Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Random Photograph No. 92 – Chairman Mao’s E-Bike Repair Shop

Random Picture No. 92 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

Chairman Mao’s E-Bike Repair Shop

Double Holiday

Tomorrow, March 30th sees Guangxi close down for 6 days.

The 三月三 ethnic minority festival is an officially recognised public holiday, but only here in Guangxi. This year it coincidentally abuts 清明,the ancestor worship festival which is a national public holiday.

三月三 is also sometimes known as the Zhuang Song Festival, but the festival is also observed by many other ethnic minorities in southern China. Various activities will take place, but mostly in the villages throughout the region. The main activities in the city will be shopping and eating, as ever. More info here.

See ya in about a week!

Postcard Pictures

Liuzhou Museum has issued a new set of postcards consisting of drawings of various sites around the city. ¥10 for a pack of 12. A nice souvenir perhaps. Available from the museum or the old printing works (see last post.)

Revolutionary Printers

I’ve long been curious about this building at 50 Zhongshan Dong Lu (中山东路). I knew what it was, but wondered why it had been abandoned for years. There was a sign on the wall indicating that it had once been home to Liuzhou Lianhua printing works, but nothing else. It looked like it was kept in good repair, but I never saw any signs of life and certainly wasn’t ever open.

Last weekend, I again passed by and to my astonishment, it was open for the first time in decades.

It seems that the building has become an outpost of Liuzhou Museum and is now open 6 days a week (Closed Mondays).

There is little in the building to reflect its past as a printing shop, but it is interesting, to me at least, to see the architecture and they have decorated the place with old, but irrelevant, historical photographs taken around Liuzhou in the 1930s and 1940s. AS with the main museum, nothing is captioned or explained in anything other than Chinese.

Liuzhou Bus Station Opening Ceremony 1928

Liuzhou School 1930s

Couple sleep in their bombed out home during the Japanese invasion 1944-1945

There are also some oddities like this mural

and random furniture.

When you get to the third floor at the top, you find out the real significance of the building and why it has been preserved. Not only was it the local printers’ shop, but it was all the secret HQ of the revolutionary and illegal communist party during the 1930s and 1940s.

Entrance is free but they would like you to sign in, a mere matter of giving any name and any phone number. No ID is checked. There are also a (very) few books and souvenirs on sale. It is just along Zhongshan Road  from McDonald’s and the Xinhua bookstore, one block to the right of here, the dogleg off the main pedestrian street.

Now I want to know why they have preserved but abandoned the old Liuzhou Electricity Co HQ.  What was it a cover for?

Déjà Vu Litter

I just got back from a few days out of town and was going through my spam in the vague but unlikely hope that any of my email was not from Slavic women who apparently can’t live without me, and kind medical practitioners offering to supply me medical compounds at a reasonable price to apparently keep those Slavic women slavishly devoted to my prowess.

Amazingly, there was one missive which didn’t involve bodily fluids.

Mr Google decided in his wisdom to alert me to the news that there is to be a “Severe penalty for dropping litter from car to be imposed in South China“, specifically in Liuzhou. They did what they do and linked me to a CCTV news web page.

“Hold on a god-damn minute!” I muttered to myself. I wrote about this two years ago. Then I read the article.

The headline is totally misleading. In fact, all they are doing is increasing the penalties for in-travel disposal of your trash/rubbish/garbage/detritus etc. by lobbing it out the car window.

The fines were initially imposed in late 2015, but with little effect. The usual lack of enforcement and the difficulty of collecting evidence. Now, instead of actually policing the streets (when was the last time you saw a traffic cop outside of the peak rush hour, waving their arms at random while all the traffic ignores them?), they have decided that the way to deal with the problem is to raise the fine from ¥200 to ¥300. That’ll do the trick!

Offenders will be given 15 days to  save up and stump up, after which the fine will be increased to ¥500. If still not paid after one month, this will double to ¥1000. After six months the offenders will be locked up and the key thrown away will be placed on a credit blacklist!


Once again, the traffic police show that they are more of a cash generating machine than a law enforcement agency.

According to the article Liuzhou has around 700,000 cars (and around 1 million driving licence holders). Only a handful of people actually know how to drive and they prefer to walk. Even assuming a worst case scenario and every “driver” drops litter (highly likely) , gets caught (highly unlikely) and pays up within 15 days (highly maybe), then that amounts to around 210 million yuan, enough to pay for a banquet or two. That income can then theoretically rise to 700 million. Then, if no one pays, they just give up?


Thought For the Day

柳州三中路 2017-3-3

Green Grow The Rushes, Oh.

Stefano Boeri is an Italian architect and urban planner on a mission to fight pollution by building high rise buildings covered with plants. The “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in his home city of Milan was one of his first.

Bosco Verticale, Milan, Italy

He has now set his sights on China and plans eventually to green up Shijiazhuang in northern China, one of the most polluted cities in the world. He is also working on a project in Nanjing.

However, the first of his “forest cities” is to be trialled here in Liuzhou. Two images, described as artist’s impressions have been released. They may be impressions but I fail to see any art!

“Artist’s” impression of buildings in Liuzhou Forest City

“Artist’s” impression of Liuzhou Forest City

It has been pointed out by critics that, while his efforts are worthy, they merely deal with the symptoms but not the causes of the pollution.

More information here.

Friday Food 176 – Five Spice Powder

chopsticksFriday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, we are doing some arithmetic.

Is there anything more typically Chinese than five spice powder (五香粉)? Well, yes.

Many years ago, I worked in an office overlooking London’s China town. By around 11 am, the restaurants started getting lunch ready and the smell of FSP blanketed the area for the rest of the day.

When I moved to China, I didn’t smell that. Only when I visited Hong Kong, did I find that smell again.

In fact, FSP is relatively uncommon in most of Chinese cuisine. And if I ever see another internet recipe called “Chinese” whatever, which is actually any random food, but the genius behind it has added FSP, supposedly rendering it Chinese, I’ll scream.

But what is it anyway? Which five spices?

Today, I bought four samples in four Liuzhou supermarkets. I would have would have preferred five, but couldn’t find any more.

First thing to say: none of them had five spices. All had more. That is common. Numbers in Chinese can be vague. Every time you hear a number, silently added the word ‘about’ or ‘approximately’. 100 km means “far”, 10,000 means “many”.

Second, while there are some common factors, ingredients can vary quite a bit. Here are my four.


Ingredients – 7

Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Sand Ginger, Dried Ginger,Sichuan Peppercorns.


Ingredients – 6

Cassia Bark, Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Coriander, Sichuan Peppercorn, Licorice Root.


Ingredients – 15

Fennel Seeds, Sichuan Peppercorns, Coriander, Tangerine Peel, Star Anise, Chinese Haw, Cassia Bark, Lesser Galangal, Dahurian Angelica, Nutmeg, Dried Ginger, Black Pepper, Amomum Villosum, Cumin Seeds, Cloves.


Ingredients – 6

Pepper (unspecified – probably black pepper), Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, Cassia.

So, take your pick. They all taste overwhelmingly of the star anise and cassia, although there are subtle differences in taste in the various mixes.

But don’t expect to find it in many dishes in local restaurants or homes. A quick, unscientific poll of friends today revealed that not one has any at home, nor have they ever used the stuff!

Water Sports Again

I’m not really sure what to make of this. It may just be an early April Fool’s Joke. Check the proposed date. But then I’ve never understood sport.

According to this report, Liuzhou is going to host some sort of competition.

The Ironman 70.3 triathlon race will take place on April 1 in Liuzhou, a city in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is the first of five Ironman 70.3 races to be held on the Chinese mainland this year.

Encircled by green mountains and embraced by the Liu River, Liuzhou is known as “The World’s Best Natural Bonsai.”

The Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou race will begin with a 1.9-kilometer swim in the Liu River, cutting right through the center of the ctiy. Athletes will exit the water to transition next to beautiful Broom Hill Park.

The 90-kilometer bike course takes riders north out of the city following the river for 35 kilometers before crossing west though the city to begin the second loop, and the 21.1-kilometer run course offers athletes a chance to see the scenes of the city as they complete two loops through downtown Liuzhou, along both banks of the Liu River.

Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou will have 30 qualifying slots for the 2017 Ironman World Championship and 50 qualifying slots for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship available. In addition to Liuzhou, the race will also be held in Qujing, Chongqing, Hefei and Xiamen this year.

Now, for a start, I wouldn’t swim in that river under any circumstances other than imminent death. Which is what you might find if you do. It is filthy. I’ve seen too many bodies float past. Rats. dogs, pigs and people.

I am however delighted that they manage to repeat every cliché about Liuzhou from the stock party-approved phrase book

Encircled by green mountains and embraced by the Liu River, Liuzhou is known as “The World’s Best Natural Bonsai.”

No. it isn’t!


Athletes will exit the water to transition …

drives me into a stuttering rage.

But I guess some people might be interested.

Friday Food No. 175 – Ox Whip

chopsticksFriday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, we are looking at, hmmm, ox whips.

Back in Friday Food 85, I featured Ox Treasures, the euphemism for calves testicles. This is not, by far, the only genitalia to grace local tables. Most supermarkets will sell you 牛鞭,literally, ox whips.

Again they are being euphemistic. They are calves’ penises.

They are mainly used in soups and are supposed to be some sort of natural viagra, restoring power to the past it.

Menu from Jingdu Hotel, Liuzhou (very old – you’ll pay a lot more today!)

Pig pizzles are also sometimes available, more usually in markets rather than supermarkets. Dried deer dicks are highly prized, to the point that there are places selling fakes. If you really want to know where to get them, just send me a message. Tiger todger is, by far, the most desirable, but highly illegal. In 2014, a man was sentenced in Guangxi to 13 years imprisonment for eating and dealing in tiger parts. There is still however an underground supply chain. These are also often faked.

Here is Fuchsia Dunlop on how to cook penises.

Many year ago, I had dinner with some friends (a mix of foreigners and Chinese) in a Liuzhou restaurant. Some of the English friends present gave me a Tupperware type box of uncooked, cow’s vaginal labia as a birthday gift. Thanks guys.

Later, I gave them to a friend’s mother who was delighted and rushed off to her kitchen to fry them up. I’ve never seen them in the market, that I’m aware of, although there is one stall that sells all sorts of dubious looking bits and pieces. I know that those friends had to find a Chinese friend to help them specially order my lips.

And finally

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