R&R in Liuzhou
Say, how about another "Chinese Lesson for the Day"? Let's talk about shanzhuang (山庄).
If you look up the two characters in the dictionary you'll find they mean "mountain hamlet". Some dictionaries will go a step further and define the two words together as "villa". In fact these translations don't really do justice to the term. A shanzhuang is not necessarily in the mountains and is not necessarily a villa. It's a business – something we Americans would call a resort or a retreat lodge.
The most famous shanzhuang is the "Avoid Heat Resort" (避暑山庄) a hundred miles or so north of Beijing. It was built for the exclusive use of the Qing Dynasty emperors, who used to go there when the weather in the capital got so hot and muggy that even the Summer Palace was intolerable. It is indeed in the mountains, and there are several palaces and villas on the grounds, so I guess that's where the dictionary definition of shanzhuang comes from. These days it's a nice place for the people of Beijing to go to avoid the smog.
In more modern usage, a shanzhuang is a place where common people can spend a pleasant time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are a wide range of prices, and they have various activities commensurate with the price. Most people in Liuzhou go for a day trip – in the morning they can hike through the woods or by a river or lake, or take a boat ride, or play badminton, volleyball or basketball, or maybe even go fishing in a well-stocked pond. In the afternoons there's billiards, cards or (most popular) mahjong. All the necessary equipment is furnished as part of the admission price.
At mealtimes, most of these places provide ready-to-cook meat and vegetables that you can stick on a kabob and barbeque in the picnic area. If cooking isn't one of your preferred holiday activities, many shanzhuang have full-service restaurants.
In Liuzhou, there are at least ten shanzhuangs that can be reached by city bus. Several more are within a two-hour drive from town. This website has pictures of some of the nicer ones (with text in Chinese).
If you want to spend more than one day at a shanzhuang, most of them have a hotel on the
grounds. As is typical of hotels in China, they offer hourly as well as nightly rates (usually with a
two or three-hour minimum) so even if you're just there for the day, you can rent a room for a
nap after your picnic lunch. Very civilized.
Incidentally, the accompanying photo, which I use on my Twitter account @fannyi5, was
taken at a shanzhuang on the north side of Liuzhou, the Flower Fruit Hill Ecological Park (花果
山生态园). It's near the end of the #3 bus line (See Liuzhou Laowai's comment for directions).
You'll be able to see Mi Luo Fu (the original FFG) as soon as you get off the bus because he's
about 30 feet tall. He was built maybe 3 years ago as a tourist attraction but, according to a
resort employee, people do occasionally offer him a few prayers.
12/15/2013 Liuzhou Laowai wrote: I'd be careful about the NO 3 bus. Every second bus goes beyond what you refer to as the last stop and on to the teachers' college. There is usually a sign on the front reading 师专.
These buses pass the entrance to 花果山. The bus stop is called 君武路口 and is just across the road. (It's two stops on from the other 'last stop'and two before the real last stop at the college. If anyone goes a mile north of the college, they will be hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere.
By the way, Mi Luo Fu is a bit older than you guessed. I have a picture I took of him 4 years ago and he wasn't new then.
12/15/2013 Fannyi wrote: Thanks! I'll amend the post accordingly.
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