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!

09/21/14

Watching sun set at Hangzhou West Lake

Hangzhou West Lake

My one week trip to Hangzhou and Suzhou feels like ages ago, even though it was just last month that I did this trip alone to find some joy after being at home for such a long time. My husband encouraged me to go out and see new places before starting my master’s degree, luckily I listened to his advice!

What I liked about Hangzhou and Suzhou is that you could actually explore parts of the city by foot. Guangzhou is so huge that by foot you don’t really get anywhere and have to rely on metros and buses. In Hangzhou the best place to wonder around is of course the famous West Lake!

 

Sara and Jocelyn

I had Jocelyn from Speaking of China as my local tour guide, showing me beautiful views to the lake and also taking me to taste both local and foreign delicacies. I’ve been reading Jocelyn’s blog since I first came to China in 2010, it was great to finally meet her. And as it happens, we just talked and talked for hours that day!

Hangzhou Tea House

Our day started at Qing Teng Tea House were we had this amazing lunch with main dish, fruits, snacks and dessert. Not to forget the famous longjing tea. We had our own small room with beautiful decorations, offering a very peaceful and calming surrounding for our lunch.

Hangzhou West Lake

Back in February 2010 I was walking on the foot steps of emperors and concubines in Forbidden City, but now in Hangzhou I was following poets and painters through dynasties who had been fascinated by the breathtaking scenery at West Lake.

The best time to visit West Lake is sun rise or sun set when the sky is painted with soft colors. And don’t make a lit of visiting the most famous spots around the lake, it’s much better to just wander around and avoid the crowds if it happens to be a weekend or a public holiday.

Hangzhou West Lake

As many beautiful places in China, the West Lake is also a popular destination for wedding photos. This bride looked amazing in her figure-hugging lace bridal gown, that I had to snap a picture.

Hangzhou West Lake

“Green mountains surround on all sides
the still waters of the lake.
Pavilions and towers in hues of gold
and azure rise here and there.
One would say a landscape composed by a painter.
Only towards the east,
where there are no hills,
does the land open out,
and there sparkle, like fishes’ scales,
the bright colored tiles of a thousand roofs.”

—From Daily life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276

Hangzhou West Lake

When the sun set below the horizon, fishermen came out with their long boats. Me and Jocelyn continued our discussion about everything between heaven and earth. I guess when two Western girls living in China and both having Chinese husbands, interesting topics for discussion are never-ending.

Next time I hope to visit Hangzhou and Jocelyn together with my husband.

08/19/14

Wuzhen Water Town

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Wuzhen Water Town is a famous and popular travel destination near Hangzhou. Wuzhen has a history of 1300-years and ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal flows through the town. As a representative of the ancient water town architecture and culture, it has become a huge tourist spot for Chinese and foreigners alike.

I visited Wuzhen on 8th of August this year, having just arrived to Hangzhou on the very same morning after midnight. My flight from Guangzhou was delayed several hours, but even with sleepy eyes, I managed to make to most of my visit to Wuzhen.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen includes two areas that are close-by each other, the West Scenic Zone and the East Scenic Zone. Ticket to the west are 120RMB, to the east 100RMB and for both 150RMB. If you have a full day or are staying the night, it’s best to get the combined ticket.

Wuzhen Water Town

While searching for information about Wuzhen, I find out that the West Zone is mostly designed for tourists with tea houses, restaurants and shops. Because of time limits and being able to visit Wuzhen during the week, I decided to brave the crowds and head to the West Zone. The village had many tourists wondering along, but I was possible to find more quieter alleys as well.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town

The West Zone alone is quite big and you can spend a full day there walking around, taking photos and spending time with local delicacies. The Chinese tourist seemed to be able to buy something new to eat on every stall.

Wuzhen Water Town

When walking along the numerous streets and alleys, I noticed it’s easy to get a bit lost in Wuzhen. The maps they have in many crossroads are sometimes from East to West and sometimes from West to East, making navigation harder. At the same time getting lost is always part of the experience in all ancient villages, just take your time and let your feet lead the way.

Wuzhen Water Town

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I didn’t have time to visit the East Zone, but that’s said to be more quiet, less tourists and the place where actual locals reside. Of course those same locals also offer hostels and hotels there, but most of the commercialism seems to be gathered at the West Zone. If you have a full time, I recommend visiting the East first and then continuing to West with the shuttle bus.

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Wuzhen Water Town

Because of the popularity, avoid public holidays and even weekends if possible when visiting Wuzhen. In my opinion Wuzhen is not a place to explore the daily life of locals, it’s best to be seen as a picturesque village ideal for great photography and relaxation.

Wuzhen Water Town

If you decide to stay for a night, take a good book with you and find a nice spot in a tea house along the river. Watch the sun set and see another beautiful side of the water village. I bet the evening view with lanterns lit is amazing!

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If you are going to Wuzhen from Hangzhou, take a bus at the couch terminal (客运中心站), easily reachable by the one and only metro line at the moment. The bus tickets is 30RMB and it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Wuzhen. From the Wuzhen bus station you can take a local bus K350 to both of the Scenic Zones, costing only 3RMB. At the bus station you can buy your return ticket too when you arrive, that way you don’t need to worry about not getting a ticket during the busy season.

For more information on how to get to Wuzhen check their own website.

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I recommend Wuzhen for everyone who is interested in ancient Chinese water towns South of Yangtze river, but isn’t looking for finding a quiet and tourist empty place out of the beaten path. Wuzhen is a nice and easy village to visit, which makes it great for day trips from Hangzhou or Shanghai.

Wuzhen Water Town

Plan your trip away from national holidays or Summer vacation weekends, and you will have a pleasant time wondering the streets and canals of Wuzhen. I had about six hours in the West Scenic Zone, walking slowly and stopping often to admire the view. I found Wuzhen to be a great place to visit with my camera, something totally different than I see daily in Guangzhou.

If you have any questions about visiting Wuzhen, just leave me a comment! More posts about my week-long visit to Hangzhou and Suzhou are on their way too.

08/17/14

Travel posts on the way

Wuzhen Zhejiang Travel

During my four and a half years in China I’ve been traveling quite a lot from Beijing to Hainan island in the South. You can find all my published travel stories on Travel in China page. This year it was time to finally visit two famous and popular cities in China, Hangzhou and Suzhou.

For the next two weeks there will be quite a many posts about my week-long trip,  including:

  • Hostel reviews
  • Introducing two water towns: Wuzhen and Tongli
  • Photo essays from beautiful Suzhou gardens
  • Story of walking along the West Lake with Jocelyn from Speaking of China
  • Having local snacks and exploring the night market with Marta from Marta Lives in China
  • Even a visit to a cat cafe!

Right now I’m going over all of my 790 photos I took, writing the blog posts and going back to those fun days on the road just by my self. If you don’t want to miss any of the coming posts, subscribe to my blog on my about page.

And if you haven’t yet, check out my updates on Facebook where I shared every step of my travels!

 

08/1/14

Planning a trip to Hangzhou and Suzhou

Map of China

After I graduated in December 2013 I have been doing a little freelance copy-writing, some teaching and wedding planning of course. But staying at home for these past months have been very hard for me. I don’t have classmates to talk to, I don’t have to leave my house in order to do my job. Then finally last night I had a talk with my husband and he encouraged me to make this one week trip before my graduate studies start.

It’s been four years since I traveled alone and I had almost forgotten the freedom and the excitement on being on the road. From the map above you can see all the provinces I’ve visited before, this time I will be doing short trips to both Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

If everything goes according to the plan, I will be staying in Hangzhou from 8th to 11th August, then I will head to my second destination Suzhou, where I will be staying until it’s time to take the train back on the 14th.

Now it’s time to ask for your recommendations of what are the must see places in Hangzhou and Suzhou. Where would you go if you had about three days in each of the cities? Which water villages or gardens would you explore?

Please leave a comment with your tips, recommendations or wishes for a good journey, thank you!