Discovering China: Suzhou – Canals, Gardens, and the Silk Road

discovering china欢迎 (Huānyíng) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the eighth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Suzhou is a city of gardens, canals, and silk. Come along and I’ll share a few of our trip highlights.

The new high-speed rail system linking Shanghai to Suzhou now makes the trip to Suzhou so doable it’s now a day trip. At just under an hour, we arrived in the early morning and had the whole day to explore and still get back to Shanghai by dinner time. Suzhou is one of China’s most famous tourist destinations for domestic and foreign visitors alike.

This post contains affiliate links. 

suzhou gardens

While visiting Suzhou’s UNESCO-listed gardens may not at first seem like a fun kids’ activity, especially if your kids are as active as Buddy, there’s one garden you won’t want to miss, the Humble Administrator’s Garden. While adults can enjoy the aspects of a pristine classical Chinese garden, kids can explore, climb and play. The rockeries are especially fun for kids. They can climb up and through them – many are cave-like or have steps up to the top. You’ll have plenty of time to take the photos you want and you’ll probably end up having to drag your kids away!  We did. 🙂

The Silk Road

For me, our excursion to Suzhou was one of the highlights of our holiday in China.  This is because I have been fascinated with insects my entire life – I had even considered minoring in entomology when I was at the university.  The silk factory in Suzhou took us away from the usual tourist areas and we even began to wonder how far we’d have to travel (we went by taxi and the driver, in retrospect, seemed to meander all over the city).  The factory tour, however, was very interesting and there was no pressure to purchase anything.  I’m kicking myself for not bringing home a silk blanket, however.  Next time!

suzhou silk

Silk fabric was first developed in ancient China; legend gives credit for developing silk to a Chinese empress, Leizu, who discovered silkworms while having a midday tea, and a cocoon fell in her tea. Upon her discovery, she persuaded her husband to give her a grove of mulberry trees, where she could domesticate the worms that made these cocoons. Leizu is also attributed with inventing the silk reel, which joins fine filaments into a thread strong enough for weaving and with inventing the first silk loom.

Silks were originally reserved for the Emperors of China for their own use and gifts to others, but spread gradually through Chinese culture and trade both geographically and socially, and then to many regions of Asia. The first evidence of the silk trade is the finding of silk in the hair of an Egyptian mummy of the 21st dynasty, c.1070 BC. The silk trade reached as far as the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. This trade was so extensive that the major set of trade routes between Europe and Asia came to be known as the Silk Road.

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To learn more about the Silk Road, you may be interested in the following books for children:

Bonnie Christensen’s book,  A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road, is a delightful story of a little girl in 19th century China who sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road. The pebble passes from his hand all the way to the Venice, the end of the Silk Road, where a boy cherishes it and sees the value of this gift from a girl at the end of the road.

Each page of The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History by John S. Major, reflects a different culture with different customs, architectural styles, and ethnicities, moving from China east to Constantinople. The illustrations are well-drawn and offer a lot of information in their own right; the text is a wonderful look at cultural communication and long-distance travel.

In her historical activity book, Marco Polo for KidsJanis Herbert chronicles the famous explorer’s travels along the “Silk Road” to the palace of the Kublai Khan and incorporates activities and projects for the various cultures that he experienced.

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entomology previewTo learn more about insects, check out my Introductory Entomology unit study I developed earlier this year. It is full of engaging, hands-on activities and collaborative projects for the budding entomologist.   There are over 20 printable notebooking pages and handouts, links to exclusive video lessons, and illustrated instructions for constructing your own collection equipment.

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We’re off to Yangshou tomorrow – certainly a highlight of our holiday for all of us.  Growing up in a rural area, it is no wonder that the dramatic scenery of the Karst Mountains and the confluence of the rivers here captivated our hearts.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Geek Projects: Narnia, Middle Earth, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Beyond.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: The Super Skyline of Shanghai

discovering chinaWelcome back!  I hope you are enjoying your city by city tour of China.  If you are just joining us, I am delighted you are here.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the seventh of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.

Teeming with international high-rollers, glittery skyscrapers and construction cranes, China’s sophisticated capital of business, Shanghai, wouldn’t seem a welcoming place for children at first glance. But it won’t take long to discover that with its many parks, markets and museums, Shanghai can captivate all ages.

Shanghai is a great city for kids to explore, from the top of the pink Oriental Pearl TV Tower overlooking the skyline, to classical Chinese gardens and zig-zag bridges, to boats on the Huangpu River, there’s always something new to see. You’ll also find Shanghai is a crossroads – the largest port in China, the city is hopping with a unique blend of old and new, east and west, Europe and Asia, the latest high-tech innovations and oldest traditions.

Maglev

Despite the crowds (the population of Shanghai is 17 million), the city is relatively crime-free. Taxis are cheap, and the subway is easy to navigate. In fact, transportation is part of the fun, which begins as soon as you land. From the Pudong International Airport, about 30 miles east of the city, you can catch the 267-mile-per-hour German-engineered Maglev, or magnetic levitation, train. It’s a scenery-blurring, eight-minute hurtle to the edge of town. One-way trips are 50 yuan, about $6.40 at 7.85 yuan to the dollar, or 40 yuan with a same-day airline ticket. From the Maglev’s terminus at Longyang Lu, you can take a taxi or the subway to the city center.

discover shanghaiYuYuan

As early as the 15th century, the heart of Shanghai was the Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) area.  From the Yu Yuan’s zigzag bridge, children can toss fish food (2 yuan a bag) into a murky pond, and the water will roil with red and gold carp and red-eared slider turtles.

This Ming Dynasty walled garden of pavilions, willows and rocks has been overshadowed by its bazaar, a labyrinth of kiosks and specialty shops overhung by swooping, Ming-style tile roofs. Here, you can buy chopsticks, silk pajamas, wigs, American fast food, guitars, kites and fermented tofu (we had tried this at the home of our tutor and knew to avoid it – sorry, Shaun), among many other items. Merchants demonstrate everything from bubble-blowers to Chinese yo-yos; others beckon passersby to sample tea and gelato.

Bund

Shanghai’s lifeline to the sea, the Huangpu River, also divides the city into Puxi, its older, western part, and Pudong, the more recently developed, flashier section. Pudong’s riverfront promenade is ideal for strolls, flying kites and views of the Bund, a stretch of early 20th-century European edifices. The hard-working Huangpu bustles with tugs, barges and freighters.

shanghaiNight Cruise on Huangu River

One of the best ways to spend a few hours in Shanghai is to take a Huang Pu River Tour. The boats depart along the Bund every half-hour and you can book short or longer tours. We opted for a night cruise which departed at dusk, when landmarks on both banks are illuminated. The tour boats take you up and down the river and you’ll see not only the fabulous architecture on either side of the river, you’ll also get to enjoy the traffic along the river – a sign of an economy in motion.

The Huang Pu River is a tributary of the Yangtze and there is plenty of traffic on it to prove its importance. You’ll see the magnificent building skylines on both the historic west side (the Bund), and the modern east side (Pudong) as well as the working area of coal boats filling barges and sending them downriver. It’s fun to see such lively river life as well as Shanghai’s amazing skyline.

Super Skyline

There’s a new building going up in Shanghai’s Pudong that is slated to be the tallest building in Shanghai and the second tallest in the world. Upon its completion, the building will stand approximately 632 meters (2,073 ft) high and will have 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft).  The Shanghai Tower will be completed in 2014 but until then, you can take your kids up to the top of other towers in China, Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. We chose The World Financial Center because of its a fabulous sky deck.

 

Engineering: World's Tallest Buildings Unit Study

Engineering: World’s Tallest Buildings Unit Study

To commemorate Shanghai and to the delight of my daughter who desires to be an environmental / architectural engineer, I have put together an Engineering Unit Study that is sure to captivate the hearts of young engineers the world over.

Suzhou is our destination tomorrow.  For me, our excursion to Suzhou was one of the highlights of our holiday in China.  Come back tomorrow to discover why. 

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Art for All Ages: Tips & Tutorials. There are literally hundreds of posts now compiled for you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

 

Discovering China: Leshan and the Giant Buddha

discovering chinaZǎochenhǎo (早晨好) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the sixth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes. Our focus today is the Buddhist influence in China and our visit to the Dàfó (Giant Buddha) in Leshan.

Leshan  乐山 

About 120 km (75 mi) from Chengdu, Leshan translates literally to Happy mountain. It is  located at the confluence of the Minjaing, Qingyijiang, and Dadu rivers, on the southwestern fringe of the Red Basin.   We took the bus from Chengdu to Leshan (about 2 hours).

Buddhism has flourished in China since ancient times and has played an enormous role in shaping the mindset of the Chinese people, affecting their aesthetics, politics, literature, philosophy and medicine.  Scholars classify Chinese Buddhism into 7-15 schools (most commonly 10).  Perhaps the greatest Buddhist influence occurred during the Tang Dynasty, evident in the many scripture-filled caves and structures surviving from this period.

Giant Buddha 大佛

The Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛) was built during the Tang Dynasty (618–907AD). It is carved out of a cliff face that lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in the southern part of Sichuan province, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below his feet. It is the largest stone Buddha in the world and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.

Leshan Giant BuddhaConstruction was started in 713, led by a Chinese monk named Haitong. He hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.

The charm of the Buddha lies not only in its size but also in its architectural artistry. There are 1,021 buns in the Buddha’s coiled hair. These have been skillfully embedded in the head. The skill is so wonderful that the 1,021 buns seem integral to the whole. Another architectural highlight is the drainage system. Incorporated into the Leshan Giant Buddha when it was built, it is still in working order. It includes drainage pipes carved into various places on the body, to carry away the water after the rains so as to reduce weathering.

It’s possible to walk from top to bottom (and back up again) along a staircase carved in the wall overlooking the Buddha. A popular activity near the head is for people to have their photo taken “touching” the nose or sticking their finger in the ear of the buddha, supposedly for good luck. Behind the Buddha’s head, you can step into the cave that Haitong took shelter in while he oversaw the construction of the Buddha.

Giant Buddha LeshanThere was a moderately large crowd visiting on the day we visited; we walked down to the feet among them. Then we walked back up the other side – to the grumbling of the kiddos who were both tired of the stairs and getting hungry. There’s no food to be found in the park so we departed.

It took some time to hail a taxi, we were even getting a little worried, but one arrived soon enough and we returned to the bus station.  We enjoyed a delicious bowl of noodles at a small restaurant near the station before returning to Chengdu in the evening.

proverbs thumbI have created a couple of notebooking pages to correspond with today’s post.  The first is a list of Chinese Proverbs that you may find inspirational.  You may wish to have your children create small posters to illustrate a proverb or two. The second is a chart to compare / contrast the World’s Religions.  I first created this when my children and I were studying ancient times and though they were young at the time, we found it very interesting.

We are off to Shanghai tomorrow. Shanghai is a huge city – there is so much to see and do but I’ve condensed it into one post. You won’t want to miss it for I’ve created a fun activity sure to be a hit with young engineers.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Great Science Books and Early American History for Kids. There are literally hundreds of posts now compiled for you!

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: Chengdu – Pandas & Hot Pot

discovering china你好 (Nihao) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the fifth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Chengdu – though a thriving modern metropolis, Chengdu is most well known for the Giant Panda.

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China.  Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. As China’s National Treasure, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. The total number is estimated to be 1,500, including those living in the wild, 80% of which are in Sichuan Province.

This post contains affiliate links.

chengduPanda Breeding Center

Beloved by all, the panda has a special place in the heart of Chinese people and visitors alike.  At the Panda Breeding Center we had the exciting opportunity to encounter pandas and to learn about the care of these amazing animals. We were able to see pandas up-close and learn about their habitat, mating habits, diet, intelligence and how they have survived despite increasing natural and human threats to their existence.

Here we had the opportunity to hold and cuddle baby Giant Pandas but for the health of this remarkable species – and the exorbitant cost – we refrained.  Our friend Carlo put together a couple of great videos: the Giant Panda & Red Panda and the adorable Panda Cubs at the breeding center in Chengdu.

If you would like to learn more about the Giant Panda, I encourage you to check out the Free Panda Lapbook Lessons and Printables at Homeschool Share; Carisa Hinson and Ami Brainerd have done a fabulous job putting this together.  Partner these videos and lapbook together with a few non-fiction books and you have a great unit study.  A few titles I would suggest include Giant Pandas by John Seidensticker and another by the same title, Giant Pandas, by Gail Gibbons.

Hot Pot

 火锅  (huǒ guō) is one of our favorite foods. We first discovered it with our Mandarin tutor when he taught us how to make it ourselves.  As wonderful as his recipe is, it doesn’t quite compare to what you find in China, especially in Chengdu where huǒ guō is a specialty dish.

hot potA simmering metal pot of stock is placed at the center of the dining table; while kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. It can be eaten bland to very spicy, depending on how much spice has been put in the stock.  We selected both varieties as I like it spicy but the kids do not.

Frozen meat is sliced thinly to prepare it for hot pot cooking. The common meats used include lamb, beef, chicken, duck, mutton, and others. Meat or vegetables are loaded individually into the hot cooking broth by chopsticks, and cooking time can take from 1 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of food. Meat should be cooked at the very least 20 seconds depending on the thickness of meat. Other hot pot dishes include leafy vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, and noodles. One of the foods I discovered I really like is Dried Black Fungus.

Here is an easy to follow tutorial on How to Make Traditional Chinese Hot Pot in your home.  As she stated, the food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce on the side. The important thing to remember is this sauce is personalized so be creative to find what ingredients and blends you like best.  You may wish to use soy sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha, sesame paste, chili paste, minced garlic, cilantro, salt & pepper, sliced scallions, and/or sesame oil.

To make it at home, you’ll want a Tayama Hot Pot or other stainless steel cooking pot.  The divider isn’t necessary unless you want two different broths. An Induction Cooktop Stove is also recommended so that everyone can take part and enjoy the meal in comfort around the table.

I’ll be taking the weekend off but be sure to come back on Monday.  You won’t want to miss our visit to the Giant Buddha in Leshan.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Fun Autumn Craft Activities for Young Kids and Using Board Games for Learning.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: Xi’an – Terracotta Soldiers & the City Wall

discovering china

微笑(Wéixiào) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the fourth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, we’ve arrived in Xi’an – with more than 3,100 years of history, it is one of the oldest cities in China.

Xi’anyang, just north of the present day Xi’an, was the capital of the Qin empire, home of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, and site of the fabled terracotta soldiers. Chang’an (another name for Xi’an) was the home base for the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), starting point for caravans heading west on the Silk Road, and a center of Chinese art and culture during the Tang dynasty.

This post contains affiliate links.

bicycles xi'an city wall

City Wall

During the Ming dynasty, Xi’an was defended by a substantial city wall and watchtowers with construction beginning in 1370. You can walk on top of ancient city wall or rent bicycles as we did; it’s quite flat and wide, and beautifully restored. The grassy area just outside the wall would have been a moat.  The wall today encircles only a fraction of the modern city yet covers 14 square kilometres (5.4 sq mi); measures 12 meters (39 ft) in height and 15–18 meters (49–59 ft) in thickness at the base.

Bell & Drum Towers

In the center of the old city wall is the Bell Tower, a wonderful three story wooden tower with glazed tile roof with an observation deck on the second level. Built in 1384 during the early Ming Dynasty, is a symbol of the city of Xi’an and one of the grandest of its kind in China. The Bell Tower also contains several large bronze-cast bells from the Tang Dynasty.  Nearby visitors can see the Drum Tower, erected in 1380.  Within the Bell Tower, a bell is struck at dawn, whereas a drum is beat at sunset to indicate the end of the day within the Drum Tower.

terracotta soldiersTerra Cotta Warriors

A truly amazing archeological discovery, the terra cotta warriors stand in rows in earthen tunnels, prepared for battle (Pit 1 is bigger than two football fields). Thousands of ceramic warriors and horses guarding the nearby tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (Qin Shi Huangdi). The expressions on the faces of the figures are so real, it’s like staring into the face of ancient China over 2000 years ago.

Here, we spent the afternoon checking out the details of these life-size warriors, plated armor, footgear and headgear, and Mongolian horses. There is also a smaller museum  near the excavation pits with a shiny bronze sword and two large reconstructed bronze horse chariots.  The kids had a great time seeing the terracotta soldiers in real life.  Nothing quite prepares you for how extensive the excavation sites truly are – and they are only partially excavated.

To discover the terracotta soldiers, you can go on an amazing expedition to Mount Li, the burial mound of China’s first emperor, from the comfort of your home. With this fun, hands-on activity kit – DIG! Discover Terra-Cotta Soldier – kids can learn about his still unopened tomb and the world famous terracotta army, as they excavate the 10-inch reproduction of a 2,200 yearly-old warrior. We enjoyed this activity ourselves some time ago and the kids loved it!


Goose Pagodas

Xi’an is also home to two Buddhist temples, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and Small Wild Goose Pagoda. Both are well over 1,000 years old and have survived great earthquakes. In the 7th century, the Tang dynasty monk Xuan Zang took off for India, collected Buddhist texts, and returned to China, bringing the Buddhist religion with him. The pagodas were built to store the Buddhist scriptures, and although they have been rebuilt over the centuries, they haven’t significantly changed in appearance.  We visited only the small pagoda.

Muslim Quarter

During our holiday in China we first traveled to Xi’an and then Chengdu.  While in Chengdu, we met a man who had had recognized from our hotel in Xi’an – what are the odds that we’d stay at the same hotel in both cities?!  Anyway – we came to be friends and I am delighted to share his video of the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an.  He did a remarkable job capturing the sights and sounds of this part of the city.  The kids and I absolutely loved the food of Xi’an.

To explore ancient China in more depth, I encourage you to explore the Squidoo Lens Jimmie has put together, Ancient China: A Homeschool Unit Study.  You might also be interested in a series of art lessons put together by the Minneapolis Museum of Art, China’s Terracotta Soldiers.  It includes a wonderful PowerPoint presentation that gets kids to examine specific sculptures pictured within.

Join me tomorrow as we continue our discovery of China as we travel to Chengdu – you won’t want to miss this one.  Chengdu is all about Pandas!

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Art for All Ages: Tips and Tutorials and Raising Lifelong Learners.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

Discovering China: Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, & Candied Fruit

discovering china欢迎 (Huānyíng) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the third of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Tian’anmen Square and The Forbidden City – where the modern era collides with the ancient past.

forbidden cityTian’anmen Square

Tiananmen Square is a vast area, truly in the heart of Beijing. Here the modern era of China literally collides with the ancient past – the square was constructed in between the Imperial Palace to the north and Temple of Heaven to the south. This is the location where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China from the balcony of the Rostrum on October 1, 1949.

Qianmen Gate & Jianlou (Archery Tower) – At the southern end of the square stand two large tower buildings, the Qianmen Gate and Jianlou. Both the gate and archery tower are part of the old city wall that once guarded Beijing, and part of the original entrance to the Imperial Palace. Qianmen Gate (Zhengyang Gate), built in 1420 and beautifully preserved, was one of the tallest buildings at the time.

tiananmen squareTian’anmen Gate – Tian’anmen Gate, also called the “Gate of Heavenly Peace” is the southern entrance to the Forbidden City (Imperial Palace). The gate has five rounded arch doorways, and seven Golden Water Bridges – the central bridge was used by the Ming and Qing emperors only, the other bridges were for royalty and court officials. From the wide tower, emperors read out proclamations, and this is spot where Mao stood in 1949 and declared a new China. Step through the Tiananmen Gate (just like the emperors), and you’ll enter the Forbidden City.

forbidden cityThe Forbidden City

For centuries, the Forbidden City was the palace for the Ming and Qing emperors. The Imperial Palace, begun during the reign of the third Ming emperor in 1406, was a complex of palaces and halls, nearly 10,000 rooms, including workshops where exquisite artworks were produced. For nearly 500 years this mysterious and secret city was a world unto itself for the emperors and their families. Today, as you walk through the gates of the Imperial Palace, just remember that a century ago, for outsiders to get close to even the Imperial Walls was forbidden.

imperial palaceHome to 24 emperors; the entire complex consists of 8,706 rooms in which an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people lived—including 3,000 eunuchs, as well as maids and concubines—all within 170 acres surrounded by a moat.  Inside, the Imperial Palace (also called the Palace Museum) is a huge walled complex, surrounded by a moat. There’s two major areas – the outer courtyards with three great halls of state, and inner courtyards with imperial residences for the emperor and his entourage, plus the gardens. The halls have been restored to show what life what like under the emperors and their living quarters. Galleries display exquisite artwork of bronze, ceramic, jade, clocks, armor and weaponry, and precious treasures and paintings.

Beijing Night Market

One of the most memorable experiences we had in China were the night markets – Beijing being the first and largest.   Here you can find a row of unusual food stalls. An array of delicacies are on display with people bustling around to experience some new tastes. Items such as sheep’s particular parts, offal soup, deep fried crickets, centipedes, silk worms, scorpions, and lizards are available to eat on a stick. [ Want a closer look? See Bugging Out: 5 Weird Eats at Beijing’s Night Market ] There are also the more widely recognized spring rolls, jiaozi (dumplings), and candy fruit. The food is displayed raw – the scorpions in fact are still moving – and can be deep fried in a large Wok upon request.  We braved what we were told was squirrel and we all agreed it was foul tasting.

Beijing Night Market

We did enjoy the candied fruit, however.   Bingtanghulu, is a traditional Chinese snack commonly available in many Chinese cities. It consists of candied fruits on bamboo skewers and typically has a hardened sugar coating that comes from dipping the skewer in sugar syrup and occasionally rolled in sesame seeds. Traditionally, the fruit used has been Chinese Hawthorn  (山楂 shānzhā) which resemble small apples, but in recent times vendors have also used various other fruits.  I am delighted to have found a recipe so that you may try this at home.

  1. Prepare some fresh fruit – grapes, apple slices, strawberries, pineapple slices, etc.  Arrange the fruit on bamboo skewer sticks making sure the fruit pieces are snug next to each other.
  2. Prepare a few cups of brown sugar and caramelize the sugar by boiling it in water in a large pot over medium-high heat; make sure to stir the pot thoroughly to create a consistent texture without overcooking the brown sugar. Insert a candy thermometer, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to cook until the temperature reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. During this process, which can take from 10-20 minutes, wash down the sides of the saucepan occasionally with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization.
  3. Once the candy has reached 250-300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat immediately, and immerse the bottom in a prepared ice bath to stop it from cooking any further.
  4. Once the candy has stopped cooking (look for the bubbles to stop rising from the bottom of the pan), you can begin to dip your fruits. When the fruit is coated in a thin layer of candy, place it on a prepared, oiled baking sheet to cool and harden.
  5. Enjoy!

We’re off to Xi’an tomorrow where we will explore the archaeological site of the Terracotta Warriors and ride bicycles on the ancient wall around the city.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Geek Projects: Narnia, Middle Earth, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Beyond.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!