Tag Archives: 中国

Review : Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi

Book Review of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Wang Anyi

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of ShanghaiMy Thoughts after Reading

This literary fiction is translated from a Chinese work. It takes its title from a classic Tang dynasty poem about the tragic love between the Emperor and his favourite concubine.

Right from the opening chapter, the author invites you to step inside the world and relish in every minutiae of Shanghai life. I am amazed at how the author is able to describe so much about everyday things we take for granted, from apartment blocks to pigeons.

I recognised some of the expressions in Chinese. In some ways, I would say the beauty of the language in the original text is lost in translation. I say this because a single word in Chinese, after translation, becomes a three syllable word in English, or a string of words to describe the same context. When the rhythm is lost, the reader can only grasp about 70-80% of the author’s original intent.

This story centres on Wang Qiyao, from a high-schooler all the way to her death decades later. Although she is the main character, this account is narrated from a detached omniscient view. Right to the end, I didn’t really understand her. I felt as if I’ve seen her entire life through frosted glass. People came and went in her life. They seem to be drawn to her, but apart from her beauty, I could not understand why. She lived through the tumultuous times in China history, but the author has skirted round these historical events. We get little hints that it’s going on outside.

Nonetheless, the unhurried pace allows you to immerse completely in every aspect of Shanghai life. 3/5

Goodreads Blurb

Set in post-World War II Shanghai, “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the “longtong,” the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai’s working-class neighborhoods.

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of “old Shanghai”–a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication–only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth.

From the violent persecution of communism to the liberalism and openness of the age of reform, this sorrowful tale of old China versus new, of perseverance in the face of adversity, is a timeless rendering of our never-ending quest for transformation and beauty. 

Don’t read this if you like Chinese food

So, what do the Chinese in China eat, and how different are they? To make sure the Chinese setting of my middle-grade book, Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, was authentic, I took a trip to China to get a feel for the place. The places I saw inspired my setting. It was befitting to check out the palates too.

When I say Chinese food, you are probably thinking of sweet and sour dishes, Singapore noodles or egg-fried rice. I love them, and I grew up eating these. But that is the variation in Singapore. What we eat, whether the more widely known ones or the regional ones like Hainanese Chicken Rice, has been passed down and modified from our immigrant ancestors. Later, when I went to live in the UK, I discovered many new Chinese dishes. Some are variations of what I had come across in Singapore, like crispy aromatic duck instead of Peking duck. These regional variations are not surprising really, when you think of how large China is. In this article, I will describe the food I ate in South-West China. I must warn you, if you like Chinese food, I am taking you on a mouth-watering journey that leaves you craving for it.

On my first night, I visited a nearby restaurant. The first thing that struck me was the way my crockery was served. It was all wrapped up in plastic. I am not a beer-drinker, but I associate tall or big half-pint glasses with beer. Not in this part of China. If you wanted beer, it was served with a tiny glass.

When I planned my trip, on days out with the guide and arriving late in a new place, I had asked for meals to be provided. I was very glad for this as I would not have discovered new palates otherwise. Here are some of the food I ate. In every meal, regardless of city or countryside, eateries or restaurants, there was always a big bowl of soup to go with the several dishes. The dishes were 75% vegetables. In the more rural places, we were served mushrooms and other vegetables grown and harvested locally.

On this trip, I fell in love with garlic stalks. After my return to Singapore, I discovered the supermarkets sold them. I just hadn’t noticed them before. From then on, fried garlic stalks was a regular dish on my dinner table. Now that I am back in the UK, I miss not being able to purchase these so easily. I’ve tried to grow my own, but I’ve not had much success so far. Naturally, if I had to pick one food to mention in my book, Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, it’s garlic stalks.

There was only one dish I did not like. In my story, I described how the food tasted like twigs. That was literally what it was like: thin, brown, hard, chewy twigs. Ironically, in this picture, my favourite garlic stalks was next to my least favourite “twigs”.

Garlic Stalks

Yummy stir-fried garlic stalks and chewy “twigs”

The front of the eateries in rural China vary as you can see in the pictures below

Eatery in Jiuzhaigou

Eatery in Jiuzhaigou

(i) I talked about Jiuzhaigou town centre in a previous article. The blue signs, red ornate doors welcome you. Once you step inside, the white walls tell you they are functional places. The menu is on the walls, with pictures of the food so there are no surprises. In our case, that didn’t matter because we didn’t have to choose anything as our driver did all the ordering for us.

Eatery in Huanglongxi

(ii) I thought the eatery in Huanglongxi Ancient Town is the most rustic. I love the outdoor stove and racks of vegetables, all ready to go.  On the ground, the metal basins had fishes; usually one fish per basin. This was so common I had to mention it in my book. We did not stop to eat in any of the eateries. Read on to find out why.

(iii) Comparing all three pictures, naturally the prettiest is from Taoping Qiang. The place where we ate seemed to be someone’s living room. Apart from a round dining table with a lazy susan, there was furniture in dark wood, including one where a TV sat on. Not surprisingly, we weren’t shown a menu. Our guide spoke to someone in Sichuanese and after a short wait, a feast arrived.

Taoping Qiang tearoom

In both the ancient town Huanglongxi and Jiuzhaigou National Park, there were several stalls selling the satay equivalent of barbecued yak and other meats. Since our arrival in South-West China, we had seen so many Yak products in shops, and enduring the aromatic smell of barbecued meat wafting from all directions. So at Huanglongxi we decided to buy a few sticks to snack for lunch. Sichuan is famous for its spicy food; here you can even smell it in the air when you walk past a BBQ stall. I imagined this was how Han, a character in my book, was overwhelmed with the fragrance when he first arrived in Pumi village.

When my trip came to an end, I went back to my writing. Fishes in metal basins, the market’s fragrance, garlic stalks and ‘twigs’ found their way into my story.

 This article was first published 15 July 2018. Updated 30 Jan 2021. Secrets of the Great Fire Tree is published by Aurelia Leo.

Secrets of the Great Fire Tree Book Cover

Would you Die for your Country?

Growing up in Singapore, I did not have formal history lessons in primary school, but indirectly we learnt about heroes in China history during Chinese lessons or festive seasons. Behind each of them, there was a take-home message to look to them as role models. There were three that stuck in my mind.

Qu Yuan 屈原

rice-dumpling-1438663_640Because the main character in my book makes a key journey during the Dumpling festival (7 June 2019), I had previously written an article describing the story behind this Festival. Here’s what was written:

‘This festival commemorates Qu Yuan (340–278 BC). He lived during the Warring States Period as a king’s advisor in Chu. Backstabbed by his jealous colleagues, his counsel was ignored by the Emperor who even exiled him. During this time, he wrote several poems to express his love for his country. In 278 BC, his beloved Chu finally fell to the powerful Qin. On hearing this, Qu Yuan threw himself in the Miluo River, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

The Chinese believe in the afterlife, hence the body must be intact at death. The locals could not bear the thought of this patriot’s body being eaten by fish. So they went out in dragon boats to find his body, but without avail. As a result, they resorted to deterring the fishes by generating noise and giving an alternative food source. They banged on drums, and threw dumplings (zongzi, 粽子) in the river.’

This is what my teacher said to us at the end of the story: ‘He was a loyal man. He loved his country so much that he was prepared to sacrifice his life for his country.’ She went on to tell our elementary class to be like loyal like him, and to love our country and be prepared to die for it.

Yue Fei 岳飞

Would You Die for your Country Yue FeiAnother Chinese hero is Yue Fei. He was a famous general who lived in the 12th century (1103-1142) during the Song dynasty. In Eastern China, there is a temple built in his honour.

Yue Fei had won many successful battles. But the lesson teach at school was not about his conquests. Like Qu Yuan, he was fiercely loyal to his country. However, he was an even better role model. The Chinese place a lot of emphasis on filial piety, ie respecting one’s parents and elders. The most famous story about him is the four-worded 精忠报国 tattoo his mother made on his back. ‘Serve your country loyally’. So the filial son obeys his aging mother and goes off to fight battles for his country.

Naturally, like the teacher who taught us about Qu Yuan, this one was also full of praise for his loyalty and filial piety. Because those lessons had embedded in my mind, even though I hadn’t mentioned Yue Fei’s name in my story, I touched on such lessons about loyalty to the country. If you want to know more about Yue Fei, this cultural website is a good place to start.

Confucius 孔夫子

Would You Die for your Country Confucius

Like Yue Fei, I did not mention this famous Chinese philosopher directly in my book. But I am sure you have come across this name. Today, Confucius (551–479 BC) is still widely respected. Despite globalisation Confucian teaching schools have gained popularity in China because parents want their children to learn about their own ethnicity and culture. Confucius believed the family is the core unit of society. When one is good to his own family, this extrapolates to his interactions with the outside world, ultimately leading to loyalty to his country. His many teachings are often quoted. Here is an example: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others己所不欲,勿施于人

In fact, he is so well respected that some will even invent quotes, like this one: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. (from Citizen of the World by Oliver Goldsmith)

Others are misquoted. This famous one is from another Chinese philosopher Laozi 老子: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 千里之行,始於足下

If you want to know more about Confucius, this educational website is a good one.

Great Yu 大禹

If you have been following my articles, you will know that I went on a trip to Sichuan in China researching my book. On this trip, I learn about Great Yu (2123 -2025 BC). My tour guide was surprised I had never heard of him and took pleasure in telling his story as he was from the region.

Would You Die for your Country Greatyu T

He lived at a time when China was plagued with floods. Despite dams and dikes built by his father, hills were still flooded. When he took over, he was rumoured to be married for only four days. He toured the country to understand the geology, and did not visit his wife and newborn even when work took him closer to home. He finally returned after thirteen years, when he successfully controlled the waters with river dredging and canal irrigations. Here’s a sculpture commemorating his great works.

As my guide was so proud of him and this sculpture had such pride of place in the rural village of Taoping Qiang, I had to slip this hero’s name in my book. Here’s a link for more information about him.

I have given you insight into four Chinese historical figures mentioned directly or indirectly in my book. To balance the gender out, I will write another article about female historical figures in a future article.

This article was first published 1 June 2019. Updated 18 Nov 2019 for the official blog tour of Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, published by Aurelia Leo. I pledge to give 25% of the royalties from its sale to charity.

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Six-year old Left Alone for a Year

Over the last months you must have had a chance to meet up with friends and family. These festive holidays are great for catch-ups and stories. Over the dinner table during one such get-together, I heard this account:

A group of charity workers had found a little boy living on his own. He had a pig living with him. His parents had gone away to work and his sole responsibility was to look after the pig until his parents’ return to celebrate Chinese New Year. He lived in a mountainous area, and his house was the only one in the area. They reckoned he was about six years old.

It wasn’t a first-hand account, and I never verified the story’s details. But it moved me. To leave behind a six-year old and let him fend for himself for an entire year, the conditions at home had to be desperate.

When I delved deeper, I learnt how left-behind children were paying the price of China’s economic development. Most are left with a relative. However, very often the relative is a grand-parent who needed looking after. Not only do these children have to fend for themselves, they become carers themselves. They have to fit their education around managing house and farm. And what of the emotional vacuum of absent parents? I needed the world to know about this. This was how I starting writing my middle-grade book.

As part of my research for this book, I found many moving videos about these left-behind children. Here is a report by a Wall Street Journalist Andrew Browne capturing the lives of left-behind children.

You can get a good insight from the children’s point of view in The Diary of Left-Behind Children. Their teacher Yang Yuansong wanted his students to improve their literacy. For homework they had to write about their daily lives. Through this he realised how hard their lives were and published their works to bring awareness to their plights. I got my copy in Chengdu when I went to China. As you can see, it is well thumbed through.

Since buying it in 2013, this has been translated into English by Huang Yujia and illustrated by Miranda Mo.

There is a even video made around this book. The teacher is interviewed and you can also get to see the lives of some of those students. I should warn you it got teary in some places. You might want some tissues to hand.

If you want to know more about rural China and the struggles of the people, here is a list to videos to get you started. Their stories kept me going whenever I got stuck with writing Secrets of the Great Fire Tree.

  1. Ice Boy/Frost Boy
  2. Climbing dangerous ladder to get to and from village/school in Alute’er (at 2.40 min, you can see people with baskets on their backs, as I described in a previous blog)
  3. Doctor Deng Qiandui using zipline to get to remote villages

Children left behind by working parents does not just happen in China. It is a global occurrence. The non-fiction Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario is an account of a Honduran boy on a journey to find his mother working in United States. For younger audiences, Candy Gourlay’s middle-grade book Tall Story is about a Filipino mother who left her son behind to come to the UK to work.

Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother

Tall Story

 

 

 

 

I pledge to give 25% of my royalties to a charity to help these left-behind children. I hope it will be able to make a difference in some way. I thank the people and charities who are already making a difference for them.

This article was first published 27 May 2019. Updated 10 Nov 2019 for the official blog tour of Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, published by Aurelia Leo.

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Rustic Homes of China’s Ethnic Minorities

If you’ve come to this page, you are probably looking for some information about what type of houses the ethnic minorities in China live in. How do they live, compared to your lifestyle?

I went in search for this information when I was writing my middle grade fiction. I knew it was going to be a boy with only his pig in a lone hut in the mountains. But where exactly does he live?  At the time, I was living in Singapore, a modern city so densely populated it was hard for me to imagine such a remote setting. To cut a long story short, I eventually decided on China. I have never been to China but I knew the story setting had to be authentic, especially the homes of my characters. While you can find a lot of information on the internet, as the Chinese saying goes, 百闻不如一见。Translated roughly, it means there’s nothing quite like seeing it for yourself. So I took a trip there.

The surroundings

When I arrived in South-West China, it was easy to find inspiration. There were several houses nestled in the mountains, some on their own, like Kai’s home in my story, and some in small clusters, like the hamlet not far from Kai’s home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw people working in the fields, but without any machinery. I drove past a few spots with small areas of land where you’d expect weeds to grow wild. Instead I saw neat rows of plants growing, or rows of soil covered with plastic sheets. In my story, I described Kai working on the land, planting seeds and covering them with these sheets to stop the birds from eating them.

The Exteriors

Here is a picture that helped me formulate the architecture of the wooden home in the mountain.

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The hanging of corn and chilli to dry was particularly striking in Taoping Qiang, the village where the ethnic minority Qiang people lived. They adorned the entrances of the homes. Some were simpler, and others more elaborate.

The Interiors

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While in China, I visited the inside of two homes, one of the Tibetan homes in Jiuzhaigou and one in a Qiang home at Taoping Qiang. The Tibetan one was has a formica kitchen, and two different types of stove. There was a bench on the side furnished with the intricate embroidery similar to the ones being sold in the local area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can see, the Qiang kitchen was more rustic. The kitchen walls and floors were concrete. To give you a sense of where things were, when I took this photo, I was standing by the place they dined. In fact, I was especially fascinated with the stove/dining table.

The gentleman who was showing us his home informed us that all the homes in Taoping Qiang had the same set up. He demonstrated how it doubled as a table when the cover was used. It kept their food warm and their proximity to the stove kept them warm while dining. This was so unique I had to incorporate it into my story. When you read Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, you will see how it is part of Kai’s world.

This is what I learnt about the man about his kitchen/dining table:

(i) Stand-alone sunken stove is used for cooking.

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(ii) When food is cooked and ready to be served, the wooden frame is placed around stove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(iii) The wooden cover is placed over the top of the frame, serving as a table top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In both homes, there were cured meat hanging in the rafters. I did not see any refrigerators. In the story, I described Kai’s mother hanging the excess meat left over from Chinese New Year.

The furniture I saw in the Tibetan home is shown below. I touched on them in Secrets of the Great Fire Tree. What a contrast to the soft, cosy settees I am familiar with.

Even though the owner showed us his little bedroom, I did not feel right to look around for too long nor take any photos of it.

Nevertheless, this trip helped me crystallise my thoughts on Kai’s home and the surrounding areas. Whilst he does not live in a particular place in China nor does he belong to a particular ethnic minority, he comes from a beautiful country with a rich cultural. I hope you will get a flavour of this when you read my middle grade book.

This article was first published 1 Sep 2018. Updated 9 Nov 2019 for the official blog tour of Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, published by Aurelia Leo.

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Don’t read this if you like Chinese food

So, what do the Chinese in China eat, and how different are they? To make sure the Chinese setting of my middle-grade book, Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, was authentic, I took a trip to China to get a feel for the place. The places I saw inspired my setting. It was befitting to check out the palates too.

When I say Chinese food, you are probably thinking of sweet and sour dishes, Singapore noodles or egg-fried rice. I love them, and I grew up eating these. But that is the variation in Singapore. What we eat, whether the more widely known ones or the regional ones like Hainanese Chicken Rice, has been passed down and modified from our immigrant ancestors. Later, when I went to live in the UK, I discovered many new Chinese dishes. Some are variations of what I had come across in Singapore, like crispy aromatic duck instead of Peking duck. These regional variations are not surprising really, when you think of how large China is. In this article, I will describe the food I ate in South-West China. I must warn you, if you like Chinese food, I am taking you on a mouth-watering journey that leaves you craving for it.

On my first night, I visited a nearby restaurant. The first thing that struck me was the way my crockery was served. It was all wrapped up in plastic. I am not a beer-drinker, but I associate tall or big half-pint glasses with beer. Not in this part of China. If you wanted beer, it was served with a tiny glass.

When I planned my trip, on days out with the guide and arriving late in a new place, I had asked for meals to be provided. I was very glad for this as I would not have discovered new palates otherwise. Here are some of the food I ate. In every meal, regardless of city or countryside, eateries or restaurants, there was always a big bowl of soup to go with the several dishes. The dishes were 75% vegetables. In the more rural places, we were served mushrooms and other vegetables grown and harvested locally.

On this trip, I fell in love with garlic stalks. After my return to Singapore, I discovered the supermarkets sold them. I just hadn’t noticed them before. From then on, fried garlic stalks was a regular dish on my dinner table. Now that I am back in the UK, I miss not being able to purchase these so easily. I’ve tried to grow my own, but I’ve not had much success so far. Naturally, if I had to pick one food to mention in my book, Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, it’s garlic stalks.

There was only one dish I did not like. In my story, I described how the food tasted like twigs. That was literally what it was like: thin, brown, hard, chewy twigs. Ironically, in this picture, my favourite garlic stalks was next to my least favourite “twigs”.

Garlic Stalks

Yummy stir-fried garlic stalks and chewy “twigs”

The front of the eateries in rural China vary as you can see in the pictures below

Eatery in Jiuzhaigou

Eatery in Jiuzhaigou

(i) I talked about Jiuzhaigou town centre in a previous article. The blue signs, red ornate doors welcome you. Once you step inside, the white walls tell you they are functional places. The menu is on the walls, with pictures of the food so there are no surprises. In our case, that didn’t matter because we didn’t have to choose anything as our driver did all the ordering for us.

Eatery in Huanglongxi

(ii) I thought the eatery in Huanglongxi Ancient Town is the most rustic. I love the outdoor stove and racks of vegetables, all ready to go.  On the ground, the metal basins had fishes; usually one fish per basin. This was so common I had to mention it in my book. We did not stop to eat in any of the eateries. Read on to find out why.

(iii) Comparing all three pictures, naturally the prettiest is from Taoping Qiang. The place where we ate seemed to be someone’s living room. Apart from a round dining table with a lazy susan, there was furniture in dark wood, including one where a TV sat on. Not surprisingly, we weren’t shown a menu. Our guide spoke to someone in Sichuanese and after a short wait, a feast arrived.

Taoping Qiang tearoom

In both the ancient town Huanglongxi and Jiuzhaigou National Park, there were several stalls selling the satay equivalent of barbecued yak and other meats. Since our arrival in South-West China, we had seen so many Yak products in shops, and enduring the aromatic smell of barbecued meat wafting from all directions. So at Huanglongxi we decided to buy a few sticks to snack for lunch. Sichuan is famous for its spicy food; here you can even smell it in the air when you walk past a BBQ stall. I imagined this was how Han, a character in my book, was overwhelmed with the fragrance when he first arrived in Pumi village.

When my trip came to an end, I went back to my writing. Fishes in metal basins, the market’s fragrance, garlic stalks and ‘twigs’ found their way into my story.

 This article was first published 15 July 2018. Updated 5 Nov 2019 for the official blog tour of Secrets of the Great Fire Tree, published by Aurelia Leo.

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What you can buy in South-West China

If you’ve been following my articles, you’ll know that I lived in Singapore, a country with many other names. Shoppers’ Paradise is one of them. It’s a city with a plethora of shopping centres and open air night markets. Shopping is an intricate part of our lives. Naturally, when I finally decided on the China setting of my middle grade book, I had to ensure the shopping aspect in the story is authentic. I paid close attention to this detail during my visit to China. Here are my observations of the retail market, both for the tourists and the locals.

Huang Long Xi Ancient Town 黄龙溪: Crafts and Market

I took a trip to Huang Long Xi Ancient Town, 40km south of Chengdu.

Travelling by car, I passed several roadside stalls like the ones shown below. They are a good indicator that a temple is nearby. These stalls were set up by the roadside selling items you need for taking to the temples to pray. They include flowers, candles and joss-sticks.

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Huang Long Xi is a touristy place, both for locals and overseas visitors. It’s over 1700 years old. There were several sections to it. The buildings bedecked with red lanterns are so attractive I pictured them this way when I described Qiang town in my MG book, Secrets of the Great Fire Tree. WhatyoucanbuyinSWChina retail building C

In the more touristy part, there was a section selling crafts. I stopped to admire a stall selling Chinese red paper cuttings. They came in various shapes and sizes. Some were framed, others were backed by white paper. They were square, rectangular and circular. The lady selling them gave me time to admire the cuttings. She wasn’t pushy at all. I could not resist buying one as they were all so beautifully cut. Eventually I narrowed my choices down to round ones of a particular size.

WhatyoucanbuyinSWChina Retail Paper cutting 1compressedI had a choice of three, same design, but just slightly different. When I finally chose one, she commented that I had a good eye. I am naturally sceptical of praise from vendors, so I asked her why she made that comment. She explained about how thinly it was cut and held out all three of them so I could see for myself how the other two had thicker lines. It turned out every piece of cutting in the stall was her handiwork. She handed me a leaflet that told me a little more about herself. WhatyoucanbuyinSWChina Retail Paper cutting 2 compressedFrom her leaflet I found out she is from the Yi ethnic minority. This was quite a coincidence as a trip to Xichang to see them had been suggested by the travel agent when I first planned my trip.

Further on from the paper craft stall, there were several stalls selling sugar-sculptured animals. It was just as well, because every stalled was surrounded by parents with children clamouring for one. This was so unique and skilful I had to put it in my story, albeit a little mention as a treat at the end of Market Day. Even if you don’t like sugary things, it’s worth your while getting close to the front just to watch the artisan at work. To give you an idea, watch this sugar sculpture of a koi carp.

Deeper into the ancient town, there were several stalls selling more mundane items you would expect to find in any market. In these sections, vendors brought their wares and set up stall on the ground.

It was only early April, but there were several stalls selling juicy, red strawberries. They complemented the red lanterns hanging in another part of the town. This stall is selling strawberries and nuts and using the old-fashion scales.

In a quiet corner, a lady was making garlands on the spot. In a busy section, a man was selling rabbits.

The market section sold so many different things I had to stop myself from continuously snapping pictures. Whenever I described Qiang in my book, Huanglongxi came to the fore. I got carried away in my description of the place. My first editor commented that I was writing a travelogue, so I had to delete a huge section of it!

Tourist shops in Juizhaigou 九寨沟 town centre

Because I wanted to see some ethnic minorities and the way they live, the travel agency recommended I visited Jiuzhaigou to see the Tibetan residential areas, as the area was infra-structurally more developed.  Jiuzhaigou means the valley of nine villages. There are nine Tibetan villages in this national park. Below is a picture of what the town centre looks like.WhatyoucanbuyinSWChina retail 17 CThe town centre is made up shops just like the ones shown here below; a souvenir shop and a supermarket. What struck me were the ornate red decorations on the all the doors.

In the souvenir shops, they sold many foodstuffs, but I didn’t know what they were. I do know, however, on this shelf are different kinds of Yak products. Hanging outside the shops were some clothing items.

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There were, in fact, more restaurants and eateries in the town centre than souvenir shops. I will cover food in a separate article. Indeed, there weren’t as many souvenir shops as you would expect in the town centre of a Unesco Heritage Site.

In Jiuzhaigou National Park itself, these two pictures give you an idea why it’s a renowned place. Sadly, the beautiful waterfalls and blue lakes were destroyed by the earthquake in 2017.

Inside the park, the stalls, by comparison to the souvenir shops in town, were even more ornately decorated. There were several stalls selling crafts, such as these embroidery and jewellery. I had to mention them, though too briefly, in my book, Secrets of the Great Fire Tree. When you read it, see if you can spot the section about Xinying doing embroidery and her uncle selling them to tourists.

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If you came here in search of the sights and sounds of rural china, hopefully you got a flavour. This article brings to life the retail side of what you can experience in my book. Secrets of the Great Fire Tree will be published by Aurelia Leo on 28 May 2019. It is available for pre-order and requests for advanced reader copies can be made on Netgalley.

First published 15 Jun 2018. Updated 19 May 2019.