Tag Archives: china

Snake Wine Travel Memory

me and shirley drinking snake wine li river

We are drinking wine infused with snake.  In 2005 we made a boat trip down the Li River in China’s Guangxi Province with my sister-in-law Shirley and brother-in-law Paul.  One of the perks offered on the trip was a glass of snake wine. 

snake wineIn this photo you can see the snake in the wine bottle. The Chinese have been drinking snake wine since around 1000 BC.  The snake which is thrown live into the wine bottle dies from the alcohol in the wine. The snake may  steep in the bottle for years.  Snake wine is said to keep you vital and healthy. So far in both my case and Shirley’s this is proving to be true.  So glad we tried that snake wine!

Other posts……….

Family Fun

Now We Have Been in Sister Cities

Don’t Be A Wine Snob


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Filed under China, Health

Just Like Justin- Seeing The Great Wall With My Family

Seeing Justin Trudeau on the Great Wall of China with his family this week reminded me of my own visit to the Great Wall with my family.  I was privileged to share the experience with my husband and my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew.  My visit was a long time ago. My niece is now an elementary school teacher and my nephew just finishing a university degree, but they weren’t much older than Justin and Sophie’s daughter Ella Grace when we visited the wall. trip to beijing and xian 145

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Maybe someday I’ll get to visit the Great Wall with my grandchildren and show them  other important sites in the country that was our home for six years. Wouldn’t that be something!

Other posts……

Tiannamen Square

Now We’ve Been To Sister Cities

Making Chinese Dumplings




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Filed under China, Family

Donald Trump on Tiananmen Square

Yesterday I did a blog post about Tiananmen Square and this morning I read that in last night’s Republican presidential debate Donald Trump was asked about comments he once made regarding the 1989 event.  Trump called the massacre at the square a ‘riot’ and said it had been stopped by ‘a strong and powerful government.’  

This morning friends from Hong Kong were posting links to an article in the Hong Kong Free Press describing the exchange of words about Tiananmen Square between candidate John Kasich and Trump during the debate. 

chimericaOn Wednesday I saw the play Chimerica at the Manitoba Theater Center. It explores the complex and troubling relationship between China and the United States.  It’s a relationship that may become even more complex and troubling should Donald Trump be elected the next American president.

Other posts……..

A Strange Family Photo- The Chinese Revolution and One Child Policy

Skin Color

Three Gorges Project


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Filed under China, Politics, Theatre

Three Gorges Project Yangtze River

Dave and I stand outside a temple on the Yangtze River in 2004. Dave is pointing to a mark by the temple door. We were told the waters of the river would reach that height on the temple when the Three Gorges Dam project was complete. The project was finally declared complete this past July according to this Reuters article. The Chinese government built the dam to provide hydro-electric power and to control the flooding of the Yangtze.

I was reminded of our trip down the Yangtze River by a photo taken by Edward Burtynsky called Feng Ji #9. It is on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and I often point it out to visitors on the tours I give at the gallery. It is one of a series of photographs taken by Burtynsky to show the effects of the Three Gorges Project. Burtynsky is a photographer who specializes in capturing the landscapes created by what he calls the ‘plunder of the earth.’ You can see Burtynsky’s Three Gorges images,  on his website.

Over a million people lost their homes as the Three Gorges Dam was built and the Yangtze River rose.

Four hundred year old houses and eight hundred year old bridges were demolished.Terraced fields that represented centuries of hard labor by local farmers were washed away along with palm trees, lush vegetation, factories, schools and apartment buildings. Winding mountain access roads which communities worked together for generations to build with pick axes and shovels are gone.

Also tragic is the loss of thousands of cultural and historical relics. Temples, statues and monuments disappeared under the rising waters. We saw White Crane Ridge a rocky outcrop near the city of Fuling. It contains twenty carved pictures and over 300,000 Chinese characters which record the history of the river beginning in the year 763.  It is now underwater although the Chinese government has turned it into an underwater museum. 

At one point our river guide pointed to writing on the cliff walls. These are recently painted versions of original poems which have already been submerged by the flooding. Each Chinese emperor penned some literary verse after observing the beauty of the Yangtze’s Three Gorges. Artists then carved their words into the rock. All this poetry dating back thousands of years, now lies under the water, to be viewed only by fish and the occasional fool hardy scuba diver.

   In the city of Chongqing we met artist, Lui Zuo Zhong. For twenty years he hiked the regions that were to be flooded taking thousands of photographs and doing hundreds of sketches of the people, scenery and landmarks. Mr. Zhong has worked tirelessly to create a painting as long as a football field which depicts the riverbank of the Yangtze before the flooding began. Although he does not have the proper funding to display the mural in a climate controlled setting, he has opened a small outdoor museum where his work of art hangs under a tin roof.

He autographs and sells printed reproductions to fund his fight to preserve the unique beauty and culture of the rapidly disappearing Yangtze Three Gorges Region.

Here I’m standing at the Three Gorges Dam with some of our traveling companions. 

This art piece is said to show the Chinese people fighting with the Yangtze. Over the years the river has caused flooding and destruction. In building the Three Gorges Dam China believes that at last they have conquered the Yangtze, harnessing its power to provide electricity to a nation. But at what cost? 

Other posts about our Yangtze River Experience………

Bamboo Gorge Boat Trackers

Stick Stick Men

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Filed under China, History, Hong Kong, Nature, Travel

Learning About the Chinese Cultural Revolution from Fifth Graders

“My great grandma hid in a haystack while the Red Guard stole everything from her house and then burned it to the ground. “

“My great-uncle escaped from China to Hong Kong by swimming through shark-infested waters.”

“My grandparents walked all the way from Shanghai to Hong Kong with seven children. It took many months.”

“My grandma was a member of the Red Guard. She was accused of helping counterrevolutionaries and was arrested but she didn’t blame Mao Zedong. She loved him then and she still does.”

“The Red Guard tortured my great-grandpa by making him drink so much water he got all bloated and swollen. It was very painful. His crime was spelling a word wrong on a poster he made about Mao Zedong.”

“My great-grandpa committed suicide, because the Red Guard took away his business, his house and his family.”

“My grandpa and his family escaped to Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution and I am very glad they did, otherwise I might never have been born.”

I was assigned to teach grade five social studies when I first began working at an international school in Hong Kong.  We were studying modern Chinese history and to help my students understand the turmoil-filled 1960’s I read them a novel called Red Scarf Girl by Ji Li Jiang. It is a first person account written by a woman who was eleven years old when the Cultural Revolution began in China.

    The children readily identified with her since they were eleven years old too. Ms. Jiang’s family was tortured, abused and imprisoned because their ancestors had been rich landlords. There was no greater crime during the Cultural Revolution than having a family tree, which included a member of the upper class, especially a landowner.

After we finished reading the novel the students’ final assignment was to write a letter to the author.  As I graded their work I was surprised how many of the kids had included stories they had heard from relatives who had lived in China during the revolution. The quotes above are all from my fifth grade students’ letters.

Another girl wrote, “My great-grandpa was a Chinese landlord too. The communists took away all of my great-grandfather’s land. His son, my grandpa, ran all the way to Hong Kong to escape.  My grandpa’s brother stayed in China and joined the Communist Party.

  One of the boys in my class talked about his aunt.  “My aunt grew up in main land China and she was brainwashed to believe that Chairman Mao was some sort of immortal god.  Instead of getting good schooling my aunt just learned propaganda about Chairman Mao.  This ruined her life.”

 Children in my class who were not Chinese but were of other Asian backgrounds wrote two of the most interesting letters. One girl said, “I am not Chinese. I am Korean. But I just want you to know that I am from South Korea not North Korea. I am not a communist!”

 One of my students from Japan had a burning question she wanted to ask. “Do you hate Japanese people? I hope not because I am Japanese. I know my ancestors attacked China during World War II and were very mean to your people. But I know how sad you were to be blamed for your ancestors being landowners. I hope you won’t blame me for my ancestors being your enemies. I want to be your Japanese friend.”

Although I was supposed to be teaching my students modern Chinese history they were actually teaching me by sharing their unique family experiences and perspectives. 


Filed under Books, China, Education