Tag Archives: China

Stately guardian statues near the Forbidden City

When I visited mainland China in 2012 with my cousin for a conference in Shanghai, we also made a quick trip to Beijing so that we could make an excursion to see the Great Wall. Even though it was a short trip, we also wanted to see some of Beijing, including the Forbidden City. Between a hole in the wall place where we had breakfast and the Forbidden City, we encountered this impressive building:

Stone guardian lions are quite a frequent sight in China, but nowhere else did I see a guardian duck. This little (well, actually, it was quite a large duck) welcomes visitors to the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. (I’d never have remembered that, but I can make out the English text on the very shiny golden revolving door.) The internets inform me that this is quite a famous restaurant, and possibly the home of the original Peking duck. We did not enter this colorful building, so I can’t speak for the interior, or comment on the quality of the food. I can only vouch for the memorability of the duck.

duck heads in a row

I’m on a roll with my ducks these days. Not that I have any actual ducks. I do, however, have plenty of photos of ducks.

This photo is one that strikes me as funny, probably because it’s not a sight likely to be seen in the US. I saw this display of duck heads on my trip to China in 2012, at a food stall. I believe it was in the city of Hangzhou, which is near Shanghai.

Most Americans prefer to dissociate the meat and poultry they eat from the animals they come from. Typically, these purchases are made in a supermarket, with cuts of meat and poultry wrapped in cellophane, denuded of as many signs of having once had feet and faces as possible. Clearly this is not the case in many parts of the world. I still remember being somewhat shocked as a kid when we moved to France, and encountered butcher shops and market stalls with whole animals hanging from hooks, and being disturbed that the chickens we purchased still had feet and head attached.

In any case, it seems that in China, duck heads are a fairly popular food dish.

Evening mahjong games in Beijing (friday foto finder: game)

This week’s friday foto finder theme is game While I enjoy playing games, and we have loads of games around the house, I couldn’t remember any particular photos of games. I played with the idea of taking a new photo, but that seemed like too much work. Happily, I remembered this photo I’d taken in Beijing during my brief visit there in 2012. My cousin and I had gone to see the Great Wall in the morning, and returned to the city in the early afternoon. After a bit of rest and recovery, we went for a late afternoon walk, exploring some older neighborhoods of the city.

At one point, we walked along a street that ran parallel to a canal. The street and sidewalk where we were walking were several feet higher than the canal level. Looking down towards the canal, I saw walkway that ran alongside it where there were bunches of people standing and sitting around tables, playing and watching games of mahjong. I paused to take a photo, but one of the onlookers looked up at me and glared, so I kept going after taking only one photo. (I always feel a bit strange taking photos of people I don’t know, and yet I find that the presence of people often make photos much more interesting.)

Even though I only managed one photo, it was fairly sharp, and when I zoom in, I can make out the mahjong tiles.

These are a couple of crops of that one photo shown at the top.

I actually know next-to-nothing about mahjong, and looking at this photo makes me sad about that. I’m sort of wishing I’d thought to buy a mahjong set while I was in China, as it seems like it would have been a meaningful souvenir for a game-lover like me.

To see what other games have been captured in photos, pay a visit to the fff blog. Want to play along? Sharing photos on a theme is a fun game in and of itself!
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golden cranes in the Forbidden City

This was a photo from my May, 2012 trip to mainland China. I was in Beijing ever-so-briefly, and made a mad dash through the Forbidden City on a morning before catching the train to Shanghai for my conference. This was inside one of the many museums within the walls of the Forbidden City housing antiquities and other national treasures. I spied these two golden cranes in a display case, which fit nicely into my running crane theme¹ inspired by Friday’s foto finder theme of crane. (Of course, the cranes, while beautiful, are not what I found most interesting about the photo. I like the confusing layers of of light and reflections. Not to mention the expressions on the faces of the two other tourists behind the cranes’ display case.)

Once again, I am reminded of how little I have shared from that trip on this blog. I took hundreds of photos, and have many story I want to tell.


¹ The theme is doing the running, not the cranes. To my knowledge, I have no photos of running cranes. I’m not even sure whether they do run.

3 weathered Beijing doors (friday foto finder: door)

Here are 3 of the many doors that caught my eye while walking around Beijing during my all-too-brief visit there last May. While there were plenty of doors that were freshly painted and well-maintained, I found that the weathered paint of these interested me more.

This week’s friday foto finder challenge was to find a photo of a door. Once again, my biggest challenge was choosing from among my options! To see what other doors have been found this week, please pay a visit to the friday foto finder blog!

Also, if you (like me) find that run-down and weathered things make for interesting photos, please check out my friend Magpie‘s Decay and Desuetude blog.

the great tomato debate

In the US, we are frequently subjected to the debate over the tomato’s status: Is it a fruit or a vegetable?

The answer, of course, is “yes.”

Because the real question is whether you are asking the question from a botanical or a culinary standpoint.

Botanically, it is unquestionably a fruit:

In botany, a fruit is a part of a flowering plant that derives from specific tissues of the flower, one or more ovaries, and in some cases accessory tissues.

But so is a bell pepper. Or zucchini. Or a butternut squash. But because these things are regularly cooked or included in savory dishes, they are considered vegetables. Culinarily, at least in the US and many European countries, tomatoes are treated as vegetables. You find them cooked into sauces and stews, roasted with garlic, or you might eat them raw, chopped up with herbs and olive oil on bruschetta. They go in the salad with lettuce and onion, not the salad with strawberries and melon.

However, in other parts of the world, the tomato’s status as a fruit is more widely accepted. I remember an occasion where we had a bit of a semester-end party on the last day of a particularly intensive class. People signed up to bring things. A guy from Korea signed up to bring some fruit, and he brought a little box of grape tomatoes, and it led to an interesting discussion.

I remembered this when we were served this dessert at the conference banquet¹ in Shanghai back in May:

The fruit salad consisted of chunks of melon, and grape tomatoes. Aside from my interest in the appearance of tomatoes in a fruit salad, it was a thoroughly disappointing dessert. Which, I suppose, was fitting.³

So, do you want to weigh in the debate?⁴

¹ Sadly, as is often the case with large-scale meals, the quality of the food was pretty mediocre. Pretty much everything I tried was bland.²

² Of course, my options were somewhat limited by my largely vegetarian diet constraints. So I didn’t partake, for example, of this soup. I did, however, appreciate that I was able to easily identify this as chicken soup. Other items that were served to us without explanation were more mysterious.

³ Did I mention the food was mediocre? The food was mediocre.

⁴ And if so, do you want to weigh in using pounds or kilograms?