In part 1 and part 2 of my China trip posts, I introduced you some natural scenery of China. What I am going to write today is not much garden related (well, maybe still a little.). It is a preserved historical residential area in ChengDu, the capital city of SiChuan province, where my in-laws live in.
This place is called "Kuan-Zhai Alley" (宽窄巷, meaning Wide-Narrow Alley). It consists of three parallel alleys, which are "Wide Alley" (宽巷子, Kuan Xiang Zi), "Narrow Alley"(窄巷子, Zhai Xiang Zi), and "Well Alley" (井巷子, Jing Xiang Zi). To be more accurate, this is a place that used to be the residential area about 300 years ago, the time of Qing Dynasty of China. Today, this area has been restored, and preserved its old architectural style, and converted to a place that people can come to shop, dine, and feel nostalgic. They can be there to enjoy the mix of the modern time and history.
My sister's family flew from ShenZhen to Chengdu to see me, and had a tour of this place together with my family. I hope the pictures I shown here could also have you feel a little bit of Chinese Culture reflected in this place. I personally felt it was so relaxing to walk on the brick paved street, and wander through those traditional Chinese architectural style stores, trying to feel how the people lived 300 years ago. I think that is why this place becomes a popular tourist attraction. The modern people just need a place to rewind, and slow down the fast pace in their real life.
Pair of stone lions are often to be seen in front of the gate to guard the house.
This bronze door has Chinese Gate God engraved to ward off the evil spirits and encourage the flow of good fortune. Do you see the circle rings on the door? Those are there for visitors to tap on the door to inform the host, kind of like today's door bell.
Some traditional Chinese crafts are shown on the street. Those are the part of the cultures that are gradually disappearing.
This young man was performing using the long-beak tea kettle to pour the tea for the guests. The beak is about three to four feet long. It is not easy to pour without the spill while still posing the different gestures.
This is another Chinese traditional craft, molding the statue using the special treated flour paste. When we were there, this craftsman was making a face mold based on a digital camera picture, quite interesting mix of tradition and modern technology.
The commercial words in front of this pottery store says: "Must use a good mug to drink lots of water..."
Sculptures on the wall is another art form that gives the structures in this area very elegant and ornamental effect.
This is a restaurant with an open courtyard in the middle. This is also typical Chinese residential house style in the old time.
The water feature and some plants setting in the courtyard... Hmmm, after all, I do still have some garden related pictures to show you in this post.
My son found even this pair of garbage cans are also very traditional. The left one is for the unrecyclable trash, and the right one is for the recyclable trash.
Love this trellis full of climbing vine against the brick wall...
Familiar bougainvillea and other container plants in front of another store...
This narrow pathway is used to go through between the "Wide Alley" and "Narrow Alley".
Look familiar? Starbucks Coffee in a traditional Chinese style house! This house has three layers in the depth. You can see the Chinese translation of "Starbucks Coffee" in the middle layer.
Bamboos in the planter gives more Chinese touch of this Starbucks coffee. By the way, the people drinking coffee in the picture are not my family :)
This house is completely empty, seems only for display. I would love to have those two planters in my garden :) That empty pond must have been used as water feature in the past.
Another stone planter that I fell love with!
Another courtyard garden in one restaurant where we had dinner...
At the same restaurant, I saw this strange looking plant in a hanging basket. My sister, who is a professor teaching Botany at College, told me it is called Nepenthes distillatoria (Pitcher Plant, Chinese name: 猪笼草). They are carnivorous plants, and those pitcher like cavities are filled with the liquid known as a pitfall trap to capture the insects, or even rats!
After the dinner, we went to the last alley: "Well Alley". This drawing on the wall shows people in old time playing the poker on the street while taking out their bird cages for some fresh outdoor air. It is interesting that even this drawing is mostly flat on the wall, the desk is actually a three-dimensional item that sticks out of the wall.
Even it was dark, my boys found something very entertaining. It was another Chinese traditional art on the street: Shadow play (Chinese: 皮影戏, Pi Ying Xi) or shadow puppetry. This is similar to the puppet show. The difference is that it uses the figures in front of an illuminated backdrop to create the illusion of moving images.
My boys were moving the puppets using the sticks that were string attached to the figure.
Here is how the figures looked like from the front of the screen.
I am so glad that my boys got some opportunities to feel close to the Chinese culture that day, which we have been trying hard to instill into their life. Being born and brought up in America, it is not very easy for them to really understand or have the real feeling for the essence of the Chinese culture. It is a place that definitely we were so happy to take them to.