Samstag, 13. Oktober 2012

Rising Tension.

This one pretty much explains itself.
 I guess it`s no news to most that China, Taiwan and Japan argue about to whom the Diaoyu-Islands 
(钓鱼岛, actually meaning "Fishing Islands") belong. In case you havven`t heard about that, read something about it here:

 The islands are uninhabited, but it is assumed that in this area lie large fishing grounds and mentionable oil reserves.

( I ) love my country - protect/preserve the Diaoyu Islands
 This dispute goes on for decades already, and this latest episode of saber rattling was caused by a Japanese businessman wanting to sell the islands to the Japanese government. China intervenes stating that you can`t sell what doesn`t belong to you.

Flanked by a national campaign of Anti-Japanese propaganda and ocassionally sending military ships into the region (of course Japan does the same). China and Japan have a lot of unresolved issues since WW II, as Japan until today still hasn`t completely come to terms with its past, and so other unresolved conflicts like this territotial one can be easily blown out of proportion.

Get lost Japan! Diaoyu Islands belong to China

The result of this Anti-Japanese campaigning can be seen on the pictures - a lot of Chinese expressing their - well, discontent about Japan on car stickers, displays and banners. Or at least that they love their country - including the Diaoyu Islands.
Diaoyu Islands are China`s "mystical territory/magic land/territory of Gods and Demons". Whatever that means.

Love for China and Diaoyu Islands

Additionally a lot of Anti-Japanese demonstrations and protests take place in front of Japanese embassies, so also here in Shenyang a couple of weeks ago. Also calls for boycotting Japanese restaurants and products can be heard every now and then. And it is said that first Chinese remove the brand logos from their Japanese cars as they fear them otherwise getting damaged.

So far haven`t heard of harassments of Japanese here in Shenyang, but I guess it must be an unpleasant feeling seeing such bumper stickers every day as an Japanese. And probably better to keep a little bit low profile as long as this ridiculous episode of "Who has the longest schlong in in East Asia" is going on.

Dienstag, 2. Oktober 2012

Where the Great Wall descends into the ocean - Shanhaiguan.

Shanhaiguan (山海关; Shānhǎiguān) is about half way between Shenyang and Beijing. The name of this little city with only about 20.000 inhabitants can be translated as "connection or pass between mountain and sea".

 The Great Wall wasn`t exclusively built to keep out Mongolian Riders from the Chinese Empire. It should also keep out the Manchus who lived here in the northeast with Shenyang as it`s capital.

To really,really,really deter outsiders from invading China the wall was built all the way from the adjacent mountains down onto the ocean, with the famous "Old dragon head" (lǎolóngtóu,老龙头) even descending some meters into the water, which was considered a natural barrier. Thought they already had ships back in the 14th century when they started constructing the wall in this area.....

The "old dragon head" is the last and most eastern segment of the great wall and can be seen on the first pictures.

If you`re familiar with the history of China you already know that the Manchu who were supposed to be kept out of China took over the empire in 1644 and became its last dynasty, the Qing dynasty. In favor of the Great Wall - the Manchus didn`t surround, destroy or climb the wall, they were allowed to pass by Chinese troops in hope they would help wipe out rebels that were threatening the capital Beijing. There are two different stories going around how it happened, I´ll quote wikipedia with both:
The more popular, romanticised version states: during the Ming Dynasty, general Wu Sangui was about to surrender and join the rebel forces of Li Zicheng when he heard that his concubine Chen Yuanyuan had been taken by Li. Enraged, and convinced the Ming were doomed, he decided to cast his lot with the invading Manchu. He contacted the Manchu leader Dorgon and as a result threw open the gates of Shanhaiguan to Manchu soldiers. Together Wu and the Manchus fought what has become known as the Battle of Shanhai Pass against Li Zicheng. The victory by the Manchus hastened the end of not only of rebel Li but also of the Ming dynasty and firmly established the Manchus as the dominant power in China. The Manchus created China's last dynasty, the Qing dynasty

The second account of these events holds that Wu Sanggui surrendered to Li, but on his way to Peking (Beijing), he learned of the disorderly state of the capital and of the massacres perpetrated by Li's forces, as well as the murder of his own father. Enraged, he returned to Shanhaiguan and surrendered to the Manchu leaders. Wu's forces then fought in the front lines against Li's forces, deceiving them into believing the Manchus had not broken through. As a result, Manchu forces decimated Li's forces, using a cloth attached to the uniforms of Sanggui's troops as a way to differentiate friend from foe.

 Directly adjacent to this section of the wall is a fort and barracks where the everyday life of soldiers of the Ming dynasty (the one overthrown by the Manchus) is exhibited.

It´s beautiful to walk through, but as the "old dragon head" section, it´s fake. Or "restaurated", if you will. The original fort and wall didn`t make it through the centuries, and Shanhaiguan is one of the many spots where sections of the wall (and the fort) were rebuilt since the 80s.

Leaves behind the slight feeling of walking through an ancient Chinese Disneyland, but still, we had a great time. Shanhaiguan is far less crowded than other "restaurated" wall sections, e.g. Badaling near the capital Beijing.

And you can have a peek at the "real wall", too, you just have to get out of town a couple of kilometers. What we did and what you`ll be able to see in the next section. But hopefully first enjoy the last pictures in this section...
Entry gates of fort and baracks

A look down at the most eastern point of the wall.

Afternoon walk at the beach. In the background: Ancient China (old dragon head) and Modern China (city harbor).

Jiaoshan 角山(jiǎoshān)

 For the "real deal" you have to leave the city of Shanhaiguan and head for the mountains, which takes only about 20 min by taxi. There lies Jiaoshan, also called 天下第一山 (tian xia di yi shan) , "the first mountain under the heaven". Simply the first mountain the wall had to be constructed on starting from the sea....

 .....where you`ll find both, a "restaurated" segment of the wall (built in 1986) linking to old sections down in the valley and on the top of the mountain.

This piece of the wall and the surrounding beautiful mountain scenery are also a popular setting for newly-weds getting their wedding pictures done, be it in (for China) traditional red.......

or modern, western white - whatever choice, the scenery is breathtaking.

 When you first climb  the wall, you`re immediately reminded you`re on a "new" piece of it by

1. a gift and souvenir shop

2. a red sign showing where to look to see the leftovers of the real wall.

What you can see then hardly reminds of a real fortification anymore. In the last hundred years or so nature has conquered back the unrestaurated part between the coast and this mountain. You still can see where the wall winds through the valley to the city of Shanhaiguan, but what you see has more in common  with a dam or dyke than a real weir system.

Anyway, the goal was to reach the watchtower at the top, so we three (Sven & Sam, old friends from Germany, were visiting) started climbing. 

And as you can see, the wall and it`s steps can be pretty steep. The guards in the old imperial days on the wall must have been in great shape patroling this segment. Or monkeys.

Above - about halfway to the the watchtower the view`s already amazing.

Left- as is the level of steepness. Sven standing "upright".

The last part naturally is the most exhausting one, as the steepness during climbing the last stairs takes up a notch.

When you`ve finally arrived at the base of the tower, you can choose wether you stay on the wall and climb up or take stairs that make you walk around the last section of the wall.

Either way, the view is breathtaking - if you look up or down.

Above you can see the end of the new wall piece and the beginning of the old one heading up all the way to the mountain top. It`s prohibited to enter for tourists.

To the right is the view down from the tower base.

The last challenge then was to climb the tower itself on a rusty ladder for having a smoke and enjoying once more the fantastic view:

Once more, the last few meters of the rebulit section converting into the old, unrestored, not passable section.

 Above - breathtaking view from the highest watchtower

Right - me on the sidepath alongside the wall where we went back down on.

The last pictures also were taken from that path.

第一山 (dì yī shān), "the first mountain" written below the watchtower.

If you want to combine a visit of the Great Wall of China on an almost deserted segment(at least during weekdays) with a beautiful mountain scenery as well as seaside and on top of it some physical exercise, my recommendation would be Shanhaiguan. At Jiaoshan you get at least a godd view on old pieces of the wall while having fun climbing a rebuilt one. And did I already mention the view is breathtaking? :-)

At the end a little oddity from the park at the mountain base at Jiaoshan: looks like the usual crappy translation you can encounter at a lot of places allover China. But in fact, the text is exactly the same in Chinese......