With Ed firmly back at work, Kate has taken on the role of tourist guide admirably. It’s a fairly niche job at the moment – we reckon we may be the first European tourists in Wuhan, though we have seen busloads of Chinese visitors arriving at the Yangtze. On Friday afternoon we visited Wuhan art gallery, which had some interesting modern exhibits from the 2022 Wuhan Biennale. Casper stayed happily in his sling most of the way round, which was a good thing given the tactile nature of many of the exhibits and the many ‘don’t touch’ signs. In the main hall at the end there was an installation set on a bed of cobbles which was just too tempting, but when museum staff came and told us to stop Casper playing with them it was very much for the sake of his safety and done with lots of smiles.
Martyn was also keen to go and look at the pretty Russian Orthodox church off the Bund, which has now been deconsecrated and is home to some sort of Sino-Russian cultural exchange organisation. It was built in the late 19th century by wealthy Russian tea merchants who lived and worked in the old city of Hankou, this side of the river, explaining the statues of Victorian-looking figures in the riverside park with Cyrillic inscriptions.
On Sunday we ventured onto the Metro for the first time with Kate and Casper. Half a dozen or so stops on Line 2 took us south under the river into the Wuchan part of the city and the Baotong Buddhist temple, where we spent much of the afternoon. A temple was first built on this site during the Lui Song dynasty, which ended in the year 479, but it has been extended and renovated many times in the intervening 1500 years. In its heyday, the temple was home to more than 1500 monks. It was more or less demolished in the wars which followed the 1911 Xinhai revolution, rebuilt by the communist regime after 1952, destroyed again during the Cultural revolution in the 1960s and 70s, and then finally rebuilt and reinstated as a Buddhist temple in the 1980s. On Sunday afternoon the site was packed with day tourists and I, for one, enjoyed the enormous ginkgo trees around the temple and the greenness of the woods on the hill above it even more than the temple itself, despite the number of steps involved – these were a definite highlight for Casper, along with the pea flavour ice-lolly he managed to steal from me and pigeons to chase. Asia’s largest shopping mall as backdrop to the temple is quite something!
From the temple, we hopped back on the Metro to Tanhualin, an old part of Wuchan, which is now very touristy – full of hippy-dippy shops and fancy eateries, but also a road train in the form of a team of reindeer!
We went for tea in a 1920s era tea house and Kate wandered off and bought smelly tofu, fried potatoes and some sort of waffles filled with banana or red bean paste to eat, as we drank our pot of Pur tea. The acceptability of bringing your own food into a café is a big cultural difference here! Casper had a lot of fun with a dog at an adjacent table and four goldfish in a big basin but also tried all the foods we were eating, including the smelly tofu, which is not for the faint hearted.
Afterwards, we explored some of the steep, narrow backstreets before heading back across the river, to meet Ed in the mall adjoining the school where he teaches for some tasty Hong Kong food – red rice shrimp rolls, spring rolls, steamed vegetables, roast pigeon and chicken feet, followed by Portuguese custard tarts!
At the moment I’m still reading several e-books, including In the Time of our History, by Susanne Pari. It’s a novel about an extended family of Persian-Americans and I have enough Iranian friends to make that a very interesting proposition.
We’ve been eating yet more delicious foods – most of us in the UK have such a limited understanding of the range of cuisines available in a country which is, after all, the size of the whole of Europe. Stinky (fermented) tofu, it has to be said though, is something of an acquired taste!
I’m so enjoying your travels in China, Heather! So interesting!
I’m glad – it’s been quite the experience !
Pebbles – a geologist in the making? But stinky tofu sounds like China’s answer to andouille (but being fermented probably better for you!) Another interesting read thankyou!
[…] from Jiang’an temple on the West Nanjing road, which has an even more incongruous setting than Boatong temple in Wuchan, given that its name means ‘Temple of Peace and Tranquility’! We lunched on tasty but […]