Tag Archives: Museum artwork

Day 15-16: Buntes Republik Neustadt

The hugest annual block party, known as the Neustadt United Republic, is happening this weekend in Dresden. I live in the midst of Neustadt’s six block radius, where three days of music, food, amusement, and dancing are rocking ’round the clock.

Families, old and young, sprinkle the age span of the predominantly young crowds. There are plenty of Goths and tattoed skins everywhere to offer endless studies of humankind. Cops discretely surrounded all street entryways and checked big bags, but you hardly noticed their presence once you passed the gauntlet from the edges.

Fortunately, my apartment is tucked behind a group of buildings in a cool, quiet courtyard that offers a quick and easy respite from the street action. I felt entirely safe and comfortable in “my hood.” The Neustadt “Buntes Republic” has been an amazing celebration of youth and a testament to good event planning.

Classicism and Romanticism in Dresden

A free access museum ticket, with compliments of the Goethe Institute, gave me incentive to revisit all the Old Masters Galleries and beautiful collections of regental splendor in the Residence and Zwinger Museums. I found two masterpieces that I remembered from my art history class at UC Berkeley! I almost gasped when I actually saw the Raphael and Vermeer works. They were totally overlooked by other visitors. Cranach also made his way onto my radar, especially after seeing dedicated works in Weimar.

The Turkish Kammer, or Chamber, contains some of my favorite museum pieces. The horses with armor and saddles, the swords, and the huge tapistried tent gives you a flavor of the power of the Ottoman Empire in its heyday.

The porcelain gallery would have been a chore had it not been for a few of the early Qing dynasty pieces from around 1700-1730 that paralleled Augustus the Strong’s reign as King of Poland and as Elector in Saxony. Meissen porcelain was developed after studying highly admired and coveted Chinese porcelain techniques. The figurines reminded me of the early Han pieces from Dunhuang and Chengdu. These galleries, made to emulate Versailles, were fun to rip through, in perfect condition and with no visitors!

After seeing the Michelangelo drawing exhibition at the Met in New York City, I was drawn to the Rembrandt drawing exhibit in Dresden. The fine sketches and studies by Rembrandt were not only awe-inspiring to me, but a number of famous painters such as Goya and Max Beckmann took to imitating Rembrandt’s style.

Dresden beats “Florence on the Arno”

The image often used in referring to Dresden is “Florence on the Elbe”, especially after Italian master Canaletto painted the famous river that snakes artistically through the town. After gliding over the river on gleaming tram rails numerous times this week, I have grown fond of the impressive Baroque skyline, the dominating Frauenkircke and the serene Elbe backdrop.

My memory of the Arno was that it was hectic. We stayed as a family in a pensione with a room directly exposed to the river with the roadway alongside it. The scooters beeped and honked all night long. After leaving the windows open to catch the breeze, the residual night noise drove us into a daytime stupor.

Another time, another view painted by a follower of Canaletto

Dresden first hit my radar in an Art History class. Many of the Romantic era classical paintings were located in Dresden. The city stuck in my curiosity bucket until I matched intuition with knowledge.

Weekend Wrap

In the sleepy daytime I had a chance to catch up with German friends for a “Grill Party” in their garden. Germans are intimately tied to nature and passionate about their gardens. It was a relaxing afternoon closing out a busy week of German classes, museum visits and evening musical performances.

Days 10-14: Pfingsten Fling

Pfingsten stands for Pentacost, the Christian holy day celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Germans have a good excuse to enjoy the summer weather, join friends for barbeques in their community gardens, play music, and of course, drink beer. The extended three-day holiday gave me a chance to take day trips from Dresden, soak up more cultural events, and to hear music, music, music in the span of a whirlwind weekend between classes.

Hellerau, Germany

Hellerau, one of the first planned unit developments in the world, lies just north of Dresden. We found an excuse to visit there to celebrate the long holiday weekend and to see an open interactive dance performance in the festival hall.

Generously proportioned single family houses are tucked behind tidy gardens surrounded by fences. Each prominent sloping roof was built with design and care. Skylights not only provide light into the deep interiors, but some are also roof hatches. Newer codes require a landing outside the roof hatch if it is accessible, and a ship’s ladder provides access to the rooftop chimney. It seems like alot of getup just to solve a maintenance issue. Older houses do not have such complicated construction. And newer modern buldings are, yes, a showpiece in the neighborhood.

The Hellerau murals from the Forties show the Russian influence and the movement of troops through Moscow to Germany and Poland.

The Altstadt Music Crawl

Performers at the All-Day Musical Event in Altmarkt during Pfingsten weekend showcased numerous musical groups and genres. Music is everywhere in Dresden and delightfully unavoidable. We raced around the Residenz Schloss, the Kulturepalast, and the Japanese Palace, all within a stone’s throw of the Elbe River, to see a Brass Ensemble, rock bands, and choral groups (including featured image above) making music throughout the city center.

Handel’s Birthplace in Halle, Germany

About two hours west of Dresden lies Handel’s birthplace. The Handel Museum contained many unique historic instruments including organs, pianos, and wind instruments. A stirring poster advertising Handel music demonstrated the simplicity and power of propagandistic advertising. While the museum is not as informative as those in Leipzig for Bach, Mendelsohn and Schumann, it was still a worthwhile and pleasant excursion.

the Border between Poland and Germany (Görlitz)

Our German friends Hanne and Jens planned a special outing by car to Görlitz, about an hour east and outside of Dresden. They met me and Vladimir, a classmate from my first German class in Dresden, outside my Neustadt apartment. Being a holiday on Monday, it appeared that most of Germany was still working off the hangovers from too much beer the night before or was busy getting grills ready for the barby.

The town turned out to be a collection of historic buildings, lovingly restored to its 16th Century splendor. The St. Peters and Paul’s Evangelical Church on the German side was a massive building graced with many decorative elements. Artwork and sculpture complimented the sturdy structures thoughout the town.

Another Night at the Semper Opera, Dresden

A final performance of Carmen at Semperoper included a cast of thousands, modern clothing, and lackluster singing. The evening air outside provided lovely views of the city center and a refreshing pause between acts.

The Albertinum Museum, Dresden

The Albertinum was one of my “Go-Backs”, after German partner Jim reminded me that this museum contains paintings by one of my favorite artists–German Expressionist Otto Dix.

In addition, the Albertinum has impressive representative works of Chagall, Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso, as well as those by German favorites such as Gerhard Richter and Max Liebermann. The slide show gives you a feel for each of these works.

And below are just a few of the random collection of works that I particularly liked. Portraiture and hands are appealing to me as I learn to draw and study the human figure.

Day 4-6: Pictures at an Exhibition, Dresden

Although I am primarily here in Dresden for a German course, I feel like I am leading a double life. I have been researching Music Festival concerts being held for another week here, and I have managed to squeeze three in three days while attending classes. If you were ever contemplating how to take a music course by hearing performances, this is the place to do it.

Prices are reasonable and with student “rush” tickets, you are in business. I paid 20 Euros for “Pictures at an Exhibition”, a piano recital at the Albertinum Museum. It turned out to be a double bargain, since access to the museum was free immediately before the performance. 

In a fascinating program combining music and art, Tokarev first  played Tsaichovsky’s  “Character Pieces for a Year” for piano. Each month’s themes portrayed different moods and feelings, from romantic songs to grand celebrations. The second half was followed by Mussorgski’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”. The tunes were skillfully enhanced by a video installation.

The program certainly increased my appreciation of the two composers and communicated the beauty in their work. Kandinsky’s “Large Gate from Kiev” painting from 1924 was featured in deconstructed movement and timing. Everything was seamlessly coordinated into an exquisite visual and musical experience.

Nikolai Tokarev, the soloist, has won numerous European piano competitions, performed alongside many European orchestras, and produced CDs interpreting beloved Russian composers. 

The Albertinum Museum exhibition, “100 Years of Bauhaus” was the second windfall. Created in Germany in 1920s, the Bauhaus included members shown in the exhibition such as Maholy-Nagy, Feininger, Klee and Kandinsky. It was a good warm-up to the performance.

The teachings of the Bauhaus formed the foundation for my undergraduate training in design at UC Berkeley. The Bauhaus developed design concepts and tools for mass production. Art, technology, architecture, painting, sculpture and construction were integrated from this movement.

Two-dimensional geometric lines and color like those by Piet Mondrian evolved into three-dimensional shapes. It is easy to see how industrial design and furniture like those by Marcel Breuer were an extension of isometric details and design.

The attendees at the exhibition of the Exhibition were exhibitions themselves. One woman wore a tastefully chosen black and white polka-dotted dress with red heels and accessories. Another more casually dressed gentleman clad in classic German black pondered in front of a textured wall. It served as a backdrop for artwork designed in the 20’s as part of the Bauhaus movement.

Last but not least, a quick rip through the classical section of the Albertinum revealed many forgotten items in storage and on display–a sad reminder of the dilemma of wealthy collectors.

After the end of the performance and three encores, the warm evening air outside reminded me of what a special place Dresden is in place and time. The view below is photographed from the Albertinum in Altstadt. Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony and the King of Poland, built most of Dresden’s original Baroque buildings here in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries.

Here are the other two concerts:

Grigory Sokolov Piano Recital

Born in 1950, Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov can still apply all faculties and fingers to a long and rare public performance. The audience was extraordinarily attentive, reflecting the pianist’s skillful yet delicate playing.

The Germans, as I have mentioned before, are stingy with kudos but you know you have seen something worthwhile when the audience gives multiple standing ovations (after stamping their feet). Sokolov showed his gratitude by performing several encores. It didn’t hurt that the newly renovated Concert Palace in the heart of Dresden is acoustically perfect. Musicians travel to the venue by bike and tourists arrive by public transportation at the front door.

Dresden High School for Music

The Dresden High School for Music demonstrated its mettle with a high quality string orchestra consisting of 11 to 19 year olds. The serious students and the attentive audience work hand in hand to promote a strong future for classical music in Germany. The building was beautifully and acoustically designed for occupants and visitors.

Sights and Sounds of San Francisco

If you were visiting me last month in San Francisco, I would have snatched tickets to an opera or symphony performance for us. As a city of nearly 900,000+/- techies, San Francico is graced with the highest quality music that can be managed by a small but loyal and enthusiastic following.

Many of the household names in opera today were trained in the local Merola or Adler Fellowship Programs here, including New York Metopera regulars Joyce diDonato, Susan Graham, Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Deborah Voigt, and Delora Zajick; also Thomas Hampton, Brian Jagde, Quinn Kelsey, Ryan MacPherson, Lucas Meachem, Stuart Skelton, and the list goes on. Attending the concerts with current artists in training is an excellent way to familiarize oneself with fresh new talent.

 One of this year’s Adler Program presentations, the residency version of the Merola,  featured mezzo Ashley Dixon, soprano Patricia Westley, baritone Chris Purcell, and tenor  Zhengyi Bai. It’s great to see more Asians pursuing careers in opera. China and Korea seem to be particularly strong in gaining international recognition. I always look out for these talents and enjoy hearing their voices. Similarly, young composers and musicians from diverse backgrounds are flocking to the fields of music and opera in greater numbers, so neither opera nor classical music training are by any means static and uninspiring.

You can also catch superstars like Pianist Yuja Wang or Violinist Ray Chen performing annually at the SF Symphony, and a host of many other star performers. French Pianist Helene Grimaud was here for an afternoon performance at the San Francisco Symphony.  Tickets are relatively inexpensive and all seats have excellent acoustical sound quality at Davies Symphony Hall. International stars often sold out months in advance for higher prices in savvy European cities can be reasonably procured here.  I snagged a rock-bottom ticket priced at only $17 for Helene Grimaud at an afternoon performance.

For local charm, you can enjoy Chinese music performed by local high school and elementary school students once a year. Led by Sherlyn Chew, Chinese opera instructor at Laney College, she directed a score of Bay Area public school students in a joint end-of-the year performance of Chinese music for friends and family.

 In solidarity with the Notre Dame Cathedral, the San Francisco Symphony and local opera star Federica van Stade performed at Grace Cathedral.  As sister city to Paris, San Francisco and its French Community turned out to express its sympathy for the fire, as well as object to the attacks in Pittsburgh, PA and in the San Diego area.

The small but informative early Rubens exhibition at the San Francisco Legion of Honor gave me and my fellow German language partner an opportunity to discuss and discover the wonders of the Belgian artist together auf Deutsch. We challenged ourselves with the artist’s life and work while practicing our German vocabulary.

 

The annual Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Festival held in May this year to coincide with the Asian Pacific Islander Month in San Francisco featured “Chinatown Rising”, a documentary by a Chinatown Presbyterian minister. He worked with his son to produce a film that showed the development of the Chinese community in the late 60’s and early 70’s. With his help and many local activists, Chinatown learned how to speak out about its housing crisis and poverty in Chinatown.

The second major film showing, was the now classic “Joy Luck Club”. After 25 years, the actors gathered together to celebrate their involvement in Amy Tan’s story about four women growing up in San Francisco and their mothers from China. Lisa Lu, now 90, was one of the featured actresses and a diva from traditional Chinese opera. She also played the grandmother in “Crazy Rich Asians”.

 

And a plug for Mister Jiu’s: an exquisitely prepared succulent pink trout stashed inside lotus leaves and baked in salt. The dish was perfectly paired with sides of parsleyed vinegar and trout roe. We satiated the rest of our greedy appetites with wild mushroom bao, first of the season apricot salad, crispy deep-fried shrimp, and stir-fried asparagus with black olives and smoked tofu for a leisurely two-hour meal. It was a monumental undertaking for two of us! We gladly indulged our brains and our stomaches bite by bite to the scrumptious end.

Don’t miss my upcoming, real-time travels to Germany, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Portugal and Austria in two weeks!

Metopera on Broadway

Aside from the address of the Metropolitan Opera being on Broadway, the opera is looking and acting more like Broadway. The opera has been transforming itself to appeal to a broader and younger audience. In doing so, it is getting a glitzy makeover.

Tonight’s Rigoletto felt more like a Broadway show, complete with neon signs, showgirls and a casino set. The first act was set in Las Vegas, and although it sounds hyped up, the stage sets were sophisticated and appealingly campy. Once the familiar music started, along with the stellar singing, you knew you were back in the good old opera house territory.

Nadine Sierra is an upcoming new starlet who has won plenty of awards for her singing and beautiful voice. It was one of those rare moments. Throughout the evening, you could hear a pin drop as the audience held its breath at each singing pinnacle. Sierra chirped long luscious notes and kept the audience enthralled.

Stage sets, which are often quickly covered at the end of the performance, were left exposed during the curtain call. The designer must have been very proud of this production to showcase it.

Be sure to look out for this live broadcast if it is shown in cinemas in the near future. It was spectacular, exciting, and the singing was stellar. An excellent reinvention of a popular opera.

The Armory Art Show at Pier 94 reinforced the thriving arts scene in New York City. More than 250 exhibitors were represented in a show that started 25 years ago in the Gramercy Park Hotel. you can see some of the works by featured artists below.

Traveling back and forth to Lincoln Center offered plenty of opportunity to view public art and hear a variety of musicians in the subway stations. They certainly enhanced the travel experience and gave plenty of inspiration. Can you guess the artist who produced the portraits?!?

The Art of an Arts Education

During this Winter lull I thought I would share a few of my favorite old and new resources for interesting cultural sites. It takes a bit of wandering around the Internet, but here are a few that I found to be helpful in my development and pursuit of an “arts and cultural” education.

One of the first places I started is the local community college website. For life-long learning at any age and an opportunity to interact with motivated students of all ages, you can find plenty of courses to inspire you and to keep your brain fit! If you are in the Bay Area, try https://www.ccsf.edu or https://laney.edu or any other local community college website. I have immersed myself in Art, Music, German, and Film classes and am very impressed with the quality of the teaching staff. You might find that it’s a cost-effective way to try out new topics. You won’t be disappointed by the City’s free system, still effective for the time being. So, San Franciscans, take advantage of it now! College fees in other cities are nominal.

SF Sketchers is an active group of sketchers in San Francisco who connect at interesting locations such as going to the Embarcadero to sketch king tides, the Beach to sketch nude bathers, and the Global Climate Summit at the Civic Center. As an active participant, I look forward to Lauri Wigham’s creative ideas for a healthy morning or afternoon of sketching, both outdoors and in. An upcoming “Portrait Party” at Arch Supplies is a repeat from last year’s successful event, where small groups sit and sketch each other for five-minute poses. You can find out more about SF Sketchers at https://www.meetup.com.

A smaller, neighborhood local sketch group meets regularly on Saturday mornings to sketch at cafes throughout the Sunset District. It’s a convenient time to roll down the hill or take a brisk morning walk towards the Beach, catch a cappuccino, and do a non-verbal brain dump on paper. The group is very active and you can find their future meetings at the same site above.

The Parks and Recreation Dept of San Francisco has a healthy list of activities and programs for all ages. I realized that these are some of my tax dollars being put to good use, for the benefit of everyone. Not everyone knows what they do, or the benefit they bring to the community, until you decide to get involved. Many of the arts are supported here, such as welding, pottery, photography, jewelry making, and other general art classes in addition to sports programs. See https://sfrecpark.org.

Music for the Mind

For both American and international friends, my absolute recommendation for opera and music festivals is www.https://operabase.com. It’s a complete database for opera singers, composers, performances and opera houses throughout the world. It’s a great way to maximize your time in Europe by joining a music festival the same time you plan to visit a European city. You will be pleasantly surprised! It will support and maximize your travels.

I also follow a classical music website called bachtrack.com, a UK based organization. It covers both opera and musical concerts. You can find it at https://bachtrack.com

 

My favorite opera house, the Bayerisches Staatsoper in Munich, Germany at https://www.staatsoper.de offers awesome opera productions. They just presented a thrilling livestream broadcast of Karl V. That may sound a bit obscure, until you realize that it’s Charles V, a descendant of Charlemagne. It gives you a chance to catch up on European history at the same time you hear the music. A drier, but nevertheless entertaining, version of Hamilton.

Speaking of Hamilton, I managed to get the last two tickets for a performance in San Francisco last week. It was only my second time seeing the musical, but it was a profound experience–hearing rap music condensing the founding history of the US into a mesmerizing array of song, dance and poetry in less than three hours. Lin-Manuel Miranda is brilliant.

And of course the Metropolitan Opera in New York is the grand dame in the US at https://www.metopera.org. for combining music, art, costumes and drama. You can catch Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment next Saturday, March 3, and a followup Wednesday, March 6 in theaters near you. Pretty Yende is the star. The METOPERA’s new season is already posted, so plan an opera visit the next time you are in NYC!

Hopefully some of the resources and websites above will be useful to you. Let me know if you have trouble locating any of them or have comments.

LA Interlude

In a quick trip to Los Angeles a couple of weekends ago, we saw “Buddha Passion”, a stimulating premiere of Tan Dun’s opera concert featuring six Chinese performers. The choir and children’s chorus sang in Mandarin, and the music was beautifully reflective of the Dunhuang Cave environment in Northwest China. It was one of my first visits along the Silk Road a few years ago, so I had a particular fondness for the subject matter. I was surprised and delighted that Gustavo Dudamel led the orchestra for this new work by a Chinese composer.

We had just enough time to slip into the Broad Museum the next morning to oogle at the wealth of big-name artists such as Beuys, Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein, and to admire the new museum. After all, what’s the point of doing art without seeing art?!?

Addendum: Check out these two food websites: https://www.chefsfeed.com and https://www.exploretock.com if you are looking for alternatives to opentable.com. They are more discriminating and provide a more professional approach to restaurant dining experiences from award-winning and innovative restauranteurs.

Zaha has Deeds

It may have been a shock back in 1975 when Zaha Hadid, a world famous Iraqi architect who died recently, won her first international competition in Hong Kong. Hadid proposed to place a hotel on the top of Victoria Peak by polishing the hilltop granite down to bedrock. Appalled as I was at the idea of this self-inflicted environmental disaster, Hadid managed to convince the jury that her bold move would, as it was, be a world-wide attention-getter. Fortunately the project was never built. Needless to say, nor was the project I entered with two other architectural students a winning entry.

Despite a spate of unbuilt designs from crazy-rich ideas, Zaha Hadid eventually settled down and managed to complete some sizable design projects. Among them are the Guangzhou Opera House, the BMW Factory in Leipzig, a museum complex in Baku, and the Maxxi Museum in Rome. Below are photos of the Maxxi Museum we visited last month.

Her wavy gravies were never among my favorite buildings and trended toward the Gehry-esque camp. But I have to admit that the staircase in the Maxxi Museum was impressive and much more successful that Snohetta’s version at the SFMOMA. The overall design seemed well suited for the video installations displayed in the museum. I missed posting these last time, so I hope you enjoy seeing the interiors. Make a plan to go there next tine you are in Rome. It’s a refreshing antidote to the Renaissance and ancient architecture.

Matera and Plovdiv starring as EU Capitals of Culture

The cultural heritage cities designated by the EU for 2019 are Matera and Plovdiv. Each year, they highlight undiscovered gems. Do you know where these cities are in Europe?

Panorama of Matera, January, 2019

Daughter Melissa learned about Matera just before we flew to Rome, so we carved a day from our itinerary and flew to Bari. After that, it’s only an hour away by car. We covered most of the main hill town by walking. Locals are intent on managing tourism responsibly to preserve the natural beauty of the area developed over many centuries. You can see more photos of Matera in the previous post.

Both Plovdiv and Matera will feature open-air operas this summer. One of my favorites, Cavallera Rusticana will be presented in Matera in August, and in July the Roman Amphitheater in Plovdiv will present Aida and Rigoletto. This is a good chance to visit either city or both as they are filled with fascinating history and architecture. Here’s a good resource to learn more about both cities: https://europediplomatic.com/2019/01/04/matera-and-plovdiv-starring-as-eu-capitals-of-culture/

Ralph Steadman Restrospective–San Francisco

Back in San Francisco and thanks to SF Sketchers, I found my way to the Ralph Steadman retrospective presented by the Haight Street Art Gallery. Although primarily a political cartoonist, Ralph was highly appreciated for both his skill and wit. Although I had never heard of this artist before, I loved learning about his life’s work. I particularly liked the typically dry humor in the sketch about the Pastry Chef!

Steadman was fascinated by famous artists or political characters and traced their footsteps meticulously. He became the characters as he absorbed their psyche. Each scene he depicted seemed to represent a play he had written in his mind. He imagined Michelangelo throwing a fit in the Sistine Chapel, Nixon “discharging” Spiro Agnew, and one of Freud’s clients receiving therapy on the couch in the stuffy office where the psychoanalyst practiced. He even lampooned Trump.

And to record a few sketches made in the past week:

Be sure to catch a summary of travels for this year in the 2019 tab in the header at the top of the page!

Day 45-46: Seoul Food and Not so So-So Seoul

Korean Cooking School

Our cooking class surpassed all other activities in Seoul.  I heartily recommend the experience of learning how to cook Seoul food. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the culture. We met our guides at the metro station, then headed to the local market. It was a lively, tidy, well-managed environment, with plenty of new discoveries.

The abundance of root vegetables told us that Koreans were kept alive in a harsh, cold environment by these necessities. The chile for spice, garlic for health, freshly made 100% sesame oil for lubrication, and full sides of pork for protein were readily available. And of course, fish from the sea, a few dried lizards, and agave were among the specialties for variety and comic relief.

Our cooking class, taught by a capable local Korean chefin (as they would say in Germany), introduced glass noodles, bulgogi meat, Korean pancake, kimchee vegetable soup, and stir fried vegetable flavored with kimchee to our Asian group hailing from Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hawaii, San Jose, and San Francisco. We bonded by working in two teams to dice, slice, and prepare the food per our capable guide’s instructions.

And the final result:

The Royal Shrine, National Museum and  Bukchon Hanok Ancient Village

In the blazing saddles heat the day before, we visited the Royal Shrine and the National Museum in the historic center of Seoul. The crowds were decked out in their rented Korean costumes, to take selfies of themselves and each other. I tried my best to avoid the indulgent ones, so here are a few that were caught off-guard before taking photos of themselves or causing selfie-blight.

The UNESCO world sites surprised us, as many of the Chinese characters were recognizable. Korean culture borrowed from the Chinese language, Confucian education and ancient Chinese customs, like Buddhist rites and feng shui.

Many of the cultural elements of combining nature, architecture, and design are similar to those in Chinese culture. Calligraphy, scroll painting, and ancestral worship are also borrowed from the Chinese.

The ancient Bukchon Hanok village reflected the Japanese hill towns, with well-made wood frame gentry housing, wood details, heavy ceramic tile roofs, and integrated landscaping.

Our highlight was the Korean version of the Changing of the Guard. The bottom line of the spirit of Seoul: borrowing from ancient Chinese culture wasn’t such a bad idea, blaring horns included. Koreans added alot of color and style that the Chinese missed.

Day 41-42: The GF Line

Chinese Opera Museum, Foshan

Among the hidden treasures in Foshan where we are staying in China, is the Chinese Opera Museum. I was coming to Guangzhou to do some research on Chinese opera, so I was delighted to find an entire complex devoted to my research! Below are only a few of the highlights that I poured over.

On an evening walk to dinner, we found another treasure. A huge temple complex was on the other side of our development.

Zumiao Temple, Foshan (1796)

Outside, the temple was teeming with retirees playing cards, mahjong and go under the lush green trees that provide shade and shelter for the day’s activities. A large stone turtle with a snake on its back was accompanied by a host of live turtles stacked back to back on the wooden dock of the pond.

The GF Line stands for Guangzhou-Foshan, one of the new mass transit extensions within the massive Guangzhou Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou is now a city of 13 million. Including Foshan to the west and Zhongshan to the South, Guangzhou is one of the largest conurbations on the planet.

Ling Nan Tian Di District

We are staying in Ling Nan Tian Di, a brand new development in Foshan. Our good friend, professional musician and Chinese opera performer Sherlyn Chew invited us to stay at her apartment in this burgeoning new area. Foshan is known for its Shiwan pottery, but the new development is as sophisticated as Xin Tian Di in Shanghai. High rise residential development, office towers, and a major shopping district are combined into a lively mixed use development.

Here’s a gallery of the renovated traditional village development for tourists:

The Tian Di district in Foshan is developed by Shui On, a single, large Hong Kong developer. In comparison, the San Kai village development in Zhongshan (shown in previous post) is a much more small scale, ad-hoc enterprise. Renovations are left up to each business owner-developer. The area feels more like an artsy live-work district with cafes and bars like what you would find in Oakland or Berlin’s industrial districts.

Food

Below, a somewhat repeat-performance of the dishes from Zhongshan (by choice): Steamed crystal prawns, shaved bitter melon with pork slices and gingko nuts, and roasted goose. The bowed tofu strips topped the braised pork belly underneath. I love the delicate Cantonese style of flavors, that are clean and unadulterated. If it is too salty,  it isn’t true Cantonese cooking.