Tag Archives: China



感谢瑞士人Jacques Feiner,美国人Chris Barclay,中国建筑师Huang Yinwu,以及World Monuments Fund,和当地政府等个人和组织的努力,沙溪古镇得以忠实地按照原样修复。希望她永远不为游客所知,不要成为下一个丽江。


An Ancient Caravan Town in China Is Reborn




SHAXI, China — The woman shuffled around her shop in the village square, telling visitors how she came to be selling wooden swords and woven slippers to tourists rather than tending to her fields.

He Yuqing, 60, wore a blue tunic and apron, common among older ethnic Bai women of this verdant valley in the Himalayan foothills. In the plaza outside, afternoon sunlight fell across cobblestones on which horse caravans once trod.

She said she had been renting the shop from the local government for eight years. If an international architecture team had not restored the square’s ramshackle wooden buildings, she said, she would be doing hard labor among her fields of corn, fruit and grains.

“Before they restored this, it just wasn’t as beautiful,” she said. “They did a good job.”

In a project little known outside China, a Swiss-led team worked for years to renovate the square of Sideng Village. The square was the site of the main market in Shaxi, a valley dotted with Bai villages in the Hengduan Mountains of southwest China.

The renovators aimed to remake Sideng’s former marketplace to be fully consistent with historical design and artwork, a commitment rare in China. They say the project could be a model for other village renovation efforts in the country. It has been praised by Unesco, the United Nations cultural agency.

The restored buildings include a centuries-old Buddhist temple that had been converted to government offices after the Communists took over China in 1949. Facing the temple is a four-story theater with soaring eaves and an outdoor performance terrace for local orchestras. Every June, valley residents converge on the plaza to hold the Torch Festival, in which they erect and light on fire a towering pine trunk.

The village square is now considered by some to be one of the most beautiful in China. It evokes the era when the Tea and Horse Caravan Trailpassed through the valley. This part of Yunnan Province lies east of theTibetan plateau, and Tibetans traded horses for tea that was then transported across the plateau, all the way to Lhasa.

Yet, Shaxi remains free of the tourist hordes that swarm the streets of Lijiang, a drive of just a couple of hours to the north, and Dali, a couple of hours to the south. They, too, have renovated ancient town centers, but the new homes and storefronts there were built haphazardly.

“When the Chinese do this, they think, ‘How can I attract as many people as possible to this place?’” said Chris Barclay, the American owner of a boutique guesthouse, the Old Theatre Inn, in the countryside outside the Sideng square. “None of that has happened here, which is great.”

Mr. Barclay and his wife have been using their own money to renovate thePear Orchard Temple, mainly in thanks to the fertility aspect of the goddess Guanyin there. His Thai wife, a Buddhist, became pregnant at age 45 after praying to Guanyin on a visit; their first child had died years earlier.

Mr. Barclay said he had also been inspired by the marketplace work done in Sideng.

That project began with Jacques Feiner, a Swiss conservation expert who had worked on the old city in Sana, Yemen. Around 2000, he was looking for a project along the South Silk Road and settled on the Shaxi Valley because the scale of the Sideng marketplace was manageable, said Huang Yinwu, a team leader and Swiss-trained architect.

At Mr. Feiner’s urging, the World Monuments Fund, based in New York, added the marketplace to its 2002 watch list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the government of Jianchuan County put together a conservation team.

Mr. Huang, originally from Hubei Province, joined the team and came to Shaxi in 2003. The team had an advantage doing conservation here: The local Bai carpenters are considered among the most skilled in China and get commissions across the country.

“In this process, the main purpose was to understand the local tradition, the local knowledge, the local craftsmanship,” Mr. Huang said. “We wanted to see how far we could go with the local knowledge.”

The team restored low-slung wooden facades around the old marketplace and a 100-year-old caravansary. Most of the plaza’s buildings are just a century old because they have been repeatedly rebuilt — bandits burned down the buildings in constant raids.

When the project began, most of the buildings had been abandoned. In 2006, the buds of commerce appeared. A couple from faraway Shenzhen asked to rent one of the smaller buildings near the theater; they wanted to live there and turn it into a cafe.

Mr. Huang said this went against his idea for the plaza — he had intended for the fronts to be shops and the interiors to be courtyards open to the public.

“I didn’t agree to that,” he said with a laugh as he sat in the square one recent morning, pointing to the Old Tree Cafe run by the couple. “The government wanted them to move in, so they started living there and running the business there.”

The Xingjiao Temple took four years to refurbish. A fierce blue guardian deity and a red one flank the main entrance. The Bai here worship local gods and practice Esoteric Buddhism.

“Having the temple and theater together facing each other is a local custom,” Mr. Huang said. “The locals think the Buddha should enjoy the performances along with the people. I’m working on another temple in Shaxi where there is a stage in the main temple area. You move a wooden god to face the stage.”

That temple, Chenghuang, is part of the next phase of the renovation project, as envisioned by Mr. Huang: founding community centers across Shaxi to help residents tap into the tourist economy.

Mr. Huang, who still lives in Shaxi even though his Swiss teammates have left, said the first such center would be at Chenghuang Temple. His plans call for the centers to have computers where villagers can go online; tourists following cycling and walking routes through the valley would mingle with the villagers at those centers.

Thirteen villages would be part of this network, and residents might start homegrown industries like craft beer to appeal to the tourist crowds, he said.

“We can have Internet-based education,” he said. “This is a way to help people to understand more and get the capability to develop things on their own.”

Guesthouses and cafes have boomed in Sideng Village, but they are mostly run by outsider Chinese rather than locals.

The Shaxi Horse Pen 46 Youth Hostel next to the central theater was opened in 2010 by Huo Wanfei, 36, who moved here from Sichuan Province after visiting as a backpacker. Now that the Swiss-led team is done with the plaza, these Chinese outsiders are the main force behind renovating buildings, mostly to start tourist businesses.

Ms. Huo said she had employed local carpenters and completed the renovation after much trial and error.

“It made me realize there’s a way in nature that makes things work out,” she said.

The evolution of the village is beginning to mirror what happened in Lijiang. The locals are renting out their homes to outsiders and moving elsewhere. So visitors to Sideng increasingly meet Chinese outsiders and not Bai locals like Ms. He.

“The market is driving Shaxi in this direction,” Mr. Huang said. “This is not something in our control. That is why I’m doing this new project to encourage a community economy.”

A Western Perspective of China (一个西方视角里的中国)(Forwarded;转贴)

This is a new blog post from eCommerceFuel, written by Andrew Youderian. It’s so interesting that I couldn’t help sharing it with my blog visitors. — Andy


The countryside screamed past at 200mph as I worked on my laptop, comfortable inside the train’s first class cabin. Outside, weathered farmers worked fields by hand as women walked by carrying baskets.

The only evidence that it was 2015 vs. 1315 was the occasional worn-down tractor and the power lines that crossed the landscape. And, of course, the gleaming 21st century bullet train I rode in.

As we neared the outskirts of Wuhan, cluster upon cluster of soviet style high rises rose against a dreary sky thick with smog. Despite having never been to mainland China before, I felt a sense of déjà vu: the stark contrast between old and new, rich and poor, viewed from our high-tech train eerily felt like a scene right out of The Hunger Games.

With its sheer number of people, China reminds me of a much cleaner version of India, but it’s there that the similarities stop. I was bombarded by street smells which I’d love to describe, but can’t because I’ve never experienced them before. I could walk blocks in a market without recognizing a single food item.

However it wasn’t the smells, crowds, food or the lost-in-time countryside that stood out most starkly. Despite being warned, I wasn’t prepared for the often brusque nature of Chinese interactions.

Stuck on a bus where we hadn’t moved for close to 5 minutes, a passenger approached the driver. She wanted to get off and walk, but the bus driver wouldn’t let her – there was a police officer right ahead and he didn’t want a ticket. After a few more minutes, she came up to ask again, but in a much louder and agitated tone.

After another denial, the bus exploded to life: a chorus of previously uninvolved people started shouting, most in defense of the driver. Things grew, to my Western instincts, fairly heated with the bus driver yelling back at the girl. The confrontation continued until he relented, opening the door to let a stream of people pour out of the bus.

In most Western cities, a scene like this would leave bystanders somewhat shocked and exchanging looks with each other. But within seconds, everyone returned to what they had been doing seemingly unfazed.

Surprising incidents like this were, if anything, entertaining to watch. It was the Chinese mores of “please” and “thank you” that were the most difficult for me to adapt to. The difference? The pleasantries just aren’t used much.

It’s especially tricky with those closest to you with rationale that goes something like this: My Chinese family members and friends know I love them and they’ll assume by default I’m thankful. By vocalizing it, I’m putting into question our closeness and bond.

Despite knowing how my frequent “thank yous” came across, I just couldn’t help myself and still said it constantly. Normally it wasn’t an issue, but after thanking friends who treated us to one meal I felt a bit of awkwardness in the air and wished I kept my mouth closed.

You hear about the internet being censored in China, but it’s a surprisingly surreal experience to be blocked from Google the first time you get online. Nearly 3,000 sites are blocked altogether, and everything else you download is censored on the fly as you browse.

The Chinese government is often criticized for many things from censorship to human rights, leaving it with a less-than-stellar public image in the West. So I was surprised when I saw a myriad of things being done by Big Brother to improve life and move the country forward.

Street trash was minimal as the government pays an army of workers to keep things tidy. Cell coverage was maintained throughout my entire underground ride in the government built subway. And the high-speed train infrastructure made getting around China fast, comfortable and affordable in a way I haven’t experienced back in the states.

Business moves forward at a blisteringly fast pace here. A restaurant that was in the very early stages of construction upon my brother’s arrival was finished just a few weeks later, a project that would likely have taken months in the states. Walking the streets at 5:30am one morning in Wuhan, I was shocked to find a buzz of activity at a construction site. It turns out workers are there around the clock.

Seeing how efficiently an authoritarian government can act does make you think about things a bit differently. If we could ensure a just and infallible dictator with our best intentions at heart, I’d vote them into office in an instant. It’s an especially attractive option at a time when dysfunction in the U.S. congress has earned them a lower approval rating than cockroaches.

Watching a video one night, I was especially impressed by the government’s foresight in defining, planning, and executing their program to eliminate poverty which reduced the severe poverty rate from 53% to less than 10% in just 20 years. The gains seemed won so much more easily when carried out by a single, efficient party vs. multiple bickering sides.

It wasn’t until the end that I realized the documentary had been produced by the government. I started to pull up YouTube to learn from a more objective source, but quickly realized that due to the censorship I couldn’t access it, either.

It’s hard to grasp the mind boggling selection of product materials available without visiting China.

One day we headed out to look for fabrics for a product I’m developing, and ended up in the city of Guangzhou. We visited fabric shop after fabric shop, each with thousands of different options. I could have spent hours looking at the offerings of one business alone, and I quickly become overwhelmed by my choices.

After leaving one shop that had every conceivable type of buckle, strap and pull you could every imagine I asked our guide and manufacturing guru Jamon Yerger how many shops with a similar selection existed, expecting perhaps 3-4 competitors in the city. His reply: “Oh, easily dozens and dozens. Perhaps 100 or more”.

I’ve been to Tokyo, Delhi and New York City, but no where has left me with a sense of the sheer volume of resources needed to support humanity like China did. I was spellbound when we ate at a restaurant with a dining room 100 yards long. An endless stream of food poured from the kitchen, and I couldn’t help but extrapolate this scene in my mind across all of China. I left and was tempted to immediately invest my life savings in Chinese pork futures.

This scale isn’t unique to China, of course. I’m sure there’s similarly sized restaurants in cities across the world. But there’s something about China that conveys a massiveness of scale unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

My initial judgement of China for much of the trip was that of a polluted, overcrowded and brusque society. But that slowly started to change.

Just a few blocks from a massive electronics mall in Shenzhen we discovered a picturesque oasis that reminded me of Central Park in New York. It wasn’t a scene you’d expect to find in one of the world’s most well-known manufacturing centers.

My family and hosts were incredibly kind, and I was warmly treated to meal after meal with absolutely no possibility of my paying or helping out.

My biggest mindset shift came one evening as we strolled along the Yangtze River park as dusk was falling. In America, most parks would be winding down as people headed home for the night. Here a full-scale party was underway. Dozens of people flew kites decorated with elaborate lights. A group of men played with enormous tops, using whips to keep them spinning furiously.

And there was the dancing. Every quarter mile or so, we’d come across a large group of mostly older women (and a few brave men) dancing with a leader to music. I thought this was isolated to the park, and was surprised to see similar scenes in parking lots, shopping centers and random sidewalks across the city. The groups were everywhere, doing everything from simple moves to elaborate, modern couples routines.

As our bus bounced home over a bridge illuminated by strands of colored lights, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of community and energy in the air as we drove throughout the city. It was if everyone came out after a busy day to play, relax and connect with each other. It’s not a feeling I’ve had in many places before.

Even while leaving, I had the nicest, most amiable custom agent I’ve ever run into – normally an interaction you look forward to as much as a lunchtime stop at your local DMV.

As my return plane took to the air, I knew I wouldn’t miss the crowds, the chickens feet, overcast skies or the pig jerky airline breakfast appetizer I had just been handed. But I was already looking forward to coming back.

Special thanks to my brother Chris for showing me around China and putting up with my antics. To Jamon from High Cappin for being our tour guide in Shenzhen. And especially to my sister-in-law Laura and her parents Xueshan and Huadi for graciously hosting me.

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Day 1


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Day 2

凌晨4点到达格尔木,下车看看。车头换成GE制造的高原专用车头。中午过唐古拉山口,大家都很不舒服,头晕头痛。姐夫发烧。我吃了火车盒饭。下午近7点抵达拉萨火车站,下车后打车100元去酒店(岷山饭店,开张没两年,就在布达拉宫背后)。到楼下酒店餐厅order了晚餐take out。姐夫发烧,去楼下仁义诊所吸氧,输液,11点方回,已经没事。今晚我们还是洗澡了。

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Day 3


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Day 4

早9:30  司机小刘开奔驰商务车来接,去羊湖一日游。12点左右抵达羊湖山顶眺望,然后又下去湖边玩,景色其实一般般。我高反发作,难受。没吃午饭。3点左右回到曲水吃路边西瓜摊。4点左右回到拉萨,接上小刘的同乡,一起去娜玛瑟德尼泊尔菜吃晚饭。点了娜玛瑟德鸡,娜玛瑟德蘑菇,咖喱牛,沙拉等。6点回到酒店,休息后,再步行出来想找旅行社问包车去纳木错的事,问了好多家,决定跟团去,约220元每人。后姐姐姐夫坐三轮车回去酒店。我们两人步行回去,路上在布达拉宫背后跟一群摄影爱好者一起照布达拉宫夜色。途中得知姐夫与小刘直接联系,得到后日1000元包车去纳木错的安排。回到酒店,一起讨论行程,聊家事,聊到12点多。

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Day 5

早9:30  通过酒店安排的马导游(女)开别克商务车来接。先去大昭寺。马导讲解非常熟练到位。大昭寺内看到无数佛像,其中有佛祖释 迦牟尼12岁等身金像为大昭寺之宝,全世界仅有。中午在大昭寺旁某川菜馆吃饭。1点到布达拉宫,排队进宫。看了德央夏广场,过了广场排队进楼里就开始不让照相。依次看了白宫东日光殿,红宫各种灵塔,法王洞,天然形成的檀香木观音像等。出来买了书和dvd。姐夫不舒服,二人先回酒店。我们俩继续逛,吃了酸奶,然后进布达拉宫南门,想看旧监狱但是不开放。看新旧西藏展览,看珍宝馆,期间遇到西藏自治区副主席视察珍宝馆。出来已5点,走路回到酒店。休息,洗澡。后又决定拿白度母唐卡回去八角街给装裱起来(打车去),又买了四幅稍微粗糙些的唐卡(320元)和转经桶玛尼。看了好多家的绿松石项链,价格水分太大,没敢买。打车回去酒店,买了炸鸡,order了酒店的炒饭。一起聊天。

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Day 6


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Day 7


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Day 8


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