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Posts tagged “Chinese

STONE WALL TREES (石牆樹), Central-Western District (中西區), Hong Kong

Entangling roots stretch across the surface of granite walls might remind people of the Ta Prohm Temple at Angkor Wat instead of the city of Hong Kong. Commonly known as “Stone Wall Trees” (石牆樹), the urban scenery of Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa 細葉榕) enrooted on historical granite walls is a unique scene in Hong Kong, especially in Central-Western District where the heart of the old Victoria City was located. In 1841 when the British first landed in Hong Kong, the bare, rocky and hilly terrain of the island posed a huge challenge for establishing a settlement. Apart from land reclamation along the coast, the British also create habitable land by constructing flat terraces on the slope of Victoria Peak (Tai Ping Shan 太平山). From the mid 19th century onwards, local granite was used to construct retaining walls for the terrace constructions. To make the relatively bare island more habitable, trees were planted across the city to provide shade and visual interest. Many foreign tree species from other British colonies such as India and Australia were brought to Hong Kong. Due to its suitability to the local climate and ability to grow rapidly, Chinese Banyan (細葉榕) were widely planted. From these banyan trees, birds and bats ate the figs and spread the seeds all over the city, and into stone joints of the retaining walls. This led to the birth of the stone wall trees.

In 1996, scholar C.Y. Jim found 1275 trees with 30 or so species on about 505 stone walls. Ficus Microcarpa or Chinese Banyan is the most common type of stone wall trees. With hardly any soil to clinch into, these banyans take the wall as their host and spread their intertwining roots on the stone surfaces. After 50 to 100 years, these banyans gradually mature into shading crowns that we see today. Many of these old stone wall trees have survived to the present day, especially in Central – Western District which contains the city’s largest concentration of stone wall trees. The emergence of stone wall trees in Hong Kong, however, was no coincidence. Perfect climate conditions, suitable stone wall surface, and some good fortune of surviving the WWII when many old trees were cut down by the Japanese for timber, all played a part in the story of stone wall trees. After WWII, stone was soon replaced by concrete for retaining wall construction. Concrete walls left little room for new trees to enroot themselves by chance. After a few generations, the resilient stone wall trees have become iconic features for various old neighbourhoods.

Despite over a century serving to improve the micro-climate of the city, cultural and ecological significance of the stone wall trees have gone unnoticed until the recent two decades. In light of the government’s intention to demolish the former Police Married Quarters (PMQ) and its iconic stone wall trees in 2005, the local resident group “Central and Western Concern Group” was formed to fight for preserving the stone wall trees as well as the heritage building. Not only has their effort succeeded in convincing the government to preserve the PMQ, they have also increased the public awareness of the stone wall trees. In 2007, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) decided to relocate a proposed exit for the new Kennedy Town Station in order to preserve the stone wall trees at Forbes Street. The admirable effort decisively preserved the largest concentration of stone wall trees in Hong Kong. Though not all cases were success stories. In 2015, five 150-year old stone wall banyans at Bonham Road were fell sneakily overnight, just because one of their neighbouring trees toppled some time ago due to heavy rain. In name of public safety, the five healthy trees were cut down before the arrival of a potential typhoon. No detailed study was made before the decision, and that particular typhoon didn’t even come close enough to pose any thread. The hasty action of the government led to a huge loss for the community and sparked public outcry. More and more people become aware that there is an urgent need to develop a strategic plan for protecting these unique urban stone wall trees before it is too late.

With a crown stretching over 28m, the Rubber Fig at Lugard Road on the peak of Tai Ping Shan is a popular attraction for selfies. Origin from India and Malaysia, Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica, 印度榕) were planted in Hong Kong to provide shade during the colonial era. [Lugard Road (盧吉道), The Peak (太平山), 2021]
The aerial roots of Chinese Banyan may look out of place in the city. [Caine Road (堅道), Mid-Levels (半山), 2020]
An old Chinese Banyan is a great shade provider. [Hollywood Road Park, (荷李活道公園), Sheung Wan (上環), 2020]
The old Chinese Banyans in Blake Garden define the tranquil character of Po Hing Fong in PoHo, Sheung Wan. [Blake Garden (卜公花園), Sheung Wan (上環), 2020]
The odd gesture of the Chinese Banyan in Blake Garden is said to be resulted from a typhoon. [Blake Garden (卜公花園), Sheung Wan (上環), 2017]
With a crown spread of 28m, the enormous Chinese Banyan in Blake Garden stands like a giant. [Blake Garden (卜公花園), Sheung Wan (上環), 2017]
Chinese Banyan is native in China, tropical Asia and Australia. [Blake Garden (卜公花園), Sheung Wan (上環), 2017]
Chinese Banyan is very versatile and can enroot in a wide range of urban setting, including manmade slopes in the city. [Victoria Road, Kennedy Town (堅尼地城), 2020]
Quite a number of Chinese Banyans have become stone wall trees. [Tank Lane (水池巷), Sheung Wan (上環), 2017]
Stone wall trees form a unique urban scenery in the Central Western District in Hong Kong. [Between Bonham (般咸道) and Hospital Road (醫院道), Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), 2020]
All residents in the Central Western District are used to having the stone wall trees around. [High Street (高街), Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), 2020]
Stone wall trees are great to provide shade along narrow sidewalk where there is absolutely no room for tree planting. [Caine Road (堅道), Mid-Levels (半山), 2020]
The entangling roots is part of the urban scenery. [Caine Road (堅道), Mid-Levels (半山), 2020]
Wherever there is retaining wall and terraced alleyway, there would be stone wall trees. [Tai Pak Terrace (太白臺), Kennedy Town (堅尼地城), 2020]
In many occasions, the stone wall tree is inseparable with the history and heritage of the stone wall itself. Built in 1850, this stone wall has supported the terrace for the Anglican Bishop’s House and the old St. Paul’s College for 170 years. [Ficus virens (大葉榕) at the Bishop House and St. Paul College, Lower Albert Road (下亞厘畢道), Central, 2021]
Local efforts to save the stone wall trees at the former Police Married Quarters (PMQ) in 2005 have raised public awareness on preservation of heritage buildings and old trees. [Stone wall trees and retaining wall of the PMQ along Hollywood Road (荷李活道), Central, 2020]
In 2015, five 155-year old stone wall trees at Bonham Road (般咸道) were sneakily cut down by the government in midnight. The move has sparked public outcry, especially from the immediately neighborhood. Since then, new branches have emerged from the tree stumps, once again providing shade for the bus stop below. [Junction of Centre Street and Bonham Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2020]
Inflected by fungus Phellinus noxius, a prominent stone wall tree over Hospital Road (醫院道) has been diagnosed with Brown Root Rot Disease. The tree is now at risk of structural deterioration and failure. [Near the junction of Hospital Road and Bonham Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2020]
Manmade structural supports have been installed recently to secure the inflected stone wall tree. [Near the junction of Hospital Road and Bonham Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2020]
The 27 banyan trees at Forbes Street (科士街) is one the largest groups of stone wall trees in Hong Kong. [Forbes Street, Kennedy Town, 2020]
In 2007, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) decided to relocate a proposed station exit in order to preserve the stone wall trees at Forbes Street. [Forbes Street, Kennedy Town, 2020]
The penetrating ability of their roots make Chinese Banyans the perfect species to thrive on stone walls. [Forbes Street, Kennedy Town, 2020]
Built in the 1890’s, some say the Chinese Banyans at Forbes Street were planted intentionally to strengthen the stone retaining wall. [Forbes Street, Kennedy Town, 2020]
Another well known cluster of stone wall trees is found at King George V Memorial Park (佐治五世紀念公園) in Sai Ying Pun (西營盤). [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
King George V Memorial Park is located across the street from Tsan Yuk Hospital The park’s retaining walls is famous for the stone wall trees. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
Built in 1936, King George V Memorial Park was built following the death of King George V of Britain. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
35 stone wall trees lined along the retaining walls of King George V Memorial Park. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
With a football pitch, childcare centre and seating areas, the park is a popular destination in Sai Ying Pun. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
The atmospheric park entrance is a popular spot for film shooting. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
The Chinese Banyans provide pleasant shade for the exercise terraces along Hospital Road. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
After 85 years, the metal plaque is almost covered by the banyan roots at King George V Memorial Park. [King George V Memorial Park, Hospital Road, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]

DAY 1 (3/6): TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM (東京国立博物館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After the magnificent lunch bento at Innsyoutei, we followed the main path further into Ueno Park to reach the museum clusters.  Here one can find the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, National Museum of Wester Art, as well as the largest of them all, the Tokyo National Museum.  Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館) is the oldest and largest Japanese museum.  We didn’t plan to see everything.  We were a little tired from the flight, so we took it easy to explore the museum complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Tokyo National Museum is consisted of several buildings: Honkan, Toyokan, Heiseikan, Hyokeikan, etc.  We started with Honkan, the main museum hall.  This present Honkan was designed by Watanabe Jin. The building was completed in 1938 to replace its predecessor designed by British architect Josiah Conder.  The former building was severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

02There are two main levels in the Honkan.  We walked up the grand staircase to the upper level to begin our visit.

03Beautiful amours of samurai and shogunate were some of the most impressive artefacts in the museum.

04The “Fujin and Raijin”or the Wind and Thunder God by Ogata Korin reminded us our visit to Kyoto’s Kenninji Temple (建仁寺), the original location of the screen.  At Kenninji, we saw a replica of the famous screen.

05The Yaksha Generals (12 Heavenly Generals) is one of the most impressive display in the historical sculpture collection.

06Architectural drawings by British architects from the 19th century reveal the popularity of Western culture in Japan during the Meiji Period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHistorical photograph of a Japanese samurai taken in 1862.

08At Honkan, there is a room opens to the garden behind the museum.  The room is decorated with exquisite mosaic and plastered motifs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA traditional telephone matches well with the historical decor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA garden of traditional pavilion and reflective pool provided some fresh air during our museum visit.  Unfortunately the pavilion was inaccessible from the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from sculptures, paintings and photographs, historical textiles and garments also provided us a glimpse of the old Japan.

12The museum shop at Honkan is beautiful designed.  A gentle passageway ramps up to the upper mezzanine.  Along the ramp stands a low wall of book display.

13After Honkan, we walked to the adjacent Toyokan Building.  Toyokan houses a few levels of artifacts and artworks from Asia and the Middle East.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Chinese and Korean exhibits reveal the close linkage between the cultures of the Far East.

15The Toyokan also contains some interesting pieces from Egypt and the Near East.  After visiting Honkan and Toyokan, we had a little more understanding on the heritage of Japan, and felt it was time to check out the other museums in Ueno Park.  So we exited the Tokyo National Museum, passed by a gigantic model of a blue whale in front of the National Museum of Nature and Science and headed towards the National Museum of Western Art.


DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China

We chose the historical city wall to end our visit of Xian.  Constructed upon an earlier imperial fortification network of the Tang Dynasty, the First Emperor of Ming Dynasty, Hongwu (洪武), erected the 14km city wall in the 14th century.  Today, this Ming city wall has become one of the most well preserved of its kind in China.  Our taxi dropped us off at the West Gate, also known as Andingmen (安定門).  There was a belt of public park running along the city wall where the locals engaged in all kinds of activities from dancing to playing badminton.  After walking around the area for several minutes we finally found the ticket office and the stair going up to the city wall.  Up on the wall we reached another network of public space where people strolled and cycled.  Against the background of the cloudy sky and charcoal grey bricks, rows of crimson lanterns began to lit up as we walked towards the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).  It turned out to be less than an hour of leisure stroll.  Our two friends opted for cycling to complete the journey, while we chose to take our time to walk, take photos, and watch the city below gradually lit up.

dsc_8153Our taxi dropped us off at Andingmen (安定門).

dsc_8167Dusk had fallen upon Xian as we began our walk from Andingmen (安定門).

dsc_8180Signage on Xian city wall.

dsc_8191Xian city wall is a popular for cyclists.

dsc_8207Vivid lighting and red lanterns turned the city wall into a focal point of Xian at night.

dsc_8216Atmospheric dining in traditional houses seemed common along the city wall.

dsc_8243It was interesting to watch the busy street scenes as we walked.

dsc_8263Traditional architectural style is still commonly used for restaurants and hotels in Xian.

dsc_8268After slightly less than an hour of walk, we finally reached the archery tower of the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8281Archery Tower of the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門)

dsc_8290Man played with his kid in front of the flood light of the Archery Tower .

dsc_8313The South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門) is perfectly aligned with the Bell Tower.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8319Closer up of the Archery Tower of the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8307Descending down the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8331The South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8333Looking back at the Archery Tower from the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked through the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門) to enter the city centre.  We ended up having a fast food dinner and finished the day early.  We needed time to pack our stuff and get ready for our morning flight the next day to Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟).


Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China



LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China

Before our trip, a number of people recommended the Long Museum to us.  Designed by a focal firm Atelier Deshaus, the Long Museum is a fine piece of contemporary architecture that has been featured in many design magazines.  Despite our tight schedule in Shanghai, we managed to squeeze in two hours to visit this contemporary art museum at the West Bund of Xuhui.  The riverside promenade of Xuhui district hosts a number of cultural establishments like the Long Museum, and also occasional art events such as the West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art.  Along with upcoming developments such as the movie production and entertainment complex – Dream Centre, the once industrial area West Bund of Xuhui is gradually transforming into a lively cultural corridor by the Huangpu River.  The privately-owned art museum near the former Expo ground stands as a proud revelation of Shanghai’s ambitions to boost the local contemporary art scenes.

We arrived at Long Museum in the mid afternoon.  Dozens or so visitors were busy photographing the cherry blossoms in front of the museum.  Others were having fun taking seflies against the backdrop of a well preserved industrial structures, which has now become a significant feature outside the museum.  At the museum’s rear side facing the riverside promenade, locals were enjoying themselves playing badminton and skateboards.  We entered the museum through its main entrance at the side.  Once inside, we were immediately captivated by the high vaulted space of the main exhibition hall.  There is not a single white wall in the museum.  With high volume spaces and half-vaulted ceiling, the museum is like a minimalist concrete cathedral, offering visitors diverse spatial experience, and a sleek atmosphere and backdrop for showcasing contemporary art.

Exhibited in galleries and a number of international biennale around the globe, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is a prominent figure in the art world.  Eliasson creates interesting art installations that often engage spectators through the use of basic elements like water, light or shadows.  We were delighted to see Eliasson’s solo show at the Long Museum.  Playful reflections, shadows, and lighting effects of his pieces did a fine job engaging spectators in multiple ways.  We spent about two hours seeing Eliasson’s exhibition until the museum was about to close its doors.  After the visit, we strolled along the riverside promenade to take in the relax atmosphere.

DSC_1718 Visitors gathered in front of Long Museum to photograph the fine cherry blossoms.

DSC_1725Concrete structure from an old factory is preserved as an exterior feature of Long Museum.

DSC_1764The old structure becomes a local favorite for portrait photography.

DSC_1799The old industrial structure create a beautiful scene of shadows and textures.

DSC_1809Visitors walking beyond the old industrial structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA visitor and dramatic sunlight casting onto the vaulted concrete wall.

DSC_2097Main exhibition space of Long Museum.

DSC_2092Olafur Eliasson’s installation art took over every wall and corner of Long Museum.

DSC_2079Spectators having fun with their own reflection at one of Eliasson’s piece.

DSC_2062Mirrors are used in many of Eliasson’s pieces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA sphere that allows visitors to enter is a popular piece.

DSC_1858Moving shadows and interesting reflections was a result from lighting effect and a suspended ring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAElegant shadows of an abstract installation.

DSC_1917Visitor and the semi-vaulted ceiling.

DSC_1942Visitors queuing for a glimpse of their own reflection at one of Eliasson’s piece.

DSC_1955A mother photographing her daughter from the other end of the piece.

DSC_1952A room with alternating lighting that changed the hues of wall decorations from black and white to rainbow colours.

DSC_2125The passageway between the old industrial structure and the museum facade made of pour concrete and expanded metal.

DSC_2131Locals having a good time with badminton and skateboards at the back of Long Museum.

DSC_2175The riverside promenade behind Long Museum links the museum with other cultural establishments at the West Bund of Xuhui.



Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China

SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China

Before we kicked off our brief spring break in Shanghai, we took a high speed train to visit  Suzhou, Shanghai’s neighboring city famous for its picturesque canals and historical gardens about 100km northwest of Shanghai.  Today, Suzhou is the second largest city in Jiangsu Province, and is only half an hour of high speed train away from Shanghai.  Its gigantic train station is conveniently located by the Waicheng River just north of the old city.  Across Waicheng River, the north gate and the ancient city wall reminded visitors its 2500 years of history.  The full blossoms of peach flowers along the river promenade signified the pleasant spring season south of Yangtze River.

We crossed a bridge to enter the old city, and continued to headed southeast towards Suzhou’s tourist heartland, the area around Humble Ambassador’s Garden.  Just before reaching Humble Ambassador’s Garden, we decided to first check out Suzhou Museum.  Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the museum is a pleasant destination to have better understanding about the ancient city.  Borrowing design motifs, colour palette and planning strategies from the local architecture, Suzhou Museum expresses a contemporary atmosphere with touches of the local heritage.  At the heart of the complex, the central courtyard maintained the spirit of a Suzhou garden, with water ponds, pine trees, and a contemporary reinterpretation of Suzhou artificial mountains.

The collections in the Suzhou Museum ranged from artifacts to historical paintings.  We were more interested in the architecture itself, from its minimalist rock garden to its interior water feature where a prominent staircase connected all floors.  After a brief tour of the building, we exited the museum at a side entrance leading to a well preserved historical garden complex.  The complex belonged to Prince Zhong of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, a state that ruled part of China in the mid 19th century.  By the time we exited the complex onto the main pedestrian street, we were only a stone throw away from the entrance into Humble Ambassador’s Garden.

DSC_0188High speed rail links Suzhou to Shanghai in only half an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuzhou Railway Station stands at the opposite to the city’s old north gate.

DSC_0202Peach and plum flowers greeted us outside Suzhou Railway Station.

DSC_0228Inside Suzhou Museum, we were soon attracted by these huge vine plants that dominated the trellis of a courtyard.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell lit corridors connect all exhibition rooms in the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin the museum complex, the central courtyard and its reflective pool often serve as a visual focus beyond the windows.

DSC_0242This magnificent landscape painting in the garden is made of various thin sheets of rocks.  The layering of the mountain-like stones and its reflections make a perfect scenery for the garden, presenting a twist to the traditional Chinese gardens.

DSC_0245 The simple geometry and the elegant aesthetic of the building were greatly inspired by the regional tradition of architecture.

DSC_0268Feature stair in the museum.

DSC_0279Feature stair with the mini water fall beyond.

DSC_0288Feature stair in the museum.

DSC_0275Skylights were used in a number of exhibition halls to provide soft ambient lighting.

DSC_0277The pleasant main hallway where visitors come and exit the museum.

DSC_0313 A stage for Chinese opera in the former Prince Zhong Complex.

DSC_0324 Decorative planting, rock display and natural light in small courtyards at Prince Zhong’s Complex.

DSC_0328The front hall of Prince Zhong Complex opens directly to the main pedestrian streets.



Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China

XIANGSHAN CAMPUS (象山中心校區), China Academy of Art (中國美術學院), Hangzhou, China

The bus ride from Huangshan to Hangzhou took about 4 hours.  By the time we checked into our hotel near West Lake in Hangzhou it was already dinner time.  After a good night of rest for our legs, in the morning we decided to visit the Xiangshan Campus (象山中心校區) of China Academy of Art (中國美術學院) in the outskirt of Hangzhou.  We grabbed a Chinese pork bun and walked to the waterfront promenade by West Lake.  We stood by the waterlilies and finished our simple breakfast.  Soon we walked over to the nearby bus stop and took a local bus heading to the direction of Xiangshan.  The entire bus journey took a little over half a hour.  Contemporary architecture was the reason for our visit to Xiangshan, and was our only major activity planned for our brief stay in Hangzhou.

Wang Shu (王澍), dean of the School of Architecture at China Academy of Art, is one of the most well known Chinese architects.  In 1997, he and his wife Lu Wenyu (陸文宇) found their firm Amateur Architecture Studio.  The couple had been teaching at the School of Architecture at China Academy of Art ever since 2000.  Based in Hangzhou, their works represent a unique critical regionalism, deriving their own architectural character with contemporary reinterpretation of local heritage.  Their most famous works include the Ningbo Museum (2008), and Xiangshan Campus of China Academy of Art near Hangzhou (2007).  After receiving a number of international awards for their effort on redefining contemporary Chinese architecture, in 2012 Wang Shu was rewarded with the Pritzker Prize, which considered to be the highest award in the international architectural industry.

In 1928, China Academy of Art was founded in Hangzhou.  It is the oldest and most famous art school in China.  Today the academy has two campuses in Hangzhou, one right by West Lake at city centre, and a newer one in Xiangshan, at the southwest outskirt of the city.  Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu began the design of Xiangshan Campus in 2002. Many buildings, including a library, a gallery, 6 school buildings, 2 studio buildings, 2 bridges, etc., were completed in 2004. The campus continued to expand until today, and has undoubtedly become one of the most influential projects of Amateur Architecture Studio. The campus presents a good example of Wang and Lu’s design ideology of capturing the spirit of the place and reinventing the Chinese architectural traditions into contemporary uses. Many buildings at Xiangshan were actually built in traditional construction methods, despite the use of modern materials such as glass and metal. Old roof tiles were salvaged from all over the province of Zhejiang and reused at Xiangshan as shading device and wall cladding.

We spent about three hours wandering around the campus, visited about half a dozen of buildings before heading back to the city.

1Reclaimed material is always a major component in Wang’s and Lu’s projects.  At Xiangshan, reclaimed roof tiles and wood panels can be seen all over.

2Courtyards, a essential component in traditional Chinese architecture, also have a vital role at Xiangshan as much of student life happen in these enclosed open spaces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA peek into the sculpture hall.

4 Footbridges connect many buildings in Xiangshan.  This is one of the interestingly designed pedestrian bridge that crosses a small canal, and has been temporarily turned into an open air exhibition space for students’ art pieces.

5Old roof tiles from all over the province are reused here as horizontal shading device.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe library complex is consisted of two buildings with contrasting facade treatment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARamp is a major design element in the campus.  In some cases, the upper levels can be accessible for scooters and bikes.

8Despite the overall brutal finishes and craftsmanship, Wang’s and Lu’s design concepts have successfully created interesting architecture out of traditional Chinese architecture and Modernist design approaches.

9In a number of the buildings, exterior circulation has become a main facade feature.  Though in some cases, the circulation route would be in conflict with window openings.

10Depending on the slope, some of the exterior circulation route are actually steps.

11The wood and stone guesthouse and restaurant building is a recent addition to the campus.

12The interplay of walls cladded with different stones is covered by a large roof.  With a natural touch, the underside of the roof is dominated by the heavy use of timber trusses and bamboo mats.

13There is a water pond in front of the School of Architecture area, encompassing three major buildings with distinct architectural treatments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimilar to the Ningbo Museum, reclaimed bricks and tiles are used to clad outer walls.

15Like traditional Chinese architecture, tranquil courtyards give another dimension to the buildings in Xiangshan, where the boundary between exterior and interior remains loose.

16Irregular opening on concrete walls represents another design approach, framing unique views for users in the buildings.

17Reclaimed wood panels serve well as a backdrop for sculpture display.

18Distinct brise-soleil of the two School of Architecture buildings: concrete vertical fins and masonry cross openings, create a coherent atmosphere for the exterior forecourt where the flanking contrasting textures complement each other.

19Entrance to one of the School of Architecture building: Bricks are used to form a perforated skin. The word “TOMORROW” is highlighted on the wall surface by filling in the wall openings with glass bottles, like a pin art effect.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China


Getting up at 4am wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but the temptation of watching the sunrise over the sea of clouds of Huangshan was too difficult to resist.  Given the wet weather the day before, we weren’t too optimistic about seeing the perfect sunrise.  We put on our headlamps and raincoats, carried our cameras and hiking poles, and headed out into the dark.  The air was filled with light drizzling and mist.  We decided to go ahead despite the unpromising weather.  In the dark, we hiked for about half an hour before reaching Shilin Hotel (獅林大酒店), from where a small path would lead up to Lion Peak (獅子峰), our intended spot to watch sunrise.  Followed by another small group of tourists, we found our way up the small path, passing by Refreshing Terrace (清涼台), a popular sunrise hotspot that was already filled with people.  We walked further up hoping to reach Lion Peak, but soon found out that the path to Lion Peak was fenced off.  We had no choice but switched to another lookout nearby called the “Monkey Watching the Sea” (猴子觀海).

There were half a dozen or so people at the lookout when we arrived.  We shared a rock with a woman from Shandong.  We chatted a bit as more people cramped onto the lookout.  The cloud was thick and the fog never went away.  From 5:45am to 6:15am there were a few moments when the fog subsided a little, exposing the silhouette of the rocky peaks of Huangshan’s Beihai (北海) area.  Adjacent to the lookout we could see a small rock standing on a flat mountaintop that resembled a monkey in sitting position.  This scene is known as “Monkey Watching the Sea” (猴子觀海).  No rising sun from the horizon nor vivid skies, our Huangshan sunrise experience was limited to a few moments of mountains emerging from heavy fog.  We left the lookout and returned to our hotel for breakfast.

After checking out, we began our hike over to the south side of the summit area, where a number of the popular attractions gathered.  In the fog, we slowly found our way to Yuping or Jade Screen (玉屏) Cable Car Station for our ultimate descend.  We first hiked up to Bright Summit Peak (光明頂).  At 1,840m, Bright Summit Peak is one of the highest points in Huangshan, and it also serves as a circulation hub where a few paths converge.  Everything was completely covered in fog when we reached Bright Summit Peak.  We didn’t stay long as the top was really noisy and crowded.  We followed the sign pointing to Jade Screen Scenic Area.  First we reached Turtle Peak (鳌鱼峰).  We stopped atop the “turtle shell” for a few minutes, though all we could see around us was white fog.  We continued our journey and next we reached “Ladder on the Clouds” (百步雲梯), a steep rock stair that led us up to another high point.  This side of the summit area was way more crowded with local tourists than the West Sea Canyon we visited the day before.   Again because of the fog, we didn’t stop for long.  Our next stop was Lotus Stamen Peak (蓮蕊峰), from where a steep stair could be seen leading to the famous Lotus Peak (蓮花峰).  It was unfortunately closed as well.  Continuing our journey, we finally reached Yuping Scenic Area where the granite mountains were renounced for their resemblance a Chinese screen made of granite stones.

Before we went for Yuping cable car we decided to check out the famous “Welcome Pine” (迎客松).  Renowned as the welcoming feature for all travelers since ancient times, the “Welcome Pine” has long been the star of Huangshan.  Unfortunately, due to its fame came its misery.  All local visitors love to get close to the tree for a photo.  Sometimes, they may get a little too close and actually damaged the tree and its roots.  Nowadays, the fragile “Welcome Pine” is fenced off and artificially reinforced.  At least it is more fortunate than the nearby Farewell Pine (送客松), which died a while ago.

After “Welcome Pine” and a brief stay at the Yuping area, we felt it was time for our descend, as we were hoping to catch a bus from Tangkou to Hangzhou, where we would stay the last night of our trip.  It was awfully foggy and wet during our stay at the summit area of Huangshan, but we had a good taste of its spectacular granite formations, and a few magical moments of poetic scenery.

1The first magical moment when the fog subsided, exposing the silhouette of the rocky peaks of Huangshan’s Beihai (北海).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the lookout, we could see the rock formation “Monkey Watching the Sea” (猴子觀海). The sun was slowing rising above the horizon in behind.

3 This was the clearest moment we had during our wait for the sunrise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALayering of pine trees in thick fog.  Pinus hwangshanensis, or Huangshan Pine, is indeed an endemic species found only in Eastern China.

4Although we could not see the perfect sunrise but we found ourselves lucky to have a few glimpses of the granite peaks in the sea of cloud in such bad weather.  After watching the sunrise, we enjoyed the quiet morning walk back to our hotel for breakfast.

4bThe Couple Pine (連理松) is a unique attraction especially for couples.  Most of the pine trees that we saw were oddly shaped with a few long branches stretching out but the Couple Pine is actually consisted of two tall trees with similar height and branch arrangement.

4cIt was sometime difficult to distinguish which rock formation was natural and which was man-made. Some natural rock formations were too perfect that it had an artificial feel to it.  This was indeed the “head” of the Turtle Peak (鳌鱼峰).

5This stretch of the trail was the most frustrating because of the crowd and the noise. This trail links a number of famous spots of the Yuping area, and inevitably it is very popular among day trippers and tourist groups. There were moments of sun-break. When the sun was out, it was scorching hot with the humidity.

6The stone steps are leading up to the Lotus Peak (蓮花峰), the tallest peak at Huangshan. On the day of our visit, it was closed to visitors for maintenance.  Many said that Lotus Peak and Heavenly Capital Peak (天都峰) open to visitors alternatively.

6bThe further down we got, the thicker was the fog. Visibility was low and everything was veiled with a greyish tone.

6cThis path is leading down to the foot of the mountain from the Welcome Pine (迎客松) area. Since we had to catch the long distance bus to Huangzhou, we decided to take the cable car.

7The famous Welcome Pine (迎客松) – in the far background on the left – is a magnet to the local tourists. Because of its popularity, this ancient pine tree has been heavily visited and is starting to show signs of decay. Today, special rule is in place to keep tourist crowd away from the pine tree.

7bA closeup of the pine needles.

8Standing on the small terrace in front of the cable car station, we fixed our gaze on the moving Yuping cable car disappearing in the mist one after another.  We found the scene very romantic.

9In bright sunny day, we could see better and further but the foggy weather gave a mysterious atmosphere to our Huangshan visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATicket office at the Yuping cable car station on the summit. The design of the station is hardly a complement to the contemporary design of the cable car.

10The cable car ride down to the mountain was quite comfortable.  It wasn’t the most crowded time of the day and we were delighted to have our own car. The cable car was designed by Austrian Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH, a leading cable car manufacturer. The design gave visitors a panoramic view of the natural scenery.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China