Tag Archives: Shenyang

参观棋盘山的向阳寺 – Visiting Qipanshan’s “Sun-facing Temple”

In late June, when Spider was only three weeks old, I took advantage of a beautiful morning to drag the entire group – wife, M-I-L, son, and puppy – to the nearby Xiangyang Temple for some fresh air.

Xiangyang Temple (向阳寺), literally “Sun-facing Temple”, overlooks the southwestern reaches of Qipanshan lake. You can see the temple and surrounding area for yourself via Google Earth if you input the following coordinates in GE’s search bar:

41°55’52.75″ N, 123°38’41.75″ E

According to the temple’s own history, it was built around 500 years ago. I declare that unlikely on the grounds that this part of China was very sparsely populated during the time claimed. Things didn’t start really happening around here until the Manchus declared Shenyang their capital in the 1600s. Furthermore, whatever structures may have existed by the 20th century were almost certainly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as part of the “Four Olds” campaign by the Red Guards and other associated geniuses. That all the buildings on the grounds look brand-spanking new (and probably are) does not in any way detract from the experience, however! The architecture is still lovely.

View of the main gate from the upper parking lot
View of the main gate from the upper parking lot

Continue reading 参观棋盘山的向阳寺 – Visiting Qipanshan’s “Sun-facing Temple”

Teaching the Blind to See

I spent last weekend in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. While an all-around awesome trip, it proved to be the last dying breath of my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars. With the threads on both eyepieces jammed solid and the focus differential knob out of sync, they were done. Saturday morning I dropped them off at the Nikon Shenyang Authorized Service office (“We don’t really do binoculars, we’ll have to ask Shanghai next week…”) and this morning took Spider down to the Hun River to do some scoping.

It was only 15C when Spider and I set out. Shenyang embraces Autumn without hesitation! Migratory species are already beginning to pass through Liaoning province in fits and starts, within another two weeks they will become a torrent.

Continue reading Teaching the Blind to See

Local Chinese Reactions to Egregious Environmental Pollution

My daily commute takes place almost entirely upon the Third Ring Road of Shenyang. If you overlay the ring road on a clock face, our home is at 3 o’clock, my son’s preschool at 12 o’clock, and my workplace at 9 o’clock.

So it happened that on Monday morning after dropping off my son, I was somewhere between 12 and 11 on the clock face speeding SW on the ring road when I noticed a towering black column of smoke arching up into the otherwise blue Shenyang sky.

Your first instinct is always to wonder what it could be? What’s around that area that would be capable of producing so much smoke?

Unfortunately, what immediately came to mind was the military airfield located in that part of town. The PLA airforce runs training flights into and out of that airfield every day. Given the quantity and acridity of the smoke I figured either a jet had gone down with lots of fuel on-board or an entire apartment building was going up.

Continue reading Local Chinese Reactions to Egregious Environmental Pollution

Watching the Transit of Venus!

It’s hard to get excited about astronomical phenomena when you live in China. The air quality and light pollution are so bad that almost nothing of note is visible.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that 2012-06-05/06 was the last Transit of Venus this century, and that the next won’t occur until 2117 when we’ll all be quite dead!

For once, China was perfectly situated to view the transit.

I'm the red donut! "Entire Transit Visible" - yeah baby!
I’m the red donut! “Entire Transit Visible” – yeah baby!

And as this occurs during the day – about 0600 to 1200 for us in Shenyang – one needn’t have worried about light pollution. That left us with air quality and bad weather as the only limiting factors.

Unfortunately, the weather the entire preceding week was rain, even hail at one point! As late as 2200 the night before the weather forecast for Wednesday morning was cloudy and/or stormy.

But Drew was not dissuaded!

Continue reading Watching the Transit of Venus!

Attending a Chinese Funeral

Last Thursday the mother of a cherished friend and coworker passed away. She was 70 years old, but the sudden illness that struck her down caught everyone by surprise. On Friday the same fellow, now out of the office on bereavement leave, invited me to attend the funeral on Saturday morning.

What follows is a descriptive record of that event. Photography, understandably, is not welcome during such events so please forgive the lack of imagery. Also, this being my first such experience I have very little insight to offer into the rituals I am about to relate. I must focus on the what, perhaps another time we can find resources with which to cover the why

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Spring in Shenyang!


One year of Shenyang weather features Winter facing off against Summer, with a smattering of Spring and Autumn lasting about two weeks each. On Thursday all the peach trees around town started blooming. Spring had arrived! And about a week later it’ll be Summer! Quick! Better get outside and enjoy it right now!

So this afternoon Huilin’s maternal grandfather (“Laoye” in Chinese) came over and we went to the park!

Continue reading Spring in Shenyang!

Apple Cake!


Sometime during the past few weeks, I’m not exactly sure when, my wife withdrew my dinner cooking privileges. I’m not sure what I did to deserve this, but Ma Li flat-out refuses to let me cook dinner anymore… which can be a real pain because she ain’t no The Flash in the kitchen and sometimes I’m pretty hungry by the time anything is done!

Determined to break the culinary blockade, I resolved to fire up our seldom-used oven and bake something.

Continue reading Apple Cake!

Drew’s Journal Public Service Announcement


Amazing but true.
Amazing but true.

Circumstances under which it would be acceptable to shop here:

  • none

Alternate Scenarios:

#1I work for BMW so it’s ok for me to shop here.

Drew says: no, it’s not ok. Why doesn’t BMW give you this stuff for free Mr. Valued Employee?

#2 – I own a BMW so it’s ok for me to shop here.

Drew says: please go kill yourself.

#3 I don’t own a BMW but I want one so it’s ok for me to shop here.

Drew says: slap both your parents in the face for raising you wrong, and then go kill yourself.

This has been a Public Service Announcement by Drew’s Journal.

To be civilized…

I awoke this morning to the sounds of a gentle rain, and of the security guard for the factory grounds adjacent to my apartment complex beating his German shepherd.

Humans have an enormous capacity for cruelty, particularly towards animals. It is heartbreaking to lay in bed and hear the anguished cries of a confused and scared dog coming in through your open window.

“What can we do?” asked my wife.

“We can do nothing…” was the reply.

In China, these sorts of people cannot be reasoned with. They have a view of animals, a perception of the human/animal role, that cannot be altered. They can only die off, and – hopefully – be replaced by a generation compassionate towards all beings, not just those which walk upon two legs…

Such is life in one of the world’s oldest, and proudest civilizations…