Saturday, June 9, 2012

*R-rated! Xitang (6/9/2012)

(Parental warning: this blog is R-rated!)
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Today we had an early start, being picked up by Grace in her automobile! A new way to travel in China, by private car! Tuk also accompanied us, as we took a slightly longer, but definitely faster route to the water town of Xitang, 90 km/54 miles from Shanghai. Tolls totaled 40 RMB/$6.27. We flew on the toll road with very little traffic.
The history of Xitang dates back to at least 770 BC and is known today for maintaining more of the simple lifestyle of the Ming and Qing Dynasties of the last century. However, it is obvious that many of the ancient buildings are newly built, especially in the "scenic area" which can be translated as the "tourist area."
We parked in the immense tourist parking lot, being guided Disneyland-style as to where to park.
Kent, Grace and Tuk on one of the bridges leading into the scenic area:
We purchased the all-inclusive ticket for 100 RMB each. Once inside, there is a large boat wharf for taking a river/canal ride.
Here is a water stage for performances:
We opted to walk through the entrance area leading to the real town:
The Huixiu Bridge:
A youngster with a pinwheel:
Really now, these water plants are fake!
The trash bins show the "horse-head" type walls typical of the region:
Boys swimming in the river:
But they weren't really swimming:
They were washing their pants and perhaps bathing?
They swam from this platform:
Kent on the covered corridor:
This corridor showcased the "flower" wall, which contains decorative lattice windows for ventilation and views:
Each window was different:
Looking back on the corridor that smelled new:
Yingxiu Bridge:
includes a water gate.
Our first stop was the Huguo Grain Official's Temple:
Kent, Grace and Tuk throw coins and pray.
The temple is dedicated to "Lord Seven" (because he is the seventh son) who is venerated for alleviating a great famine:
Interesting patchwork:
Instead of unsightly metal barrels, here they burn the offerings in these "ovens:"
One of the first of the "real" corridors:
Xitang is known to have misty rainy weather, and so the shopkeepers built roofs overhanging the sidewalk. These roofs were then joined together as a continuous covered corridor. You would think they would be only for pedestrians!
"River lobsters:"
Laundry is everywhere:
The shopkeeper fell asleep with the fly-swatter on her face:
OMG! There's not enough room!
Well, I guess there was enough room.
Hmm, I should count the stops for which our ticket provided entrance.
Second stop, the Drunk Garden:
Table and stools in the water? This house had a tiny little garden, but it had all the features: water, bridges, Taihu rocks, arbors, koi pool, etc.
Golden koi:
It also exhibited the work of a wood block print artist:
Lily pond:
In the reception hall, Tuk sits to one side in the women's chairs:
While Kent gets to sit at the main table in a chair with armrests:
A turtle rock:
Back in the corridor, there were hundreds of shops, half of them selling some kind of food. Using a ceiling fan motor, they have something spin over the food to keep away the insects:
You can see the s-shaped red string just to the right of the vertical lettered sign.
We caught a quick glimpse of a boatload of cormorants:
These birds are used for fishing.
Huanxiu Bridge:
Kent in one of the 122 lanes in Xitang, many of them very narrow:
From the bridge, we can see part of the Yanyu/Misty Rain Long Corridor:
This is the longest corridor in Xitang, at about 1,000m/1,100 yds. in length. It is world famous because it was along here that Tom Cruise ran during filming of the movie "Mission Impossible III."
View from the Huanxiu Bridge:
The man on the ledge in the photo above is casting a fishing net.
Looking upstream:
The large boat on the right is a "water restaurant."
Xi Jie/West Street:
Third stop, Zhongfu Hall:
This building showed a typical residential compound built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Kent peeks out of the second-story windows:
This house showcased scissor-cut art:
Next to Zhongfu Hall was Shipi Lane, seen here with Grace:
This lane is 1 m/39" at its widest and 80 cm/31" at its narrowest. It is made up of 166 stone planks.
Tamiko braces the walls:
Kent nears the end of the 40 m/44 yd. Shipi Lane:
Back in Xi Jie/West Street:
Fourth stop, Xi Yuan/West Garden:
They had a serious rockery with "caves" or tunnels:
A peek down into another lane:
The house belonging to the garden had a more ornate doorway:
Tamiko pretends to open the windows:
Carved wood is everywhere:
Here they make art out of a slice of marble that looks picturesque:
Carved stone - several pieces put together:
A peek down on West Street:
The house also included a small museum of fans:
From big ones to tiny ones.
The shops open up by removing the shutters and standing them along the wall:
Gosh, look how these pumpkins grew with Chinese characters on them!
A snack vendor knits while waiting for business:
Okay, I know the birds are whistles:
 Fifth stop, the Xue House and Button Museum:
These are jade dragon-shaped belt hooks. It appears buttons evolved from belt hooks and buckles.
Some of the hand-operated machinery to make shell buttons:
Sixth stop, Eave Tile Display Hall:
Decorative roof tiles that are placed at the bottom end.
Roof ridge tiles with animal figures:
More shops: Wooden incense boxes:
You must put the burning incense sticks inside - the top one is leaking smoke.
Sometimes it looks like they are selling Mexican fabrics:
Anjin Bridge:
We stopped for lunch of noodles at an air-conditioned restaurant:
Back in the lanes, a guy pounding candy:
Seventh stop, the Zhang Zheng Root Carving Museum:
No photos allowed inside...
Some of these carvings were amazing, especially the big ones that could take up a whole room.
Now we are standing on Anjin Bridge:
Crossing Ludia (?) Bridge:
To see Xutang Bridge, we found ourselves outside of the "scenic area:"
An ancient gingko tree near Lu You's Tomb:
Heading back to the scenic area, Grace poses in a moon gate:
Tuk and Tamiko are caught off guard:
More candid photos!
A shrink-wrapped new door:
Eighth stop, the Ni Family Residence. This house was totally furnished to show a Qing Dynasty home and as a museum to Ni Tianzeng (1937-1992), a model politician.
A small interior garden:
Looking towards the Wufu Bridge:
Tuk on the bridge:
These boys got yelled at, but weren't they only washing up?
Ninth stop, the Jiangnan Woodcarving Exhibition Hall. Sometimes the names are grander than the place. A small dark museum of miscellaneous wood carvings, parts of beams, windows and balustrades. The best thing was the view from the back steps:
Next we found ourselves on Tangdong Street, a bar street:
Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall...
Ninety-eight bottle of beer on the wall..
 Chinese peasant hat-covered lanterns:
Just say it like it is:
Tamiko on Shizi Bridge:
Grace photographing Tuk in front of the Wuyin Bridge:
A photo duel between Grace and Tuk:
Tamiko and Kent in front of the Antai Bridge:
We stopped for some cold water, and tried "green bean soup:"
It was cold and sweet drink, and refreshing on a hot and humid day.
Tenth stop, Yellow Rice Wine Exhibition Hall in a former rice wine shop. There was a mural and several etchings that seemed to describe the wine-making business, and we saw some new rice wine containers, but much of this museum resembled a mini-Shanghai Museum. A room of brassware, a room of ceramics, a room of carved stone including black jade, a room of paintings and calligraphy, etc.:
Although called rice or yellow (fermented) wine, this stuff is really a liquor.
We are now crossing the Wolong/Crouching Dragon Bridge at the far end of town:
Wolong Bridge:
Groovy shoes:
Grace across from the Wan'an and Antai Bridges:
Beizha Lu covered corridor:
A "pleasure" boat:
Washing pots and bowls in the river:
Anxiu Bridge:
On the left of the photo above, and below are examples of the coif walls, with an outline of the goddess Guanyin's hair:
Ninety-seven bottles of beer on the wall:
A Tom Cruise sighting:
Tamiko & Kent running a la Tom Cruise:
Xitang became famous after Tom Cruise ran through the covered corridors in the movie "Mission Impossible III."
Grace in a corridor:
Rinsing her mop in the river:
Dried sweet-potato or yam chips:
A canal scene:
Washing clothes in the river:
Another architectural feature of Xitang are the "Beauty Benches." There is a Chinese saying: "Woman who leans against the bench is a beauty, woman who doesn't lean is not a beauty." These benches are often found in pavilions along a river or lakeside. Here is an older beauty:
Then we noticed the opera being performed across the river:
Ooooh, Tom Cruise again!
It was starting to get misty:
The Songzi Laifeng Bridge:
The name translates into roughly "a son was delivered, a phoenix/girl arrived." The steps represent the ambition of boys moving ahead in the world, and the ramp represents the small steps taken by (footbound) girls.
Some beauties on the bench:
Trying to be a beauty:
Tamiko, Tuk and Grace:
Zonked out:
Kent on the bridge:
Tamiko & Tuk:
Stinky tofu snack:
We have reached the end of the tour of Xitang, with only a drive back to Shanghai, where we did run into some traffic.
Many thanks to Tuk for arranging this trip and to Grace for providing the transportation.

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