Saturday, February 7, 2009

Happy Mao Sad Mao

How to while away ten minutes, make a political statement and entertain your friends at the same time. Please enjoy this parlour trick from The Opposite End of China!

China will win

©Ingrid Booz Morejohn and Gleerups Publishing

A bunch of books came in the post yesterday, two of which were textbooks from Gleerups Publishing that I worked on during the autumn and winter as picture researcher and photographer. Kina idag (China Today) used a picture I took at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics on the cover. I photographed the man in the picture during the rowing competitions in Shunyi. That day it was very hot and humid and he was sweating profusely. He was dressed all in red and yellow and ran around the stands with a large Chinese flag draped around his shoulders. He posed with several people who wanted to be photographed with him but he never smiled or talked to anyone. He had a similarly dressed companion and the duo were never stopped by the numerous security guards and Olympic volunteers that were there to help visitors and keep crowd control. Other foreigners however were politely asked to stop holding up any signs or banners they had with text (in any other language than English or Chinese) that cheered their home countries or teams on. The text on his forehead says Zhongguo bi sheng: China will win.

Lantern Festival: Tangyuan sticky rice balls


Found this wonderful image of a factory worker making glutinous rice balls (tangyuan) in a workshop in Nanjing, Jiangsu on the China Daily website today. Tangyuan (also called yuanxiao) have sweet or salty fillings and are eaten on the Lantern Festival on the last day of the Chinese New Year, which this year falls tomorrow February 9th, 2009. Shops and stores are full of bags of them, displacing ice cream and other frozen items in the iceboxes. When I first saw them I thought they were fishballs. Remember when eating them - they're not called sticky for nothing!

Fog strands 13,000 in Chengdu airport

As posted earlier this month we have had incredibly grey, misty, foggy weather here in Chengdu. I read today that our local airport, Shuangliu International, had a four-hour traffic shutdown on Monday February 2nd. Visibility was less than 20 meters and 500 meters is the minimum for a safe take-off. 13,000 people were stranded and this was the third closure this month. Otherwise weather conditions are looking up, it's getting warmer every day. So warm that I am beginning to suspect that there might be some truth to the traditional Chinese calendar after all!

Lantern festival at Tazishan Park

(Click on the image for a larger view!)
Tazishan Yuanxiao Denghui 2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I visited the Lantern Festival decorations at Tazishan Park this evening and it was hysterically noisy and chock-a-block full of people. This being the Year of the Ox decorations leaned heavily towards large, masculine looking, muscular bovines. (Quite a few of them obviously were copies of the Red Bull logo.) Other interesting dioramas were an enactment of China's Space Program complete with a Long March rocket and another a celebration of China's 55 minorities in their national costumes, gathered  beneath the warm red embrace of the Chinese national flag and the flag of the Communist Party. The 13 floor Jiutian Pagoda (for which the park is named) was beautiful in gold and silver lights and a giant oxen bedecked in Mardi Gras beads strained in front of a cart full of gold ingots. In between all this modernity were the usual Eight Immortals, Cowherd and Weaver Maiden etc scenarios and a gigantic teapot pouring tea into a teacup, made out of small ceramic plates and baijiu cups. Impressive attention to detail and very colourful but I have to admit it was a relief to get home, too noisy and crowded!

Chinese vernacular furniture

©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Sichuan is the kingdom of bamboo and as soon as I moved here I started collecting these bamboo chairs, purchased usually right out from under the bottom of the user. Most of these chairs have the owner's name written in characters on the back and I must admit that some owners were quite sad to part with their chair, so I gladly paid a little extra for "affektionsvärdet" as we say in Swedish (sentimental value). I especially like used ones as new ones lack that "lived in" look of someone's behind rubbing back and forth over the woven seat for thousands of days. Unfortunately "lived in" can also mean "inhabited" - a couple of cockroaches came home that way too, they'd obviously led a cosy existence in the hollow bamboo. Sometimes I've bought them from itinerant craftsmen that come in to the city from the countryside to sell their handmade wares. Th new chairs hang from a bamboo pole carried over their shoulders and the cost is miniscule. These men will also make to order anything you like: a ladder, a bookshelf, a small table for your balcony. The design is quintessential Sichuan and evokes long, lazy days chewing the fat with friends in a teahouse or curbside eatery. 

Home delivery by bicycle rickshaw ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

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Blenheim Palace, England ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn