Qingdao and the Shanghai Flower Market

This update includes our trip to Qingdao, the Shanghai flower market and a little bit about Chinese antiques and Chinese porcelain.

Overview

Qingdao (Green Island) is located on the southern side of the Shandong Peninsula. Chinese sometime refer to Qingdao as ?¢‚Ǩ?ìChina?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Switzerland?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Qingdao has clean air, nice beaches and terrific seafood. The population of Qingdao is about 7,500,000. If you are looking on a map, Qingdao is actually on the Yellow Sea ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú right across from South Korea.

History

Kaiser Willhelm II of Germany liked Qingdao and after two German Missionaries were killed during the Boxer Rebellion he demanded that China give this area to Germany. Qingdao was given to Germany for 99 years beginning in 1898. The Germans sent a small army ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú 2000 men to establish a navel base. They also built missions, schools, a University, a railway and electric lights. The Tsingtao Brewery ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú brewing German style, was established in 1903. Tsingtao is the number one Chinese beer today.

The Japanese invaded Qingdao in 1914 and the treaty of Versailles supported their position there. They remained in control of the city until 1922 when it was returned China. The Japanese came again in 1938 at the start of the Sino-Japanese war and stayed until defeated in 1945.

Our Trip

We went to Qingdao for the beaches and the seafood. We enjoyed the beer too. This is a nice weekend trip from Shanghai and the weather was absolutely perfect during our stay. We arrived late Thursday night. Friday we enjoyed the day at the beach and the night market. Saturday was a bit windier, so after getting completely covered in sand, we headed for refuge in a terrific French restaurant in the city. Sunday we were back in Shanghai.

German Influence

You can still see little bits of German influence in Qingdao, buildings that look German or at least European and some available foods, and a better version of Tsingtao beer is available locally. The rolling hills help as well. Considering the amount of time the Germans were in control (16 years) and the amount of time the Japanese were in control (14 years) I expected more Japanese influence than we found.

Beaches and Swimming

Qingdao is famous for six major beaches. The beaches are good, but don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t confuse China with the Caribbean. We preferred Bathing Beach number two. The Yellow Sea looked pretty clean to me, so I decided to swim in it. After all, many Chinese were and they seemed fine. The water was clear ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú clear like Hawaii, but the sand is brown so the effect is more like Lake Michigan on a good day than anywhere else I have been, but warmer. The water was quite nice and refreshing. The sand is very fine and on Sunday there was wind, so sand blew all over us.

Interestingly most men wear Speedos in China, and small ones at that. Many women swim completely clothed or wear 70s look swimsuits ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú mostly for sale at stands on the beach. I think there are approximately six possible styles of swimsuits for women available in China, and hundreds of Speedo options for men. We found this to be somewhat backwards. I did wear a bikini, but may have gotten as many stares for my blonde hair as my swimsuit. China does not seem to have sunscreen, which is odd considering the obsession of all Chinese women with white skin. Instead everyone sits under an umbrella or people cover themselves in sand. Air pollution does prevent some infrared rays, but it is possible to get sunburn in Qingdao ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú I know.

qingdao beachl

Our evening trip to the night market was eventful as well. Look for the picture of Dean eating the squid. I wanted to eat a starfish, which some people were doing, but chickend out. After all ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú where is the meat? And there was quite a lot of competition for the starfish, so I guess everyone else wanted to try one too.

dean squid

Le Bang

The final highlight of our trip was an excellent French restaurant where we ate. It was called Le Bang and had all kinds of things we like ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú red wine, goat cheese appetizers and delicious thin crust pizza. If you are planning a trip to Qingdao, let us know so we can be sure to give you the directions.

The Shanghai Flower Market

The Jin Wen Flower Market (French Concession Flower Market) is one of my favorite things in Shanghai. This market was formerly a greyhound racing track which means you walk up a long round ramp, like a sports arena. All along the ramp are stalls with flowers. Exotic flowers ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú by American standards like many types of orchids, lotus flowers and lots of others I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know – are the most common and cheapest. Small roses are also very popular and sell 18 for $3. This means I can buy amazing flowers for my home every week.

There is also an upstairs full of shops. Many of the shops are for silk flowers, but there are a few for rattan, some dish outlets, one holiday store and many shops for vases. There are also stores for plants and other wood stuff ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú mostly made of aromatic camphor. Along the street by the market are many terrific decoration stores as well. This is a fun and interesting area for modern Chinese house wares.

Chinese Antiques & Porcelain

I have attended two lectures on Chinese antiques and one on Chinese porcelain and plan to attend many more during the rest of the year. Chinese antiques, especially furniture are very popular on the international circuit, but not with the Chinese. Many Chinese antiques were taken from China during the last century?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s political changes. Some of them were taken to Europe, some to Taiwan and in the past ten to fifteen years, many by diplomats after stints in China. This caused the government to put restrictions on the removal of Chinese antiques. Truly though, the government is not interested in the type of general antiques most people would buy for their homes. Mostly of antiques being protected are Imperial treasures ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú those owned by the Emperor. Most of these historic treasures are believed to be in Taiwan currently.

Chinese antique furniture starts at about twenty years old. You can take any antiques you buy as long as you have the paperwork and they are not older than 1795. Much of Chinese furniture is made of woods accustomed to much more moisture than is present in most homes today, so the furniture often swells and shrinks. This is not so different from any antique furniture, but some Chinese woods can be softer so might require extra care. Small pieces are also interesting, especially kitchen storage boxes and baskets. I plan to buy a Chinese door screen and have it restored ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú Dean can barely hide his excitementJ. Antique furniture restoration is also popular in China as many foreigners want to buy Chinese antique furniture and use it in their homes. Most antique furniture was not well stored or cared for and needs maintenance before home use. Several furniture dealers here have large storehouses of old furniture. You can look in the storehouses, and have the furniture restored to your specifications. This is great fun ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú if you are interested in antiques.

Chinese porcelain is also frequently known as ?¢‚Ǩ?ìBlue and White?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. This type of porcelain was popular at with the Imperial Palace, through the Silk Road became popular around the world. Most of the blue and white antique porcelain popular in Europe and US was actually made for export. The most important and best pieces were produced during the Ming dynasty and are simply not available. Maybe it could be possible if you shopped at Christie?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s or Sotheby?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s and had hundreds of thousands of dollars at your disposal for dish and vase shopping. But porcelain is lovely, there are many nice pieces to be had at affordable prices, and probably all are fakes. The fun is in the hunt.

In the interest of space ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú especially in your email boxes, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m not including any information about my most recent cooking lesson. We?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll be up with the website soon and you can read about it, including any recipes I try. We also think you will enjoy reading about the Chinese Mooncake Festival and will put it up on the site as well.

The next update includes our trip to Hong Kong and Bangkok.