The Stars Above

It was my last weekend in Beijing. There were only a couple of sights left on my list and this was my last opportunity. Unfortunately, the air quality was not in my favor. The AQI had vacillated between “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” since Friday. One could almost touch the air, it was so thick.

Azimuth Theodolite

On the daily commute, we would pass by the star-gazing equipment at the Ancient Observatory. This was my destination.

According to the brochure, the Beijing Ancient Observatory was built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty.

Sextant

As I walked around the grounds, I felt both sadness and anticipation. I would miss this city.

Sundial - Detail

I would miss its history and its splendor, but most of all I would miss my new colleagues and friends.

During those last two weeks, every time I said good-bye to someone, it was with the knowledge that I might never see them again.

Chinese Moondial

Even though my sadness was tempered with the anticipation of being home with my family and friends, it would be hard leaving.

Armilla Sphere Replica - Dragon Detail (facing right)

My only comfort was that the stars above would somehow guide us back together someday.

Armillary

Zaìjiàn. 在见。

A few days in Hong Kong

View of Hong Kong and Kowloon skylines from Victoria Peak at 428 meters above sea level.

By day.
Hong Kong by Day

By night.
Hong Kong by Night

Flowers along Mount Austin Road at 554 meters above sea level.
Mount Austin Road

At the Chi Lin Nunnery. The wooden buildings are constructed using an interlocking system without nails.
Chi Lin Nunnery 1

Peaceful ponds with floating water lilies calm the soul.
Chi Lin Nunnery 2
Chi Lin Nunnery 3

Near the monastery is the immaculately landscaped Nan Lian Garden.
Nan Lian Garden Pavilion of Absolute Perfection
Nan Lian Garden Pavilion Bridge

Despite a fear of heights, I took the Ngong Ping cable car to Lantau Island.
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

The first of 240 steps.
Tian Tan Buddha 1

The Tian Tan Buddha on a lotus throne.
Tian Tan Buddha 2

Bodhisattvas making offerings.
The Offering of the Six Devas 1
The Offering of the Six Devas 2

The Wisdom Path is shaped in a figure eight representing infinity.
Wisdom Path

Burning incense at Po Lin Monastery at the base of the Buddha.
Po Lin Monastery Incense

About Flowers, Birds and Yarn

China just celebrated a national holiday, the founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949. Our offices were closed so I took the opportunity to visit Hong Kong. There are 7 million people living on a land mass of 426 square miles. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and I believe it.

I stayed at a cozy little apartment in Kowloon. The apartment had a small living area and bedroom just large enough for a double bed. The kitchen took up one short wall of the living room and had 1 burner, a sink, and a washing machine under the counter. The dorm sized fridge served as a tv stand in the living room. Overall it was roughly 14×16 feet, including three feet of counter space. However tiny, it was cozy, clean, safe, located in the heart of Tsim Sua Tsui, and close to the Jordan MTR station.

Mong Kok Flower Market 1

While I made it to some of the popular tourist markets, I also explored local markets to get a feel for everyday life. One of my favorites was the Mong Kok Flower Market. There were several streets lined with fresh flower stalls.

Mong Kok Flower Market 5

Orchids of all shapes and sizes were blooming.

Mong Kok Flower Market 2

The cacti reminded me of home.

Mong Kok Flower Market 3

I would have loved to get some plants or an orchid.

Mong Kok Flower Market 4

Mong Kok Flower Market 6

Immediately next to the Flower Market was the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. The garden was a little oasis in the middle of the city.

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden 1

Old men walked along with their song birds in wooden cages. I did feel a little sad about all those caged birds. Then I spotted this bird freely sitting at a stall. He was lunching on that cardboard box.

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden 2

After enjoying the smells and sounds of the flowers and birds, it was time to exercise the sense of touch. I had mapped out several yarn stores near the markets. All were within walking distance of each other.

Double Knit Yarn & Co. is located at 179-181 Fa Yuen Street on the 1st Floor (which means you go up to the first floor from the ground floor). It’s near the Mong Kok MTR. The shop had wall to wall wools and some synthetic yarns from Italy, France and Japan. The staff spoke little English but were very helpful.

As my favorite color is purple, I picked up three balls of this 100% extra fine merino superwash by Zara Chinè.

Double Knit Yarn & Co.

My next find was Filo Kilo located on the ground floor at 167 Sai Yee Street. The shop is very nicely laid out, all the yarn is neatly labelled, and the staff was very helpful. They even had a sale! I took five balls of this exquisite Cashmere Queen yarn. The fiber contents are 35% cashmere, 45% merino wool, and 20% silk. Scrumptious!

Filo Kilo 1

Filo Kilo 2

The two shades of green perk up the smooth beige.

Filo Kilo 5

I also had to have this wispy orangey-yellow mohair. The brand is BBB and is made in Italy. It’s 70% kid mohair, 30% polyamide.

Filo Kilo 6

My last stop was Knitting World located in the Prosper Commercial Building at 9 Yin Chong Street, 3rd floor. There is a fresh food market on Yin Chong which distracted me with salted and fresh fish, meats, and vegetables.

Dried and Fresh Fish

The shop is rather small and has a limited selection but I liked that two customers were sitting there knitting. Thankfully, one of them spoke English and helped me communicate with the sales lady. Since I had already purchased yarn at the two other shops, I only took these two balls for a hat.

The solid is Cashmere Soft by Lana Liza. It’s 65% Cashmere, 35% bamboo and made in Turkey. The multicolor ball is Bambu Color by Nako with the same fiber content.

Knitting World

Below are snapshots of the business cards: top left is Double Knit Yarn & Co., the vertical card is Filo Kilo, the bottom left is Knitting World.

HK Yarn Store Business Cards

These blog posts from fellow fiber enthusiasts were of great help in locating these yarn stores:

Weaving in Ancient China

After a three-month stint in Beijing, I went home for a month. It’s funny how being away makes you appreciate every little thing. Of course there is family – my husband, sons, my mom, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. Then there are blue skies, clean air, the sound of quiet, driving my car, air conditioning, clean bathrooms, ice …

A month later, I am back in Beijing. It’s different this time. While it is still a fabulous adventure, it was much tougher leaving home. The first time, there was the mystery of Asia and the challenge of the new business venture. We still have challenging work to do but I miss the rhythms of home.

While here, I continue to explore the city. My first free day, I went to the Summer Palace. It is 20 subway stops from where I stay and took almost an hour to get there.

Summer Palace 1

The property is huge like most everything else here. It covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers (720 acres), most of which are bodies of water. It is kept immaculately groomed and landscaped. I walked for five hours straight that day, up and down steep stairs and around the lake.

Summer Palace 2

I enjoyed …
The walk.
Being out in the fresh air on a cool day.
The rich vegetation of the gardens.
The earthy smell of the pine trees.
Seeing families camping on the grounds, having picnics and taking naps.
Watching ladies dancing under gazebos.
Listening to an old man playing his flute by the lake.

Summer Palace 4

Summer Palace 5

Summer Palace 8

Summer Palace 6

Summer Palace 7

Along the corridor of the Studio of the Jade River (Yuhe Zhai), there was a series of stone carvings. According to the placard, the original scenes were painted on woven silk by the painter Cheng Qi during the Yuan Dynasty (mid-1700s). The scenes portray men farming and women weaving in ancient China. I selected the ones showing women’s work.

The stone carvings were framed and the bright day cast reflections on the glass.

Farming and Weaving 1
Farming and Weaving 2

Farming and Weaving 3

Farming and Weaving 4

Farming and Weaving 5

Farming and Weaving 6

Farming and Weaving 7

Farming and Weaving 8

Farming and Weaving 9

Farming and Weaving 10

It was a beautiful day but there is still no place like home.

Zàijiàn Beijing

The cacophony of car horns

Curled tongues at the end of every word

Clearing the throat of phlegm … followed by the inevitable sound of spitting … on the street … next to your foot

Where an AQI over 200 means take shallow breaths

The inviting sound of rain signaling a clear tomorrow

Toddlers peeing by the sidewalk

Grown men peeing by the sidewalk

Men baring their bellies to cool off

Old men walking their birds in the park

Animated card games

Grandmothers dancing in the park

Graceful tai chi movements

Inventing your very own form of sign language with exaggerated gestures

The joy of being understood

The frustration at understanding only every five words spoken

The din of motor bikes

Dui, dui, dui, dui, dui, dui

Sidewalk barber shops, a pile of hair neatly swept to the side

Music blaring from the mobile boot-legged CD vendor

Selling anything from the trunk of a car

Where a cloth on the floor and a few knick-knacks means you’re an entrepreneur

Avoiding going blind from looking into the green laser lights for sale at busy intersections

Fearing for your life from pedi-cabs passing by

The constant ringing of bike bells

Coming home with bruised arms from everyone who bumped into you

Carrying a small towel everywhere you go to wipe the grime from your face

Forcing your way onto the subway train

Forcing your way out of the subway train

The rancid smell of bodies huddled together on the train

Blaring unending car horns … that everyone ignores

Being accosted at the market … Lady, lady, you want a bag?

Bargaining as if your life depended on it

Wondering if it’s silk or polyester

Never feeling you got the better part of the bargain

Long distance phone calls that never connect

Carrying tissue with you at all times

Squatting and praying you don’t slip

Avoiding looking at the trash can in the ladies’ room

The joy of ice cubes

Ten dollar foot massages

Sweating in the back seat of un-air conditioned taxis

Not knowing whether its best to open the window to let air in or close the window to keep pollution out

Undistinguishable odors emanating from food vendor stalls

Contemplating ordering the jelly-like mass on the menu but deciding against it

The best soup dumplings ever

Craving sautéed bitter greens and bamboo shoots

Funky nail art

A mountain of shaved ice under condensed milk and slices of mango

~~ * ~~

Zàijiàn doesn’t mean goodbye … it means see you again

在见 北京

Outside the 5th Ring Road

In my ongoing quest to find yarn in Beijing, I tried another market recommended by the Beijing Guild. Maofangcheng is also known as the Fabric Market. From what I read, you can have wool and cashmere coats tailor made from any fabric shop inside the five-story building.

The first task was getting there. The market is located on the Northeastern side of the city just outside the 5th Ring Road, far from where I am staying.

Map & Directions to Maofangcheng Market

It was well worth the trip. Among the five floors of wool, cashmere and silk fabrics, were almost two full floors of yarn shops. Two — floors — of — yarn. I only took a couple of photographs. All you have to do is imagine walls of yarn in store after store after store.

These cones are wrapped in fine thin threads of cashmere.

Store 205

My first purchase was in Store #205 where I picked up this colorful wool and mohair blend. So festive!

Fashion Wool - 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)
Fashion Wool – 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)

Fashion Wool 3

I also could not resist these lovely purples.

Ricignole Mohair - 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)
Ricignole Mohair – 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)

In Store #315, I picked up five balls of this luscious cerulean blue yarn.

Wool 40%, Mohair 30%, 亚克力 30% (Store #315)
Wool 40%, Mohair 30%, 亚克力 30% (Store #315)

Next I found this jewel-toned mohair in Store #323.

Xiao Mohair - Kid Mohair 45%, Viscose 30%, Anti-Pilling 25% (Store #323)
Xiao Mohair – Kid Mohair 45%, Viscose 30%, Anti-Pilling 25% (Store #323)

I fell in love with this orange cotton and cashmere blend. It reminds me of creamsicles!

Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)
Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)
Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)
Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)

My last purchase was this amazingly soft cotton and cashmere blend that one of the ladies was using to knit a shawl.

Cashmere & Cotton Blend (Store #323)
Cashmere & Cotton Blend (Store #323)

I took this partial cake of unknown yardage. It is made up of 11 thinly spun threads.

No Label Wool, Cotton & Cashmere Blend Detail

As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to pick up a couple of crochet hooks.

Crochet Hooks

I spent a total of ¥280 or about $46. Now how am I going to get all this yarn home?

In Search of Yarn at Tuanjiehu Market

I had been wanting to visit Tuanjiehu Park which is fairly close to where I am staying in Beijing. Then I received a tip from the contact at the Beijing Guild that the Tuanjiehu Market might have a yarn booth or two. That’s all I needed to know so off I went. The day was rainy but I was determined. After taking a subway, I found the park entrance.

Entrance to Tuanjiehu Park.
Entrance to Tuanjiehu Park.

Nearby, I spotted this romantic bridge.

Jie Xiu Bridge.
Jie Xiu Bridge.
Jie Xiu Bridge Banister.
Jie Xiu Bridge Banister.

I took cover from the rain under some branches where I was able to observe local Beijingers enjoying the park. This young girl in a pink kimono and traditional wooden shoes walked across the park trying to stay dry.

Tuanjiehu Park - Pink Kimono

A young couple kept dry under a large umbrella.

Couple under Umbrella

Locals sat out of the rain under the gazebo. A husband and wife enjoyed a game of cards. Every now and then you could hear the loud slap of the cards on the bench.

Gazebo at Tianjiehu Park.
Gazebo at Tuanjiehu Park.

I was delighted when I encountered this woman crocheting by the lake. She was making a dainty cardigan-like top to wear over a blouse. I bought this amigurumi bunny for ¥50. I paid too much but I wasn’t going to haggle for a hand-made item.

Crocheting by the Lake.
Crocheting by the Lake.

Many families were enjoying their outing. Kids were feeding the fish in the lake. The paddle boats were all lined up waiting for a sunny day.

Feeding Fish near a bridge

Paddle Boats for Rent.
Paddle Boats for Rent.

After walking through the park, I found Tuanjiehu Market. There are several buildings selling different items – one had fish and meats, another fresh fruits and vegetables, and a larger building had rows and rows of stalls. The stalls were mostly filled with a variety of household items – notepads, pens and pencils, shoes, some kitchen items. There were several fabric stalls with women sitting at old sewing machines working on pillow covers and bedspreads.

I found one yarn stall. A man sat next to it on a small stool playing with a Rubik’s Cube knock-off. I managed to ask him if he carried natural yarns and showed him the characters for camel and mohair. He laughed. I took that as a no. I did not buy any yarn. The selection was limited and I wasn’t impressed with the colors or textures. I did find some other goodies, though. I picked up these cute nail polishes. I couldn’t resist the bottles. I paid ¥10 for both, or about $1.50 USD. The bags were ¥10 each.

Tuanjiehu Market Buys

At one point, it occurred to me that I was the only non-Chinese person in the entire market. It seems the market caters to neighborhood residents. Some of the vendors spoke a word or two of English but not much. It was fun listening and communicating in Chinese. Overall, a good day, despite the yarn fail.

Hanazono Shrine and Antiques Market

The Hanazono Shrine was founded in the mid-17th century. It was the only shrine we saw in a vivid color.

Hanazono Shrine, founded mid-17th century

Hanazono Shrine - roof detail

A male and female lion flank one of the entrances. Here is the male.

Hanazono Shrine - lion

I saw several people walk up this path to pray. They would drop coins in a box as an offering, pull on one of the ropes to ring a bell, clap twice and then hold their hands together silently.

Hanazono Shrine - path to altar

Hanazono Shrine - close-up

On Sundays, there is an Antiques Market on the grounds near the shrine. This particular market had old kimonos and sashes for sale.

Hanazono Shrine Market - old kimono sashes

Hanazono Shrine Market - colorful kimono sashes

There was scrolled artwork …

Hanazono Shrine Market - scrolled art

… a box of wooden dolls …

Hanazono Shrine Market - wooden dolls

… old prints …

Hanazono Shrine Market - old prints

… and all sorts of interesting items.

Hanazono Shrine Market - random objects

After a day of sightseeing, we had a wonderful dinner at Kurosawa Restaurant in Roppongi Hills. They walked us into a cozy room with sliding doors covered in thin white paper. One by one, they brought us beautifully presented dishes like this shrimp and vegetable tempura and chicken teriyaki.

Tokyo - Kurosawa Restaurant - Tempura

Tokyo - Kurosawa Restaurant - Chicken Teriyaki

It was a nice way to end the day.