Monday, November 24, 2014

Suzhou Canals Night Cruise

This past weekend we went on a night cruise on the canals around old town here in Suzhou. This event was put on by the Expatriate Association of Suzhou. This was a really neat way to see the city.  Again I forgot my good camera at home so all I have is a few pictures from my phone.
On the cruise we went under twelve bridges. We couldn't go all the way around old town (the canals do go completely around) because there was construction on some of the bridges. There was a translator that was telling some history of Suzhou as we were cruising along. She was a little bit hard to understand and I'm not sure that she was entirely accurate with the "history" she was giving.
Part way through the ride we could go up on top of the boat to take pictures and to get a better view.  It was fun to be on top of the boat on the cool evening. At one point the translator and one of the crew came up top and starting telling us we had to crouch down as the upcoming bridge was low. There ended up being a couple of bridges that we needed to do this for. What fun!
This was an interesting thing that I feel would only happen in China.

At the end of the cruise there was a short performance by a Bian Lian dancer. Bian lian means "face-changing" it is an ancient Chinese dramatic art which is part of the Sichuan Opera. The performers wear bright costumes and face masks that are changed from face to face. Here is a short video showing the mask change. (Just to warn you - the speaker was right behind us so it might be loud.)

Night Cruise Preformance from Erin on Vimeo.
The beginning is a little bit long, but you will see the changing-faces a couple of times during the video.

Another Suzhou Garden

I know, I know all we do is go to gardens in Suzhou! There are just so many to see and they are all different and interesting in there own way.

A couple of weekends ago we headed to the Couple's Retreat Garden. This garden was built in 1874. I forgot my good camera so I the pictures are from my phone and not great quality.
The Couple's Retreat has a central living area flanked by an east and west garden. The Couple's Retreat is approximately 2 acres and is surrounded by canals on three sides. It is currently registered as a World Heritage site.
We stopped to listen to these woman preform. The older woman is playing a 'pipa' which is a four-stringed lute. The younger woman on the left is playing a 'sanxian' which is a three stringed lute. The younger woman was also singing. It was neat to see them preform, although this is not my favorite type of music.
 It is a little bit hard to tell but Baby O is looking to the side in this photo. There were two or three women over there also taking our photo.
 And it didn't stop with those women from the previous picture we also go to take photos with a bunch of people after J took this photo of us.  Again Baby O is distracted by them.
The cell phone paparazzi
This is definitely the smallest garden we have been to in Suzhou and a little bit hard to find. But it was still worth a visit.

After checking we were headed back to the subway station and we happened to walk past a section of the Suzhou City Wall. This section of the wall is not original, there weren't any signs so I don't know when it was built, but it looks rather new. There are sections of the city wall in Suzhou that are much older than this that we will have to check out at some point.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giant Buddha

A week ago we went to Wuxi, China which is about 45 minutes west of Suzhou.  We were going to see the Giant Buddha. All 280 feet of the Giant Buddha is made of tin and copper, weighing 700 tons.
There is a water show with this lotus flower statue, there is also a baby Buddha that comes out of it. We were hoping that it would happen while we were visiting but we didn't get to see it.  
Leading up to the Giant Buddha there were people hanging notes on these racks that lined the pathway.

This is not a great picture of me, but it shows a common occurrence here in China. A Chinese lady walking past Baby O smiling and making noises at him as he watches and smiles back, like he is doing here with the lady under the umbrella.

There were many stalls where you could buy candles to light and say a prayer to Buddha.

There are always SO many stairs!

Right under the Giant Buddha there was a little museum and also another spot to pray.
Right under the Buddha. There was a huge line for an elevator to get up to the Buddha's feet, we liked the view from below the lotus flower.
There were other buildings on the grounds surrounding the Giant Buddha that were interesting to see. This one was HUGE. We kind of got stuck in a massive crowd trying to get out which wasn't very fun.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Master of Nets

Master of Nets entrance gate
A couple of weeks ago we visited one of Suzhou's gardens, Master of Nets. The garden was first constructed in 1140 by the Deputy of Civil Service Minster, Shi Zhengzhi. After Shi Zhengzhi's death the garden fell into disarray until 1785. At this time Song Zongyuan, a retired government official, restored/redesigned the garden. Over the years owernship changed hands many times with the final owner being He Chang. In He Chang's will he stated that the garden be donated to the government. In 1958 his daughter, He Zehui, donated the garden to the Suzhou government.

We had a good time wondering around the garden the beautiful fall day (although it was rather warm, so it didn't feel like a true fall). This is a much smaller garden than the others in Suzhou that we have been to. There were a couple of tour groups there, as well as an art class that were spread out around the pond drawing.
This large pond was in the center of the garden/buildings