Tag Archives: China

Five Favourites (List 2)

It’s been a while since I have done one of my lists. Here we go, my five favourites of the week.

-Adult book: “Chop Suey Nation” by Ann Hui

I grew up loving Chinese food. My favourite Chinese restaurant was the now closed Tien Sun Inn. Two of my favourite dishes were egg rolls and Cantonese chow mein.

So imagine my surprise when I first went to China in 1996 where I discovered that the Chinese food I loved in Canada is not at all like the Chinese food in China. That food I ate as a child? Well, it was invented by Chinese people who lived in North America. 

I love the different flavours and foods in China. So much so, that I no longer eat at North American Chinese restaurants. I am grateful that with the influx of mainland Chinese people, many of the flavours I loved overseas can now be found here. 

Still I really enjoyed reading this book, in which the author talks about the history and current day situation of what she terms “chop suey” restaurants, which includes her own family’s history. Hui asked “Why is there a Chinese restaurant in just about every small town in North America?” and the result is this delicious book. It made me long for my childhood favourites again. What about you? Do you have any favourite Chinese food, North American or not?

-This gift of gnomes

I realized when I got this gift that I have a soft spot for gnomes. Not that I am going to set them up in my garden or anything…

This article about why it’s so hard to get rid of books. 

I love especially this observation: Books “are not impersonal units of knowledge, interchangeable and replaceable, but rather receptacles for the moments of our lives, whose pages have sopped up morning hopes and late-night sorrows, carried in honeymoon suitcases or clutched to broken hearts. They are mementos…”

-The wine, Cox Creek Cellars Inc.’s Back Home black currant wine

One of my neighbours kindly gifted me this black currant wine. It immediately brought back memories of my childhood, when my mom would make me my favourite jelly, yes, black currant jelly, from the fruit on our bushes in the backyard. I wasn’t too sure about this wine the first time I tasted it though, especially because I am not a big fan of red wines. However, it tasted much better the next day when I had another glass, and I am now a convert! It’s a local wine, and the winery uses local fruit, some of it grown on their own farm.

-The movie “Hugo”

A few years ago I read the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, and I loved it. I learned a lot that intrigued me, particularly the concept of the automaton

Though the main character Hugo is a fictional character, another character, Georges Méliès, is not. 

Normally I would say that a book is better than the movie, but in this case the movie was superior in one way: you were able to see some of Méliès’ work. Méliès’ was a filmmaker, and he made many films including the first science fiction movie, “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). Have you seen it?

Do you have any favourites to share this week?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

5 Objects from China

It’s been a while since I have worked on my object diary. I got off track sometime during the summer. I find it hard to stay on a schedule during the chaos of summer. Are you the same?

Somehow though, this chaos continued into the fall. I find that it has only been in the last couple of weeks that I have started to get back into a regular routine.

One reason for the fall chaos is that I travelled more than I normally do during that time. Summer was quiet—we did a trip to Lakefield and a trip to Niagara Falls plus to some beaches, but that was about it. In contrast in the fall I met up with my bestie for a weekend in P.E.I. and also went to visit my in-laws in Beijing for two weeks

It has been 13 years since I have been in Beijing. When we left, I didn’t realize that it would be so long until I returned. I left behind the entire contents of our apartment, which my husband had boxed up, storing the boxes in his father’s basement.

Since we were there, I used the opportunity to go through the contents. Unboxing those memories brought a mixture of feelings up. There was puzzlement over some of the things I had kept plus sadness over the things I had to let go.

But there was also lots of joy. I found a lot of things that I thought that I had lost forever. I also found some things that I had forgotten I owned.

Here are five objects I brought back from China to add to my “Cabinet of Curiosities” here:

  1. The symbol of Wuhan, two cranes and a snake on a tortoise

We lived in Wuhan, which is in the centre of China and the capital of Hubei province, for about 1/2 year. This is a reproduction of the 1985 “The Return of the Yellow Cranes” bronze statue that can be found in front of the Yellow Crane Tower, which is one of the four great towers of China and the symbol of Wuhan. While doing research I discovered that there is also a 6 foot reproduction of this statue in Chicago. Cool!

  1. A lovely teapot to add to my collection

This teapot has found a place in the collection I already have. I posted some pictures of my other teapots in this post.

This time I decided to do a bit more research on the type of clay used in the teapots. Apparently the teapots are made from Yixing clay. Yixing clay has been used in Chinese pottery since the Song dynasty and comes from Jiangsu Province.

  1. A goat etched in a cowrie shell

We actually can’t remember where we got this from. We may have got it in Guangzhou, which is also know as “Goat City” or better “Five Goat City” due to the legend of the gods coming down on five goats to bring the people relief from hunger. There is a five goat statue in the city, and my husband and I have a picture of us in front of it. This would be a lovely memory, because Guangzhou is one of my favourite Chinese cities. On the other hand, more likely it is meant to represent the Chinese year of the goat. It could be that we got it in the goat year of 2003.

  1. Sancai pottery horses

We got these two horses on one of the famous pedestrian shopping streets in Beijing. It’s not a surprise that I have them, as I have been crazy for horses since I was a child. Sancai means three colours, and it is used to decorate Chinese pottery; it was used especially during the Tang dynasty. The three colours used are brown/amber, green, and off-white.

  1. Reproductions of the Terracotta Warriors

One of my favourite tourist sites in all of China is the Xi’an Terracotta Warriors.

In 1974 a group of farmers unearthed the first fragments of what turned out to be a whole army of life sized terracotta warriors and horses. They had been buried undisturbed for 2000 years near the tomb of China’s first emperor. 

We visited the museum that covers some of the pits that contain this army. Some have been reconstructed, others still remain in pieces. What’s remarkable about the army—besides the fact that there are so many figures—is the fact that they are all so individual looking. No cookie cutter artistry here!

After we finished our tour of the museum—which included a glimpse of one of the farmers who discovered the first fragments—we purchased these miniature reproductions of four warriors and a horse just behind the museum. 

It’s neat that these knick knacks represent several places in China that are dear to my heart. It’s a travelogue of sorts. 

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2019 Linda Schueler 

Beijing Trip 2019

When my husband and I left Beijing in 2006, I didn’t realize that it would be 13 years before I went back again. I discovered that I was pregnant after we arrived in Canada, and I decided I would rather have my baby in Canada. Still we had intended to go back again, at least to visit, when my daughter was older. We kept putting off our return—although my husband still continued to go back and forth—and then when my father showed signs of dementia, I slipped into the role of his primary caregiver. Life is funny that way: it puts curves in the road that you thought was a straight line. 

My father passed away two years ago. Now our concern has become my father-in-law, in his 80s, who lives in Beijing. We decided a return trip to see him was necessary.

I approached this trip with a certain amount of trepidation. I had heard stories about how Beijing had changed so much that I would no longer recognize it. I lived in China for 3.5 years, most of it in Beijing, some of it in Wuhan. In that period of time I formed many memories, not all of them good, and I wondered how I would handle the bad ones.

The first few days were a little bit rocky. The 12 hour flight was as long (and as uncomfortable) as I had remembered, and we were overtired from the jet lag. But then suddenly I fell back into a familiar routine. I remembered more Chinese than I thought I would, and I began to utter the ritual phrases that are common to the culture, delighting my relatives. My street sense—that which is needed to safely cross the road while people and vehicles come at you from all directions—came back too. And I seized every opportunity to enjoy Chinese cuisine. If you have ever eaten Chinese food in the country itself, you’ll appreciate how much more fresh and flavourful it is compared to anything outside of the country.

My father-in-law didn’t want to accompany us to go anywhere, so we ate many of our meals with him, and then we enjoyed introducing our daughter to not only the tourist sites, but also to our local haunts.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall

The people who had warned me that I would find Beijing unrecognizable were right. When we went to the area where we last lived before we left, it took me a long time to get my bearings again. A dirt road no longer leads to the area. But one of our favourite restaurants still exists, and once I saw it, I was able to patch together my former life with the present. We went to one of the local parks that had just opened when we lived there. The trees were now 13 years older and larger, but the grounds were still familiar.

View of the National Library from one of my favourite parks, the Purple Bamboo Park

When we left, there were only two subway lines. But the Olympics in 2008 had increased the number of lines dramatically. There are now 23 lines with others being built. Fantastic! It has become so much more convenient to get anywhere in the city. All these subway lines are very much needed. When I was first in Beijing in 1996, the bicycles outnumbered the cars, but now it seems almost everyone has a car, and the roads too often turn into parking lots. 

The Gate of Heavenly Peace overlooks Tiananmen Square

The people who had warned me that I would find Beijing unrecognizable were also wrong. Some places I visited appear not to have changed in the least. Tourist sites such as the Summer Palace and Beihai Park seem to be frozen in time. We visited the Sacred Way to the Ming Tombs, one of my favourite places to be because of the stone statues, and although I had not been there for 23 years, I felt like it was yesterday.

View from the Marco Polo Bridge at the Summer Palace

When I lived in China, I once wrote a magazine article about how China was a country of contrasts, the old juxtaposed against the new. I found that this continues to be true. This is why I got the feeling that Beijing was unrecognizable yet it wasn’t.

Pavilions in Beihai Park

True confession: If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wanted to see my father-in-law again, I don’t think I would have ever returned to Beijing. But when I was there, I realized that I had left a part of my heart in the city. On the way to the airport I realized that Beijing is one of the cities I consider to be home.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2019 Linda Schueler