posted by Sarah
This past weekend we hosted our friend SuJ’n, who’s travelling around China for a month before going on her way to teach English in Korea for about 6 months. It was a great time to relax and see an old friend, and get to see the touristy parts of the city that we hadn’t yet explored. We took her to some of our favorite places (which just so happen to be restaurants): A little restaurant that serves North-Eastern Chinese food, our favorite steamed dumpling place, our favorite hand-pulled noodle joint, and a terrific Mongolian hot-pot restaurant. Basically, we stuffed ourselves silly over the weekend.
Besides eating, we explored a local attraction, The Orchid Pavilion, a site that’s known for its beauty and inspiration to poets, who practiced their calligraphy along the banks of the meandering canal. A famous calligrapher, Wang Xi Zhi wrote about the place in the 4th century AD, and his style and prose has been emulated by enthusiasts ever since. Apparently a pleasurable pasttime for these poets was to float cups of wine down the canal. The cups came to rest against the banks, and the nearest poet would have to compose a poem on the spot.
Another fun thing we indulged in with SuJ’n was our first trip to sing at KTV (karaoke) Chinese-style. Unlike American karaoke, generally sung in bars, Asian karaoke is more like singing in a well-appointed living room with your friends. We went with a few of our students to one place, which took up a large portion of the second floor of a mall-like building. We were led to our own private KTV room, equipped with a large flat-screen TV, giant speakers, ambient lighting, a comfy wrap-around couch, two mics and a really fancy karaoke console where we picked out our songs. I was skeptical about the English song selection – and rightly so – there wasn’t too much choice for us. However, it was fun to hear some Chinese pop songs (not all of them were bad), and one girl even sang a couple of Peking (actually Shaoxing) Opera songs, a very surreal experience, mixing ancient opera with oh-so-modern karaoke.
One final touristy venture was to take a boat through the canals of Shaoxing. We got a chance to see the back doors of Shaoxingese, since the canal backs onto the houses. In fact, many locals do their laundry right in the canal, and also hang elaborate plant gardens along their watery backyards. It was a nice and very interesting view into local life that we haven’t seen before.