AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Frien

Chinese watch Museum and travels to China

AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Frien

Postby AlbertaTime » April 12th 2013, 3:38am

Written on April 12th in Zhongzhou.

I'll post about Luoyang and Zhongzhou within a couple of days as I'm very busy with travel (Yuolang to Zhongzhou, and then tomorrow to Shijiazhuang), plus checking off bucket list items (Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang on Tuesday the 8th, and Guoliang Tunnel somewhat near Zhongzhou on Thursday the 10th) but I've wanted to write this post ever since a small, but very memorable experience that took place on Monday, April 7th, on the morning of my first full day in Luoyang.

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My first night in Luoyang had not been a success. It may have been just my room, which I doubt but -- unlike the otherwise always very adequate, and mostly even quite nice --- rooms I've had before and since in China both times now, this place smelled awful, had almost zero heat and was so obviously mouldy and damp that I thought health was at risk...and it had crappy internet service.

That last bit sealed it. The fact that the staff of the place were young, ultra helpful, polite and exceptionally friendly wasn't near enough to make me want to stay more than a few hours overnight, so far too early in the morning I got up, and as soon as it was a reasonable hour, I begged off the remaining nights. I then booked another hotel.

It was a cool and gray day but better outside than inside at that place, and I had a few hours to kill before check in time at better digs (and they were). So I went walking.

(I'd find out later --and you'll be able to tell from the photos in following posts -- that this was a much lower status area than elsewhere in Luoyang city, but then I'd seen similar areas in other Chinese cities so --- leaving aside the nastiness of my room -- I actually quite liked the environment, and I was happily exploring and shooting. And, as always, looking for watches)

Here's where I was walking. First a few blocks on this very urban street...

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...then turning a corner and down a few blocks of this quite busy but mainly pedestrian and bicycle side street...

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...then around another corner and over a few blocks to this narrower street where it was still somewhat busy...

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...then finally around another corner to this again wide but much less busy street. It was quite quiet there and oddly reminded me of something like an old western town...

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I was on that street, and had just finished a short conversation in halting Chinese and halting English with the owner of a small neighbourhood watch and jewelery shop. (I'd asked if -- among the fakes and cheap quartz offerings -- he might have some old VCMs laying about from earlier times. The seller was very friendly but the answer was nope, he didn't have any.)

As I left the store, I was approached by this gentleman. In very basic and rudimentary but polite English (at about same very poor level of my Putonghua), he asked if I might like to accompany him to his home for tea as I was a foreigner and he wished to show me welcome. Plus, he indicated, he liked that I knew about the old watches and he had some history to show me.

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His entire manner was obviously not dangerous. He was very gracious in fact, so we walked together to his home down the street and then into this narrower alley as he described to me a bit about the history of the neighbourhood...

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...We then stopped here at his home:

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He explained that his home was over 200 years old and as we went inside I was struck by the simplicity of his life. I saw a neat and spotlessly clean but very spare bedroom on the left, a second orderly room that was his work area on the right, and between them only a single chest with teapot and some cupboard area. That was really it, except for three simple chairs and a table, and a small third room bare of any furniture except a cupboard, with a few items of art on the wall, floor and window sill.

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That was it, at least in what I gather was his section. I didn't see anything like a heater, and certainly nothing like an air conditioner.

He then began to show me the art, which he explained was either of his own crafting as a now mainly retired calligrapher and woodworker, or that were gifts from friends, and that the pieces were not for sale, but he thought I might like to see them.

He was right and here's some examples:

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Following the time we spent looking at his art, he introduced me to his brother and then made us tea. The very close relationship they had was immediately apparent.

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We spent the next hour using our smattering knowledge of each other's language and a translator app on my phone and a phrase book, to learn about each other, sometimes with some success, other times with no success at all except mutual laughter or quizzical shakes of the head.

He also wrote his name and address on an envelope, but I'll have to get it translated when I get home because he couldn't write any English, and I can't read near enough relevant Chinese.

In other words, the morning turned from cold and frustrating to fascinating, friendly, confusing, informative, illuminating, challenging and utterly memorable.

After about an hour, I explained that I had things to attend to and that I must leave, so we said our goodbyes at the door of his home.

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He's a friend, now.
Last edited by AlbertaTime on January 3rd 2016, 2:26pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby bigedsurf » April 12th 2013, 4:15am

Fabulous..........
time flies.........
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby DoctorIvey » April 12th 2013, 5:23am

Nice story, AT. I'm curious: does this man rent or own this home? And do you know about how much it would cost to rent or own such a place? If he's renting space in the large building, do you have any idea how much the building might cost, and what sort of person might own the building? I know that real-estate speculation has run amok in China, much as it did in the USA a few years ago. I remember hearing that their bubble was about to burst but never heard that it did. I'm just curious about what is going on in their real estate market.
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby AlbertaTime » April 12th 2013, 6:37am

DoctorIvey wrote:Nice story, AT. I'm curious: does this man rent or own this home? And do you know about how much it would cost to rent or own such a place?


Thanks, Doc.

As far as I understood, he's lived in the building since he was a child, and his family since at least the time of his grandparents, so I gather it's hereditary possession of at least some part of the space.

I don't know much about Chinese real estate at all, but I'd be hard pressed to think that this particular "estate" had any huge monetary value, especially when I look at in the context of other parts of Luoyang that I saw.

I saw lots of new development all over the city from the center on out, even in areas that appeared to me to be quite vacant of people...yet. But I saw zero new development in this particular area. Nothing I saw around there looked newer than maybe 30 or 40 years old, and most of it appeared much older than that.

The higher rise buildings you see in the background of photo #2 looked like what I'd expect of a 20 floor apartment building put up in 1960 or so, and I don't think much real estate development has happened in this particular area since then.

Sorry I can't provide more insight.
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby conjurer » April 12th 2013, 7:01am

A fine story of cross-cultural making of friends, A-T. Your (real-life) stories end so much better than my (fictional) ones.
Jim...you are a ray of sunshine here.

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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby Horse Feathers » April 12th 2013, 8:11am

AlbertaTime wrote:As I left the store, I was approached by this gentleman. In very basic and rudimentary but polite English (at about same very poor level of my Putonghua), he asked if I might like to accompany him to his home for tea as I was a foreigner and he wished to show me welcome. Plus, he indicated, he liked that I knew about the old watches and he had some history to show me..


AT, great story and photos as usual. Am sure you are very good at assessing personal risk. Don't think I would have entered the house (especially traveling by myself).
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby DoctorIvey » April 12th 2013, 8:16am

AlbertaTime wrote:
DoctorIvey wrote:Nice story, AT. I'm curious: does this man rent or own this home? And do you know about how much it would cost to rent or own such a place?


Thanks, Doc.

As far as I understood, he's lived in the building since he was a child, and his family since at least the time of his grandparents, so I gather it's hereditary possession of at least some part of the space.

I don't know much about Chinese real estate at all, but I'd be hard pressed to think that this particular "estate" had any huge monetary value, especially when I look at in the context of other parts of Luoyang that I saw.

I saw lots of new development all over the city from the center on out, even in areas that appeared to me to be quite vacant of people...yet. But I saw zero new development in this particular area. Nothing I saw around there looked newer than maybe 30 or 40 years old, and most of it appeared much older than that.

The higher rise buildings you see in the background of photo #2 looked like what I'd expect of a 20 floor apartment building put up in 1960 or so, and I don't think much real estate development has happened in this particular area since then.

Sorry I can't provide more insight.


Thanks. The average schmuck on the street believes property values in China are cheap as chips but as I understand it that is certainly not the case. I've heard stories recently of factory workers speculating in the real estate market and the potential fallout to the world economy if Chinese real estate values go belly up. I haven't been to the far east in a few years and marvel at how quickly it is changing. Sort of like my town.
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby jb182 » April 12th 2013, 5:04pm

As always, I am very appreciative of how you mix human interest with watches. Thank you.
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Re: AlbertaTime returns to China. Post #7 - Grace, Art and Friendship...

Postby AlbertaTime » April 12th 2013, 5:22pm

jb182 wrote:As always, I am very appreciative of how you mix human interest with watches. Thank you.


Thank you.

I was recentky asked by a prominent Chinese collector why I collect Chinese watches. He asked me why I found them important at all.

I said to him besides the fact that they work well and I like the looks, I asked him if he knew what a "catalyst" was, and given his small knowledge of English he said no, so I pulled out my translator app.

Once we understood the term in both languages, I explained that just as a catalyst is important -- essential -- in a chemical reaction, the watches are important to me as a catalyst that enables me to learn about the Chinese language, the culture, the political eras and Chinese technological struggles and achievements, and they are also the catalyst for my visits to China and so to my very valuable meetings and friendships with Chinese human beings.

The watches provide the thread that pulls all this together for me, and mixing human interest with watches is exactly my goal.

Your compliment is a great start to my day.
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