Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Ups and Downs of Outdoors

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is Ups and Downs of Outdoors.

Earlier this month, we walked the MuTianYu section of the Great Wall, China. This section is less travelled but more picturesque than the Baidaling section which is nearer to Bejing city. The section has 22 watch towers and 1,700 steps., with  breathtaking views.

Walking the MuTianYu  is  physically demanding. There are many steps snaking up and down the mountain range dotted all along the wall. This picture shows a typical view of going down the steps and coming up again on the seemingly endless walls. Our reward was that we had  beautiful views of the  mountain, the wall and the fall foliage.

Travel Theme: Liquid

Liquid is the theme for this week at Where’s my backpack?

In my view, water (H2O) is the most precious liquid, without which we cannot survive.  It is abundant, but clean freshwater is becoming more and more scarce.  In the future, it may become one of the most important resources in the world.

Let’s look at some statistics: 70% of earth’s surface is water; 75% of human body;  and 90% of human blood is water too. Of all the water that’s there on earth, 97%  is in seas and oceans and 2% is icecaps. Of the remaining 1% fresh water, only a  small percentage is accessible. And from what’s accessible, 98% water is used  for agriculture and industrial use. Water, as a liquid may have many colors.  High up in Jiuzhaigou , China, there are dozens of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes.  Originating in glacial activity, they were dammed by rockfalls and other natural phenomena, then solidified by processes of carbonate deposition (travertine). Jiuzhaigou’s water has a high concentration of calcium carbonate, making it so clear that the bottom is often visible even at great depths. The lakes vary in color and aspect according to their depths, residues, and surroundings.

The blue colored water in this picture taken at Jiuzhaigou contrasts sharply with the green trees on the upper part of the image. The water is so clear that the bottom of the lake is highly visible. However, not too many creatures can survive under such high concentration of calcium carbonate; among these are some fishes with a special kind of scales on their body.  Water. . . . . . . . . . . what a precious and wonderful liquid!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

Thankfulness is an attitude of heart from which we are aware of  our blessings. Thankfulness flows from the knowledge of how loved, valued and precious we are to the creator, our family and our friends and how enjoyable life can be with the environment, water, oceans, plants, flowers, the sun, the moon, lovely landscapes etc around us. Our daily activities such as walking, breathing, talking, seeing, working, playing will take on a new meaning when our heart is thankful.

Expressing thankfulness and gratitude goes beyond national boundaries and geographic regions.  Different nations and people have different ways and practices of expressing thankfulness, at different times of the years and performing different rituals. Some have a fixed date each year for expressing thankfulness, while others have various dates for different reasons of thankfulness.

The picture at the top was taken at the DaZhao temple of Inner Mongolia, China  where people burnt joss sticks to express their thankfulness.

After praying, joss sticks are usually placed into a utensil;  some of which are made of brass, until the joss sticks are fully burnt and the prayers heard.

Some images of this utensil, usually found in Chinese temples, are depicted here.

As someone who do not burn joss sticks to express thanks, I thought it would be more important that we always have thankfulness in our hearts; that we express our thankfulness in words and deeds to those whom we love and care and also to  those who care and love us, whenever the opportunity arises.

Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration

I was inspired by a friend, who writes a Chinese WordPress blog from Tokyo, to start my first ever blog earlier this year.

After working almost 7/24 for 36 years and forfeiting around 140 days of personal leave, I decided to retire last year. In my retirement, I was hoping to develop some new interests. Blogging seems to be ideal for me as I would like to develop my skills in photography and writing. My previous education and work life have nothing to do with arts or being artistic. My writing in English was mainly associated with writing emails and perhaps, very infrequently, some parts of business proposals.

Blogging has offered me a chance to combine my interest in travelling, photographing and writing.  So, in my retirement, you can find me travelling and blogging in addition to my other developing interests like learning a new language and Chinese calligraphy.

The photos were taken in the last three months by my wife while we were travelling in Shanxi and Beijing. The two photos with colored foliage were taken earlier this month in Beijing just before it was hard hit by a snow storm.

We have very good weather up in the MuTianYu section of the less travelled section of the Great Wall; there were no signs whatever  to suggest that  just a couple of days later the weather suddenly turned bitterly cold and killed a few tourists in another section of the Great Wall.

All three photos show I was overly engrossed with taking pictures. The one below with a temple in the background was taken in September this year when we visited the Hanging Temple in Shanxi while the top one was taken in the HuangLuo Temple in Beijing.

You may say my retirement has given me the opportunity to travel; the travels inspired me taking photos, which, in turn inspired me to write and blog.

Travel Theme: Mystical

Mystical is the theme for this week at Where’s my backpack?

Some of the mystical scenes that I have seen were high up in the mountains of Zhang Jia Jie, China where the mist is thick.

The mist is so thick and the mountains are so strangely shaped that they look almost surreal.

Even the leaves look mystical in the heavy mist.; the silhouette is just eerie.

Some limestone columns look as if they are floating in the air. What seems more mystical is how some trees can survive at the top of these columns.

Is this mystical or just “mistical” ? . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green ( all over the world)

Green is my favourite color; it is most soothing to the eyes.

Urbanization and desertification are threats to the survival of green areas, although reforestation and green measures help to combat them.  Still, there are considerable green areas all over the world – mainly in the form of  hills, forests, country parks and gardens. The best green views are those associated with lakes, rivers, waterfalls and ponds.

People say there are 52 shades of green; whether  you can see them depend on the location, season, latitude of the place. In the tropics and sub-tropics where there are lots of sunshine and many of the vegetation remain green throughout the year, the darker shade of green prevails. Further away from the equator, in the higher latitudes and especially in Spring, you can see a gradation of green, ranging from the light and yellowish green to the much darker shades.

I like looking at the green color in my travels; they always give me a sense of peace and tranquility. Below is a collection of green views from various locations around the world, which convey different atmosphere,  that I hope you would enjoy:

Up in the mountain of Switzerland, where green is the predominant color, accompanying by yellow flowers. . . . . . .

On the shores of West Lake , China, the willow and the grass remain green even towards the end of Autumn . . . . . .

Down under in Queensland, along the shores of Lake Barrine, the leaves remain green and  lotus leaves of a lighter shade float on the water. . . . . . . . .

In Koh Samui, Thailnad, the leaves of palm trees are yellowish-green while the grass are abundant and green. . . . . . . . .

Back in Hong Kong, in the New Territories, the leaves are green almost throughout the whole year ; although they seem to be of a darker color. . . . . . .

Up on hills of Scotland, all you can see is green, maybe it has been like that for thousands of years . . . . . . .

By the side of a lake in the Central Park, New York . . . . . . .

High up in JiuZhaiGou mountains, China, the leaves remain green before changing colors in Autumn. . . . . . .

Up in the hills of Langakwi island, Malaysia, where the eagles fly, the leaves remain green throughout the year. . . . . . . . .

On the banks of the River Danube, near Budapest, the trees look especially green against a blue sky with white clouds. . . . . . .

Towards the end of Summer, the grass in the steppes of Inner Mongolia is already turning from green to yellowish green. . . . . . . .

By the banks of the Three Gorges, China, where hills rise steeply from the river, the steep slopes on the hills are covered with green grass . . . . . .

By the side of a pond in Okinawa, Japan, where different shades of green peacefully merge together. . . . . . . .

By the side of a  waterfall in Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, where green vegetation and water are the only things you can see………

This green view from the country side of Hong Kong, not far from where I live, remains my favourite, as I can always gaze out of my window to have a good look at them, whenever I want to sooth my eyes. What a wonderful world (of green colors)! . . . . . . . . .

DongYang Woodcarving-The Dying Art

As part of our West Lake, China tour, we visited the LeiFeng (Thunder) pagoda. The pagoda in itself was interesting, so was the parnoramic view of the lake from the top of the tower; what we found most interesting were some woodcarvings in the tower which depict the story of the White Snake. The wood carvings are huge, impressive and belong to the DongYang school of woodcarving. I only manged to take some interesting parts of the woodcarvings. At the suggestion of some readers ( who read my earlier post- Goodbye West Lake, China), I am posting this together with four photos of the woodcarvings. The first photo is a White Snake in the form of a beautiful women falling in love with a young man. I have hesitance of showing the photos as they are not of the best quality; they show some reflection of the lights off the glass which protects the carvings.

Woodcarving is a dying art in China as this demands a lot of skills, time and dedication. Young people in China are more interested in learning other trades and look for other openings. Woodcarving in China can be traced back to the New Stone Age.  With a long history, the handicraft has developed into four major schools: Huizhou Woodcarving, Dongyang Woodcarving, Chaozhou Woodcarving, and Hunan Woodcarving. As one of the four major schools of woodcarving, Dongyang Woodcarving has been reputed as one of the best folk handicrafts and a national treasure. Dongyang Woodcarving came into being early in Tang Dynasty. In Song Dynasty, it became highly developed as an art. During the period of Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, Dongyang Woodcarving flourished. The picture below shows the White Snake in beautiful human form flying above the West Lake with the pagoda on the left, willows at the top and boats on the lake.

Dongyang woodcarving, also called “white woodcarving” (white is the natural color of the wood) is one of the finest in Chinese crafts. In terms of techniques, Dongyang woodcarving features a high relief, multi-layers, and a rich composition of pictures, presenting a third dimension, full yet in neat order.

Legend of the White Snake is one of the most famous tales among folks in ancient China, originating in the Tang and Five Dynasties period. Legend has it that a white snake (an immortal, whose earthly form was of a beautiful woman, but who would revert back to a snake if she drank wine) came to the human world as she was longing for human life and married a scholar named Xu Xian. However, such marriage was opposed by Fahai, a Buddhist monk in Jinshan Temple, who maintained that coexistence of human and evil spirit was  to be disallowed and discontinued. He suppressed  and imprisoned the white snake under Leifeng Pagoda at the bank of the West Lake and Xu Xian’s family was fragmented. Only when the West Lake was dried and Leifeng Pagoda collapsed would the White Snake  have a chance to be rescued.

Many years later, after gaining a Zhuangyuan title (the first place in the imperial officers’examination), the White Snake’s son offered sacrifice to his mother in front of the Leifeng Pagoda. God was moved by his action and cause the pagoda to collapse, which enabled the family to reunite. In 1924 A. D., after standing there for a thousand years, the old pagoda did collapse (and thousands of local people in Hangzhou cheered and tried to find evidence of this story in the ruins). This pagoda was later rebuilt.

The story of the White Snake is a long one and there are many variations. For those who are interested in the legend and how the story is related to the LeiFeng (Thunder) pagoda, please peruse Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend_of_the_White_Snake  or       http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/whitesnake.htm