Category Archives: Uncurmudgeonized

China 2019 – ancient water towns

The water towns were very interesting, more than I expected although getting to them was definitely not what I expected.  I thought that they would be out in the middle of nowhere and we would approach them in a very rural setting.  Instead, we drove and stopped in the middle of a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city.  Sometimes the entrance was over a bridge straddling a canal (Tongli and Zhouzhuang) and, in other cases (Xitang), through a narrow break in the street leading on to the old village.  These are shown in the next two pictures.  Very strange.

 

These three water towns – Tongli, Zhouzhuang and Xitang – located southeast of Shanghai are all picturesque, each reminiscent of Venice with a network of canals.  Tongli was my personal favorite despite sleeping in the hardest bed I have ever slept in my life.  It was here that we had access to the cormorant fisherman and two of my favorite animal pictures – the patient dog and the inscrutable cat.  I also loved the moss and greenery growing in the foot tiles.  Can you pick out the outline of a creature in one of them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will also notice that it was impossible to get past the “conveniences” of American life – KFC and Starbucks!

 

 

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China 2019 – Shanghai

First of all, I must ask you not to judge the quality of photography of Worldwide Explorers and Skye Photography based upon my photographs.  As the least knowledgeable photographer of the group, while I got excellent tips from our guides Marcus and James, I still managed to cut off the tops of buildings, take the photo from too high an angle, misalign the composition of the picture, etc.  Both of our photographs will make you weep… but for different reasons.

With that disclaimer, on to Shanghai.

Shanghai is the largest city in China by population and the second most populous city in the world with a population of 24 million.  It is a global financial center and the world’s busiest container port.  It sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze River on the East China Sea.

Today, Shanghai is a mixture of new and old.  There is the modern Shanghai with some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.

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There is the historic Victorian Bund.

 

 

And, just a short walk away, is the old Shanghai with narrow streets, storefront vendors and crowded homes and shops.

China 2019

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to China.  We flew out on Saturday morning January 19th non-stop to Shanghai and returned on Saturday, February 2nd after a non-stop flight from Beijing.  We were part of the Worldwide Explorers’ photography tour (https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/ ; https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/blog ) – a very small group, only six of us plus three guides, one of whom was our Chinese interpreter.

We went from Shanghai to three “water towns,” old villages east of Shanghai unchanged for a thousand years.  Then we went east to Zhangjiajie, China’s first national park, a UNESCO heritage site and the location for the movie Avatar.  When we returned to Shanghai, the photo tour was over but we had hired the Chinese interpreter as our guide for Beijing.  We took a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing and then got to see the Forbidden City, the Beijing Zoo and the Great Wall before heading back.

China is a fascinating country; it should have a sign when entering that says “country under construction.” Everywhere we went, even in the rural areas, buildings were either being built or torn down.  Sometimes it was hard to tell which one it was.  Shanghai is a city of contrasts – the very modern skyscraper city, the elegant old Bund and, just a few blocks away, the old, old back streets of an earlier Shanghai.  The water towns were very interesting.  I expected to arrive at them in a rural setting.  Instead, we drove and stopped in a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city.  Very strange.

I could have spent days at the Forbidden City.  Supposedly, it has buildings whose rooms total 9,999.  Even during the off-season (January), it was very crowded.  By contrast, we went to a sparsely visited section of the Great Wall.  Most of the pictures you see of the Great Wall are probably taken around Badaling.  This section has been completely restored and is only a short hike (5 minutes) from taxi to wall.  We went to Simitai which is much less traveled and also not restored.  We had an hour hike to get to the wall but we were the only ones there.

A few pictures of Shanghai at night; more photos of the trip will follow.

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Antique Stained Glass – Attack of the Clones

 

I have managed to get through two posts on antique stained glass without complaining, bloviating or pontificating.  Someone noticed this beatific attitude and wondered if I, as a curmudgeon, was ill.  Not to worry.  A three word phrase has gotten me back to angst and teeth-gnashing:

“Tiffany style lamp”

Why would something as decorative and pleasant as Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass get me so worked up?  Well, peruse any antique or collectable store or any online service like Ebay, Overstock or Wayfair and you will find this overworked and misused phrase on anything resembling a lamp with colored glass in it.

Tiffany style lamp?

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No.

Tiffany style lamp?

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No!

Tiffany style lamp?

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Hell No!

So what do I, as the main bloviator, pontificator, and stained glass snob, deem a “Tiffany style lamp?”  It would be a reproduction of one of the lamps in an official Tiffany collection.  Specifically, it would be one of the lamps in the collection of Dr. Egon Neustadt and his wife Hildegard.

Never heard of Egon Neustadt?  Dr. Neustadt, an immigrant from Austria, purchased his first Tiffany lamp in 1935 for $12.50 (!) and went on to amass the largest and most comprehensive Tiffany lamp collection ever assembled.  See the Neustadt Collection.  Exhibits of the lamps are shown at the Queens Museum in New York City and travel to other museums throughout the United States.  If you love Tiffany lamps, you should go to one of these exhibits and also get Dr. Egon Neustadt’s book The Lamps of Tiffany.

Tiffany style lamp?

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Yes!

Antique Stained Glass (continued)

The next three pieces of antique stained glass sit in our dining room.  The Chandelier and accompanying grape and leaves window appear, at first blush, to be made by the same maker.  In fact, I bought the chandelier (which I believe dates back to the 1920’s or 1930’s) first and then, twenty five years later, came across the window.  Both come from the Northeast (Pennsylvania and Ohio, respectively) and are close enough in design to be a match.

AnSW chandelier

AnSW grapes

The third item in the dining room is a stained glass fireplace screen dating to the 1880’s.

AnSW fireplace

It has chunk glass and jeweled bevels intermixed on the lower right mixed with stained glass mostly on the upper left.  It sits in an ornate brass frame.   Here is some detail from the fireplace screen:

AnSW fireplace screen detail1

A similar piece appears on page 3 of Great Glass in American Architecture by H. Weber Wilson.

If you love (or just like) antique stained glass, here are a few websites of dealers who I have found to have exceptional pieces:

Wooden Nickel Antiques, Cincinnati, OH http://woodennickelantiques.net/stained-glass/

Soll’s Antiques, Camden, ME https://www.ebay.com/usr/cantiq307

American Antique Stained Glass Windows, somewhere in northeastern Oregon http://www.antiqueamericanstainedglasswindows.com/

Oley Valley Architectural Antiques Inc., Denver, PA https://www.oleyvalley.com/antiques/windows-stained-beveled-glass/