Interview on China Travel 2.0

Jocelyn Eikenburg in Xintiandi, Shanghai
China Travel 2.0 interviewed me about travel to China, my China impressions and more.

Winser Zhao of China Travel 2.0 interviewed me, and the article — called Meet a Yangxifu and Ask for More About China – Jocelyn and Her Love Story — just appeared on their blog today. Some of the things I talk about include:

  • My first impressions/experiences in China
  • Why I love China
  • How I learned Chinese
  • My Chinese inlaws’ first impressions of me
  • My own travel experiences, and advice on traveling in China

If you have a chance, have a look. And if you like what you read, feel free to share with your friends.

Thanks, as always, for reading. 🙂 And special thanks to Winser Zhao for thinking of me for this interview.

Travel China with the Yangxifu: Yuelu Academy and Yuelu Mountain, Changsha

The grounds of Yuelu Academy in Changsha, Hunan
Yuelu Academy -- built at the foot of Yuelu Mountain -- is a refreshing, and even inspiring, retreat for any China traveler.

When I think of Yuelu Academy — one of China’s oldest academic institutions — I think of peace, and the peaceful moment my Chinese husband, John, and I had there one afternoon. We strolled in and out of galleries and open-air courtyards, until we came upon a tiny courtyard nestled in a corner with a 100-year old Chinese privet. The privet rained its fragrance — from the tiny, yellow star-shaped flowers — all over the courtyard, filling the air with a rare sweetness on a sultry summer afternoon. I breathed it all in, feeling a sense of renewal, as if this was the very scent of inspiration.

Inspiration seems central to Yuelu Academy. Like all of China’s academies of classical learning (institutions where scholars could teach and study the Chinese classics), the planners for Yuelu chose a remote, picturesque setting for the academy, establishing its network of Chinese-style courtyards and open classrooms on the Eastern side of Yuelu Mountain beginning in 976. Such a place offered a quiet, meditative environment conducive to the study of Confucian classics.

Today’s Yuelu Academy is tucked within a neighborhood surrounding the modern university that has continued its legacy — Hunan University. While the remoteness seems a memory, the picturesque quiet still remains, like the venerable trees blanketing the school grounds. Continue reading “Travel China with the Yangxifu: Yuelu Academy and Yuelu Mountain, Changsha”

Travel China with the Yangxifu: The Henan Museum, Zhengzhou, China

The Henan Museum
The Henan Museum offers extraordinary stories and relics, in one of China’s most overlooked cities — Zhengzhou. (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

“The museum is under construction, so there are only two rooms open,” the woman behind the information desk told us in a droll voice in Mandarin. She probably had to say this same thing hundreds of times a day, every day.

But while this was just another day for her, this was the only day for John, my Chinese husband, and I to visit the the Henan Museum in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.

We just shrugged our shoulders in disappointment, and walked to the room to our right. It was painted in a forgettable beige — nearly the same color as the loess of the loess plains, where Zhengzhou is located — and seemed to hold, on first glance, an equally forgettable collection of artifacts that couldn’t match what we’d seen in Beijing, Shanghai and Changsha.

Yet, forgettable is hardly how we would describe our visit. That’s because the Henan Museum, opened to the public in 1998, is one of the few museums in China where you don’t feel as if you’ve seen this bronze or that porcelain 100 times before. Invest a little time, be curious, and you will be rewarded with extraordinary stories and unusual relics. Continue reading “Travel China with the Yangxifu: The Henan Museum, Zhengzhou, China”

Travel China with the Yangxifu: the Kaifeng Night Market

Travel China with the Yangxifu takes you to the Kaifeng Night Market. Here, I’m trying fried bean-starch, or chao liangpi.

Foreign women are not available at the Kaifeng Night Market — even if there’s a demand.

“Wow, you have a foreign girl — you’re really sharp!” The almond tea vendors, wearing white coats and kufi — the traditional Muslim caps for men — reveled in the fact that my Chinese husband, John, had a foreign wife. But their revelry was more than just a casual curiosity.

“I’d like a foreign wife,” one of the vendors declared in a rough Henan accent. “How do you get one?”

You don’t get one at the Kaifeng Night Market.

But you will find so much more, from fantastic xiaochi (小吃), which means

snacks), to quirky people (including the aforementioned foreign-babe obsessed vendors) and a uniquely boisterous atmosphere. The Kaifeng Night Market is a living relic, a reminder of the forte volume and flavorful delicacies of night markets that once blanketed the country, but are now disappearing because of city beautification or cleanup projects. (Interestingly, my friend Frank G, who works as a judge in Kaifeng, said that the city cannot shut the market down, because they’re afraid the sellers would protest.) But, most of all, it is relaxing, fun and leaves you with none of the touristy aftertaste associated with China’s major attractions.

Continue reading “Travel China with the Yangxifu: the Kaifeng Night Market”

January in China: The Holidays aren’t over yet

I wrote this piece five years ago, but it still rings true. If you miss the holiday atmosphere in January, after Christmas and New Year’s Eve, then you should be in China.


It was early afternoon, and the little Luwan Food Store in Shanghai was belching out patrons left and right. We felt the squeeze as we waited in line for the sesame seed/walnut powder. I was taken by one man who bought two large containers, and slipped them into a black valise that seemed more fitting for someone in the secret service. The people behind John and I impatiently nudged us forward.

The ladies behind the counter just beyond that — the one for Chinese tonics and herbs, everything from ginseng to swallow saliva — bustled back and forth, handing the remedies over to customers in the smart, glossy red packages. Even the tea department brewed with energy. Several men hunched over a counter displaying an assortment of dried and cured leaves in a spectrum of greens, browns and black.

When John and I returned to Huaihai Road — the “Fifth Avenue” of Shanghai — we plunged into a odd gallery of late-season holiday decorations in the store windows. Tinsel, Christmas trees and images of Santa Claus all contradicted the reality that Christmas was already over. Even department stores broadcasted Christmas carols in the background.

This is January in China’s big cities: still frosted with holiday flavor, and still a consumer frenzy that would rival the Christmas shopping season. Continue reading “January in China: The Holidays aren’t over yet”

Ask the Yangxifu, Travel guides, More posts…Coming up in 2010

Well, while everyone is getting their lists together and checking them twice for Christmas, I’m doing the same — in terms of  improving Speaking of China.

Thanks to the overwhelming support I’ve had so far, I’ve decided to expand this site with an ambitious plan, starting January 4, 2010. Here’s what you’ll be seeing: Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu, Travel guides, More posts…Coming up in 2010”