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Zhongshan Suit – One of Chinese Clothing for Male

The Mao Suit, as it is known in the West, is known to the Chinese people themselves as the Zhongshan Suit, after Dr. Sun Zhongshan, better known in the West as Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), the Chinese revolutionary and political hero of late- and post-Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty fame. Dr. Sun was the leader of the revolutionary movement that was instrumental in bringing down the Qing government, which it replaced with the Republic of China (1912-1949), ending China’s 2000 year old Imperial era. Dr. Sun also served as the first head of the Republic of China, and continued as its military leader.

The Mao Suit (since this is written for an international audience, we will stick with the name by which the suit is best recognized, no disrespect meant to Dr. Sun) has more generally been referred to as the Chinese Tunic Suit. The following brief history of the origins of the Mao Suit is therefore in order.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORIGINS OF THE MAO SUIT

Though the Mao Suit is credited to Dr. Sun, it was inevitable that a new type of military suit, or dress uniform – which would replace the existing, all-purpose Manchu uniform, whose tunic was called the changshan (“long shirt”) – was in the offing, so whether it was precisely the unform developed with the assistance of Dr. Sun or another, perhaps similar uniform, is not all that interesting, the interesting part being that China, as a country and a nation, was ‘on the move’, and the impetus for this was twofold.

The first and primary influence came from outside, in the form of increasing foreign commerce between China and the outside world (and, indeed, the so-called Unequal Treaties had given many of these foreign powers both trade and territorial concessions in China, the most prominent among these territorial concessions being Hong Kong, which had been leased to Great Britain for 99 years).

The other main influence on developing an alternative Chinese military dress uniform was the increasing unrest among China’s ethnic Han majority group, who were becoming increasingly discontented with the Manchu government of the Qing Dynasty in general, and, in particular, with China’s direct humiliation at the hands of foreign powers (viz. the Unequal Treaties) as well as China’s indirect humiliation in practically every field of human endeavor, especially in the field of science, so replacing the traditional Manchu “changshan uniform” with a Han Chinese military uniform was a way of registering this discontent.

Toward the end of the 19th century, styles of Chinese dress – as was the case for styles of just about everything Chinese, from food to furniture – were coming under foreign influence, where the new Chinese style incorporated elements of Western and other styles, such as Japanese style, with traditional Chinese style. This tendency had long been underway when Dr. Sun decided to revamp the militay suit so as to incorporate some of the features of foreign military dress.

One of the first foreign influences was the addition of a hat (the “hat” in question was actually a sort of cloth or silk cap) to the changshan, which was worn over a robe that covered the body from the waist down. The changshan was a simply designed, front-buttoned garment that extended no farther than to the waist. It was in every respect utterly simple in design, resembling what today one might call a pajama top, albeit, a particularly nicely made pajama top, often of silk.

The Mao Suit that was developed at the end of the 19th century bore the stamp of both Western and Japanese influence: the tunic, or jacket, was essentially a Japanese cadet uniform designed to suit Chinese tastes, while the trousers – and recalling that trousers were alien to Chinese tradition at this time, as the “changshan uniform” mentioned above bears witness – were an adaptation of Western trousers. The jacket of the Mao Suit is actually a quite modest affair, not a great leap forward in comparison to the changshan, except for the pockets.

The Western tradition with dress jackets was to conceal the pockets, except for the flap which covered the opening at the top. Had Dr. Sun opted for this type of pocket, his new tunic would not have looked markedly different from the changshan, therefore Dr. Sun opted for external pockets, or what one calls “cargo pockets” in the U.S., i.e., the entire pocket sits atop the surface of the jacket, save the back side, meaning that the cargo pocket consists of five surfaces – top, bottom, left and right sides, and front – that are sewn to the garment, the sixth and final surface.

The top flap of the Mao Suit tunic’s cargo pocket was held down by a centered button, just as similar pocket flaps are secured today (though some are secured by snaps today, others by velcro). The Mao Suit tunic originally had 7 buttons down the front, but this was later reduced to only 5. The difference seems to be in the fact that the original jacket was buttoned farther down than was practical, therefore the two lower buttons were eventually eliminated, making sitting considerably easier. In addition, the arrangement of the pockets, with two large pockets below and two smaller pockets on the chest, and with matching right and left sides, gave a two-dimensional balance and a pleasing sense of symmetry to the jacket, which had a short, fold-down collar (almost like a button-down collar but without the buttons) that was devoid of pointed ends – it was cut so as to stand up, and was probably worn starched in order to strengthen this effect.

The Mao Suit tunic (trousers are hardly worth mentioning in any suit, as the focus is almost always on the jacket) was in its own way simple yet elegant. It is no wonder, then, that China’s Communists Party later adopted it as their formal military dress during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) – which embraced WWII in the Pacific theatre – when the Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek, made an alliance with the Communists in order to better repulse the Japanese invaders. In fact, as we now know, it was a young, future Communist leader, Mao Zedung, who would make the Zhongshan Suit of Dr. Sun Yat-sen famous the world over.

During the period when “Chairman Mao”, as he was best known in the West, held sway in China, the Mao Suit was wildly popular among Chinese males of all ages, even toddlers. This tradition continued long after Mao Zedung passed away, but after China opened up to the outside world under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping, Western influence again began to gain a foothold in China, the result of which is that the Mao Suit is perhaps more popular beyond China’s borders today than within them. But I wouldn’t write off the Mao Suit tunic just yet, as someone somewhere will surely re-introduce it in an updated version, and take the fashion world by storm.

Imperial Robe (Long Pao) – One of Chinese Ancient Clothing

Court Robes  (The Official Robes of Imperial Era China)

The Imperial Robe, also called the Court Robe, was the court dress – and exclusive reserve – of ancient Chinese emperors. They date as far back as the Zhou (BCE 1027-221) Dynasty. They were always of a strong yellow color, a color that had come to be associated with the emperor and which tradition continued all the way through the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty. Not a lot is known about the other particulars of the early royal robes, except that the images they bore were copied from murals and paintings of their period, including lacquer paintings, that generally echoed the theme of the supreme, unifying power of the emperor.

We also know that these early emperors wore a special headdress, or stylized crown, together with the Court Robe on official occasions, a headdress that is reminiscent of the odd cap worn by graduating high school students in the U.S., namely, a flat square with tassels in front and in back that was attached, with the help of special pins, to the hair, which was done up in a bun, or knot, on the top of the head (from whence the American high school graduating cap – they also wear a gown that might be likened to a simplified, or stylized, Court Robe – is derived is anyone’s guess, but it may very well have its origins in Chinese culture).

To stabilize the crown in windy conditions, silk ribbons could be attached to the pins that secured the crown to the head on either side, and these ribbons were then tied under the chin. A small jade pendant hung from the underside of the crown, alongside the emperor’s right ear, symbolizing the need to always be vigilant of whispered plots against the emperor’s throne, and, by extension, against his people.

In time, Court Robes began to be adorned with images of dragons, and yellow robes came to be worn by all of the males of the emperor’s immediate family, albeit, the bright yellow (alternatively, deep or pure yellow) color was reserved for the emperor, while paler shades of yellow were worn by the emperor’s sons – i.e., the heir apparent and his brothers.

In time, robes in other colors were worn by other royal princes beyond the immediate royal family, such as the emperor’s brothers and their sons, these robes being of darker colors such as brown, blue and blue-black. At some point in the development of these traditions, certain fixed “rules” emerged, besides the convention of reserving the purest yellow color for the emperor’s Court Robe. These included embroidering a specific number of dragon images on the robe, depending on whether it was the emperor’s robe (9 dragon images) or a prince’s robe (any number less than 9), and the number of claws on the dragon’s feet also reflected this same hierarchy – 5 claws for the feet of dragon images on the emperor’s robe, 4 claws for the feet of dragon images on a prince’s robe.

The number 9 was considered uniquely auspicious, it being the largest single-digit odd number, and therefore it was reserved for the emperor. The number 5 was also considered an auspicous number for the emperor, since it lies precisely in the middle – thus signifying harmony – of the single-digit odd numbers (1-3-5-7-9). Therefore the 9 dragon images that were embroidered on the emperor’s Court Robe, now called a long pao (“Imperial dragon robe”), were placed in such a way that precisely 5 of the dragon images were visible both in front as well as in back of the long pao. The robe worn by princes was called a mang pao (“royal dragon robe”).

The pattern for the dragon images on the long pao was as follows: two dragon images were embroidered on the lower part of the robe (roughly at the upper thigh level) – front and back – on either side of center, where the robe proper borders the split section below, which section was split down the center in front and in back, and on either side, for ease of sitting. One dragon image was embroidered on the center of the robe’s chest area – and correspondingly on the back area – while a dragon image was embroidered on each shoulder.

From the front, and viewing the robe from top down, one saw the two dragon images on the shoulders plus the two dragon images near the thigh areas plus the dragon image in the center of the torso (the chest, in this case). The same view applied as well from behind, except that the torso dragon image was embroidered between the shoulder blades. Note that the mang pao at this time only had two slits, one on either side, so as to further distinguish its inferior rank from that of the long pao (an emperor apparently deserved to sit more comfortably).

As time passed, this fixed system got more and more “corrupted”, with the long pao becoming the royal robe worn by all male members of the immediate imperial family, and with the mang pao being worn by lesser princes as well as high-ranking male public officials. These robes were still Court Robes.

Dragon Robes

Eventually, a variant type of dress robe was developed for outdoor activities, especially for horseback riding. This robe, called simply a Dragon Robe (ji fu, or “festive dress”), came to overshadow the Court Robe during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty, as it was longer, more voluminous (the slit section at the bottom of the robe was longer, extending almost to the ground and covering the thigh while on horseback almost like a knee-length version of the cowboy’s leather chaps), and cut in a more masculine style, all of which made it popular among China’s emperors, who were becoming ever more present in the daily lives of their citizens.

The Ming Dynasty Dragon Robe, though initially rejected by the Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty (Ming Dynasty emperors were of Han origin), was eventually embraced with a vengence, as it were, by Qing Dynasty emperors, during which period the Dragon Robe reached its pinnacle as an article of fashion clothing among China’s emperors. By this time, there were also Dragon Robes for all high-ranking public officials, as well as Dragon Robes even for some lesser-ranking public officials.

The emperor’s Dragon Robe of the Qing Dynasty period was a thing of beauty which, at the same time, symbolized the power and grandeur of the emperor. Its intricately embroidered motifs often suggested the cosmos interlaced with earthly elements such as stylized clouds, waves, mountains and li shui, or a series of 5 different-colored diagonal stripes symbolizing deep standing water. Some royal Dragon Robes depicted more familiar earthly images, including towering pagodas, on the lower, split section of the robe, with skies – or heavens – embroidered on the area above, in which dragons flew among what would seem to be heavenly bodies.

The opulence of Qing Dynasty emperors, at least up until the middle of the Qing Dynasty, was fully mirrored in their Dragon Robes, the finest of which were made of the finest silk. The dazzling styles and patterns that characterized the emperor’s Dragon Robes were the exclusive reserve of the emperor. They were adorned here and there with gold thread, and the motifs were embroidered using a type of complex and time-consuming weaving technique called kesi, which is similar to the weaving technique that goes into the making of tapestry. Qing Dynasty Dragon Robes came in a multitude of styles to fit all occasions, from riding and hunting to more stately, ceremonious occasions, while the accoutrements that adorned them – from crowns to belts to sashes – were embellished with magnificently crafted, inlaid jewels such as emerald and jade.

The home of Panax Notoginseng – Wenshan Autonomous Prefecture

The Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture is located in the southeast of the Yunnan Province. It borders Vietnam and governs 8 counties, with the Wenshan County as its capital city. It is also called the Southern Gate of East Yunnan. The Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture is well-known throughout China for its Panax notoginseng, a valuable medicinal material, and is thus also known as the “Hometown of Panax notoginseng”.

There are many resources including plants, animals, minerals, and water in The Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Its main grain crops are paddy, corn, wheat and legume while the main industrial crops are Panax notoginseng, capsicum, baked tobacco, aniseed, Caoguo, Tung oil tree, and tea. There are, of course, many other special agricultural products in Wenshan. Apart from its vast resources, Wenshan is also blessed with breathtaking natural landscape comprising of caves, springs, lakes, waterfalls and virgin forests.

The unique scenes of a sub-tropical environment, a long history of human development and colourful minority folk customs mean that The Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture has a great potential to be a popular tourist destination. Moreover, through Wenshan, Chinese tourists can easily go across the national border to travel to Vietnam and Vietnamese visitors can go through the same way to come to China. The scenic spots which have been developed in Wenshan up to now include Puzhehei in Qiubei, the Bathing Immortal Lake in the Inkstone Mountain, Bamei Village in Guangnan, the Sanla Waterfall in Babao, the Tuoniang River in Funing, and the White Sand Slope Hotspring in Wenshan.

Nagqu Horse Racing Festival

The Nagqu Horse Racing Festival is the grandest annual event in northern China’s Nagqu Prefecture, the largest prefecture in Tibet Autonomous Region, aka Tibet, and indeed, the grandest annual event in all of northern Tibet. August is the golden season on the vast grasslands of Nagqu Prefecture, and the time when the grass is tallest and the weather is most accommodating to those who enjoy the great outdoors. Well in advance of the festival, Tibetan herdsmen and their families begin to trickle into the seat of the prefecture – also called Nagqu – from various parts of Tibet. They arrive on horseback still, bringing with them the tents and the furnishings which will provide them a ‘home away from home’ for the duration of the festival. As time passes, the trickle becomes a steady stream, the stream eventually a flood.

Once the tent is raised, life begins to take on the resemblance of normality, albeit, tinged with the excitement of the gathering of so many landsmen and the anticipation of the upcoming competitions. In the evening, the scene becomes almost picture-postcard idyllic, with the rays of the setting sun casting long shadows from the tents and lighting up the undulating waves of the sea of grass, smoke rises from the chimney-holes of tents as supper is made, children are playing beside flocks of sheep that are huddled closely together for the sake of safety, and horses can be seen drinking from the lake in the distance, or grazing on the tender shoots of dew-moistened grass nearby. Older boys and girls take advantage of the social gathering to meet and flirt, dancing the Tibetan Guoxie (“Village”) dance.

Dancing in Tibetan culture is a strange mix of the mystical and the joyous. Dancing is almost invariably combined with singing, and, as with the Guoxie dance, sometimes with the stamping of the foot to keep the beat. There are a couple of famous Tibetan sayings regarding song and dance: “Tibetans who can walk can also dance”, and “Tibetans who can talk can also sing.” Apparently most Tibetans are good at both walking and talking…

On the day of the opening ceremony, the people of the village of Nagqu and those from neighboring villages pour into the festival grounds from all four directions as the excitement heightens. Flagpoles are staked out to mark boundaries, their colorful flags fluttering against the vast blue sky. Then the horseback events begin, some involving sprints, some involving special riding skills such as concealing oneself on one side of the horse, leaning toward the ground to plant a spear or to pull up a flagpole, etc., and some involving bow and arrow feats while on horseback. There are also wrestling matches, which always attract large crowds; and there is of course lots of dancing, and as the day winds down, plenty of eating, drinking and merrymaking.

After the day of the opening ceremony, a number of more organized, longer-duration events take place. These include horse races, yak races, tugs of war, the Tibetan equivalent of a weight-lifting tournament (i.e., lifting and carrying mini-boulders of increasing size and weight), and, again as the day wears down, eating and drinking as well as dancing and singing performances, or the staging of Tibetan operas.

These various activities take place over the space of up to 7 days, but not less than 3 days, depending on the number of participants (the greater number of participants the longer it takes to hold each event). To any given event, except perhaps for dancing and dining, in which all participate, some will participate while others will enjoy it from a distance, i.e., as spectators.

For visitors who would like to observe such festive celebrations first-hand, either as a participant or as a spectator, UME Travel’s Nagqu Horse Racing Festival Tour offers the tourist the unique opportunity of enjoying this annual festive occasion together with local Tibetan villagers from all across Tibet, where the visitor will be quartered with a Tibetan family, and can thus learn a bit about Tibetan customs while enjoying the company of one’s hosts when they are at their gayest and most hospitable.

Best Time to Travel in Nagqu

From May to September every year. From November to March of the following year, it is a dry windy season, the climate is dry, the temperature is low, the lack of oxygen and sand is large, and the duration is long. Relatively warm from May to September, it is the golden season of the grassland, with a mild climate and beautiful weather.

Lijiang Transportation

INTRDUCTION

The city of Lijiang is located in the northwestern corner of Yunnan Province, just southeast of the border with Tibet Autonomous Region (Tibet, for short). It belongs to roughly the same beautiful terrain as Shangri-La, located about 200 km (125 mi) northwest of Lijiang, the quasi mythical place described in the 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, by the British author James Hilton, which “paradise” was first described by the Austrian-American explorer, geographer, linguist and botanist, Joseph Francis Charles Rock (1884-1962) in a series of magazine articles published in the late 1920s in National Geographic.

As is true for many quaint villages and small towns and cities in China, Lijiang is mystically beautiful. So while getting here might under ordinary circumstances be half of the fun, we suggest that you instead ‘cut to the chase’ and get to Lijiang by the quickest means at your disposal – we feel confident that you will never regret it! Lijiang’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, its main ethnic minority being the Naxi, whose Dongba culture is also the main reason for the UNESCO recognition. And if that is not enough, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Ski Resort lies only about 15 km (9 mi) north of Lijiang. So what are you waiting for?

By Air

Travel by air is naturally faster, and if you aren’t particularly interested in what lies between points A & B, but are pressed for time once you arrive in point B, then the airplane option is by far to be preferred. And, indeed, most foreign travelers have a list of must-see sites to visit at any particular tourist destination, therefore flying is generally their best option. Moreover, Lijiang is well worth the extra time spent in the city!

Lijiang Airport (LJG), which is located about 30 kilometers south of downtown Lijiang has direct connections to Kunming and Xishuangbanna – both located, like Lijiang, in Yunnan Province – and to Shanghai. From Shanghai and Kunming, Lijiang is connected to all of China as well as to the entire world, with Kunming providing connections to the rest of China in general – and to the region in particular – and with Shanghai providing connections to the other principal cities of China as well as to many major cities throughout Asia and beyond. The following table shows the regular routes to and from Lijiang.

RoutesDays*One-Way Trip Times
Lijiang – KunmingMon – Sun1 Hour
Lijiang – ShanghaiMon-Sun3 Hours
Lijiang – XishuangbannaMon-Sun1.25 Hours

* Note also that Lijiang Airport also offers chartered airplane service.

Reaching the airport from Lijiang, if you arrived in Lijiang by other means, or were not aware of the options when you arrived at Lijiang Airport, you can either take an airport shuttle bus that departs from the downtown area of Lijiang, or, you can take a taxi, which will of course be a bit more expensive.

Airport inquiries: Tel (088) 8517-3081.

By Rail

On July 1, 2018, the Kunchu Grand Railway was officially opened to traffic, welcoming the start of the train. From Kunming to Dali, it will take within 2 hours; and the west of Dali, centered on Dali, was integrated into the national high-speed rail network. After the speeding up of the Dali-Lijiang railway, the train from Kunming to Lijiang EMU arrived in 3 hours. The train travelling to Lijiang has formed a convenient transportation service from Kunming 1 hour to Chuxiong, 2 hours to Dali and 3 hours to Lijiang. An extra argument for extending this train line to Lijiang is the close proximity of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Ski Resort, about 15 km (9 mi) north of Lijiang.

By Regional (Long-Distance) Bus

The Chinese long-distance bus has been the backbone of China’s rural transportation system for decades, and it is indeed a very well-developed transportation system that is both efficient, safe, and inexpensive. At present, if you are not prepared to fly into Lijiang from one of the above-mentioned links, then the only other options are by rented car or by long-distance bus.

Lijiang has several such bus centers depending on the bus company. All of them serve the Kunming-Lijiang route, and many serve smaller, local cities, including Shangri-La to the northwest. The following inexhaustive list will offer several choices.

Lijiang Tourism Bus Station, near to Naxi Hotel, on Changshui Road – there are buses to and from Kunming every hour, beginning from around 8 AM. The trip takes about 8 hours and costs roughly 155 Yuan. There are 5-6 night departures (i.e., sleeper coaches) too, beginning at around 6 PM. These take about 10 hours and cost slightly less, around 140 Yuan. They also have three express buses to Kunming that all depart at staggered times during the morning, between 8 AM – 12 Noon. The fare is about 185 Yuan and takes around 7 hours. You can get to this long-distance bus station by taking either city bus No 1 or No 3. This seems to be the best and most well-organized bus service between Lijiang and Kunming – but hey, it’s in no one’s interest to see the competition disappear completely, eh?

Lijiang Express Bus Station, Shangri-La Avenue – its buses serve mainly Kunming at the present time (check the operating schedule and the fares locally).

Lijiang Guluwan Bus Station, near Heilongtan Park in the north of the Old Town – it has two main routes between Shangri-La and Kunming, one via Lijiang, Dali and Xiaguan, while the other is via Lijiang and Panzhihua, in Sichuan Province (check the operating schedule and the fares locally).

Transportation Within Lijiang

By Municipal Bus

There are 10 bus lines serving Lijiang proper and the immediate upland. All parts of Lijiang proper are covered by municipal bus except for Lijiang Old Town, where there is a city ordinance forbidding motorized transportation (Lijiang Old Town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, thanks to its Naxi ethnic minority who have preserved their unique Dongba culture… your rented bike (see below) will come in very handy here!). The bus fare varies between ½ to 1 Yuan (which is cheaper than shoe leather!).

Bus No. 8 conveniently runs in a ring pattern around the outer perimeter of Lijiang, making inter-bus connections much easier. Since Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Ski Resort is only 15 km (9 mi) away, there is a daily bus departure, bus No. 7 – in season, of course (the skiing season is from mid-Nov to early May) – from Hongtaiyang Square, located north of Lijiang Old Town.

By Taxi

Despite is modest size, Lijiang has upward of a thousand taxis (!), albeit, many of them are very small vehicles. The fares are extremely reasonable: 6 Yuan for the first 3 km (1.9 mi) for a smaller taxi and 7 Yuan for the first 3 km for a larger taxi. The price for an additional km (0.62 mi) is 1.6 and 1.8 Yuan, respectively. If you wish to take a longer trip by taxi, you can expect to be able to negotiate a more reasonable rate, provided that it is outside the peak tourist summertime season. An average trip within the city proper generally corresponds to the first 3-km rate listed above, and often taxi drivers don’t even bother turning on the meter for such short hops, which in reality amounts to a flat rate of 6 or 7 Yuan per short hop, depending on the size of the taxi. Note also that if you take a taxi after 10 PM, you will be charged a flat rate within the city proper of 10 Yuan.

By Bicycle

Riding a bike is the very best way to take in any place anywhere, were it not for steep hills, rocky, dirt roads and ferocious, pursuing dogs. While Lijiang does have some hills, it is not entirely characterized by hills, nor are dirt roads and threatening dogs a problem, so knock yourself out (i.e., go rent yourself a bike if you want to see the charm of Lijiang close-up). You can rent bikes at three places in Lijiang: at Red Sun Square; in Xenia Street (No. 70); and at the Youth Hotel, though the latter’s bikes are only available to the hotel’s guests (they might even offer a discount for this service, so you might want to check out the price of lodgings here first if you are thinking of renting a bike to do some sight-seeing in Lijiang).

Enjoying Specialty Foods & Restaurants in DiQing

INTRODUCTION

Since the majority of the residents of Diqing (Shangri-La is the capital), the main municipal area of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, are Tibetans. Most of the food enjoyed by the residents of Diqing reflect a Tibetan flavor, even where Sichuan and Yunnan dishes are made, though the non-Tibetan population of Diqing enjoy both Sichuan and Yunnan dishes, as well as Tibetan specialties. And of course there are Sichuan and Yunnan style restaurants in Diqing that serve dishes in the original style, as well as many of the more popular Tibetan specialties. The latter include zanba (a roasted highland barley flour as well as a dish), buttered tea, and barley beer. In addition, tourists have the option of overnighting at the home of a Tibetan, where one can try Tibetan specialties, as well as learn, first hand, of the local customs.

Food customs in Diqing, the seat of Zhongdian county (note that Diqing is sometimes called Zhongdian and at other times Shangri-la, and the county itself is also called both of these names), belong mainly to the Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibetan styles. Restaurants serving the same three food styles, or a blend of all three food styles, can also be found in Diqing. While the food of Sichuan and Yunnan tends toward the spicy hot, Tibetan staple dishes, which are often made with beef, are less spicy. In addition to the main Tibetan dishes, there are a number of Tibetan snack foods that can be found in eateries at Diqing. A favorite Tibetan foodstuff is zanba (see below), and a couple of favorite Tibetan beverages are buttered tea and barley beer, the former of which is also an optional ingredient in making zanba.

SPECIALTY FOODS

Zanba (Roasted Highland Barley-Flour Dish)

Firstly, there are three different variants of the zanba used in this dish: highland barley zanba, pea zanba, and a mix of the two. Zanba is the main dish of the Tibetan people, and is both nutritious and conveniently portable (can be taken anywhere), an important requirement for a people who live on a high plateau where neither naturally occurring food sources nor off-road restaurants :) are readily available. Therefore, when Tibetans go on a longer journey, they always bring along the fixings for zanba in their rucksack: a bowl, a bag of zanba, ghee (a residue from butter, made by heating (“clarifying”) the butter, then draining off the clarified/ liquified butter (to be used for other culinary purposes), leaving a milk residue that does not need refrigeration thereafter), and water, or tea – or both.

The dish is prepared by adding some zanba flour to a bit of tea (alternatively, water) that is poured into the zanba bowl, then spiked with ghee and white sugar – and if the trip is short, or during the first part of a long trip, also butter/ clarified butter, the latter of which is also often used in tea for drinking, aka buttered tea. Enough zanba flour is added to the liquid ingredients and the ghee to make a dryish dough. The dough is then kneaded in the bowl and small lumps pinched off, then rolled into matzo-sized, ready-to-eat balls. If one has time to make a fire, and if one has brought along a metal pot for bonfire cooking, then the water/ tea can be heated, but this is a time-consuming luxury; the dish can be made by anyone, anytime, anywhere – and on the go – using the aforementioned basic ingredients with unheated water or tea.

Zanba flour itself is made by drying barley in the sun, removing the chaff from the grains by tossing the sun-parched barley in the air, then grinding the barley grains into a flour. Barley flour can be ground in small amounts by hand with a mortar and pestle, but today it is generally processed from start to finish at a large mill, driven either by wind or water. Zanba flour comes in two different degrees of fineness, coarse or fine.

Pickled Vegetable Soup

When visiting a Tibetan home, one of the dishes that you will most likely be served is pickled vegetables soup (in Russia, Jewish families often serve a similar, but served cold, vegetable soup during the summer that, instead of vinegar, is made with kvass, a  weak beer-like beverage made from fermented wheat). Pickled vegetables taste great, retain an al dente texture, and can also regulate the appetite, since the vinegar base increases the secretion of gastric juices during digestion, which provides a feeling of “being full”. The Tibetans also insist that their pickled vegetable soup can ward off the common cold.

Dairy Products

Tibetans raise cattle for their meat and for their milk. Tibetans are especially fond of dairy products. Most livestock production in Tibet is on a small scale, where the individual herdsman milks his cows the old-fashioned way, with a classic milk pail. The milk is consumed as milk, of course, but is also used to make butter (and ghee), yoghurt and cheese, including cottage cheese. Milk is of course an important source of calcium for growing children, but it is enjoyed by Tibetans of all ages.

RESTAURANTS IN DIQING

There are several restaurants and snack shops in Diqing, but we mention here the two which currently tend to cater most to tourists, compared to the other restaurants, but if you would like to rub shoulders with a more representative mix of the residents of Diqing, then by all means, try out Diqing’s other restaurants!

Diqing Restaurant 

Diqing Restaurant is the largest restaurant in the city. The chef at Diqing Restaurant was recruited from the heart of south-central China, where the cuisine traditions are world famous. The chef is also a man with personality, so he brings not only his culinary expertise to the job, but also a great deal of humor and warmth. Diqing Restaurant seats up to 600 people, including the banquet hall.

Contact Telephone: (0887) 822-9666

Hongmu Tasty Snack Restaurant

Hongmu Tasty Snack Restaurant serves a broad range of Tibetan snacks, and at very reasonable prices. The snack shop doesn’t advertise its telephone number, but it can be found centrally in the city on Heping Road, near the Longfengxiang Hotel.

Other Restaurants

There are a number of hotels in Diqing, varying from 2-stars to 4-stars (the prices are accordingly 2-star to 4-star :)), that serve everything from Tibetan snack specialties to gourmet meals.

Note also that in nearby Tiger Leaping Gorge you can find a number of restaurants that serve gourmet meals, including local chicken dishes and fresh fish caught in the nearby Jinsha River. The restaurants of Tiger Leaping Gorge are a bit pricier than in Diqing, but if you wish to combine dinner with a stroll through the gorge (perhaps in reverse order), it is well worth the extra expense.

The Weather in Chengdu

The city of Chengdu lies on the Chengdu Plain on the west-central edge of the Sichuan Basin, itself a deep, almost rectangular depression located on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Sichuan Province is characterized to the west and north by the towering Hengduan Mountains – an area that is ruggedly beautiful (bamboo forests abound), and is predominantly populated by people of Tibetan origin (many of the residents of Chengdu are also of Tibetan origin) – and to the east by the lowland area of the Sichuan Basin.

Not only are the Hengduan Mountains tall, they are also situated on an elevated crustal uplift that is the geological opposite of a depression, such as the Sichuan Basin. The weather in the mountainous region is icy cold, but clear, which contrasts almost diametrically with the neighboring mild, humid – and often overcast or outright foggy – weather of the Chengdu Plain to the east that characterizes the city of Chengdu, sometimes likened to the city of London as regards the fog and the drizzly weather. For example, Chengdu gets about 250-300 foggy, cloudy or rainy days each year.

The average winter temperature (January is the coldest month) lies between 3-8 degrees Celsius, while the average summer temperature (July being the coldest month) lies between 25-29 degrees Celsius. Average precipitation (strictly rainfall) for the Chengdu Plain is 1000 mm (about 40 in), which is almost double the amount of precipitation in the Hengduan Mountains to the west.

A summary of the weather of Chengdu might read ‘an early spring, a hot summer, a cool autumn and a warm [relatively speaking] winter’. Another old saying that describes the weather of Chengdu pokes fun at the infrequency of sunshine: ‘Shu [“Chengdu”] dogs bark at the sight of the sun’.

The Cuisine And Restaurants Of Chengdu

Any presentation of the dishes served in the private homes and public restaurants of Chengdu would be remiss if it did not point out that the dishes served in Chengdu, both in private homes and in restaurants, belong to the Sichuan Cuisine tradition, one of the Eight Major Cuisine Schools in China.

In the following, a brief description of the defining features of Sichuan Cuisine, also known as Chuan Cuisine, will be presented, followed by a list of the most popular&famous Sichuan dishes. Finally, a short, very in-exhaustive (you are herewith encouraged to find your own favorite Chengdu eatery) list of restaurants in Chengdu is presented.

Chuan Cuisine In Brief

Chuan Cuisine is the most popular cuisine in China, defined in terms of the breadth and depth of where it is served. Of course it helps the depth parameter that the neighboring population-dense municipality of Chongqing, formerly a part of Sichuan Province, is one of the areas outside present-day Sichuan Province most enamored of Chuan Cuisine.

The dishes of Chuan Cuisine are famous for spicy-hot flavors, a spicy-hotness that Sichuaners call “dry hot”, insisting that it differs from the “wet hot” spiciness of other cuisines. The difference, say, Sichuaners, is that the spices used to achieve “dry hot” spiciness consists of a mixture of dry ingredients such as crushed peppercorns (black, red and white) and dried, crushed chili, as well as Sichuan Province’s own native pepper, huajiao (“flower pepper” from the prickly ash tree, Zanthoxylum bungeanum) that is of course first dried, then crushed. According to Sichuan-Cuisine chefs, gourmets and gourmands (which covers just about everyone cooking and eating Sichuan Cuisine : ) ), the salient features of “dry hot” spiciness consist of an instantaneous numbing effect on the tongue, and a pleasing, lingering, spicy-hot aftertaste.

Chuan Cuisine is also famous for its bold tastes in general, which all seem to come together in one of the most famous dishes of Sichuan Province and the municipality of Chongqing: Hot Pot. Some of the most common ingredients that contribute to the bold tastes of Chuan Cuisine are: bell peppers, garlic, hot-pickled cucumbers spiked with mustard from Fuling, fermented soybeans from Tongchuan, green beans, peanuts, scallions, broad-bean sauce from Pixian, Chongqing chili sauce, soy sauce from Zhongba, two special vinegars (cooking vinegar from Baoning and salad vinegar from Sanhui) and Sichuan’s own special sea salt from wells in Zigong.

And this is only the beginning, as any Sichuaner will tell you, thanks to its remarkable climate, Sichuan Province is blessed with a record number of naturally occurring plants used in the preparation of food (and of so-called Medicinal Foods), including some of the best and tastiest varieties of mushrooms in all of China (regarding of mushrooms, the Sichuan province is to China as the department of Dordogne – famous for, among other mushrooms, its truffles – is to France).

Chuan Cuisine excels in quick-frying and stir-frying methods, as well as two special cooking methods particular to Chuan Cuisine: dry-braising and dry-stewing. Dry-braising, as the name suggests, involves driving out liquids from the diced meat and vegetable mixture using a hot, thick iron pot with a bare minimum of oil in order to prevent sticking. Once the liquids are driven out and cooked off/ sufficiently reduced, the spices and any additional oil are then added. This results in tender, juicy morsels of meat and crispy vegetables.

Dry-stewing is a method for making sauces derived from soups and broths (drying these out, as it were), to which other, thicker, prepared sauces are added. The soup or broth is reduced slowly over low heat to the desired consistency, then a thick, flavored sauce such as Pixian broad-bean sauce or Chongqing chili sauce is added. Since the soup or broth is often made with the use of fat-marbled meat (or bones with fat-marbled meat) for flavor, the reduction process results in a slightly oilier sauce than comparable sauces made with milk or corn starch, which is partly what gives this sauce its delicious taste.

There is a saying about Sichuan Cuisine that Chuan Cuisine chefs all over China, especially the chefs of Chengdu and Chongqing, take great pride in: only Chuan Cuisine can produce ‘one hundred dishes, each with one flavor, and one dish with all one hundred flavors’.

Below is a representative selection of Sichuan dishes. Note that freshwater fish and crustacea are popular in the province, and, something that might seem odd to a Western palate – fish flavors and sauces are used in conjunction with meat dishes involving pork and beef, etc.

Special Chuan Cuisine Dishes

Stir-Fried Spicy Diced Chicken

Spicy Diced Chicken is cooked by stir-frying a mixture of diced chicken together with dried, crushed chili pepper and golden peanuts. Spicy Diced Chicken, and the dish below, Mapo Bean Curd, are as popular among Westerners as among the Chinese in general, and among the residents of Chengdu and Chongqing in particular. Bon appetit!

Mapo Bean Curd

Mapo Bean Curd is bean curd, or tofu, set in a tasty bean-and-chili based sauce, which serves as a thin, somewhat oily, bright red suspension. The dish is often topped with minced meat – usually pork or beef. Seasonings include water chestnuts, onions, mushrooms – such as the Judas ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) – and other vegetables. Mapo Bean Curd is often described with some or all of the following adjectives: numbing, spicy-hot, fresh and flaky, soft and tender, and aromatic. Mapo Bean Curd is as popular in London, Paris and New York – and, of course, in Amsterdam – as it is inside China. Bon appetit!

Fish Head in Bean Curd Soup

The fish heads are cooked in enough water to just cover them. When the fish heads are almost done, suitable amounts (depending on the number of fish heads) of scallions, grated ginger, garlic, salt & pepper, bean-and-chili sauce, and cooking wine are added. When the fish heads are cooked done, either an appropriate amount of gelatinous thickener such as mung bean sheet jelly, or corn starch, is added. The finished soup is topped with a bit of fresh green spices such as chives, parsley, etc., for added color. Bon appetit!

Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan Hot Pot, like most of the cuisine consumed in the humid province of Sichuan, is very spicy (note that, as implied here, spicy food is considered an antidote to humidity and resulting sweatiness, in keeping with the precepts of Chinese Traditional Medicine – elsewhere referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, which acronym Westerners generally associate with Turner Classic Movies, which should never be ingested! (: ) – as it helps in eliminating sweat). The broth is flavored with dried, crushed chili peppers and with other pungent herbs and spices. The main ingredients of the cooking broth include chili pepper, Chinese crystal sugar and wine. Diced or sliced pieces of pork – including the kidney – chicken breast, beef tripe, goose intestines, spring onions, soy bean sprouts, mushrooms, duck and sea cucumber are the usual meats used in the dish. Bon appetit!

Steamed Yellow Croaker

An appropriate number of Large (“Large” is part of the name, not a reference to size) Yellow Croaker (Pseudosciaena crocea) – not to be confused with the Yellowfin Croaker (Umbrina roncador), a saltwater fish that frequents bays and estuaries – are scored with diagonal slits on either side and covered with cooking wine, to which are added salt and pepper, scallions and ginger. The mixture is then brought to a boil and the heat reduced to low, then cooked for ½ hour (this recipe is intended for Yellow Croaker weighing about ½ kilo (1.1 lb) per fish, so if you use a different, larger fish, such as the increasingly popular Tilapia – now an important aquaculture fish available just about everywhere in the world, including in China – you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly).

When the fish is done, remove, drip-dry for a moment (alternatively, place momentarily on a paper towel), then transfer to a pre-heated serving platter. Quickly stir-fry pork, chili, scallion, and ginger strips in oil in a hot wok for a few minutes, then add thinly-sliced mushrooms (any type of firm mushroom), winter bamboo shoots and shredded, pickled (in vinegar spiked with chili) vegetable mustard (aka root mustard, Brassica juncea, not to be confused with ordinary seed mustard). Add a dash each of soy sauce and cooking wine, mix lightly as the alcohol content of the wine evaporates, then pour over the fish. Serve immediately. Bon appetit!

Fuqi Fei Pian

Fuqi Fei Pian is made of thinly sliced beef, cow’s lung or beef tongue seasoned with frying oil that is spiked with chili. There is a homely story about the origin of this famous Sichuan dish that goes as follows. Guo Zhaohua, the inventor of this dish, and his wife sold their marinated (in Baoning vinegar) meat slices from a small vending cart that they would push from street to street. The couple’s marinated meat slices were so delicious – and the aroma of them so enticing – that no one could resist them. The marinated meat slices of Guo Zhaohua and his wife became so popular that people gave the dish a fitting name meant to represent all of the marinated meats served by the couple, irrespective of whether it was beef tongue, beef slices or cow’s lung: Husband and Wife Lung Slices. Bon appetit!

A SHORT SELECTION OF RESTAURANTS IN CHENGDU

Imperial City Old Ma Restaurant (Huangcheng Laoma)

Imperial City Old Ma Restaurant is a large upmarket restaurant chain with outlets throughout China. The chain, which originated in Chengdu, used to have two Hot Pot restaurants in Chengdu, one named Imperial City Old Ma, the other named simply Old Ma. The Old Ma restaurant eventually declined, then disappeared, while the Imperial City Old Ma restaurant just got bigger and better.

Address: No. 14 Shenlong Street, Chengdu, China

Tel: (028) 8523-1777

Tan’s Fish Head Restaurant

The restaurant was originally named after the inventor’s name, Tan Changan. The restaurant eventually became well-known for its delicious fish head Hot Pot, after which the restaurant was accordingly renamed Tan’s Fish Head Restaurant.

Yulin Chuanchuan Xiang Restaurant

Yulin Chuanchuan Xiang Restaurant got its name from the fact that Chuanchuan Xiang, also called Ma La Tang, is the most favorite food among the women of Chengdu. It can be as expensive or as inexpensive as one desires. Chuanchuan Xiang is simply a form of Hot Pot whereby the food items to be cooked – anything from pieces of vegetables to meat to poultry to prawns to you-name-it – are threaded onto the end of a bamboo skewer, then the “business end” of the skewer is lowered into the Hot Pot.

Think of it as a sort of fast-food version of Hot Pot, where, instead of necessarily sitting at a table and dining on a large quantity of food over a long period of time, one can purchase, for a fixed price, a given skewer of Chuanchuan Xiang (vegetables only skewers, meats (or poultry or seafood) only skewers, or mixed skewers). Chuanchuan Xiang can be bought at street stands everywhere, and also in traditional sit-down restaurants like Yulin Chuanchuan Xiang Restaurant, the most popular traditional restaurant in Chengdu serving Chuanchuan Xiang.

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town

Located in the China’s southwestern yunnan province, the Lijiang ancient town also called the Dayan County in the middle of the Lijiang Bar with Xiangshan and Jinhongshan in its north, Lion Mountain in its west and dozens miles of fertile land in its northeast. It is famous historical and cultural city in China, and also one of the ancient towns in the world cultural heritage list.

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town

Being an AAAAA level scenic spot, the Lijiang Ancient Town is the hinge of garrison culture and economic communication of the Han culture, Tibetan culture, Bai culture, Naxi since the ancient times and it is the the important town and military strategic position of the southern silk road and the “tea hourse ancient road”. Long-term concurrent blend, concurrent multiple culture and sedimentary deposits of its long history has formed unique national culture represented by naxi ethnic culture. Scenic spots and historical sites can be seen everywhere with various and colorful natural landscape and resplendent brilliant national culture. There also distributes a plenty of characteristics religious buildings around the Lijiang ancient town, including Mahayana and vajrayana Buddhism, Taoism and other religious, of which five temple and north YueMiao are the most famous.

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang ancient town is a famous historical and cultural town with high integrated value and overall value, it embodies the local historical culture and national customs amorous feelings and reflects the essence of social progress at that time. Flowing urban space, drainage system full of vitality, architecture group with unified style, residential building with appropriate measure, cordial and pleasant space environment, national art content with unique style make it different from other famous historical and cultural cities in China. Lijiang ancient town is a significant minority traditional settlements and its existence provides valuable informationfor human urban history research and human national history research, it is precious cultural heritage and even the treasure of China and the world.

First Bend of the Yangtze River

First Bend of the Yangtze River

First Bend of the Yangtze River

Located in between the Shasongbi Village in the south of the Shangri-la county and Lijiang shek kwu Town, the First Bend of the Yangtze River is a famous attraction in Lijiang with an altitude of 1850 meters and 130 kilometers away from the Zhongdian county. It rushes from the “The roof of the world”—Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to Yunnan in Batang county and forms the grandeur of the landscape “three rivers flow” in high mountains and deep gullies on Hengduan Mountains together with the Lancang River and Nujiang River. When rushing into the Shasongbi Village in Shangri-La County, it suddenly comes to a 100 – degree turn to its northeast side to form a rare “V” glyph big bend—this is wondrous spectacle called “ First Bend of the Yangtze River”.

First Bend of the Yangtze River

First Bend of the Yangtze River

The zone of the First Bend of the Yangtze River reaching to the Shasongbi village, it features wide flow of water, green river water and green willows on both sides of the river. It is the best place to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the First Bend of the Yangtze River. Step into the hill on the Shasongbi Village, you can have a birds’ eyes view of the whole First Bend of the Yangtze River.

With the picturesque landscape, the First Bend of the Yangtze River is along the mountain and water, which enjoys the reputation of “Small Jiangnan”. And it is not only the important scenic area in Lijiang, but also the throat key place to enter into the Laojun mountain scenic area and three parallel rivers region. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Shek kwu, Giant Survey and Tacheng Prefecture there.

Travel information: 1) Ticket price: free; 2) Opening time: all day round; 3) Best time to visit: autumn and summer for the pleasant climate in autumn and beautiful flowers in summer; besides, winter also is a good choice for you for its enough sunshine day.

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