Chinese Universities become competitive

Long term Readers will notice its been quite some time since our last Spaceship China post. The posts here will probably continue to appear at random, and certainly not as regular as they used to. In the meantime, thought you all might enjoy reading about the growth in credibility in Chinese Universities!

In the latest World University ratings, recently published, 11 Chinese universities appear in the top 100. Tsinghua University in Beijing is one of China’s most famous universities. It is now Number 17 in the world rankings.

Tsing Hua university

Tsinghua University ( the name would know by phoneticised as Qing Hua) was established early in the 20th Century. In the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion and the 8-allied powers invasion of China, western countries agreed to pay China millions of dollars in indemnity for illegal invasion.

The United States was one of the few countries to pay. Amounting to tens of millions of dollars, the repatriation included the establishment of Tsinghua University.

School of Architecture, Tsing Hua university.

Primarily a research University, it also boosts a growing Mandarin language school for foreigners to study Chinese language. It’s also been recognised as a global leader in Engineering and Computer science, named as the world’s best in those disciplines in 2017.

Alumini include a number of China’s highest level politicians – current Prime Minister Xi Jinping, previous PM Hu Jintao and his Premier Zhu Rongji. Graduates also include two nobel prize winners ( physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Yang Chen Ning), co-inventor of the combined contraceptive pill Min Chueh Chang, poet Mu Dan and famous Qing dynasty reformist Liang Qichaoti

Tsinghua University’s ratings have been growing – it was global Number 25 last year. It even has it’s own Facebook page!

The times, they are a-changing!


Earth’s Treasures ~ Butterflies Swirling in Your Dreams

Flowers are the treasure of earth

They are the expression of Gaia’s joy, pure bursts of enthusiasm

sometimes surprising

always vibrant

blessing our world

with majesty

The first flower is a peony, 牡丹花 mudanhua, China’s national flower.

The surprising flowers are a type of peach, blossoming in both pink and white in the same flower, found on a Jinan street.Bright peach blossoms are framed by the elegant spaces of a Suzhou garden.

Dried flowers, cut and wrapped flowers, all the treasures of earth. Found in  a nearby flower shop in Suzhou.

As the peony ~牡丹花 mudanhua ~is the Chinese national flower, you can expect there are many poems written about them. 

One of my favourites is by Tang Dynasty poet Qian Qi

Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,

Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.

I envy you, drunk with flowers;

Butterflies swirling in your dreams.

If you are drunk with the majesty of poetry and flowers, you can find more peony poems here

with a sidebar full of peony prospects…..

WordPress Photo Challenge: Earth

Going green, the Chinese way

It’s easy to think of China as one of the world’s biggest polluters.

Especially when you live with it every day, and the view outside your window is something like this.


But it’s not quite the total truth. Fact is, China leads the world in renewable energies and is the world’s top investor in clean energies. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in Qinghai, western China, has 27 square kilometres of solar panels, with the capacity to produce up to 850MW of power.

photo credit :

Its not just solar power, but wind- power too. It has been estimated that China is building up to 36 wind turbines a day – that’s a lot of wind-power! In total, around 23 gigawatts of wind energy was produced in China in 2016.


China owns some of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing firms – and plans to use them locally, like this photo of a solar farm in The country also boasts the largest wind turbine manufacturing plant.

Windmill in Donghai, Shanddong China.

China is investing in solar plants in other countries also, like this plant in Pakistan..


photo source

Eco-cities are a new concept in global town planning. Tianjin – a hitherto extremely grey city of fading and desolate architecture, is creating a Green City, which will :”at will house 350,000 people in a low-carbon, green environment around half the size of Manhattan by 2020.” according to a BBC report.

There will be an ‘eco-spine’ with bicycle paths and public transport  – eco-friendly trams -running through the city centre. It will look something like this:

Photo courtesy of the BBC

There’s a lot more investment planned.  2.5trilliion yuan – the equivalent of 292billiion English pounds is being allocated to renewable power generation by 2020.

China is certainly investing hugely in creating a green future – but will it be easy? When money is invested and the political will is to create change, it will occur – but it takes time. Recently a well known politician said, in an emotional television outburst “we will make our skies blue again”.

No-one likes pollution. It’s easy being green, but it takes time, and commitment.


on top of the Lake and the Mountain….

on top of the beautiful West Lake in Hangzhou is a pagoda with a rich history.

The story of White Snake and the Leifang Pagoda appears here 

a small hall leads the way to the zigzag bridge, atop West Lake

nearby the Lake is a hill, a small mountain, with winding paths through a forest. one of those paths leads to a little cave, hidden away from view, off the beaten track.



from atop the hill where the cave is, looking down, a gathering of musicians.

one man stikes up a tune on his erhu – two-stringed fiddle …

and his friends come to join in…

Whilst i loved looking down over this scene, listening to the lilting then melancholic tunes, played by a group of friends relaxing on a sunday morning,

my favourite spot atop the hill was the little mountain cave

where an altar to the Bodhisattva Guan Yin  is hidden away.

观音 –  she who hears the cries of the world.

观  –guan   the character used for Daoist temples. it also means “observation” or “contemplation” and the character was originally referring to the comtempative view from a mountain top temple.

音 yin means sound.

观音guan yin she who hears the cries of the world.


( a little note on phonetics: across the world wide web you will see the Goddess’s name spelt as “quan yin” – this is incorrect and makes absolutely no sense in Chinese. the sound “guan” and “quan” are completely different. the ‘q’ sound is quite a difficult sound for non-Chinese speakers to make – why use it, when it is not correct? a grand mystery.)

What the birds know….

This morning as I left for work, walking along the road usually taken, a bright sound greeted me as I walked through the compound where I live. Sweet bird songs brightened the air. On the branch above me, a happiness bird landed. 喜鹊 xique,  – in English we call them magpies – represents happiness in Chinese culture, and the first character in this birds name is 喜xi – happiness or ‘to like’.

Why were all the birds out this morning? After a long and drab winter, it was a joy to hear so many cheerful birdsongs. Today is,惊蛰j ingzhe, which means the insects awake, and it is the third of the 24 two-week solar terms which punctuate the luni-solar calendar.

Image courtesy of

Traditionally, thunder from spring rains was thought to awaken the insects. The date signifies that the weather is likely to get warmer ( it has, thankfully) and its a good time for farmers to plant the seeds, like the one in East Jiangsu province in the photo above.

Apparently the fish wake up too, so it’s a good time for fishing. Fish swim from deep to shallow water in search for food at this time of year, mate and spawn.

Photo from

As people’s throats get sore from the warmer and dry weather, Jingzhe is a good time to eat pears. The juicy fruit is beneficial for sore throats, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine advises that this is a good time to nourish yang  energy, and it’s important to keep warm. This site gives some acupuncture points useful for this solar term.

Photo courtesy of

So along with the farmers, who all know that Jingzhe, March 6th, is a good day for commencing ploughing, apparently the birds knew something I did not know this morning.

The birds knew that the insects were waking up, and they might find a tasty morsel or two. No wonder they were singing!

xique, a Chinese magpie, the happiness bird!


China’s New Environment Laws

Pervasive greyness infiltrates the windows. Again. Every morning lately, it’s the same. Rise and shine, look out the window, and it looks something like this

The red 福 character for good fortune, placed upside down on my window, brings some colour into the grey grey view.

Thankfully, there is some legal response. After Beijing’s notoriously high pollutant levels, the  China’s new environment laws, the Environmental Protection Tax Law – designed to strengthen existing laws – was promulgated in December 2016. Companies which emit air, water, or noise pollution will be fined.

Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is exempt. Gasoline and diesel fuels however must comply with new regulations, which are similar to the European standards.

Pollution affects  business and personal lives – flights are delayed or cancelled when the AQI – Air Quality Index- rises to extreme standards. The noxiousness of chemical pollution is in no doubt – it creates a diverse mix of shocking diseases which shortens lives and causes difficulties, often extreme.

To support monitoring greenhouse gases, China has become the third nation to launch a satellite that will monitor CO2 and other emissions from space.

When the streets look like this, however

Photo courtesy of

all you really need to do is step outside to know that the pollution levels are dangerously high.

Some people have had enough. In Beijing, protestors took to the streets. In Chengdu, the capital of normally very green Sichuan province, protestors put air masks on statues.

artists as part of Chengdu environment protests. photo from

Protestors in Daqing, a city in north-east China, gathered last week to protest about an aluminium plant. One woman collapsed during the protest. From the end of 2016 and into January 2017, Beijing, Tianjin and other northern cities saw the pollution index so high it burst the measuring systems.

Protestors in Tianjin, speaking out against chronic, toxic pollution that chocked northern cities last month.

Let’s hope the new laws help.

China in the post-trump Era

China and other countries do things differently.

In the world of geo-politics, China’s global strategies have long been aimed at building trade partnerships. BRICS – the acronym for rising economic powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and now including South Africa – has been on the agenda since 2009.

Chinese investment in Africa has been expanding. Since the Premier of the People’s Republic, Zhou Enlai, made a visit to Africa in 1963, African nations have been on the Chinese radar. Chinese national television now has significant news broadcasting time devoted to Africa, including daily English language progams. Last year, Chinese investment in Africa grew by a massive 515% compared to 2015 figures. It’s been suggested that Chinese commercial loans in Africa break down the power of the IMF, an organisation long believed to have contributed to the Third World debt crisis and causing, instead of alleviating, poverty in many nations. 

The New Silk Road is  a geopolitical strategy designed to build bridges between China, Eurasia, and Europe. Trillions of dollars are being invested in infrastructure, which contribute to the development of new trading partners. 2016 saw the opening of a train line, carrying cargo from China to Iran – siginficantly shortening the old sea route trading system that had taken over 30 days.  Jiangsu province has a direct link to Afghanistan, and there are five international lines from Yiwu , (Righteous Ravens) the small commodity market town.

Then there’s the Asia Infrastructure Bank, initially suggested by China way back in 2009, officially launched by Xi Jinping, China’s current President, in 2013, and  officially launched in 2016. Britain led the way for European investors in a move highly criticised by Washington, France, Germany and Portugal soon followed suit, then a host of other players joined – including Australia and New Zealand.

As you can see from the above projects, China has been slowly and steadily building trade partnerships and investment strategies which are bilateral, multilateral, and generally bypass the IMF/WB.

What did we mean when we said “China does things differently?

President Xi gave a speech to the World Economic Forum, on January 17th, three days before Trump was inaugurated. Xi called for continued economic globalisation as a source of prosperity for all. Not once did he mention the change of administration in the USA, but the content of his speech was a major rebuke for Trumpian policies of protectionism.

China’s method, long evidenced, is to build up legitimate and authentic new structures amonst Asian and European nations. It’s also significantly increased it’s domestic economy, to soften the blows on any potential Trump-led trade war.

Whilst ordinary people in the USA, Britain, Australia and other countries have come out on the street in their millions, building alliances and a political movement that refuses to bow down to Trump led policies, in the geopolitical arena, China is continuing to build a new economic order.

China’s approach is thoughtful, long-term, carefully planned and executed. It is based on numerous multilateral agreements, and unlike the European Union, does not rest on developing a common currency.

Most of the world knows that Trump is leading the world on a dangerous path. He has signalled that Japan, led by a man who refuses to admit that any atrocities occurred during WW2, much less admit that the Rape of Nanjing happened, is the USA pivot point in Asia. It’s been claimed he used “twitter wars” to inflame the already volatile and unpredictable leadership of North Korea.

China, on the other hand, has signalled to the world it’s peaceful engagement based on mutual economic benefit. The Huffington post says this

China’s reemergence is peaceful and its opening up to the world is a global opportunity. ”

Even Bloomsberg has noted that China is moving to fill a world leadership vaccum created by the Trump era. Given that it’s only a few days since inauguration – watch this space. The world is about to change.


Sources can be access via the links in the texts. The following sources have been used:

Donald Trump Is Already Tweeting Us Into War with North Korea

Click to access ep85.pdf

Donald Trump Is Already Tweeting Us Into War with North Korea

Fishing for a Quest

This weeks Word Press photo challenge is Quest. I wondered if I should post about this gentleman, and his quest for fish.


As I continued on my morning walk, I saw some other people set up for a day of fishing.


It reminded me of the classical Suzhou garden, Garden of the Master of the Nets, or 网师园 wang shi yuan,  literally Net Master(‘s) Garden. Built back in the 12th Century (1146 AD), it was originally named鱼隐 yu yin, or Fisherman’s Retreat. The official, tired of the dramas of court life, wanted to emulate the tranquil life of a fisherman.

Some years later in the Qing dynasty, another disgrunted official bought the residence and redesigned it. He gave the garden its current name, Garden of the Master of the Nets, emulating the original, and also signifying his dissatisfaction with court politics.

I’m sure the fish the officials court in their carefully designed pond were safer to eat than any that might be caught in the lake today.

What exactly is causing that green sludge, I don’t know. If the fisherman were to offer me a bit of their catch, I’d tactfully decline.

I wondered should I post about a perennial quest for dragons, or like everybody, a quest for a quiet, comfortable life, but in the end, I decided my predominant quest of the day was this –

finding yet more angles from which  to photograph my favourite building.

Yes, indeed – a certain blog-fishie friend might be interested to know their is even a Starbucks overlooking the lake, outside of the wonderfully lit-up Suzhou Arts and Cultural Centre.

A third official, later in the 18th Century, bought the Garden Residence and extensively renovated it. Should you be fortunate enough to go there today, the borrowed views, the unusual rocks shaped to resemble mountains, the pond with its three stone arch bridges all follow much the same design as the third official’s construction.

All classical Chinese gardens are a refined elegance, a harmony of poetry and architecture, a balance of stone and water, a minature world designed to bring quietude and peace.

Perhaps my quest was to find the harmony, balance, and communion with nature that the Suzhou Gardens were aiming for. I never tire of their inspiration, their poetic sensibility, and the smell of fresh osmanthus in spring.

Over at the Humble Administrator’s Garden, it was lotus season, but I got there too late, or too early.


It would be foolish of me, of course, to make a post about questing without  Asking Heaven.


天文 Tian Wen is one of China’s ancient, classical texts. Due to the grammatical structure of Chinese Language,  it can be translated as Heaven’s Questions, or Ask Heaven.

questing for questions, i emerged with no answer

searching for dragons, i found only bright stars

asking Heaven was to no avail

the Zhou Yi gave only cryptic answers

Here’s a poem from the Heaven Questions, much better than my paltry attempt, above.

Of the beginning of old

Who spoke the tale?

When above and below were not formed

Who was there to question?


A Chinese Garden Court: The Astor Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ( conventiently available on google books)

The Chinese Garden:Garden Types for Contemporary Landscape Architecture, Bianca Maria Rinaldi

Tian Wen: A Chinese Book of Origins ( Yuan Qu and Stephen Field) (( also available to read online at google books)




MIrrored View in Classical Gardens

The Unesco Listed World Heritage Suzhou Gardens were composed and built to harmonize human beings and nature. 

The construction principles are complex yet essentially functional: a harmonious mix of rock and stone, water and nature, to create a living space that was at once poetic, meditative and inspirational.

Mirrored views were one principle which created a sense of space, an illusion and illumination, a carefully constructed view to create harmonious aspects.

So naturally placed, so carefully constructed to take full advantage of sunlight, the mirrored view seems like looking through a window.

But it’s a mirror, on the Fragrant Isle.

Mirrored views, also termed borrowed views, aslo placed carefully selected rocks in positions to create an illusion of famous mountains.This rock sculpture is placed before a mirror reflecting back more rock sculptures, the stones speaking to each other in reflected grace.

Sunlight and shadow, mirroring a sculpted window.

an engraved poem, a mirror,a geometric space of beauty.

suzhou first week 218

The Suzhou Classical Gardens – a mirror into another time.


As rare as a Mongolian Moon

Pciture perfect, shining moon in the river, ripples of goldsplashed water in the quiet evening, peace, Mongolia.

As rare as a morning  uncluttered by thoughts, where herding the cows is the only concern, were moonset and sunrise rule the grasslands…


as rare as a monastry in the middle of  nowhere, somewhere, nothing around for miles and miles, no direction home. rare as a silent night.

as rare as a national highway with noone on it, mud-dirt track in the rain. Mongolian national highway, on the way to the Lake.

as rare as a Lake you havent been to for lifetimes, yet you remember it across  wild space-winds and the cycles of time, as rare as getting to that Lake after an Aeon has passed, against all odds, in a hush of galactic memory… and it’s still there, the same as unfaded memories, as clear as Cygnus in the Mongolian night

Hush, ,the stars are sleeping…

as rare as a sailor in the Mongolian navy. There’s only about three of them – they were all on this boat.

as rare as a Mongolian moon


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