Monday, March 30, 2009

Chinese Curios, Part III

The riverside promenade in Harbin is named after the architect of the gulag, Joseph Stalin. Before the Japanese and then the Chinese Communist Party took the reins, Harbin was the gateway of the Russian railway in Manchuria.

The food of the Uighurs, the Muslims of  China's far west Xinjiang Province, is incredibly popular (and tasty).  A strange, almost organic growth has been formed from the remains of mutton on a stick.

There are a wide variety of vehicles on the streets of Harbin.

At the Lama Temple, in Beijing, one man has seen the light.

Huhhot, Inner Monglia. With a sizable Muslim community, one finds halal meat in and around restaurants near the Great Mosque.

Chinese Curios, Part II

Again in Yanji, capital of the Korean Autonomous Zone. This was a rabbit-meat-on-skewers restaurant. Tasty! But for the rabbits, that was all, folks.

A booming business in this area centers around ginseng, forest mushrooms, and deer antlers, all ancient staples of Chinese medicine. Here is a young stuffed deer propped in front of one such medicinal store. Its ears had worn away, and had been appropriated replaced by thick paper look-alikes.

Dog meat is considered to have an effect on male sexual stamina. Photo taken in a market hall in Yanji.

The famous Central Avenue of Harbin. What with the hordes of Chinese tourists, it is a melee on ice this time of year.

With the spring thaw in Harbin, the street sweepers and shovelers mobilize en masse. These welfare workers do an incredible job of minimizing the muckiness.

Chinese Curios, Part I

My photos have been accumulating, and I have decided to share some of the stranger, more provocative ones.

First, from a street in Dandong. These projectile launchers are still in common use in mid-size Chinese cities today. They are used for wedding receptions. It sounds like a true war when they are fired off.

A blind man outside the McDonalds, again in Dandong. He was playing a hypnotic rhythm on a set of wood blocks.

Add Image
The ferocious construction pace continues. Scenes like this, with rubble and debris spilling over onto the sidewalk, are commonplace in just about every city.

Moving on to the Korean Autonomous Zone, this rocket was the centerpiece of a ride in a desolate and highly depressing Yanji amusement park.

Monkey shines: also in the Yanji amusement park.

A Foray to the DPRK-China Border

As a North Korea junkie, one of my favorite trips is to the China-North Korea border. The easiest spot to get a glimpse of North Korea is from the Chinese city of Dandong. Across the Yalu River (Amnok River to Koreans) one can glimpse the North Korean city of Sinuiju, rather dwarfed by Dandong, which has been growing steadily, while Sinuiju seems to be cryogenically (and economically) frozen in time.

Near the Tiger Mountain Great Wall (the easternmost strip of Chinese Great Wall, incidentally), a walking path skirts a tiny branch of the Yalu River. Here is probably the narrowest separation between the two countries.

On the day I visited, the air was a bit smoggy, and the fields are still covered with dry stubble. This was certainly not the tourist season, though, and it was only me and a crowd of ragged North Koreans hanging out around the fence on the other side. One man was paddling a strange mini boat contraption back and forth along the North Korean shore.

About a week after my visit two US journalists were detained for either a.) continuing to film and take photos after North Korean border guards had ordered them to stop, or b.) crossing too close to/into the North Korean side. (see

Travels through 'The Zone': Looking for China’s Ethnic Koreans

Here are some glimpses of the Korean Autonomous Zone in northeast China, just above the right shoulder of North Korea.

If you are interested, feel free to follow up this link to read my write up in the JoongAng Daily

The title of the article is Cultural amnesia for Koreans in China

                                                                   Yanji Bridge

The lovely pharmacists of Hunchun (I had a cold). The woman on the left is ethnic Korean, while the woman on the right is Han Chinese.

Korean restaurants galore, in a heritage street of Tumen.

                                                                          In Tumen

In Yanji