Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Wow, time flies when you are having fun! I was just looking at this older blog post about fireworks in February 2011, and here we are again: Fireworks in February 2013!

The kids are bigger, the fireworks better, but mom's nervousness pretty much the same! :-). These are some pictures from last Saturday, all taken just outside our little compound (neighborhood), on the main road. 

The character on the right, he, means congratulations (at least according to my very handy Pleco iPhone app.)

Boom! - A lot of the fireworks here are in nifty boxes. You light them once and they just keep going for a while.

The audience (left) and some scientists (right) measuring particle pollution from the fireworks. (Wow, who invited them to the party?)

The very second we were done, this man came to pick up all our empty boxes. In just a minute, half of the "trash" had been cleaned up!

In het Nederlands: Zaterdagavond was het lekker vuurwerk afsteken. Op 31 december gebeurt er in Beijing niet veel op dat gebied, dus we vinden het leuk om dan het toch zeker een avond tijdens het Chinees Nieuwjaar goed aan te pakken. Boem, boem, Tsssssss. De jongens (alle drie) vinden het in elk geval altijd erg leuk!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Climbing Coal Hill

As if the pollution from the coal consumption here is not enough, last Saturday we climbed up the "famous" Coal Hill to get a view of the Forbidden City. The hill is located in Jingshan Park, just north of the Forbidden City itself. Coal Hill (or actually meishan in Chinese) was constructed from the soil excavated for the construction of the moat around the Forbidden City and other canals. It was then landscaped into a lovely area for imperial recreation.

Conveniently, the presence of the hill to the north of the Forbidden City (which is where the emperor lived) drastically improved the feng shui of the emperor's palace location, as it is considered favorable to have a residence south of a nearby hill (I learned all this from Wikipedia).

(Incidentally, not everyone was fully content while living in the Forbidden City, despite the excellent feng shui. Again according to Wikipedia, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, emperor Chongzhen, committed suicide by hanging himself in the Coal Hill parks in 1644.)

View from Coal Hill. You can see the outer wall of the Forbidden City and the roofs of the many buildings (for sleeping, living, governing, and ceremonies) inside.

Jingshan park has lots of little temples and pavilions.

Buddha overlooking the Forbidden City.

Mr. S.

Did I mention these bring good luck? (It seems luck does grow on trees!)

More good luck charms and the bell tower of one of the temples.

There's always a game going on in the park.

Buddha world.

S. and T.

Guys playing a game of Chinese chess. (I bet they just call it "chess"!)

From another exit we go through a hutong to go back to the car.


Simon in a contemplative moment.

In het Nederlands: Zondag brachten we een bezoekje aan Jingshan Park, een parkje net ten noorden van de Verboden Stad met prachtig uitzicht over het complex waar de keizer vroeger woonde. Het park is vol met tempeltjes, paviljoentjes en kaart- of schaak-spelende mensen.

Trip to 宜家 (yi-jia) --- IKEA

To show our cultural diversity, on the third day of the Chinese New Year, we were done with the traditional temple fairs (see day 1 and day 2 events) and explored a modern kind of temple fair: a trip to Beijing's IKEA.

宜家 (yi-jia), has been a convenient store for all our time in Beijing. We don't go often, but once in a while when you just want a plain but good looking light bulb, trash can, or floor mat, at least we know where to go.

And we are not the only one visiting IKEA at times. IKEA sales in China are sky-high and if you look at the photos below it is not hard to see why. We went to the store just minutes after it opened again following the Chinese New Year.

It's time to shop!

The same recognizable products. The Billy book case continues its world dominance.

Last stock-up before check-out.

Cash or credit...

Another full shopping cart. IKEA in China is doing very well. According to this Business Insider article, it's because the store actually gives China's relatively inexperienced home furnishing consumers plenty of examples of how to decorate their homes. 

The entrance of the IKEA Beijing.

In het Nederlands: Deze foto's hoeven wellicht geen uitleg. Er is gewoon een IKEA in Beijing. Het gaat erg goed met de IKEA in China. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snails on a Mountain

Inspired by our temple fair visits on the first day of the Chinese New Year, on the second day (so last Monday) we decided to venture out again on another temple visit. This time though, our plan was to just walk through the temple and then go on a "big hike" up the mountain behind it.

The temple we went to was called Hongluo Temple, also known as the temple of the red snail. I did not see any red snails, but I did again see plenty of red lanterns, people, and...stairs going up the mountain!

Welcome to Hongluo temple! The place is nicely decorated for the New Year. Simon blends in well with his red jacket.

People are trying to throw coins against the gigantic coin hanging off the bridge. Presumably this will bring good luck. (I doubt Suze Orman agrees...)

Life at the temple.

It's still very cold! In the background of the picture on the left you can see Paul (in blue) and Thomas (in black). 

"And behind door number 1 is..."

The Hongluo temple garden had a section with statues for all the animals in the Chinese zodiac. Paul (1970) and Thomas (2006) are dogs, while I am a proud tiger!

Happy Year of the Snake!

Also in the temple garden were statues of 500 arhats, people who have (allegedly?) reached Nirvana. I would be smiling too if I reached Nirvana.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,...

9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,...

We were puzzled a bit by the "Two-headed Arhat," until we discovered it was one Arhat carrying another. We also noticed some Arhats had fancy scarves, while others didn't.

My own handsome Arhats.

It's good to wear a coat in winter.

After all the Arhats, we finally went up the mountain. This was the last point of civilization (=snacks).

Up, up, up!

At least the view is worth it!

Nearing the top...

Hurrah, after a two-hour climb we made it!

View from the top. On a clear day we would have been able to see Beijing, but it was a bit hazy.
The way down is always easier.

At the bottom we walk into another part of the temple complex.

Here, you are welcomed by these two friendly figures. 

Again, good luck charms are everywhere!
The character "fu" (福) meaning "good fortune" or "happiness" is posted everywhere. 


Exit! We look back at the mountain we just climbed...

Last but not least we have some snacks (sweet potato, yum!) and finally find Simon's goat!
It was another happy day in the Chinese New Year. At home, we also happily recover from our adventures....

In het Nederlands: Op de tweede dag van het Chinese Nieuwjaar maken we een enorme wandeling bij een tempel. Deze tempel is ook weer prachtig versierd. In de tuin van de tempel vinden we de beelden die bij onze dierenriem horen. Paul en Thomas zijn honden, Simon is een geit (ookwel schaap genoemd) en ik ben een fiere tijger. Het jaar dat je geboren bent bepaald wat je bent.