Wuzhen, a 1300 year old water town on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, is a national scenic area and one of China’s top ten historical and cultural towns. It is also one of China’s most charming towns. Located on the Hangzhou-Jiaxing-Huzhou Plain in north of Zhejiang Province, it is at the center of the golden triangle consisting of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. Wuzhen is easily accessed through a number of expressways and national highways. The ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal flows through the town, which is divided by waterways into four areas, Dongzha, Xizha, Nanzha, and Beizha. Since its foundation in 872 A.D., Wuzhen has never changed its name, location, waterways, or way of life. Its traditional buildings have survived hundreds of years of weathering but remain intact today. In 2001, Wuzhen was named as a candidate for UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List. At the end of 2006, it was included in the revised List of China’s Candidates for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. In 2009, Wuzhen was named as the first PATA eco-tourism destination in Mainland China. Wuzhen Tourism Co. Ltd is a large travel service group whose shares are jointly held by China Youth Travel Service, Tongxiang City Government, and IDG. Its business mainly covers travel services, scenic area operation, hotels, real estate, and tourist souvenirs. The company has dedicated itself to the protection and development of tourism in the ancient town of Wuzhen. With a corporate philosophy of “surpassing through foresight”, in the ten years since its foundation, Wuzhen Tourism Company has steadily expanded, working to make Wuzhen into a famous destination in China and throughout the world. The company will focus on “value marketing” to expand corporate development, set “quality benchmarks” to continually improve its level of management, use a “people based” orientation to foster its core competitiveness, and use “experiential tourism” as its direction to build the number one brand in China’s tourist industry. Wuzhen receives a total of more than five million Chinese and foreign tourist.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Sunday, February 3, 2013
The de Young Museum, also known as the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, is a fine arts museum located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It is named for early San Francisco newspaperman M. H. de Young. The museum opened in 1895 as an outgrowth of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 (a fair modeled on the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of the previous year). It was housed in an Egyptian style structure which had been the Fine Arts Building at the fair. The building was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1906, closing the building for a year and a half for repairs. Before long, the museum's steady development called for a new space to better serve its growing audiences. Michael de Young responded by planning the building that would serve as the core of the de Young Museum facility through the 20th century. Louis Christian Mullgardt, the coordinator for architecture for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, designed the Spanish-Plateresque-style building.
The new structure was completed in 1919 and formally transferred by de Young to the city's park commissioners. In 1921, de Young added a central section, together with a tower that would become the museum's signature feature, and the museum began to assume the basic configuration that it retained until 2001. Michael de Young's great efforts were honored with the changing of the museum's name to the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Another addition, a west wing, was completed in 1925, the year de Young died. In 1929 the original Egyptian-style building was declared unsafe and demolished. By 1949, the elaborate cast concrete ornamentation of the original de Young was determined to be a hazard and removed because the salt air from the Pacific had rusted the supporting steel.
The task of creating a Palace of Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition fell to the architect Bernard R. Maybeck, then fifty years old and known for his innovative ideas. Setting to work on this new project, he chose as his theme a Roman ruin, mutilated and overgrown, in the mood of a Piranesi engraving. But this ruin was not to exist solely for itself to show "the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes .... " Although it was meant to give delight by its exterior beauty, its purpose was also to offer all visitors a stimulating experience within doors. In playing host to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, The Fair, which opened on February 20, 1915, San Francisco was honoring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the completion of the Panama Canal; it was also celebrating its own resurrection after the shattering earthquake and fire of 1906.
The problems of choosing the exact site in the city had finally been overcome and groundwork had been going on for some time. Last of the buildings to be erected, on the lagoon and close by a group of Monterey cypresses, was Maybeck's Palace of Fine Arts. With its exhibition hall to house the work of living artists (dominated by the Impressionists), its colonnade, and its rotunda -- plans for all of which had dazzled the Commissioners when the huge brown-paper sketch was put before them -- it fulfilled the architect's dream: it was as beautiful reflected in the water as it was against the sky. And when the Palace was completed (Roman in style although a freely-interpreted, purely romantic conception, and Greek in decorative treatment) its exceptional harmony gave it instant appeal to the public.
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika was composed in the year 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist school teacher. It was originally sung as a church hymn but later became an act of political defiance against the apartheid government. Die Stem van Suid-Afrika is a poem written by C.J. Langenhoven in 1918 and was set to music by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921. Die Stem was the co-national anthem with God Save the King/Queen from 1936 to 1957, when it became the sole national anthem until 1995. The South African government adopted both songs as national anthems from the year 1994, when they were performed at Nelson Mandela's inauguration. They were merged in 1997 to form the current anthem. The new English lyrics were adapted from the last four lines of the first stanza of The Call of South Africa (the English version of Die Stem), and were modified to reflect hope in post-apartheid South African society.
Monday, January 14, 2013
The Kinderdijk-Elshout mill network is an outstanding man-made landscape that bears powerful testimony to human ingenuity and fortitude over a millennium in draining and protecting an area by the development and application of hydraulic technology. It is located in the north-western comer of the Alblasserwaard. It drained the internal drainage districts of De Overwaard and De Nederwaard until 1950, when the mills were closed. The 19 mills that form this group of monuments are all in operating condition. The Alblasserwaard is bounded by the rivers Lek to the north, Merwede to the south, and Noord to the south. The properties consist of discharge sluices, Water Board Assembly Houses, pumping stations, and brick and wooden mills. Owing to changed technical requirements, the discharge sluices were reduced to two and reconstructed in the mid-1980s.
The Water Board Assembly Houses of De Overwaard and De Nederwaard survive intact. The former was built in 1581 and purchased by the Water Board in 1595 to house the Elshout lockmaster. It was used for several other purposes until 1648, when it became the headquarters of the Water Board. It is a two-storeyed brick structure on a rectangular floor plan with a hipped roof. When it became the Water Board Assembly House the modifications included provision of a meeting room, addition of a stone door-arch decorated with coats of arms of the reeve and board members, new windows, and bedrooms in the attic for members. It underwent drastic alterations in 1918 when the dyke there was raised and widened: 3 m was removed from the front of the house and a new facade built. It was restored in 1981-83. The assembly house of De Nederwaard is a plain rectangular two-storeyed building of the 18th century with a hipped roof. (whc.unesco.org)
Friday, December 28, 2012
The Ayutthaya historical park covers the ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya, Thailand. The city of Ayutthaya was founded by King Ramathibodi I in 1350 and was the capital of the country until its destruction by the Burmese army in 1767. In 1969 the Fine Arts Department began with renovations of the ruins, which became more serious after it was declared a historical park in 1976. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Thirty-five kings ruled the Ayutthaya kingdom during its existence. King Narai (1656 CE to 1688 CE) not only held court in Ayutthaya but also from his palace in the nearby city of Lopburi, from where he ruled 8–9 months in the year.
Built during Ayutthaya period, Wat Mahathat temple was then known as Wat Salak. Soon after Bangkok was established as the capital of Siam, the temple became strategically situated in between the newly-built Grand Palace and Front Palace (residence of the vice-king). As a result, the temple was used for royal ceremonies and funerals. Throughout the past two centuries, the temple has been renovated and elevated in status by many Thai kings and royalties. It became the Wat Mahathat of Bangkok in 1803 and was given its current name in 1996. The temple is also home to Vipassana Medidation centre.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Angkor Wat was built for King Suriyavarman II in the 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best preserved temple, Angkor Wat is the only is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation- first Hindu dedicated to god Vishnu. The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia appearing on its national flag and is the country's prime attraction to visitors.
Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 square kms. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city his bride. The Bayon was built int eh early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana's Buddhist Kign Jayavarman VII. Its most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on many towers.
Ta Prohm is originally callled Rajavihara and is located 1 kilometer east of Angkor Thom. Unlike many Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found.: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings which have made it one of Angkor's most popular temples which was created by King Jayavarman VII in 1186 AD.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The Grand-Place is an outstanding example of the eclectic and highly successful blending of architectural and artistic styles that characterizes the culture and society of this region. Through the nature and quality of its architecture and of its outstanding quality as a public open space, it illustrates in an exceptional way the evolution and achievements of a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe at the height of its prosperity. The earliest written reference to the Nedermarckt (Lower Market), as it was originally known, dates from 1174. The present name came into use in the last quarter of the 18th century. It is located on former marshland on the right bank of the River Senne, to the east of the castellum, a defensive outwork of the castle built around 977 by Charles of France, Duke of Lower Lotharingia. The marsh was drained in the 12th century.
The present rectangular outline of the Grand'Place has developed over the centuries as a result of successive enlargements and other modifications, and did not take up its definitive form until after 1695. It has, however, always had seven streets running into it. In the 13th and 14th centuries the market-place was surrounded by haphazardly disposed steenen (the stone-built Cloth, Bread, and Meat Halls or Markets) and timber-framed houses, separated by yards, gardens, or ambiti (passages serving as fire-breaks). During the 15th century the houses on the south side were replaced by the east and west wings of the City Hall (1401-44) and its bell tower (1449). A new Bread Hall was built on the north side in 1405.
Monday, October 29, 2012
The appearance of Art Nouveau in the closing years of the 19th century marked a decisive stage in the evolution of architecture, making possible subsequent developments, and the four town houses of Victor Horta in Brussels (Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde, Maison et Atelier Horta) bear exceptional witness to its radical new approach. They brilliantly illustrate the transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries in art, thought and society. The stylistic revolution represented by these works is characterized by their open plan, the diffusion of light, and the brilliant joining of the curved lines of decoration with the structure of the building. The Hôtel Tassel can be considered the founding work of Art Nouveau. Commissioned by Professor Emile Tassel in 1893, it was the first work in which Horta was able to realize his original conception of architecture. The house was finished in 1894, but Horta continued designing the furniture for some years. After the Second World War, the house was split into small flats so that little of the decoration remained visible.
In 1976 the street facade and the main doors were restored and the building was adapted as prestige offices. The street facade, built from stone, is remarkably integrated into its context. Above the entrance there is a two-storey bow window in an innovative steel structure. On the street site the building has the entrance floor, a mezzanine, first and second floor, and an attic. These levels are shifted towards the garden side by way of a central staircase. The four town houses by Victor Horta form an essential link from the classical tradition to the Modern Movement in the history of architecture, as conceived by one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau. He revolutionized the architectural concepts of his time by introducing the idea of an open plan and creating real dialogue of materials and their uses according to their intrinsic nature within a new way of conceiving decoration. The Horta buildings revive the 19th-century tradition of bourgeois residential buildings, combining residential and representational functions, which require a subtle organization of spaces and differentiated circulation. In each case, Horta's genius created a coherent unity of architecture and decoration, reflecting the personality of the owner.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia was the venue for the Hepatitis C and Co-infections conference which I attended together with two other gastroenterologists from Cebu, Dr. Arlene Kuan and Dr. Jenny Limquiaco. While reviewing the world map (which I always do before travelling), I can see that China was below Mongolia while Russia was above it. “I’d love a side trip to the Asian side of Russia”, I told my wife. The city of Ulan-Ude, one of Russian Siberia’s major cities was just an hour and 15 minutes by plane from Mongolia. Siberia conjures images of a perpetually cold and dreary place where prisoners and outcasts were exiled like in the movie Gulag, a Russian forced labor camp, which I have watched a few times during my childhood. This movie has somehow imprinted this scene in my mind. Is this the kind place I would want go?
Tick encephalitis, Lyme disease, Hepatitis A were some of the diseases one might acquire while traveling to Siberia, I am warned by The Lonely Planet guidebook. As a doctor, this made me quite apprehensive about going there. But the love of traveling, especially the off beaten track, and my penchant for learning about remote people and their culture somehow compelled me to push through. For me, the journey was more important than the destination and I realized that this was a once in a lifetime trip. For full article as published on Sunstar, Cebu click here, Autumn in Siberia.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Written in response to a contest calling for a national anthem to be adopted, the first ever playing of the winning entry took place during a lyric-literary meeting taking place at the Colon Theater, the night of Sunday 14 March 1897, as one of the main events of the Central American Exposition, and the author of the music was decorated with a gold medal and honor diploma. (Ovalle had been known previously for setting to music "Himno Popular" (The People's Anthem) by the poet Ramón P. Molina. It is unclear whether the music used for Ovalle's work was the same as the music that was submitted for the national anthem competition.)
The author of the lyrics, however, was submitted anonymously, it was not until 1911, when it was discovered that the author was the Cuban poet Jose Joaquin Palma, who on his deathbed was honored with a silver wreath placed on his head, while outside the public and the bands sang the Himno Nacional. The original lyrics were modified slightly in 1934 by Professor Jose Maria Bonilla Ruano, a Spanish grammar scholar. Some verses were softened in their bloody context while others were enhanced in their poetic beauty. The anthem has four verses (including four separate choruses at the end of each verse). Unlike many other nations with multi-verse anthems, all four verses are official and sung in Guatemala. The anthem is sometimes erroneously called "¡Guatemala Feliz!" (Guatemala, Be Praised) from the opening words of the anthem, but officially there is no title and is simply referred to inside the country as "Himno Nacional". (national.anthem.info)
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Tick encephalitis, Lyme disease, Hepatitis A, etc.- these are some of the diseases one might acquire when traveling to Siberia, and as a doctor I was a little apprehensive at first. The Lonely Planet guidebook which I read thoroughly gave these warnings. Should I really go? I think I shouldn't. But, this is a one in a lifetime experience.
Good that this book also mentioned a contact person- Petr Ishkin, a well-traveled Russian teacher who is proficient in English. So I tried to email him, expecting he would never answer. He must receive hundreds of these requests, why would we bother to respond to mine? I was requesting him to accompany and guide me through this Siberian rendezvous which brought me from island of Cebu, Philippines to Seoul, Korea, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia then to Ulan-ude, Siberia. I was quite surprised when he answered back the next day. After this, we were regularly exchanging emails and then we became Facebook friends. I learned he spoke more than five languages and has traveled extensively, to almost all the continents. I introduced him to my frantic wife, Grace, who from day one, was uncomfortable with my travel plans. Petr offered so much help from choosing the hotel to my visa applications and advised on where to go and what to visit. Once my wife got to know him, she changed her mind, and half heartedly supported my planned side trip to Siberia.
Upon arrival at the airport in Ulan-ude, I was greeted by a smiling Russian- "Hello, Vicente", I immediately recognized him from the Facebook pics and in a second, all my apprehensions were gone. "I'm so happy to see you Petr", I said. He introduced me to his companion and fellow teacher, Anatoly, who was very quiet at first. Most Russians I know, especially tourists in our city in the Philippines are stoic and not too friendly. "Smiling is a sign of weakness for us. Initiative is punishable", he quipped. What a difference from our part of the world, where smiling is a natural gesture and shows respect and hospitality. But this is their culture and character - it is who they are. Maybe because they are colonizers. they feel subservient to no one
The next day, Petr guided me through the city in his own car and took me to museums, churches, theaters, temples, the mountains and even arranged my trip to Lake Baikal for the next day. Lake Baikal was wonderful and I felt "peace" while I was standing on its powdery aureate shores. He introduced me to several wonderful people- his co-teachers, his school head, his wife, his friend Gongor and even invited me to talk to some of his students in the Lyceum for the Gifted about my country. He even invited me to his home for lunch with his charming wife were I had a taste of the Omul- a freshwater salmonid endemic to Lake Baikal and the cranberry-strawberry juice concoction, which he made himself. I learned so much from him about the Russians, the Buryats, Buddhism, Geser, Orthodox churches, the Datsuns and about life in general. He was a funny, witty, patient and truly knowledgeable.
My three days stay in Siberia felt short, especially that I was having a blast. Petr drove me to the airport and escorted me to the departure area. He never left my side until the flight was confirmed and I was ready to go. It was a long wait at the airport before boarding, and sensing that he was tired, told him, "You can go Petr, I'm okay here". "No", he said, "I wanna make sure that I see you leave coz you might be calling back to inform me you haven't left due to some unforeseen circumstance." How much do I owe you for this trip? He just smiled and wished me a pleasant journey.
In this wonderful city of Ulan Ude, I didn't only find the perfect guide, I found a friend.
In this wonderful city of Ulan Ude, I didn't only find the perfect guide, I found a friend.