Tag Archives: pingyao


I guess 4 nights there was too much,but it gave me the chance to get familiar with the town and walk almost all of it. My first peaceful evening stroll was an illusion, as the town filled up for the 3 September holiday. Almost entirely Chinese tourists, eating, posing for photo moments, eating, eating, eating…The ubiquitous red lanterns are now supplemented by the red flag. On the main streets you have to keep walking, the crowds are so thick, but if you dart into a side alley, you are alone and find yourself looking into curious courtyards. Walking the wall gave a fantastic high-up vantage point to survey the scale of the city, it’s layout and surreptious views into courtyards you would not have privy to at street level. With the tourists came traffic, and although some of the city is closed to traffic, where there is access, electric carts full of families on tours cause snarl ups and make up for the quieteness of their motors by a continual beeping and reversing warnings. The hope is that by making so much noise they can drive as fast as they like and the crowds wil park. Then there are the electric bikes, electric scooters, boys on bikes weaving through the crowds. Where their are cars, the same horn sounding behaviour is adhered too, only louder and more insistent. It becomes a headache, and I try to avoid the busy streets.

Anyway, I saw a lot and bought some art, which I am afraid will get crumpled and damaged in my bag.

Leaving pingyao this morning I chanced upon a really strange sight. I was first alerted to it by the sound of a howling tearful woman running past me. Ahead through the traffic in the road I saw the rear end of a naked man, in his 40s. He was striding with purpose from the city, another woman scuttling alongside him grasping what I guess we’re his clothes.when the first woman catches up with them a shouting match ensues. The man doing most of the shouting. What was going on? Had he been caught having a bit on the side by his wife and was being paraded back home in shame. Unlikely. I know Chinese don’t like bring attention to themselves, nor would willingly shame themselves. From the manner of the man, it seemed he had literally lost his dignity, and this, if anything was penance. In UK, people, would have stopped to gawp, taken pictures, he would have been arrested. As it was I only saw ages people who visibly registered what was happening,even though this was a busy street full of food stalls. He then walked with the 2 frantic women straight across a busy intersection, cars, three wheeled carts, buses, circulating around them. Weird, and unexpected.



Wow what a pleasant little city, welcoming with friendly people. The ancient city is a time warp, surrounded by a 10 metre grey wall and the city itself seems perfectly preserved, yet very much a living city. Little Lloyd and lanes lined with lanterns, old people on bikes. Nice to hang out and wander. In spite of the preponderance of domestic tourists and souvenir shops, there is no tackiness.

This afternoon I found a calligraphy shop, and through broken Chinese and broken English, a 16 year old girl, and smart phone apps, we spent a jolly 30 minutes or so debating what he would write for me. Turns out that this gentleman is rather celebrated and it feels an honour to be in his presence. After agreeing on a slogan loosely translated as “life is heart” and negotiating a price, I watch him work. He carefully measures the paper then folds it into 4 to create folds delineating the space for each of the 4 characters, then folding these 4 sections diagonally to create squares with an x, in order to measure his brush strokes. He is precise, deft, firm, precise and has a harmony and strength in his brush strokes. It’s a magic moment watching him write for me.

It was then amusing watching him forming Chinese characters with finger swipes on a smart phone screen to translate into English “it’s amazing” when he was trying to explain how he liked the way the light fell on the textured paper he uses for mounting his work. I wished we had enough common language to discuss how the calligraphers art translates into finger swipes and what he thinks of that.