Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 168 – Longan

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time, we are looking at dragons looking at us.

It is longan season! One of the best.

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Longan (龙眼 or 桂圆 – the latter being more common for the dried fruit) is a relation of the lychee, but smaller, less juicy and more sweet. The name 龙眼 literally means “dragon eyes” referring to the fruit’s appearance when shelled. It has a solid black seed which can be seen through the translucent white fruit, supposedly resembling a dragon’s ocular device.

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The season is relatively short for fresh fruit, but they are also dried and, in this form, available year round. Usually known as 桂圆, these are used in some dessert-type preparations, but also added to soups or “sweet and sour” dishes. They come in two forms: the whole fruit can be dried as is, or the fruits are peeled and de-seeded then dried, Of course, they are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. What isn’t?

Dried Longan

Dried Longan Pulp

Drying the fruit also darkens it in colour. Some can be near black.

Fresh fruit is available now from all markets and supermarkets, but be quick. Around ¥20/kg. The dried whole fruit is around ¥30/500g, where as the dried flesh costs ¥100 and up/500g.

Liuzhou Seaplane Operator in Fatal Shanghai Crash

The operator of the recently introduced seaplane service here in Liuzhou, Joy Air General, is China’s largest commercial seaplane operator.

On Wednesday 20th July, while launching a new service in Shanghai, their Cessna 208B crashed into a bridge while carrying eight guests (local government officials and members of the local press) and two crew. Five were killed. The pilot was one of the survivors.

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The cause of the accident is being investigated. I’m keeping grounded.

More Miao Embroidery

Well! I didn’t know you were all such embroidery fans. But, in response to my many readers’ requests, here are a bunch more pictures from the Miao embroidery exhibition I mentioned in my last post.

There are 33, I think, so loading might be slow. Sorry. Random order.

The exhibition has still more, but they really were impossible to photograph well. A couple were even too badly lit to be seen.

Here we go

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And that’s your lot.

Miao Embroidery Exhibition

Liuzhou Museum is holding yet another of its free temporary exhibitions.

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This time its an exhibition of embroidery. Now, if you had told me about this I would have responded with a sarcastic “How fascinating!” I’m not the embroidery type.

However, I wandered in yesterday (I regularly use the museum’s front and back doors as a shortcut) and popped in for a quick look. To my astonishment it was quite something.

What we have is a collection of Miao ethnic minority embroidery art from Guizhou Province to the north west of Guangxi.  The intricacy and level of details of many of these works is astonishing. What I saw was definitely art rather than craft.

Here a few photos which sadly do not do justice to the originals (the museum’s lighting is awful).

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There are dozens more – a selection can be seen here. The free exhibition is in the temporary display room on the first (ground) floor of the museum. It will run until August 7th. Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 9am to 5pm. No entry after 4 pm.

Friday Food 167 – Sweet Potato Shoots

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time, we are looking at another of the myriad examples of greenery found in the supermarkets and markets.

Sweet Potato Shoots

These are the young shoots and leaves of sweet potatoes. Known locally as 红薯苗, although there are at least a dozen different names in use in China. They are widely available and very cheap.

Usually, they are simply stir fried with garlic and a bit of salt and served as a side dish. They can also , like most examples of greenery, be added to hot pots and soups, though that is much less common.

KFC Toe Job

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Local users of social media are up in arms following a report in yesterday’s local paper that a young woman was spotted eating alone in the KFC beside Gongmao Department store – Liuzhou’s first, but sadly not last, KFC.

Her offence was not being alone. Her offence was that while eating whatever KFC sell instead of food, she was simultaneously clipping her toenails.

Personally, I applaud her for attention to foot care. You need your feet. Nothing wrong with a well trimmed toe, says I.

I do worry about her diet, though.

Random Photograph No. 89 – June 2016

Random Picture No. 89 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

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Liuzhou Infant Milk Scare?

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Western media is reporting that a new China “fake milk and baby health scare” is being discussed on Chinese social sites such as WeChat and Weibo. This time the attention is on Liuzhou.

According to the reports, a number of nurseries in Liuzhou have been sourcing milk products from “an unlicensed ‘dairy'” which supplied the milk substitute to 29 nurseries.

Chinese media has reported that some 10,000 individual containers of milk products have been seized. Liuzhou media is resolutely silent, as always.

Social media users have been posting photographs of sick children, mostly toddlers, who have allegedly been given these products in their nurseries.

Guangxi government have denied everything, which they always do. One day, maybe,  they will wake up and realise that their stonewalling actually contributes more to the wave of rumour which they are trying to stem.

Social media posts using the hashtag #MilkProblemFlowsIntoPreschools have so far received more than 2m reads. Many of them criticise the authorities for “silencing” the scandal.

More information here.

Willow Pattern

Willow Pattern

A reader sent me an email yesterday, prompting some memories and a connection between Liuzhou and my childhood which I had all but forgotten, but then it has been a long time.

My correspondent, noting that Liuzhou means something like “place of the willows”, wanted to know where in town she could buy willow pattern plates.

When I was a kid, my father’s great-aunt was still alive and about once every couple of months or so we would be required to get on our finery, adopt our best behaviour, and pay an official visit. She was a true relic of the Victorian era and lived stubbornly alone in what I was certain was actually a museum, rather than a domicile.

The sitting room where we were received by her majesty and treated to afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches and buttery scones (not together) was littered with bric-a-brac of all sorts. Some were fascinating, some scary. I particularly remember being intrigued by what I think were clams shells containing miniature replicas of famous buildings of the world – Rome’s Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, St. Pauls Cathedral etc.

And, of course, there was a dresser full of highly decorative plates and serving dishes, including several examples of Willow Pattern.

This, I was told, was what everyone in China ate from. (I remember being confused as to what they ate from these plates, because I was simultaneously being lectured on not wasting food and eating the more nasty things for dinner because the starving Chinese would lap them up.)

Also, my great-great aunt would tell us the ancient Chinese story behind the design.

Once there was a wealthy Mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter (Koong-se). She had fallen in love with her father’s humble accounting assistant (Chang), angering her father. (It was inappropriate for them to marry due to their difference in social class.) He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree.

On the eve of the daughter’s wedding to the Duke, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped with the jewels, the alarm was raised. They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand. They eventually escaped on the Duke’s ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. Hungry for revenge, he sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves.

Sadly. years later, but before I ever came to China, I learned the truth.

Chinese Willow Pattern ain’t Chinese, at all. It was invented in the late 18th century in England, probably in the famous Spode pottery works. It is unknown in China.

And the story? Yes, English, too. It, too,  is unknown in China.

So, to my correspondent,who turns out to be English, if you want genuine Willow Pattern, go home. There is none here.

P.S. If you are interested in Chinese pottery which is from China, then I recommend a trip to the town of Jingdezhen (景德鎮) in Jiangxi Province. The town is famous for its 1,700 year old porcelain industry. There are dozens, if not more, workshops where you can watch the craftsmen and women at work.  And, of course, buy the results of their labours. Be careful. Some prices are astronomical, but there is also plenty of choice in lower price brackets.

I’m not particularly interested in porcelain, but I found the place fascinating. On the edge of town there was a large pottery workshop are operating as a living museum, where they only produced their wares by the ancient, traditional methods. I spent hours in there watching the artists patiently and carefully decorating and carving. I don’t know if it’s still there. It was twenty years ago. And yes, I did buy some.

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Porcelain workshop in Jingdezhen

Random Photograph 88 – Wedding Photograph

Random Picture No. 88 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

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