The ancient merchant trail

Chinese characters allow for elegant naming. Just take a character from each destination and add what it is. The highway from Jiading to Songjiang: 嘉松公路 (JiaSong Highway). The bridge from Suzhou to Nantong: 苏通桥 (SuTong Bridge). And there’s the HuiHang Ancient Road (微杭古道). The Hui is from Huizhou (徽州) in the Anhui province, the Hang […]

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True places in Weihai

After a few days in rural Shandong, Weihai (威海) hits different immediately as we get off the train — people and suitcases everywhere. It’s full of an obvious type of people: tourists. And immediately I wonder if the people in those rural areas who cited covid for the lack of tourism are just wrong, and […]

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A wall, a mountain, and the people that climb it

The Great Wall of China was built over centuries and one of the oldest segments ran through the Shandong province, from Jinan (济南) to Qingdao (青岛): Great Wall of Qi (齐长城). It lacks the fame of the Great Wall in Beijing built in the Ming Dynasty (this is the one that comes to your mind […]

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Big sister sends us to Luziyu

So after Tai’an (泰安) our next stop is the city Zibo (淄博), although more by name rather than perimeter.  Luziyu (鲁子峪) is a small town on its own, made up of several villages. From Tai’an we choose to take the taxi instead of the high-speed train. It’s slower and pricier, but the scenery is a […]

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Beneath and inside the clouds in Tai’an

Mount Tai (泰山) dwarfs the city of Tai’an (泰安) and is the central attraction. In the park we take the bus to somewhere midway — cheating, I know — but it’s already passed noon and several people told me the whole trip takes ~8 hours. In the bus we’re with other couples, mostly university students (sitting together […]

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Faces in the fire – Chinese New Year in rural Nantong

The paper faces of Mao and Qin Shi blacken and deform as fire takes the bills. I never knew burning money to be so beautiful, even though this money is fake, burned to honour ancestors. Eva’s dad twists the poke and turns over more unburned ghost money (冥纸 Míng zhǐ) into the flames. Half an […]

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In Taicang: Porcelain shards of history

The museum in Taicang (太仓) shows the city’s history, how 1000 years ago — during the Yuan and Ming Dynasty — it was one of China’s richest cities, thanks to its position next to the Yangtze River. But the link between that city and today’s Taicang remains unclear to me, apart from some excavations and […]

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In Kunshan: I’ve seen the future of China

Kunshan is where the high-speed way train stops to unload passengers, where people refuel their car, or where an English teacher first starts working in China before realizing there’s nothing to do there and moves to a better place. Kunshan’s biggest benefit is often described as; “well, it’s close to Shanghai”, or; “yeah, there is […]

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In Shanghai: God and Three architectural committees

When I pushed open the gate he said the church was closed, but when I replied in Mandarin he became more welcome to me: “Ok, have a look”. We spoke about churches in the Netherlands, and I told him that in the middle of every Dutch village, no matter how small, stands a church. I […]

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In Nantong: Pillars on the horizon

‘Nine dikes port’ (九圩港) lays on the outskirts of Nantong, cornered by highways and the ever-expanding industrial harbor of the city. The area is a collection of vegetable gardens and rural houses, tied together by one-car-width roads, and it feels a bit like a campsite. Everyone who enters changes. They soften up, forget about work, […]

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