Visit the neighbours - Zhenjiang

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Jul 03, 2013

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Woke up early Sunday morning and decided it was time to bite the bullet and test my Chinese language skills. Decided to visit neighbouring city Zhenjiang - 镇江- by myself......well accompanied by my trusted phrasebook in case of unforseen difficulties.

First off I had to get to the long distance bus station which I thought would be simple but no it proved to be a challenge in itself. They had changed the station to be used overnight!!! On Saturday night they had imploded an overpass near the old bus station and hence were not using it.....kind of forgot to put that bit of info in the newspaper!!

Memorising my Chinese phrases I managed to get to the new station,  buy my bus ticket, find the correct bus and off I headed to Zhenjiang. About an hour away from Nanjing Zhenjiang is a small city (well 2 million people but no foreigners), shaped by over 3,000 years of myths, legends and profound history. The city is known for offering a combination of "urban forests" and “grand river scenery” due to the surrounding mountains dotted with marvelous temples and pagodas, mighty rivers and bridges, and natural beauty. The city tree is Lotus Magnolia and city flower is azalea. The spirit of Zhenjiang is: innovation and creation, opening and civilization, honesty and practice  
Arrived safely and decided to work out how to use the local buses to get around the tourist sights. Figured this was the cheapest way of doing it and also the best way to get a feel for the city itself. Found the bus stop which would take me to my first destination - even manage to read which stop I needed to get off at in Chinese!! First stop was Beigu Mountain which  is located in the downtown of the city, with its main peak reaching 58.5 meters high. Hardly a mountain after the one's I visited a few weeks ago!!  Bouhgt my admission ticket and headed in to have a look around.

Beigu Mountain overlooks the Yangtze River with precipitous and steep cliffs. There are many cultural relics on Mount Beigu, such as Ganlu Temple, Beigu Pavilion, the Sword Testing Stone, Ruthless Stone and Liuma Quebrada, all vividly retelling the ancient story of the "Three Kingdoms" period. Ganlu Temple was initially erected in the Three Kingdoms period in 222 - 280 AD. It was moved to the Rear Peak of Beigushan from its original place. The temple was destroyed by fire in the Yuan Dynasty and demolished again by war in the later years. The current structures were re-erected by a local authority in 1890 AD in the Qing Dynasty - so rather recent buildings by Chinese standards.

Turns out that this is a good time to visit as the spring blossoms are all coming out and add to the beauty of the place as it retells the history of the area. Unfortunately they are undertaking some major reconstruction work which stopped me from seeing the entire complex. However the day was warm, the sun was out and I was in a new place :)

Next job , successfully achieved, was to find the bus to take me to my next destination. Jiao Mountain is renowned for its lusciousness and the beauty of the area. North Hill Park has been likened to an oasis in the middle or an urban jungle; Jiao Mountain is famous for the "Four Ancients." The ancient temple (Dinghui Temple) was built in the Ming Dynasty, with quaint green tiles and red railings. Ancient trees were planted behind Shuipan Temple on the mountainside during the period of Six Dynasties, and added to in the Song Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty. The trees have odd and crooked trunks, which create a serene natural environment for travelers to delight in. The temple's ancient relics, such as inscriptions and calligraphies, also create a sense of wonder.

When I first read about this park I hadn't realised that it is actually a small island in the middle of the river reached by a ferry. Oh yes....more transport options for me to use and work out what to say!! Despite it being packed with Chinese tourists and the usual pushing and shoving to get on and off the ferry I rather enjoyed this park. It is a working monastery as well as a top tourist spot so it was strange to see monks peering out of buildings, children rushing about with all sorts of plastic toys that are readily sold at the market stalls and then to turn a corner and find peace and tranquiity. I really enjoyed the area called the "Forest of Steles" which contained ancient calligraphy steles written thousands of years ago but have been carefully preserved so we can enjoy them today. Also contained a delightful bonsai garden where I came across a gardener trimming some trees and showing me patiently how he went about his work.

Returning to town I then headed to the last of the "three mountains" of Zhenjiang. Mind you I wouldn't call any of them mountains but rather small hills that still involved climbing up and down! Found another bus to take me to the opposite side of town - this time a truly local bus that meandered around various side streets before reaching my destination.

Jinshan Park (Gold Hill) is situated in the west of the old downtown, with a height of 43.7 meters and an area of 10 hectares. Jinshan Temple, Bailong (White Dragon) Cave, Fa Hai (Buddha Sea) Cave and the first spring of Gold Hill give you a fabulous experience with unique architectural styles and timeless monuments. Jinshan Temple, also Golden Hill Temple, is located atop of Jinshan Hill in the center of Jinshan Park. The temple became well known due to the Emperor Kangxi's visits during the Qing Dynasty and was involved in numerous popular folk legends in the Chinese history. Jinshan Temple was built some 1,600 years ago on Jinshan Hill on the site where gold was found and has since then become a symbol of the city. The temple is visible from far away - it climbs up the sides of a hill along the flat flood plains of the Yangtse River, and its pagoda dramatically crowns the summit of the hill. The Temple is in fact a structural complex comprising multiple temples and Buddhist halls. The temple initially achieved its popularity in the Tang Dynasty, and has since then been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.

This park was in a beautiful position along the waterfront so I was able to enjoy both land and water views which they have made the most of. This is also a working Buddhist temple and I came across a ceremony taking place and was invited to take some pictures. I felt rather intrusive so only took a couple of photos but thanked them profusely for the kind gesture. Whether it was because it was reaching late afternoon but this park was more peaceful than the others. There were fewer children - therefore less screaming!- and one could actually relax  and take time to read the exhibits and learn more about the history. The staff here were very friendly and showed me several sights "out the back" of the actual exhibition halls including some paintings and calligraphy.

By the time I left here is was starting to get dark and I realsied it was time to try and find a hotel room for the night. quickly revising my Chinese in my head I walked into a well known hotel chain to see if I could get a room. I had figured out before I left home that I  didn't need to book in advance for a small place, Sunday night and no festivals going on. Anyway it was a bigger test of my Chinese to see if I could actualy book in person not on some English speaking website!!! Success on my first attempt with much laughing between the receptionist and myself as my rudimentary Chinese did leave me without words a few times!!

I then took myself down to a small restaurant recommended by the receptionist and had a delightful dinner - chicken, beef, vegetables and dumplings - all without egg. Have to admit I was feeling rather proud of myself but was completely exhausted both physically and mentally. I had walked around the 3 parks, up and down hills as well as around the town and trying to think in Chinese was making my head hurt. Time to head off to bed for a decent nights sleep before seeing some more of the town tomorrow.

Monday morning I awoke refreshed, headed down to breakfast to build up my energy for another day of exporing before heading back to Nanjing in time to teach tonight. Today I plan to do a walking tour of museums and an ancient street as well as see the residence of well known author Pearl S Buck. Zhenjinag prides itself on being the home of this well known American author who moved here when she was 3 mohths old.  She was raised in China and learned the Chinese language and customs. She was taught English as a second language by her mother and tutor.The Good Earth based on the life of Chinese village helped her win the Nobel Literature Price in 1938. Got directions from the reception staff when I checked out of the Hotel so just hope that I have them down correctly.

 Zhenjiang Museum houses some interesting displays of artefacts relating to the cities and surrounding area’s history. This is a national key protective relic unit and was the Former British Consulate. It consists of a group of five Western-style buildings. Its elegant, red and black brick architecture covers an area of more than 3,000 square meters with 1,000 square meters for exhibition. The interior is well preserved in its original style with wooden stairways and floors. Actually not that interesting so I only spent a short time here.

Ancient Xijin Ferry Street: The 1,000-meter long Ancient Xijindu (Ferry) Street is located in the west of downtown Zhenjiang. It was left with a number of characteristic historical sites from the Tang, Song, Yuan and Qing dynasties. It has been awarded the Distinguished Protection Project of Cultural Heritage of United Nations. There are a lot of ancient relics in the street such as lifesaving organization, Guanyin Cave, Xijin Ancient Ferry, etc. The most-protected and oldest stone pagoda of China stands across the street, which is also the national key protective relic unit. There are more than 150 shops of different kinds along Xijin Ancient Street. The harmonious blends of religions, cultures, nature and humans fully appear here. This street meanders around the base of yet another hill and was a delight. Being early on a Monday morning not many oif the shoops were open but that was probably a good thing as I was not distracted from my surroundings!!

The Folk Cultural and Art Museum stores 70,000 folk culture works from 20 provinces and 800,000 manuscripts of folk artists, as well as nearly 10,000 pieces of folk artistic handicrafts and household articles. Due to its great achievements in collecting, finishing and studying intangible cultural heritage and improving folk culture, it is named the first storehouse of China by Mr. Zhong Jinwen, father of Chinese folk culture. Really enjoyed looking around this Museum - more down to earth and really gave you a feel for the olden times in Zhenjiang.

Time to head to the bus station and find my way back home. More Chinese and I had my ticket. Ended up on a "local" bus which took rather longer than I epxected to get back as it stopped along the way letting people on and off. No actual bus stops to be sen so I assume the locals just know where to be!! Home safe and sound by late afternoon. Time for a quick rest before teaching at 1845.

Feeling rather good about myself. Admittedly I did not hold any conversations in Chinese but I was able to make myself understood and in turn understand directions given to me. I now have more confidence to head out of town alone to see some of the places that are not on the main tourist trails. Hopefully with more practice I will get better and not need to refer to the phrasebook at all........fingers crossed.

Bye for now. xx

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Wayne on

Hmmmm wheres the butterflys....its getting warmer now where are they? Life is bland without butterflys do you know when they will appear ah so velly interesting....Keep on great stuff .....Im teaching at Prison!!!!!!!.......little big Boss

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