02/26/15

5 Years in China

Guangzhou by Night

About five years ago I stepped on an airplane for the very first time since I was two years old and moved to China. A Chinese phrase 回家 huíjiā came to my mind. In Chinese you can’t go home, you can only return to your home. And in a sense I was doing just that, returning back home where I had been in the safety of my mother’s belly when she was expecting me in the late 80’s in Beijing.

Recently I realized that Guangzhou has been my home the longest, if you don’t count my hometown, small city in the Southern Finland. I went to high school in an ever smaller city, after graduating I worked and studied at Tampere, the third biggest city in Finland. I stayed in Tampere for four years and still feel likes it’s the best city in the country.

But now Guangzhou has been my home longer than that, for five full years.

I was 22 years old when I came to China. Out of a long relationship that ended badly. Traveling on my own for the first time, starting this adventure in a country I always wanted to visit. In a way these years have passed by very quickly, but on the other hand it feels like I’m been here for ages. It’s a saying that there is a seven-year itch in a marriage, lets see if that includes being married to China.

During these years I’ve graduated from university, started my master’s, learned a ton of Chinese, started teaching Chinese, met the man of my dreams and married him, made new friends and lost them when they went back home, moved a few times from apartment to apartment before making home here with Alan.

Of course there have been tears and sadness inside these years as well, that’s just life, but I prefer remembering all the good things that have happened. Hope that my next five years in China will be even happier!

02/14/15

Our First Anniversary

Wedding Cake

One year ago in 14th February 2014 it was no ordinary Valentine’s Day. On that year the Chinese Lantern Festival fell on the exact same day, being held on the 15th of the first month of the lunar calendar. As Lantern Festival is also considered a Chinese Valentine’s Day, it was a double lucky day, the perfect day to register our marriage.

Even though we had our Wedding later in May both with Chinese and Finnish characteristics, we still consider the Valentine’s Day as our anniversary. Easy to remember too!

After our wedding we finally moved to our own house, the old family house, and started our life together surrounded by history and four cats. I’m probably the worst person to be given a big house to live as I’m not the housekeeping kind, but it’s been great to have a real home where you can decorate and arrange furniture just the way you like it. I hope we will have lots of happy years in this Chinese house with a lot of character.

The Autumn was so busy we barely even saw each other. I was at the university from Monday to Friday, sometimes from morning till late night. Alan was taking English lessons on the Saturdays so Sundays became our only time to relax and have fun together. Our first year as a married couple ended with our honeymoon to Malaysia, from where I will share more photos later on.

All in all it’s great to be married to a man like Alan who understands and supports you when you pursue things that are important for you. Alan is a husband who always puts his family first. The other day when I told him to always be by my side, he replied: “Of course I will always be by your side, and our kids too.”

02/1/15

Visiting Meizhou: Traditional weilongwu architecture

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When I hear the word Hakka (Han Chinese that speak Hakka Chinese) I always think of the famous tulous (土楼) I’ve always wanted to visit. But little did I know, that the Hakka people has other traditional architecture as well. January 2015 I finally had the chance to visit Meizhou, Guangdong Province, and found out that the weilongwu (围龙屋) is the traditional building for the locals. Where as in the Fujian province more tulous can be found. The name 围龙屋 literally means to encircle dragons house.

Hakka weilongwu

Above is a miniature of a three tier weilongwu. At the China Hakka Museum we were told that Hakka people pay a lot of attention to fengshui. The weilongwu is arranged as a half circle and can include from one to several tiers. The family and relatives live in the middle part of the weilongwu, leaving the half circle tiers to servers, helpers and storage space. In order to preserve symmetry, a half circle pond was dug in front  of the compound.

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The Owner of this weilongwu welcomed us with open arms and told us stories how his family had important cement from England and pipes from Germany. All around Meizhou you can see the influence of those Hakka people who moved abroad to study or work, and then contributed to the culture and business back in their home city. Those with ability to go overseas also had the most means to build weilongwu and also to preserve them until today.

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This particular weilongwu we visited on our fist day is called Tong Yu Zhuang or Tong Yu Manor. It was build by an Indonesian overseas Chinese on the 24th year of the Republic of China (1935). The manor has 56 rooms, 13 halls and 9 atriums. Because many weilongwus were lavishly decorated with gold, they were hit quite badly in the Cultural Revolution. A beautiful mirror was saved just because a big portrait of Mao Zedong was hanging in front of it, no one dared to touch it.

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In Meizhou I noticed one very interesting detail in the houses. Look at the picture above, can you guess what is the whole on the right side of the entrance? Yes, it’s for cats to go in and out freely!

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Atriums are an important part of architecture both in Hakka culture and beyond. They let the sun light come in and gather the rain water from the roofs.

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Weilongwu is usually build on a hill or slope, so that the back part of the complex is higher than the front. This is for both better fengshui and water flowing through the pipes from back to front as well. Behind the main buildings in the front and before the first half circle, there is an open space that represents the female womb and makes sure that the family will continue from generation to generation.

For more travel posts check out all my travel blog posts here!