Life in Weihai. May 10 – May 31, 2011

Life in  Weihai.  May 10 to May 31, 2011

May 12.  Dinner with Zheng Qun, Lulu, Bin, Jenny,
Tongtong, and Nainai. 
Deb and I invited Zheng Qun and Lulu to go to dinner with us to celebrate their house purchase.  We decided to go to the restaurant in our neighborhood that Jenny and Bin had introduced us to, so as we were strolling along from work to meet Deb at our gate, just at our gate we bumped into Jenny and Bin, returning from their work.  We introduced the two couples, and they found they had a lot in common — including the towns in which they grew up.

Figure 1. A chance meeting between Bin, Jenny, Zheng Qun, and Lulu

Figure 2. New Friends!

So, before long, we all agreed to dine together!. Qun had been fishing earlier that afternoon, and he had a  bag of fish to offer for the dinner, and Bin and Jenny had just purchased a big bag of fresh scallops which they had intended for their dinner, so we started out with fish and scallops and then added lots of good things at  the restaurant.  Tongtong and Nainai joined us, too, so everyone had a chance to hold and talk with Tongtong before the meal began!

Figure 3. Jenny and Tongtong deciding on a few dishes

Figure 4. Deb and Tongtong

Figure 5. Qun and Lulu

Figure 6. Nainai, Qun, Tongtong, and Lulu

It was an unexpected pleasure to have the opportunity to introduce Lulu and Qun to Bin and Jenny’s family, and to share the meal with everyone!  Good food, good friends, good times.  It sounds just like Weihai, doesn’t it?  Hey — it is Weihai!

May 12-15.  Lanzhou.  One of the places I had visited and made good friends in the past is Lanzhou, capitol of Gansu Province, and both Deb and I wanted to return to visit the city and our friends.  So, with the university here having two days free from classes for intramural competition among students and among faculty and staff  (I described this event last spring), we scheduled a quick trip to Lanzhou for May 12 – 15!  Lanzhou is a long way from Weihai in distance and in geography and climate!  The fact that our best travel arrangements involved a 6 hour wait in Beijing made it seem especially long!

Lanzhou, like every other Chinese city is experiencing a huge building program, included street improvements on main thoroughfares, so when we finally got to the city proper, we had two more hours of stalled traffic before we finally got to our hotel.  We slept late and then had a good breakfast before heading out to visit the provincial museum.  It is large, with three floors of exhibits ranging from art and calligraphy to archeology to paleontology to history and so on.  We spent 4 or  5 hours there and enjoyed a light lunch in the snack room while we were there. Pictures below illustrate some of the holdings we enjoyed.

Figure 7. Yangshao Culture pot about 6000 years old.

Figure 8. Painted pot 3700 years old

Figure 9. Bronze pot about 2600 years old

Figure 10. Jade war axe about 4000 years old

Figure 11. Calligraphy

Figure 12. Fossils of several species of animals and plants in one place

Figure 13. Dinosaur skeleton

After we had toured the museum, we explored the city a while before dinner.

Figure 14. Part of Lanzhou near the Museum

Figure 15. Deb standing by the Huang He (Yellow River) with the German Iron Bridge
in the background — The first iron bridge to span the Yellow River. Construction was started in 1907.

We met our friends Wang Fang (Amanda) and Tian Li (Cindy) at a Hotpot restaurant and had a wonderful dinner along with catching up with each other.  Another good friend in Lanzhou is Professor Qiu Huizhen, but we didn’t get to see her because she was ill.  Cindy and Amanda are so much fun; it is always delightful to be with them!

Figure 15a. Wang Fang (Amanda, on left) and Tian Li (Cindy) at dinner

Figure 16. Delicious Hotpot!  However, that big piece of toufu was determined to get onto my shirt!

We talked and ate for a long time, and finally left to go shopping in what at first seemed like a small fruit and nut shop, but instead, we found it to be two stores:  the small shop fed into a huge grocery store where we purchased snacks and drinks for our trip the next day to Bingling Temple. Wikipedia describes it:

“The Bingling Temple (simplified Chinese: 炳灵寺; traditional Chinese: 炳靈寺; pinyin:
Bǐnglíng Sì) is a series of grottoes filled with Buddhist sculpture carved into natural
caves and caverns in a canyon along the Yellow River. It lies just north of where the
Yellow River empties into the Liujiaxia Reservoir. Administratively, the site is in Yongjing
County
of Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province, some 100 km southeast of Lanzhou

The caves were a work in progress for more than a millennium. The first grotto was begun around 420 CE at the end of the Western Jin Dynasty. Work continued and more grottoes were added during the Wei, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The style of each grottoe can easily be connected to the typical artwork from its corresponding dynasty. The Bingling Temple is both stylistically and geographically a midpoint between the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan and the Buddhist Grottoes of central China, Yungang Grottoes near Datong and Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang.

Over the centuries, earthquakes, erosion, and looters have damaged or destroyed many of the caves and the artistic treasures within. Altogether there are 183 caves, 694 stone statues, and 82 clay sculptures that remain. The relief sculpture and caves filled with buddhas and frescoes line the northern side of the canyon for about 200 meters. Each cave is like a miniature temple  filled with Buddhist imagery. These caves culminate at a large natural cavern where wooden walkways precariously wind up the rock face to hidden cliff-side caves and the giant Maitreya Buddha that stands more than 27 meters, or almost 100 feet, tall.

The sculptures, carvings, and frescoes that remain are outstanding examples of Buddhist artwork and draw visitors from around the world. The site is extremely remote and can only be reached during summer and fall by boat via the Liujiaxia Reservoir. Boats leave from near the Liujiaxia Dam in Liujiaxia City (Yongjing County’s county seat), and sometimes also from other docks on the reservoir. The rest of the year, the site is inaccessible, as there are no roads in the area.”

May 14.  Bingling Temple. In the morning we set out with a car and driver who negotiated the traffic and road construction as we went by Amanda’s house for her and then on to Gansu Agricultural University to pick up Cindy.  We also had to refuel and since the Chevy was powered by natural gas, that was a new experience for us in itself.  It may be that “gassing up with natural” is inherently dangerous or our driver was extremely cautious, but he asked us to stand out by the street while the refilling was done!

Figure 17. The Black Chevrolet in the foreground is the car in which we rode.  Here,
however, it is being refilled with natural gas via a fill port under the hood.

The road out of Lanzhou was the same road we had traveled to get into Lanzhou late at night, and although there were fewer delays on this Saturday morning than we had experienced at night, it took some time to get out of the city.  When we did we turned west (I think) and traveled through hilly country that looked appropriate for mountain sheep and goats — complete with their trails up down and around — but not much else.  In the valleys, though, a variety of crops were being produced — from corn to green leafy veggies to fruits.  It was hard to get a photo in the short distances between our road and the next slope, so I just have a couple of photos of the hills like this one.

Figure 18. Terrain outside Lanzhou.

We drove for a couple of hours to reach Liujiaxia Dam, where we boarded a fast boat, completely enclosed with seating for about 8 people and headed up the reservoir at a pretty fast pace for about 50 minutes. It was a very beautiful lake with clear water and steep shorelines.

Figure 19. All aboard!   let’s start eating!

Figure 20. Amanda in the back seat!

Figure 21. I think Deb enjoyed the outing!

Figure 22. Typical shoreline.  Not much else
out here!

Except a lot of other boats exactly like ours.  I wondered why when I drive a boat Deb shrieks when we hit the wake of another boat, but here she was completely content! Go figure!

Figure 23. Another boat trying to beat us to the dock!

Figure 24. First view of Bingling.

Figure 25. Explorers on the Bingling dock

Figure 26. A nice view from the entrance of Bingling across the lake

Once we got organized for our hike we set out to explore the Bingling Temple grottos.  As the Wikipedia article states, there are many large and small caves with art work inside —
though most was removed by foreigners years ago, and the relics scattered around the world.

Figure 27. The first cave — Laojun, just inside and above the entry gate.

Figure 28. Taking pictures of the objects in the grottos was not encouraged, so I
just have a few that I took early in our hike before I knew about the
restriction

Figure 29. The canyon continues beyond this bridge, and if you wish, guides will
take you further in.  We were on a tight time frame that our captain laid down, so we declined offers to explore more deeply.

Figure 30. I think this statue of the Maitreya Buddha (AKA The Smiling Buddha or the
Happy Buddha)  obviously under restoration, is the most famous single structure in Bingling — refer to the Wikipedia article above.

Figure 31. A small carving not far into the site.

Figure 32. and the trail goes on!

Figure 33. Deb resting with the Happy Buddha in view.

Figure 34. Some of us had difficulty staying on the trail!

The opportunity of visit Bingling Temple is a rare one and something Deb and I were
so glad to have taken.  We so much enjoyed sharing the experience with Amanda and Cindy!  But all good things must come to an end, so when we returned to Lanzhou, we bid our friends — our Lanzhou family — farewell and early, early Sunday morning began our travel back to Weihai.

May 17 to 31, 2011.  Murray State Delegations visit Shandong University in Weihai.  Last May, we had the opportunity to meet and become friends with a group of faculty and staff members from Murray State University, and another group came this year!  Five faculty and staff members (Dana Howard, Chad Lampe, Kit Wesler, Renae Duncan, and Tina Coffelt) came to stay at the university for two weeks, and a second, led by Vice President Jim Carter and including Jennifer Dickey, Melanie McCallon, and Sarah Clark, arrived for a shorter stay.  It was busy time, especially for the MSU visitors, Lulu, Isaac, and Sue —- full of tours, classes on Chinese culture, Chinese language, calligraphy, paper cutting art, Taoism, and so forth.  In addition they began each day with shadow boxing exercise before breakfast! Deb and I joined them for some of the sessions (not the shadow boxing, of course), and we participated with them in a number of activities that were fun!

Lulu held the welcoming dinner for the group at the hotpot restaurant in our neighborhood.  It was so good, we are going back with our English Conversation Corner group of students tomorrow!

Figure 35. Hotpot!  Hotpot!  Who doesn’t love hotpot!

After dinner, we retired to our house for more snacks and conversation.  We were so glad they could come over!

Figure 36. Murray Staters at the Murray’s house after dinner!  Kit Wesler was there, too, but hidden from view, except for his foot in the brown shoe in front of Renae’s knee.  The pillow in the chair in the front center of the picture represents me, and it is one of the best pictures I have of myself!

One morning, Sue gave the MSU folks and us a lesson on the Chinese tea culture, and
as the previous year, she invited Mr. Yue from the BaMa Tea Company to come and
prepare the teas we tried.

Figure 37. Sue setting the stage for Mr. Yue.

Figure 38. Mr. Yue gives everyone a sample of each tea.

We tried green tea, oolong (Tie Guan Yin), white tea, black tea, and red tea.  Interestingly, different people likes different teas!  Who would have thought that? 🙂

For their part MSU group gave a variety of presentations about Murray State to
enthusiastic students and some faculty.

Figure 39. Dr. Wesler describing undergraduate research opportunities at Murray
State University

Figure 40. Jim Carter and Sarah Clark describing student life at Murray State
University

Figure 41. Melanie McCallon describing the application and admission process at
Murray State University

The group seemed to enjoy the atmosphere on campus and gladly participated in
activities such as student concerts, art exhibits, strolling through campus,
visiting the beaches, etc.

Figure 42. SICA Year-end Concert

Figure 43. Tina Coffelt, MSU Group Leader greets the audience

Figure 44. One of my favorite acts — Cross talk. I  never understand a word they
say, but it is so impressive to see and hear their long exchanges and the timing of the responses.  They are always a favorite with audiences who can understand the rapid-fire Chinese, too!

Figure 45. The final number in which all performers participate.

Figure 46. Tina, Kit, and Renae strolling across campus — in this case back from
an art exhibit

Deb and I were invited to go along on a trip to the Zoo in the village of XiXiaKou, in
Weihai Prefecture, about 40 km south of Weihai. Deb and I had been to the village, a
coastal fishing village at the mouth of XiXia earlier in March when we visited the sea cucumber farm and the “end of the world” – ChengShanTou – the most easterly point on China’s coast, but had never visited the zoo.  In fact, we really didn’t know where the zoo was, but we often had heard references to the “Weihai Zoo,” so we were glad to go to the zoo, and surprised to find it at Xixiakou!

By the way, Xixiakou is a former fishing village not far from Chenshantou, that has over the past 20 or 30 years transformed itself into a small shipping terminal.  There is more evidence of shipping than there is of fishing or mariculture.  So the village is clearly quite well-off.  In March (April 15 blog entry), Deb and I were amazed that such a small village could be building such a large water park (now it is finished with water and landscaping), but now the picture begins to come into focus:  Xixiakou is not just  fishing village, not just a shipping terminal, but a real tourist attraction due to the impressively large zoo (covering a good portion of the side of a coastal mountain (or big hill)).  There is a quite modern hotel there and villagers have large houses and take in overnight guests, and now
there is a water park!  Being close to Chengshantou is a wonderful advantage as well!
Finally, we learned that families in the village also operate a custom food service, and groups of people can schedule a meal in one of the homes — something that we did on this adventure!

The zoo is large and though the trails are paved and relatively easy to walk, there are
lots of climbs and descents along the way. Those of our group who were wearing pedometers reported that the whole hike was three miles.  Deb and I, because of our connections to powerful people (Lulu and Isaac), were permitted to miss the last mile and catch our motor coach and ride to a point where we waited for the others to eventually arrive!

Figure 47. Our group at the entry to the zoo.

The zoo had an impressive collection of large cats, monkeys and apes, birds, reptiles,
amphibians, and a marine mammal section. Besides the group above, here are a few examples of fauna in the zoo:

Figure 48. One of substantial population of Bengal tigers.  This one was looking for a four-leaf clover that he or she had never seen before! I think.

Figure 49. A kitten up a tree (Black Leopard)

Figure 50. Deb gaily running up the steps, with a view of a portion of the harbor in the background

After the zoo visit, we went to a private home in Xixiakou for a wonderful (and huge)
lunch.  It was delicious, everyone agreed!

Figure 51. Lunch in XiXiaKou

After lunch, we went to Chengshantou.  Deb and I wrote about our previous experience here in March.  The MSU group enjoyed the view, the beautiful, rocky coast, and the experience of reaching the “end of the world, and they still had energy to hike the seaside path back to a little park where they could get back the bus.

Figure 52. Chad rubbing the Happy Buddha rock

Figure 53. The Murray State Delegation around Happy Buddha

Figure 54. One of many photos made at Good Luck Point.  This is Dana and Jim.

We returned to Weihai in time for a brief rest before the evening’s activities.  We went to the KTV (Mei-le di) nearest our house — the same place that Deb and I had a surprise birthday party last year, and, of course, a good time was had by all!

Figure 55.  KTV night 1

Figure 56.  Chad at KTV

Figure 57.  Dana and Isaac Duet?

Figure 58.  Let’s All Sing this one!

Thank you, Murray State folks, for letting Deb and me share in some of your fun!

May 20, 2011. Senior Concert. In case you think all we do is have fun, well, OK, you’re right but our  fun is serious business. For example, we were invited to attend the Senior
Music Majors Senior Recital.  It was awesome!  It was all classical music by Chinese and western composers.  It was one of those concerts in which you wish wouldn’t stop!  Our pictures really can be worth a thousand words, but not words to music, so what we can offer you here is woefully inadequate.  Sorry.

Figure 59.  The beautiful Soprano

Figure 60.  The Beautiful Mezzo-soprano

Figure 61. The Tenor, who sang beautifully

Figure 62. Piano Concerto.  From the Yellow River Concerto — beautiful , and obviously very challenging to play — but these
two pianists played flawlessly.

Figure 63.  A Chamber Quartet

Figure 64. The Beautiful Flutist

Figure 65.  An incredible Trumpeter.

Figure 66.A beautiful Chorus

It was, in every way, a beautiful evening of Music!

By the way, we are now officially enjoying spring in our neighborhood!  Spring is beautiful.  We have been enjoying early blooming trees for over a month, then about three weeks ago, the wisteria that grows over the car parking spaces has been blooming, and finally the roses!

Figure 67.  Neighborhood rose

Figure 68.  Tongtong is loving it, too!

Now, we anxiously await the arrival in about 72 hours of our daughter, Kathy and son-in-law, Micheal, here in Weihai.  This week, they have been in Guilin, Shangelila, and Lijiang, trekking and seeing the incredible beauty there.  It will be wonderful to welcome them to our home here in Weihai!

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4 Responses to Life in Weihai. May 10 – May 31, 2011

  1. Kathy says:

    As always, the blog shows how much the two of you have embraced your adventure. It is great fun to see what you do next! Thanks for posting, Kathy

  2. Karen says:

    you guys make life here in the states look pretty boring!!! 🙂

  3. Shawn says:

    Hello, Finnie and Deborah, it’s so nice to see your blog! What a lovely couple! You have visited so many cities in China, most of them I have not been. Look forward to your next post.

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