Author: Amanda R

Chatting With A Fortune Teller In Hong Kong

Chatting With A Fortune Teller In Hong Kong

I recently went to Hong Kong by myself for a few days (for the Hong Kong Literary Festival) and had some extra time on my hands, so I got to play the tourist a bit, something I haven’t done in years even though I lived only half an hour from the city for three years and went there every two or three months. I decided to head down to one of the city’s famous night markets: Temple Street in Jordan.

I was planning on buying a few things while there, but I was sadly disappointed, not seeing anything I actually liked. The weather was perfect and the street was almost devoid of tourists, so I was able to walk the whole thing in about half an hour. When I got to the end of the street, I noticed there were vendors across the road, so I kept walking. And I kept walking. I passed by several pop-up tents selling adult items and finally came to a small alley with red tents featuring divination symbols.

I had heard that you could find fortune tellers in Hong Kong, but I had never seen them or really looked into it before. The last time I was in the States, Zoe and I went to see a fortune teller and enjoyed the experience, so I thought I would give Chinese mysticism a try, see if they would tell me anything different here.

I was a little nervous walking through. How would I choose a fortune teller? What was a good price? Would I even find one that spoke English? I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the fortune tellers had signs declaring that they spoke English. Still, I wasn’t sure how to choose one. Several of the tents had lines of people, so I figured they must have a good reputation, but I didn’t want to wait too long or I would lose my nerve and run away. I decided that if any of the fortune tellers called out to me, I would talk to them. Must be fate, right?

Almost immediately after I decided that, a lady in a purple tent called to me. Purple is one of my favorite colors, so she must be who I was supposed to speak to.

I sat down and she said she could tell my fortune for only 300 Hong Kong dollars (about 31 USD). Seemed like a fair deal since I hadn’t touched my spending budget for the night.

She told me to give her my left hand first because that was the past. She was surprisingly accurate about several things, including my health and love life. Sorry, I’m not going to give you the details of what she said 😉 She then had me give her my right hand to tell the future. She didn’t tell me anything shocking or that I didn’t expect. She said I would have a long life and could “have” as many children as I wanted, no problem. I assume she meant that we would have no issues should we choose to adopt again. She also said I would never have an employer again, only working for myself, which is my plan (I quit my last day job a year and a half ago and haven’t needed to go back), so I was glad to know that will work out. She was also very specific about not taking on any big business ventures for the next 45 days. I’m not sure I followed that one or not. I didn’t do anything drastic but I did spend a hella lot on marketing and had my most successful month ever in December.

Finally, she mentioned my daughter. She told me not to worry, that she would be fine. I don’t talk about specific concerns regarding my daughter on here, but all families by adoption have additional concerns beyond what most families by birth experience, and we are no different. But she said not to worry and was rather specific and practical about what she sees for our daughter’s future. I have no idea how accurate she will turn out to be in the long-term, but it was comforting nonetheless. And I think that is the real value in talking to fortune tellers, whether the person is a Chinese mystic, a faith healer, or Miss Cleo. Many people who turn to mysticism just need an impartial third party to tell us that everything is okay. To me, she was well worth the three hundred dollars. I am hoping to go back sometime with Zoe and my BFF and get readings again. It was good local fun.

After that, she asked if I would like her to read my face. I didn’t think I needed her to, but at this point, I knew I would write about it for the blog so figured I would get the full experience. By reading my face, she didn’t see anything new or tell me anything she hadn’t already told me. The face reading was only 200 HKD (20 USD), but I wouldn’t do it again. It just wasn’t necessary after having the hand reading.

Have you had your fortune told in Hong Kong? Share your experience in the comments!

Guest Post – The Biggest Fears You Must Overcome to Enjoy China

Guest Post – The Biggest Fears You Must Overcome to Enjoy China

China is, without a doubt, a beautiful and fascinating country. Old habits and customs seem to be intertwined with modern skyscrapers that seem to pop up every minute. While traveling to China was one of my lifelong dreams, there’s nothing in this world, including all the facts available online, that could’ve prepared me for the experience. Some of their traditions I’ve read about online, but some of them have definitely caught me off-guard at times and there were moments and situations where my jaw simply fell to the floor from the sheer amount of shock I experienced.

1.    Counting to ten using one hand

Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to master. There are thousands of different characters, most of which look almost identical to me. The language itself is tonal and unless you’re careful, your intonation can completely change the word you’re trying to say. I know very little Chinese and to make matters worse, very few Chinese people actually speak English. You might think to yourself “but it’s ok, I can probably use my hands to explain what I’m trying to say.”

You, my friend, have no idea how wrong you are. The difference in languages also extends to body language and gestures and the Chinese rely on a single hand to count to ten. Like that isn’t enough, you can also gesticulate larger numbers, like a hundred or a thousand.

2.    Squatters and Kaidangku

From my personal experience, I’ve noticed that the majority of bathrooms in China only offer squatting toilets or a cut in the tiles resembling a squatter. Most stall partitions are knee-high and I’ve seen stall-doors exactly two times. While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, most Chinese babies don’t wear diapers. In fact, what they wear is called “kaidangku”, which literally translates to open-crotch pants. I cannot describe how many times I’ve seen parents unzip their children’s crotch-zipper and let them urinate and defecate near a sidewalk.

3.    Carrying cash everywhere

I have read numerous stories online on how it’s a bad idea to rely on credit cards while traveling through China. In all honesty, I’ve only witnessed maybe a couple of stores that accept credit cards. Fortunately, this is not my first time traveling to countries that don’t readily accept credit cards and I’ve prepared financially by taking out a few personal loans. They’ve helped me pay off some of the more expensive travels which you would normally put on your credit card. But the thing is, online loans don’t butcher people with abnormally high interest rates and they can easily be paid off in monthly rates.

4.    “Poor” manners

What we westerners consider to be poor manners seem to be completely fine in China. Chewing with your mouth open, speaking with your mouth full, slurping loudly and last but not least, spitting everywhere. And I don’t mean the “sorry I have a cold, I honestly have to spit this gunk in a tissue” kind of spitting. People would be standing right next to you spit a slimeball mere inches from your feet.

Don’t get me wrong, traveling to China was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But the difference in culture is more than evident and unless you learn to adapt and overcome your fears and prejudices, you’ll hardly get the chance to truly experience all the wonders China has to offer. Most of it is truly wonderful, the people are friendly and welcoming and the food is absolutely amazing, once you get over the fact that they also eat insects. On a stick. Covered in chocolate.

Lauren Wiseman is marketing specialist, writer and entrepreneur, currently based in Melbourne. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in fast-changing and demanding market environment. Covering finance and investment topics, Lauren strongly believes in a holistic approach to business.

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

How much does a trip to Fenghuang cost? How to travel to Phoenix Ancient Town in the most economical way? Those may be the popular questions if you are planning for the journey to Fenghuang Town. In the following article, I will share with you some experiences to help you make this dream come true only with a limited budget. In my opinion, this trip is the most suitable for those who are between the ages of 18 to 26.

General information about Fenghuang

Fenghuang, or Phoenix, is the name of an ancient town in China (more than 1300 years old). It is located in Fenghuang district which is a county of Hunan Province under the administration of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture. It is nearly 300km from Phoenix Ancient Town to Zhangjiajie city which is also a famous tourist destination in China. To come to Fenghuang Ancient Town, you have to go through Zhangjiajie first, therefore you can combine traveling to Zhangjiajie with the trip to Fenghuang.

The landscape of this wonderland is seemly taken from the historical dramas. There is a diversity of population structure because it is the residence of ethnic minorities, most of which are Miao, Han, and Tzu Gia groups. Fenghuang is also the economic, social and political center of the region. Next to the Da Giang River, the ancient town still retains many ancient citadels, streets, houses, manors, temples, and pagodas. Its age has made Phoenix Ancient Town become one of the living museums of ethnic cultures: 1300 years.

At night, the town seems to be more sparkling, more beautiful than the day. The lights from ancient bungalows down to the surface of the river create a fanciful and ancient scene for the town.

In general, the weather in here is quite comfortable and the best time to visit Phoenix Ancient Town is the spring. Based on my experience, you should avoid coming here in any Chinese national holiday, especially in the Independence Day of China, because on these occasions, Fenghuang will be more crowded.

To ensure the plan of working and studying, you can visit here in summer or any long holiday of the year because Fenghuang is beautiful all year round, not necessarily to go in the spring. In addition, you should go in a group to reduce travel expenses.

How to come to Fenghuang Ancient Town the most economical way

There are 3 ways going to Fenghuang as follow:

By plane

You will move from your location to Guangzhou and then from

Guangzhou to Zhangjiajie. After that, you catch the bus from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town (it is obliged because no other choice is available).

The airfares for these routes are quite expensive so you can refer 2 other ways to save the cost: by train and by bus.

By train

In Pingxiang, you do immigration procedures. When filling in the declaration form, in the part of Intended Address in China, you write “Nanning” to complete. After that, you buy the train ticket from Nanning to Jishou train station in Zhangjiajie. It takes nearly 15 hours. The train departs at 17:50 in Nanning and arrives at Zhangjiajie at 8:20 of the next day. You can book the train ticket in advance on

Finally, you move more than 50km more by bus to come to Phoenix Ancient Town.

By bus

At Youyi Guan international border gate, you have to pay about 0.5$ for the electric car and it will take you to the place of entry procedures.

As same as going by plane, they will give you a declaration of entry. The declaration is available at the table near the counter. You just take the pen and open the passport to copy information only. After that, you can walk or go by electric car (0,9$) to the bus station.

The bus from the border gate to Nanning train station departs at 12:30 and arrives at 16:00.

You can choose between the 2 following types depended on your budget and the number of people in your group:

  • 12-seat car: 17$/person or 68$ (renting the whole car).
  • Bus from Zhangjiajie (Jishou train station) -5 buses per day: It takes 3.5 hours and the ticket price is about 12$/person.

From the bus station of Phoenix Ancient Town to the center, you can move by taxi at the price of 3$.

Suggested summary schedule in 5 days

The 5-day trip is reasonable for you to visit Zhangjiajie and Fenghuang Ancient Town, including 2 days of moving, as follow:

  • Day 1: Nanning – Zhangjiajie
  • Day 2: Visit Tianmen Shan (200m from Zhangjiajie). In here, there is a famous glass road.
  • Day 3: Take the train from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town.
  • Day 4: Discover Fenghuang where there are a lot of beautiful landscapes to visit.
  • Day 5: Phoenix Ancient Town – Jishou – Nanning.  


Notes when traveling to Fenghuang

  • For the Chinese visa, you should apply 15 days before your trip.
  • Money: you should prepare about 2500-3000 yuan during the journey ($350-$450). In Fenghuang Town, ATM (automated teller machine) is not popular and the credit card is not accepted when you buy food or drink.
  • If going by train, you should prepare some snacks and water.
  • English is useless in here, so you should study some common Chinese sentences or buy a SIM card in the gas station or the airport to use Google translation tool. A SIM card costs about $7.5. Another way which may be helpful for you is setting up Pleco application (an online Chinese dictionary) on your phone.
  • Bring your coat or a thin blanket because at any time of the year, the weather in Fenghuang is bitter cold.
  • Spend at least 2-3 days to explore this ancient town. In the evening, along 2 river banks, there are many bars, coffee shops, and restaurants at the affordable prices.
  • Download Astrill to access Facebook and Viber because China blocks the international network.
  • Do not be ashamed when bargaining and you will definitely get a discount.
  • The food here is very delicious and cheap but also quite spicy. If you cannot eat the spicy dishes, tell the cook before he or she prepares the food for you.
  • The landscape here is incredibly wonderful, so you will take a lot of photos as well as shoot many videos. Therefore, remember to bring a rechargeable battery to not miss any beautiful moments.
  • In Phoenix Ancient Town, there are many hotels available. You can book in advance or find yourself a good place to stay after arriving. The room price is about 15$/day/twin room (not included meals).

I hope that the above information will be helpful for you. Have a nice trip!

My name is Jim, writer at Asia Marvels. I love traveling around Asia and share my stories & travel guidelines to my readers. I want people from all over the world to see the beauty of the landscape, people and culture of Asia.


Guest Post – 6 Best Natural Wonders to Explore in China

Guest Post – 6 Best Natural Wonders to Explore in China

Due its rich culture and plethora of natural wonders, China is among the most incredible travel destinations. It boasts a wide variety of landscape and places to visit, from sandstone pinnacles, to turquoise lakes, to white sand beaches. There’s truly something here to quenches everyone’s travel craving. Consider visiting these 6 arguably best natural wonders that China has to offer.


Imagine yourself sitting on the shore, gazing up in every direction at snow-capped mountains. You’re swept up by multicolored trees and bottomed by turquoise-infused waters. Take one look at this place for yourself and you’ll see why it tops the list of the best natural wonders in China. Situated in the northern-most area of the Sichuan province, Jiuzhaigou is a wonder of its own. When translated, Jiuzhaigou means “Valley of Nine Fortified Villages.” It’s no wonder that tourists and locals alike escape here from bigger cities to experience this unspoiled land. Unfortunately, the national park is closed due to the extensive damage of the earthquake in August 2017. But don’t fret, as it’s rumored to be opening back up sometime within the next year.

Li River, Guangxi

Whether you fancy a rustic bamboo raft or a luxury cruise ship, the Li River is an absolute must see for any wanderer traveling to China. Towering above the blue river, limestone mountains can be seen for miles and miles as they fade from a green jungle tint to a faded blue haze. Keep your camera handy as there are many unique natural land curvatures that you certainly don’t want to miss.

Reed Flute Cave

Calling all musicians and artists: this cave is more than just a natural wonder. Also known as “the Palace of Natural Arts,” the Reed Flute cave is a 787-foot-long, water-eroded cave that grows an abundant supply of reed used to make flutes. Once functioning as a bomb shelter, this cave was rediscovered by fleeing Japanese troops in the 1940s. Once inside, you can see the faint yet distinct petrified remains of jellyfish and snails interspersed around the cave’s floor. Although a natural work of art, artificial mood lighting has been placed throughout the cave to provide an even more immersive experience. Once finished with your tour, make sure to bring some spare cash to purchase a reed flute of your own!

Yellow Mountains

Dating back to 747 AD, the Yellow Mountains weren’t named for their color, but specifically because of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di. With quite the variety of features, the Yellow Mountains are one of the most famous and popular mountainous regions of China. Its most well-known features are its hard-wood yet character-ridden pine trees, interestingly shaped rocks, “seas of cloud,” and hot springs. Located just 300 miles southwest of Shanghai, it’s just far enough away from the hustle of the city, yet close enough for an easy commute. With numerous attractions, hotels, and restaurants, plan to spend a little extra time to fully experience the rich culture and beauty of the Yellow Mountains. 

Stone Forest

Lying in the depths of China’s Yunnan Province sits the iconic Shilin. Carved by earthquakes and the elements, one could easily get lost among its giant pillars of limestone. With natural separations of caves, waterfalls, ponds, an underground river, and an even an island lake, make sure this place is on your itinerary. One famous legend tells of a beautiful maiden named Ashima who was kidnapped by the boy of an evil landlord. Against her will, she was put but in bondage and forced to marry him. Later, her true love, Ahei, came to her rescue with bows and arrows. He was too late as she drowned in a flood on the way home and transformed into what’s commonly known today as the Ashima rock. To the local Sani people, she’s seen as their protector. If possible, visit on June 24th where the Sanis hold a torch festival at Shilin to honor their many traditions. 

Longsheng Rice Terraces, Guangxi

Just when you thought China could not get any more diverse in its natural beauty, rice paddies (or rice terraces) can’t be left out. Although manmade, this perfectly chiseled landscape is unmatched in its beauty and craftsmanship. Over 700 years old, rice is still farmed on these lands by the local Yao and Zhuang villagers. Resembling almost perfectly carved steps, the ancient topography makes use of scarce resources such as flat land and limited water supply. If you happen to visit right after the rain, the terraces that the grandeur of this natural wonder up a notch. It’s no wonder this place is among the top stops for professional photographers and artists alike. And make sure to greet the extremely friendly and hospitable locals with “Nín hǎo” (hello) along the way!

Boasting the world’s greatest number and variety of world-class natural wonders, it’s nearly impossible to not fall in love with China. Whether you’re up for an adventure in the desert, mountains, beaches, forests, or even just interested in seeing incredibly unique sites, China’s natural wonders are bound to have something special for you.

Micah Trostle is an 18-year-old photographer, videographer, and travel writer for trekbible. Although he was born in the USA, his home is Papua New Guinea, where he enjoys adventure sports, camping, and loving on people! He is passionate about Papua New Guinea and hopes to move back in the near future to impact business development and help to expand communities.

One Year of Baby Daze

One Year of Baby Daze

Last week was the one year anniversary of the day we met our little girl. It has been an amazing year. Our adoption journey was so long, and there were times I doubted I’d ever become a mother. But now, I can’t hardly imagine a time when our little girl wasn’t with us. She has come so far, and she makes progress that astounds me every day. Bust just look at how much she has changed! She seems to have gone from a baby to a little girl overnight.









She is a smart, happy little girl, and we are so in love with her. Of course, there have been challenges along the way, but I think that is true no matter how your child comes into your life. She is perfect to me, and just what I always wanted. She is my gift that keeps on giving. Sorry if this post is a bit sappy, I started crying just looking at the pictures to put in this post even though she is sitting in the other room, but my heart is full to bursting every time I think about her.

If you feel your family is ready for a child, please consider adoption. I am more than happy to talk to you about it. You can always message me here through the blog or my Facebook page. 

Here are a couple more cute baby pictures because she is simply adorable!

Great Tips For Traveling While Vegetarian

Great Tips For Traveling While Vegetarian

Traveling if you’re on a vegetarian diet isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Thankfully, you can now easily go online and find more information about the new places that you want to visit. You can plan ahead and see what kinds of dishes are available and applicable to your vegetarian diet.

Before you start packing for your next trip, here are a few tips to help you enjoy your travel without ruining your eating habits.

  1. Know the culture of the country you are planning to visit. Most Asian countries serve a wide variety of healthy foods but the ingredients may be different from what you are used to. Understand how they usually cook their food and check if they can serve meals according to your vegetarian diet.
  2. Understand their menu. When you go to a restaurant (especially in Asia), it’s likely that you’ll get confused with the name of their dishes. Search for their common dishes so you have a better idea of what dishes to order once you get there.  
  3. Check the ingredients of the country’s vegan and vegetarian meals. It can be hard to communicate in English when you are in another country. They may not understand your vegetarian diet and as a result, you will end up with some foods that you are unable to eat.

    Check the local restaurants. Search for restaurants that serve vegetarian meals. Most vegetarians say that it is easy to find vegan breakfasts and lunches in Japan, as well as other parts of Asia. As a quick tip, know if Buddhism is being practiced in the country you’re traveling to. China, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and other Asian countries are home to some of the world’s biggest Buddhist groups, so you’re sure to find good vegetarian meals there.

  5. Pack your snacks and bring them wherever you go. Packing your own food is the best way to stick to your vegetarian diet while traveling. Walking around a new city can be exhilarating, but it can tire you out as well. Thus, it’s safe to keep your stomach full while visiting different spots to avoid giving in to the temptation of eating whatever you find available while on the road.
  6. Check out the pictures on menus. One of the safest ways to eat in China (as well as in Hong Kong and Macau) is to look for a menu that has pictures. If you don’t understand the names of the dishes, pictures can help you determine what food to order.

    Learn some foreign phrases in the country you are visiting. Know the words that will help you order the food of your choice. You can’t expect everyone to understand your vegan diet, especially when you can’t explain what kind of foods are you looking for. By learning a few phrases from another language, you can easily place an order if you know the names of the foods that you like.

  8. Ask your hotel or hostel for recommendations. They can provide you a wealth of information regarding their local cuisine.
  9. If you have the budget, look for hotels or hostels that feature a kitchen. That way, you can cook your own food and store your healthy snacks if you don’t find any local dishes to your liking.
  10. Dine with local vegetarians. You can check out vegetarian forums online and meet with them. They can tell you about some great spots that serve healthy meals.
  11. Bring some hot sauce and spices with you. Sauce and spices can enhance the taste, which can help a lot when the local dish is too bland for your taste buds.
  12. Explore the local markets. They can offer more variety of healthy foods at cheaper prices. You’d be surprised at the local fruits, vegetables, bread, and other vegetarian meals you’ll discover.
  13. If you’ll be traveling by air, make sure to indicate that you prefer a vegetarian or vegan meal when booking your flight. You don’t want to be stuck with a non-vegetarian meal and find yourself starving on your way to your destination.

Claire works in marketing team at Brillopak, a premium quality, small footprint robotic packing, food packing machine and palletizing machine manufactures in the United Kingdom. In a former life, Claire worked as a content specialist and she loves writing, reading & cooking.


Christmas With Chinese Characteristics

Christmas With Chinese Characteristics

Christmas Tree with HongbaoMulan Mushu Christmas OrnamentLast year at this time, we were only focused on bringing our little girl home, and we’ve never been big Christmas people, so we had just a pitiful little tree and bought some gifts for our little girl at the last minute. So this year I decided to put a lot more effort into the holiday to start making traditions for our growing family.

I’m calling our theme “Christmas with Chinese Characteristics.” For our tree, the main color is red and I included my Mulan and Mushu inspired ornaments that I got at Disney World when we were there this summer.

I have also hidden hongbao in the tree with different amounts of money in them. On Christmas day everyone will pick a hongbao and get either a little bit of money or a lot of bit of money.

I also used hongbao as tags on the gifts. I taped the flap to the boxes so you just flip them up to see who gets the box. I’m not the most crafty person, but I really like the hongbao gift tags. Of course, I buy my hongbao here in China, but You can find lots of hongbao on Amazon.

Hongbao Christmas Gift Tags

The pièce de résistance of the tree, though, is our Monkey King tree topper. He is actually a puppet that I got at Silver Dollar City many years ago. He is the protector of the tree, warding away destructive cats and kids.

Monkey King Christmas Tree Topper

After Christmas, I plan to keep the tree up and convert it into a Chinese New Year tree. I am going to replace a lot of the ornaments with little lanterns and hopefully find some small oranges I can attach to the tree. I’ll have to add a lot more hongbao as well.

So what do you think? Do you try to incorporate Chinese elements into your holiday celebrations? Let me what you do in the comments!

Hongcun: China’s Link from the Past – Guest Post by Judith Ann Abayari

Hongcun: China’s Link from the Past – Guest Post by Judith Ann Abayari

Do you want to see what China is like a millennium ago? Hongcun, found in the Anhui province is a 900-year old village in China. Being there is like traveling through time and seeing a part of that era preserved so beautifully. Here is a travel guide for all the people who are interested in going to Anhui and see this magnificent ancient place.

Where is Hongcun?

Hongcun, literally Hong Village in Mandarin, is a part of the eastern Anhui province in China. Anhui is more than 400 km from Shanghai. So that will take about four hours and 30 minutes of driving. If you are around Tunxi, you can get there with a bus for around 20 minutes of travel. If you are coming from Tankou, then minibuses will take you there in 35 minutes.

Best time to go…

If you are coming in the late quarter of the year, the best time would be around early of November. It is autumn at that time and everything is vivid and picturesque from any vantage point.

March and April is the ideal time to see the “Sea of Flowers” as it is at that time the valleys are in full blossom. Colors of life and nature would inspire the hidden artist in everyone visiting Hongcun.

A short history

Hongcun was established during the Song Dynasty around the year 1100. It flourished through the Ming and Qing dynasties as it became the center of trade at that period.

The village was originally the ancient home of the Wang clan. And through the years, Hongcun experienced numerous changes, while preserving most of its infrastructure and culture. Additionally, they preserved most of its customs, cuisine, and regional arts. That is why stepping into the village will feel like being transported to an ancient era where technology has less influence than anyone could hope for.


Aside from the natural sceneries such as the sea of flowers and autumn beauties, the Hongcun village pride itself from having an authentic architectural art. You will be able to see the Ming and Qing dynasties’ influences in the buildings around you.

The overall layout of the village resembles the shape of an ox. The villagers have masterfully used the canals to divert water to their courtyards creating a crisscrossed network of artful water structures. The houses will seem like paintings from afar, with little gardens around them. There is also the famous Moon Pond that you can enjoy for blissful scenery.

Hongcun may be a tourist attraction but it does not feel like one. Stalls and other tacky souvenir booths are not placed all over the village so avoiding them will be easy. That means more time for everyone to look around in its full glory. Just do not forget your camera when you go there.

It is said that the village was designed with good feng shui in mind, hence the shape of the ox. Since drones are popular nowadays, looking at the village from top view will be much easier, and will let you take a breathtaking shot.

There is much to Hongcun that words cannot describe. So it is highly advised that you get there personally and see everything for yourself. Aside from Hongcun, there are nearby tourists spots as well if ancient beauty is what you crave for. There is the Xidi, the Tachuan village, and the epic Mount Huangshan that is best for hikers alike.

Who Writes History – Conversations With Jung Chang

Who Writes History – Conversations With Jung Chang

jung chang hk lit festAs exciting as it was to meet Amy Tan, I was actually more excited to meet Jung Chang at the Hong Kong Literary Festival. I am obsessed with her book Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. I have been fascinated by Empress Cixi for years, and it was while I was researching for Threads of Silk, that her book was released. Empress Dowager Cixi became my research bible when it came to Cixi. I read many other books about her, including several contemporary accounts, but Jung Chang’s approach, bringing so many sources together in one place, was a godsend. I have read the book several times front to back and then have gone back and read and research certain chapters and passages more times than I can count. I was so happy that she was kind enough to sign my well-loved copy of Empress Dowager Cixi, but she also accepted a copy of Threads of Silk, which really made my heart soar.

I have written and spoken many times about how wonderful her book is, but I am often met with skepticism. Cixi has a reputation, in the East and the West, of being a controlling, manipulative, traditionalist who held China back and is blamed for many of China’s problems during the 19th century. Yet in Empress Dowager Cixi, Jung Chang paints a much more complicated picture of Cixi, one that gives her far more credit for China’s sudden leap into the modern age during her reign.

empress dowager cixi jung chang

She credited Cixi with everything modern that China has today, from the electricity to the railroad, to the iron used to build the buildings. She also talked about Cixi was, in many ways, a feminist. She set up China’s first schools for girls and outlawed footbinding (even though the practice stayed in vogue until the communist era). She was not perfect, but Cixi would be the first person to admit to that. Her role in the Boxer Rebellion is something that she cannot escape, but she never tried to. She apologized, formally, for her role in the rebellion, and did her best to learn from her mistakes. Her reign post-Boxer Rebellion were some of China’s most prosperous and peaceful years. In fact, the foreign powers welcomed her back to the Forbidden City after the Boxer Rebellion. Even though the Boxer Rebellion was specifically a rebellion against foreign influence, the Western powers wanted Cixi back on the throne.

Many have called Jung Chang’s book about Cixi “revisionist,” as if that is a bad thing, so I asked her, “What do you say to critics who call into doubt the version of Cixi that you present in the book?”

“What wrong with revisionism?” she asked. Indeed, if the history we have been fed is wrong, why should it just be accepted because it is old? Why shouldn’t it be revised? She went on to say that, “People who doubt what I have written here should keep an open mind.”

It was truly a joy to meet Jung Chang and get to hear what she personally thought about the empress and her book. She also hinted that her next book will be about China’s first elections, which were also arranged by Empress Cixi before her death, so I can’t wait to read that.

Have you read any of Jung Chang’s books? Let me know what you think of them in the comments.


Where The Past Begins – A Conversation With Amy Tan

Where The Past Begins – A Conversation With Amy Tan

I was so excited for the chance to meet Amy Tan last week at the Hong Kong Literary Festival! It really was a dream come true. She has such an elegant presence. As soon as she walks into a room, you know she is someone worth listening to. The moderator at the gala dinner said, “I think we can all divide our lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’ we read The Joy Luck Club,” and I think she was right. The Joy Luck Club was a turning point in literature, not just a great book. It showed publishers that stories about women and Asians were not only good stories, but profitable because readers were voracious for her book. Many books about Chinese-Americans and Chinese people around the world probably would not exist if The Joy Luck Club had not paved the path for them.

Amy was at the festival to talk about her new book Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir. She talked quite a bit about how her book came to be, how it originally started as a series of emails between her and her editor, and the rigorous writing schedule she committed herself to in order the finish the book. She talked quite a bit about the craft of writing and how it compares and contrasts to drawing, something else she enjoys and is quite good at, but is not the true creative outlet that works for her.

She gave a really good writing tip that I have been using all week. She said that she plays movie soundtracks in the background while she writes. She said classical music also works well (anything without words since you need to writing your own words), but soundtracks are especially useful because they are designed to set the mood. She said that when she goes to her writing space and turns on the music, she is right back to where she left off and it is much easier to get started and keep going. I’ve been doing that myself this week because I had a really grueling writing schedule to catch up on since I took a week off for the festival, and it really works!

I haven’t finished reading Where the Past Begins yet, so I can’t write a complete review for it, but I do have to say that so far I enjoyed her The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life better. Where the Past Begins is more like a series of essays while The Opposite of Fate follows a more traditional memoir style.

For me personally, the highlight of meeting Amy Tan was when she kindly accepted a copy of Threads of Silk that I gave her and agreed to take a picture with it! I in no way think that Threads of Silk is in the same league as anything Amy Tan has written, but she also revealed that she never throws anything away, so I like the idea that it will at least be sitting in her library forever.

Have you ever met a writer you admire? Tell me about it in the comments!

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