past! Thank you, Juliet, for this superb photo – mine didn’t work! Beihai is famous for an area called ‘Silver Beach’. This is a little further from our home, perhaps 15 minutes on the bike. It is a glorious long white-sand beach, a little busier than ours, but still with plenty of room as the photos show.
Beihai is also famous for its old town. Zhongshan Street and Zhuhai Street are the two oldest streets in Beihai, built around 1883. Since Beihai became a commercial port in 1876, a number of western companies from countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Holland set up their businesses around this area. The architecture reflects its colonial past with an interesting mix of Chinese and European influence and some extraordinary contemporary structures. It's also the ideal place to stock up on bargain-priced souvenirs.
So there you have it, Beihai – our new home. Hope everyone likes it.
Trevor & Shanhong
This report was written in Beihai in July 2007 – but unfortunately got left on the computer there! As we were back in October, I managed to copy it onto a portable hard-drive, and so here it is, better late than never! Enjoy! We spent the first half of the Summer 2007 break back at home in Beihai, an opportunity to update a few things around the house, and explore the area further. Changes to the house included adding extractor fans and heat lights to bathrooms, adding net curtains, putting up a few pictures, and buying a new bed and 'office' furniture. The pictures below show some of the 'afters'.
We also decided to do something for Shanhong's parents. They have also bought a house in Beihai, but an older house... we decided to update the kitchen. The before, during and after follows! I have no wish to upset my own mother who has wanted a new kitchen for years - but this whole thing cost just £170 !
Apart from the above, it has been a restful time! I completed two modules of my course, and watched every episode of Cadfael ever shown. I've also read three books and completed a new computer game. We were sent some DVDs and also found a DVD shop - very cheap (although quality varies). Shanhong bought a DVD which had over six hours of a Chinese soap opera - so she has been happy too! We've been to our local beach often, both with miles of sand when the sea was out, and watched the waves crashing over the wall when the tide was in and a tornado passing. It really is fantastic to have the ocean so close! We've been to see the 'famous?' fountains - and enjoyed the show - watching from the beach as 'important people' were exclusively using the proper seats. We will have to go back with a video camera to get some photos, the one in the middle below was the only one I could find on the net! The other photos were daytime with the fountain not in use.
We made a few little trips, one was to the nearby island of Weizhou. A 50 minute journey by fast catamaran took us directly from Beihai (5 minutes from the house on the bike) to the landing pier of Weizhou. Quickly selecting a motorbike 'taxi' to take us to all the places of interest, we were off! The sun was hot, the scenery good... and then the heavens opened... we were soaked - thoroughly drenched... never mind! One more surprise... our 'taxi driver' insisted on giving us a gift - a whole hand of bananas! Photos are all ours.
Another day saw us taking the free supermarket bus out to the old town of HePu. Here we thought be clever and hired another motorbike taxi to take us to all the famous places.... she didn't know any - and there is certainly no tourist set up - most turned out to be inside school grounds or other private places. We still took lots of photos. Perhaps the simplest trip, with the nicest photo - was a ride on our own bike, up the coast to the National Park - just 30 minutes cycle and lovely views of the coast and city.
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So, there you have it, our latest visit - we'll be back at Christmas to finish off! A 'video' of the fountains and of the house will added to the website soon! Keep in touch.
Love to all, Trevor & Shanhong xx
Having seen all the family in the summer for our wedding, we came back to Beihai for our first Christmas in the new house. Shanhong had ordered a whole pile of decorations from Ikea, duly collected, boxed, and forwarded by her long-suffering brother, which together with what we found in local shops and what we had already got together - meant we were able to 'decorate' properly - my mum will be proud!
We also bought a tree and decorations for Shanhong's parents - so they could also celebrate! On Christmas Day however, they came to us and opened a few presents we had kept for them under our tree. The Christmas meal certainly wasn't traditional - Shanhong had just bought a hotplate - so it was a 'hotpot' for lunch and a cake full of tinned fruit and cream rather than dried fruit and brandy!
It may not have been quite the same as a Christmas in Shrewsbury (although due to illness and a death in the family, Shrewsbury didn't see its normal Christmas this year), but we had fun all the same! Quite a lot has changed in the house since the first house report, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to send an update! Hope you like the changes (those of you who actually remember what it looked like originally!).
The final photos were taken during the Christmas break outside Shanhong's parent's house and in front of the musical fountain. Oh - and Teddy wanted to show you a new outfit!
As I write this, we are about to return to Thailand - it is likely we shall be moving next summer, probably to work in Beijing, so getting home will be a lot easier. No doubt the house will continue to develop - there are plans for window seats and if only I can persuade Shanhong, a new bathroom downstairs!
Trevor & Shanhong.
By a stroke of luck, Ghost the Musical was playing in Macau while we were there, and ticket prices were half that of Singapore, so it was not to be missed! Not my favourite musical, but well worth seeing at Macau prices!
One of the highlights of our Macau trip was a visit to the House of Dancing Water show at the City of Dreams. This is a very different show with a performance stage that changes from a deep pool to a hard stage and a plot that includes divers, ballet stars and motorcycle stuntriders! Needless to say I enjoyed it!
Though it wasn’t originally set up as a shopping district, Yuyuan Bazaar has become exactly that. A restored part of the old town, adjoining Yuyuan Gardens and the tea-house, this bazaar is busy at all times, serving the needs of the new tourist industry. All souvenirs can be found here, along with some alleged antiques and some interesting shops specialising in things like fans, scissors and walking sticks. Others carve chops, paint calligraphy and cut onlookers profiles from thin sheets of paper. Pearls from Jiangsu’s lake are sold everywhere and can be a good buby if you have a good eye! The adjacent Old Street is lined with tourist shops selling everything from folk paintings and woodcuts, to old money and buddhas. There are even shops selling temple gods and other accessories that will come in handy when worshipping your ancestors.
The Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens) were founded by the Pan family, rich Ming dynasty officials. The gardens took 18 years (1559 – 1577) to be nurtured into existence, only to be ransacked during the Opium War in 1842, when British Soldiers were barracked here for a few days, and again during the Taiping rebellion , by the French in reprisal for attacks on their nearby concession. Today the gardens have been restored and are worth visiting to see a fine example of Ming garden design. They are also an amazing respite from the hectic life in Shanghai, providing an oasis of calm and peace…. Whilst tourist take their photos, and some locals sit and read books, others find a nice piece of shade, curl up and sleep!
Next to the entrance to the Yuyuan gardens is the Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse, once part of the gardens and now one of the most famous teahouses in China, visited by Queen Elizabeth II of England, and Bill Clinton of America, and me!! The zig-zag causeway shown is there to thwart evil spirits, who can only travel in straight lines.
So, there you have it, a lovely day out, and just a bus-ride away from my apartment; a little taste of China, and a much more interesting report to start with than the inside of my apartment - which, incidentally, is about to change! Originals of all reports are on my website, www.mrhughes.net(presently blocked in China – so I can’t access it!).
The Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the "Moon Festival", which is one of the most well known Chinese Festivals, roughly equivalent to ‘Harvest Festival’ or ‘Thanksgiving’. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese lunar month, which this year fell on the night of Thursday September 11th.
However, contrary to what most people believe, this festival probably has less to do with harvest festivities than with the philosophically minded Chinese of old. The union of man's spirit with nature in order to achieve perfect harmony was the fundamental canon of Taoism, so much so that contemplation of nature was a way of life. This is a day to worship the moon god. The Chinese believe in praying to the moon god for protection, family unity, and good fortune. Moon gazing is another essential part of this festival. On this day, the moon is at its roundest and brightest. This is also a time for lovers to tryst and pray for togetherness, symbolized by the roundness of the moon.
The legend of the Moon Lady
It is generally conceded that Neil Armstrong , the American astronaut, was the first man on moon, but that's not necessarily the truth to Chinese, who believe that the first person on the moon was a beautiful woman who lived during the Hsia dynasty (2205-1766BC) The legend goes like this: A woman , Chang-O, was married to the great General Hou-Yi of the Imperial Guard. General Hou was a skilled archer. One day, at the behest of the emperor, he shot down eight of nine suns that had mysteriously appeared in the heaven that morning. His marksmanship was richly rewarded by the emperor and he became very famous. However, the people feared that these suns would appear again to torture them and dry up the planet, so they prayed to the Goddess of Heaven (Wang Mu) to make General Hou immortal so that he could always defend the emperor, his progeny and the country. Their wish was granted and General Hou was given a Pill of Immortality. However, before he could take it, Chang-O stole the pill and ate it herself. Under the influence of the pill, she flew to the moon. When Chang-O reached the moon, she found a tree under which there was a friendly hare. Because the air on the moon is cold, she began coughing and the Immortality Pill came out of her throat. She thought it would be good to pound the pill into small pieces and scatter them on Earth so that everyone could be immortal. So she ordered the hare to pound the pill, built a palace for herself and remained on the moon. This helpful hare is referred to in Chinese mythology as the Jade Hare, and according to the legend, he is still pounding.
The old man on the moon: There is a saying in Chinese that marriages are made in heaven and prepared on the moon. The man who does the preparing is the old man of the moon (Yueh Lao Yeh). This old man, it is said, keeps a record book with the names of all newborn babies. He is the one heavenly person who knows everyone's future partners, and nobody can fight the decisions written down in his book. He is one reason why the moon is so important in Chinese mythology and especially at the time of the Moon Festival. Everybody including children, hikes up high mountains or hills or onto open beached to view the moon in the hope that he will grant their wishes.
The modern Mooncake Festival
Today, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting and moon gazing. Not to mention mooncakes. While baked goods are a common feature at most Chinese celebrations, mooncakes are inextricably linked with the Moon festival. One traditional mooncake is filled with lotus seed paste and is quite distinctive in appearance. Roughly the size of a human palm, these mooncakes are quite filling, meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and passed around.
More elaborate versions of mooncakes contain four egg yolks (representing the four phases of the moon). Besides lotus seed paste, other traditional fillings include red bean paste and black bean paste. Unfortunately for dieters, mooncakes are rather high in calories. Today, mooncakes may be filled with everything from dates, nuts, and fruit to Chinese sausages. More exotic creations include green tea mooncakes, and ping pei or snowskin mooncakes, a Southeast Asian variation made with cooked glutinous rice flour. Haagen-Daz has even gotten into the act by introducing a line of ice cream mooncakes in Asian markets.
Once, according to Chinese legend, mooncakes helped bring about a revolution.
The time was the Yuan dynasty (AD 1280-1368), established by the invading Mongolians from the north. The Mongolians subjugated the Han Chinese. According to one Chinese folk tale, a Han Chinese rebel leader named Liu Fu Tong devised a scheme to arouse the Han Chinese to rise up against the ruling Mongols to end the oppressive Yuan dynasty. He sought permission from Mongolian leaders to give gifts to friends as a symbolic gesture to honour the longevity of the Mongolian emperor.
These gifts were round mooncakes. Inside, Liu had his followers place pieces of paper with the date the Han Chinese were to strike out in rebellion -- on the fifteenth night of the eighth month.
Thus Liu got word to his people, who when they cut open the mooncakes found the revolutionary message and set out to overthrow the Mongols, thus ending the Yuan dynasty.
Today, far from the exotic and heroic legends, Chinese communities all over the world make and consume mooncakes during the traditional autumn Moon Festival.
Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Recipe (makes 24)
1 can (17-1/2 ounces) lotus seed paste 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts 4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2-cup non-fat dried milk powder 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 eggs 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup solid shortening, melted and cooled 1 egg yolk , lightly beaten
1. Mix lotus seed paste and walnuts together; set aside.
2. Sift flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until light and lemon colored. Add sugar; beat for 10 minutes or until mixture falls in a thick ribbon. Add melted shortening; mix lightly. With a spatula, fold in flour mixture. Turn dough out on a lightly floured board; knead for 1 minute or until smooth and satiny. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a log. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces.
3. To shape each moon cake, roll a piece of dough into a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured board to make a 4-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Place 1 tablespoon of lotus seed paste mixture in center of dough circle. Fold in sides of dough to completely enclose filling; press edges to seal. Lightly flour inside of moon cake press with 2-1/2 inch diameter cups. Place moon cake, seam side up, in mold; flatten dough to conform to shape of mold. Bang one end of mold lightly on work surface to dislodge moon cake. Place cake on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat to shape remaining cakes. Brush tops with egg yolk.
4. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
After 5 weeks in Shanghai, I have still not found a single postcard to send, and yet there are so many ‘views’ in Shanghai! From high-rise apartments, office blocks and hotels, to local markets and shanty towns; Shanghai has it all! So, for this report I have simply gathered together a pile of photos from in around Shanghai… its buildings, its markets, its streets and its people. Here is a glimpse of Shanghai!
Buildings and Markets
Streets and People
Shanghai by Night
People ask me what there is to do in Shanghai, so I thought I would highlight the amazing diversity of ‘cultural’ activity here in Shanghai. The Chinese LOVE culture, but it doesn’t have to be Chinese culture, so anything that represents the traditions or cultures / beliefs of any nation or religion, is welcome in China, and usually finds it way to Shanghai. Of course, Chinese culture is predominant, but fascinating!
I have been to the theatre twice since arriving in Shanghai, and by describing the two ‘shows’, you begin to appreciate the diversity I am referring to.
Everybody is kung-fu fighting
The Shaolin Monks' Wheel of Life show puts 1,500 years of martial arts history on stage
"I asked myself, why? Why would peaceful monks want to split foot-thick blocks with their bare hands?" says Steve Nolan, the producer of the Shaolin Monks' Shaolin: Wheel of Life show. Before Nolan's trip to China, an emissary had arrived in London. "The Abbot of the Shaolin Temple had sent a Chinese entrepreneur who turned up at the Royal Albert Hall trying to book it for a Shaolin demonstration," Nolan says. "They were very keen to get performing, so I was drafted in to help."
Nolan felt it would be a shame to have just a demonstration. "It could have been the Hounslow Kung Fu Club for all you knew," he says. He set about turning the monks' katas (movements) into a stage show. He added a narrative structure which, in its latest incarnation, features 25 monks, four actors and three musicians telling the history of kung fu. There is no doubt that this is a full-on martial-arts show, and it draws a large following of such fans. But last year dance critics reviewed the Shaolin Monks because, when they are not jumping or breaking iron bars across their heads or having wooden staves shattered against their chests, their movements are animal-like - graceful and ethereal.
The show was truly amazing, the kung-fu was real enough, but it was the mix of colours, actions, dance and choreography that really appealed to me! These are all real monks from the Shaolin kung-fu school in Northern China. The troupe have toured the world, performing in London, New York and across the US and Europe as well as here in their native China.
While most of the monks in the show are in their twenties, there are one or two ‘masters’ in their sixties or more, and the "stars" of the shows are the real youngsters, maybe 8 years old, but already well stepped in the Shaolin way of life! If the show comes near you – catch it, you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy it!
So, my first night at the theatre in China was a real Chinese experience! My next one was certainly not!
The "Riverdance" spectacular began life as a 7 minute slot in the Eurovision Song Contest when it was hosted by Ireland, and served to introduce Irish dance across Europe. The response was unbelievable, and the end result is a full show, performed by two full troupes continuously around the world. "Riverdance" was chosen this year to be the opening act of the Shanghai International Dance Festival.
Its impossible to describe this show… the instruments, the choral voices, the lighting and costume colours only go to enhance what has to be the best demonstration of Irish tap to be found anywhere! All I can suggest is go to see the show! Or failing that, if you come and visit me, you can watch the DVD – a poor second best!
Anyway – only two trips to the theatre, and already – such diversity! I do have tickets to go to the theatre twice in November too, both times to concerts. Again, demonstrating the diversity of what is available in Shanghai (as well as my own unusual tastes!!), the first of the concerts is a classical performance by the Vienna Boys Choir … and the second is Mariah Carey!
It’s all available in Shanghai!
Tradition says I must write a report showing my apartment! I was VERY lucky in Thailand, to find a really nice place, and it was obvious my place here would never be as good. Indeed, the first apartment I went in here was bug-riddled and quite off-putting, so I swopped the three bedroom, two bathroom for this much smaller apartment. Having said that, I do live alone, so there is still ample space, and no bugs!! My "belongings" from Thailand finally arrived at the beginning of November, and everything is now unpacked and in a home! The only thing I still need to get is a "tree" or two… I need some nice big plants! I’m really pleased with what I have now, hope you like it too!
Almost all developments in Shanghai are "compounds". That means a collection of high rises or villas, or both, within a "confined area" with a gate and security. The compound I am in, "Apple Court" is a combination of two high-rises and a number of villas, with a central gym/pool complex. This photo was taken when the pool was closed for winter… usually it looks great with the sunloungers out and the fountain on! As I am now on the 9thfloor of one of the high-rises, the view from my balcony looks out across the city. (Looks good at night too with all the lights).
Although the complex is a fair distance from the city centre, I have the advantage of a busstop immediately opposite the complex gate, which goes via Carefour (the main supermarket) and links to two of the three metro lines that crisscross the city, so getting around is pretty easy. Both the bus and the metro accept a Shanghai travel card, and prices are 15p on the bus and 20p on the metro – so it’s cheap and convenient. To travel to/from school I have my bicycle, which was an absolute bargain. Cycles are heavily subsidised by the government, and so my 21 gear bicycle, brand new, cost me just £14. Shanghai has cycle lanes on all main roads, so although its still an ‘experience’, cycling is certainly not a problem. Of course I may change my mind and decide to use taxis when the snow arrives!
A small entrance area with shoe cabinet leads into the main living area. Dining table at one end, settees and balcony at the other. The bookcases and cd racks etc are all mine, but the sofas / dining table chairs / tv table etc all belong to the apartment. Floors are all laminate flooring, so it’s fresh, clean, and easy to clean (very easy to clean in fact, as a nice lady comes twice a week to do it all for me!!!!). The kitchen is pretty old-fashioned, and has no oven, but a microwave was provided together with a washing machine and a tumble dryer. There is certainly plenty of kitchen cupboard and drawer space, something I was desperately short of in Thailand.
The bathroom is fine, small, but clean and tidy. My only "winge" is the lack of water pressure means the shower is little more than a dribble. If I knew I was staying here some time, I would investigate the cost of investing in a "Power Shower" as I really do love a proper shower, but the apartment contracts are just for one year, and there is talk of school buying apartments for teachers so they don’t have to pay rent.
Bedrooms are of a good size, with useful wardrobe and shelving space which I supplemented with a set of drawers. The computer desk is of course mine! The first two photos are of the "guest room"
(anyone fancy visiting?), the last two are of my room. (Of course, if you are female, young and attractive, I may let you share as long as you don’t tell my mum!). So there you have it, my apartment in Shanghai. On a serious note, do let me know if you’d like to visit. One friend is already booked, but there are plenty of weeks in a year, and I do have room!
Take care and Keep in touch!
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