China – Part 7 – Shunde
Lily’s two sons from Canada, Stephen (Vancouver) and Warren (Toronto), joined us yesterday and today we went to Shunde. This is Lily’s ancestral ‘village’. Her family emigrated to Malaysia which is where Lily was born. The Overseas Exchange Association very kindly provided us with a driver and a mini-van for this trip. Shunde is about 1 hour from Guangzhou and is very industrial. In fact the development never really stops between Guangzhou and Shunde. With a population of almost 1 million, there is little trace of the ‘village’ where Lily’s family would have originated. The first stop was a large public park and gardens on a small lake. The area was dominated by a huge arch featuring some amazing stone carving. Although this arch looked traditional, it was actually built in 2002. We toured around the gardens and climbed to a pagoda on a nearby hill. All the signage was in Chinese, so we couldn’t determine the date of this structure, however, the date 1602 did appear on the sign.
Next we went to the Baolin Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Guangdong Province, built on the slopes of a nearby Taiping Mountain. Again the craftsmanship, mainly stone and wood carving and stucco friezes, is mind boggling. Although the temple dates back to 942 AD, it has been moved and reconstructed, so again it is difficult to establish the age of individual buildings or carvings. Lily and I purchased Joss sticks to place in the burners as we climbed the steps to the highest temple. Up the centre of the step are a series of intricate stone carvings illustrating the legend of the 9 Dragons. At the top were 3 large Buddhas, carved from Sandlewood and completely covered with gold leaf.
Shunde is noted for its food and the number of famous Chinese chefs that originated here. Lunch was not disappointing. One of my favourite dishes that we have had a couple of times now consists of very fresh green beans steamed lightly and tossed with roasted peanuts and a light chili paste. I need to try to make this at home. All the vegetables are extremely fresh here. Because we are close to the coast, the seafood is amazing and we usually have prawns and fish as part of every meal. After lunch we went to the Qinghui Gardens. This is an amazing garden and pavillion complex that was attached to the mansion of Long Yingshi and developed in the Qing Dynasty. It incorporates ancient garden design from both the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is a fabulous maze of pavillions, fountains and ponds with beautiful nooks and crannies where you could easily lose yourself. It even included a granite ‘rockery’ (the largest in the area) which consisted of a 50 foot high constuction of natural granite boulders from which a waterfall fell into a beautiful pool. I could easily have spent hours there.
Before heading back to Guangzhou we stopped to sample some local food specialties — double skinned pudding and deep fried milk. They were both delicious. Double skinned pudding is made from sweet milk and egg custard, from which you skim the skins as you allow it to cool. The deep fried milk appeared to be a similar custard, although thicker, which was either wrapped in a thin rice wrapper and deep fried or else just deep fried directly.
This is our last day in the Guangzhou area; tomorrow we head back to Hong Kong.