China Green


Moss layered rooftop – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

In a few previous posts I’ve had rambled on the notion of landscape, meandering down paths of culture, architecture, and reclamation.

Not this time.

For a change I want to avoid overly heady discussion and simply enjoy a bit of China. By no means shot at extravagant, or heavily publicised locations such as The Dragon’s Backbone, nor Tiger Leaping Gorge – Hopefully these will come a little later – these few images are from Xuanwu Lake, an abundance of lotus, willows, water, pavilions and life found just past the citywall in north-east Nanjing.

Butterfly 3

Butterfly – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

We stumbled across the lake soon after leaving Fuzimiao, the Confucius Temple district. The post ‘The Streets of Nanjing’ documents the in-between journey from there to here (That’s right, I’m going to do my best to keep this travelogue chronological!). Together these areas display just how quickly the landscape of a Chinese metropolitan city can switch from one fabric to another.


Afloat – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

To my surprise, and a notion that I have briefly touched on before, was the ease with which a city of some three and a half million, in the most populated country in the world can still offer up so much solitude, air, and space.


Meandering – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

A pleasant diversion from the bustling horns and organised chaos of the city, the lake area even exhibits an expansive Bonsai Garden amongst its twists and turns.

Bonzai Roots

Roots in Nanjing Bonsai Garden – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

I have grown quite used to the wildlife of the UK and was intrigued to see how different that of China’s is while I am here. Admittedly these photographs do not do justice to how vibrantly exotic it truly is at first witness.

Hbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth – Xuanwu Lake, Nanjing

Butterfly 2

Butterfly – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

If you do ever venture to Asia and happen to find yourself in the historic capital of Nanjing. Spend as much time as you would like exploring the culture, nightlife, foods and speed of the city, but do yourself a favour, and grab a moment to relax by the lake too.

– Please comment if you can identify any of the above unlisted butterflies


Reclamation – (Because I couldn’t resist) – Xuanwu lake, Nanjing

Do you have any experience on China’s rural paths, or any fantastic places you could recommend a fellow wanderer? If so please do let me know!

More thoughtful discussion to follow soon – 再见。

Currently reading:

  • The Republic – Plato
  • A Philosphical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful – Edmund Burke
  • 汉语教程 – 第一册 (上+下)

The Streets of Nanjing

Street Scene 3




Soy dyed hard boiled egg

Sesame pancakes

Egg fried rice

White Tea

Chinese food, real Chinese food, is a fantastic welcome. A breakfast like this could fuel anyone for the day. I am a firm believer in breakfast being the most important meal, and the tradition of hot and ready breakfasts by the Chinese certainly plays in my favour! Soon after, our group were escorted around the grounds of our host campus; Nanjing University, home to the house of John Rabe an intrinsic figure in Nanjing’s bloody modern history. The grounds presented some beautiful examples of Chinese vernacular architecture – Frank Lloyd Wright would certainly have enjoyed some time here. –  The heat during the day was intense, but there is something about the Chinese weather that makes you quickly forget about that side of things, or maybe it’s background buzz of chaotic horn beeping and cicadas that distracts.

Street Scene

 The streets of Nanjing – Storefront

 Following another adventurous feast, in which our hosts offered us another interesting taste of Chinese cuisine, this time a round table of duck, chicken, fish (Whole fish, head included of course), prawns, various vegetable mixes, and other mysteriously intriguing dishes; a small group of us broke off to explore Nanjing.

Street Scene2

 The streets of Nanjing – Bike

 There is much to much to include in one single post, so I will split the following week across a few separate posts, and start with a short photo essay on the real life of the people of Nanjing.

Street Scene 4

 The streets of Nanjing

 As an immediately aware counterpart to the lavish welcome we received, the images of this post describe a large part of what I am here to see, daily life in it’s raw environment, and from that starting point I aim to explore the highs and lows of a beautifully diverse culture, in order to genuinely appreciate it’s riches, both physical and soulful.

Street Shot Factory

 The streets of Nanjing – Work

Chasing the Sun

Study China – Day 1


Departing 6am GMT

Travel to Dublin Airport

Flight from Dublin to Heathrow, London 12 Noon

Land at Heathrow 1pm GMT

Connecting flight to Pudong International, Shanghai 3:15pm GMT


Land at Pudong 8:55 am CST (GMT+8)

Bus to Nanjing 11am CST

Services stop 2:35pm CST

Arrive at Nanjing University 4pm CST

Dublin Airport

The extensive journey to China was certainly a steep introduction to my first long haul flight, however these new experiences are what the coming year is to be all about. Flying against the sun across Russia and the peaks of Mongolia brought me a short night of only a few hours and my sleep was as sporadic as ever while traveling, I tend to wake quickly to looking out at the country below. Much to easily distracted some would say, but I have a thing for curiosity.

As the plane descended to Shanghai Pudong International, I finally got a glimpse of the haze of China, the limited visibly slowly revealed a patchwork of rectangular paddy fields drawing us towards the runway.

A lonesome travel so far, bar the heartfelt goodbyes with family in Dublin, arrival at Shanghai brought me company quickly. Introductions and sleep derivation may not be the best of partners, – especially when the first person you meet is attempting to teach you how to speak her name in Mandarin! – But I was glad to meet many of the new faces to be my company during our 3 week study program in Nanjing.

The Airport itself was extensive, but surprisingly quiet for my expectations of a non stop bustle in the country. My preconceptions were a little stereotypical, and given the size of China itself it is clear that the presence of quiet and solitude is certainly available.


In Northern Ireland the saying of , ‘It’s awful close today,’ has been tossed around recently, the country experiencing a heat wave of the high twenties, but none of that closeness compares to the heaviness in the air here. Given my lack of sleep I was lucky this brief encounter only lasted until we started our bus journey north-west, I was certainly more willing to tackle the new environment after some rest.

As mentioned, I found my sleep on the bus journey broken, as I excitedly woke to gaze at the my new surroundings, the grey dense build of the airport soon gave way to expansive green fields, rough and unkempt with the dusty grit of baked earth. Every so often the greenery would break to a canal in which low barges and rafts transported produce from one dwelling to the next, the vessels were rustic at best, ‘repair instead of replace,’ seemed to be the mentality, and by using what is mostly available at the time. This grass-roots approach to technology has a wealth of character, and it stuck me immediately, I am much happier to see the human soul of objects on show like this, it is so much more apparent than in the sheen of a ‘modern’ vessel. There is a craftsmanship and character here, and it is one I will be actively seeking during my stay.

After a quick service stop in which my first visual impression of the cuisine was made, followed by a rather surprising ‘hole in the ground,’ discovery – Public toilets had not been the topic of any conversation I had had with friends who had visited the area – I decided to tuck into some Mung Bean Cake, and a Black Soya Bean drink, a sweet introduction, and certainly quite appealing, I wonder if this grainy, savoury like sweetness was common in the majority of Chinese foods…Passing the plains we began to climb slightly in to hills where we crossed Nanjing’s outer boundary and arrived in the bustling Metropolis of Nanjing city. Stepping out of the Bus and into the hotel for the formalities of starting the program I soon found myself falling happily into bed, tomorrow is a big day full of more introductions, inductions, and adventure. I can’t wait!