Archives For Chinese landscape artistry

It was about this time of year when some students and I took a road trip. Actually, it would be more accurate to say a bus trip. The students were from the university where I was teaching, and we decided to go to a smaller town a little north of our city to have a look one weekend. Would you like to know what we saw?

A Peaceful Environment

There was a small river going through the town, and it had this interesting looking bridge. There was a large park along this area of the river, and we enjoyed some street food while sitting in the park. We consumed our glass noodles while eating them out of a clear plastic bag; my first time for doing that. Glass noodles are slippery, and you don’t want to poke a hole in the plastic bag with your chopsticks!

As we walked around town, I saw something that surprised me. They had an old stone wheel for grinding wheat, which is grown locally. I have seen one that used a donkey walking around in a circle to move the stone, but this one used man power. You can see it in the photograph below.

A Peaceful Environment

Some things I also enjoyed seeing in China were the many pools of water with beautiful water lilies in them. I was impressed with the different colors of the lilies, and many times there would be koi swimming around the lilies!


This was an enjoyable trip for many reasons! This particular area of China enjoyed a much slower pace of life compared to when I was teaching in Beijing!

Maybe this blog will help you remember a calm and peaceful place you have enjoyed. I know it certainly has done that for me!


August 9, 2016 — Leave a comment

My grandparents were passionate about their gardening, so when I was teaching at a university in China it was enjoyable for me to watch the efforts of some of my neighbors bear fruit. I could look over the wall enclosing their homes, and see them working in their garden almost every day. My building was taller than their wall, so my view was unobstructed and fascinating.



As you can see in the two photographs above, everyone in the compound worked in the garden. The men and women all pitched in, and they also brought the little ones out while they were working. Nothing seemed to keep them from tending to their crops.


In the photo above, you can see how the old guys are subject matter experts, so I am sure they were reviewing the work and progress of their younger neighbors. Maybe they were talking about how it was done back in the good old days. In the picture below, you can see just how much work was done by hand. Even the watering was done by hand sometimes!



Finally, the scene above speaks volumes about all of the hard work my neighbors put into their gardening and the resources they had. In the center of the photo you can see one man using a hand pump well to get water for their garden. In the upper left section, you can see another man going with a shovel into their outhouse to get some fertilizer. They worked hard for everything that grew in their garden, and I am sure they enjoyed eating their fresh produce very much. How is your gardening going this year?

Art is Everywhere!

July 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

It is always so impressive to me how easy it is to find art in China. Even the simplest of items can be turned into something beautiful. Recently I was in China and found this item. I am not sure if this would be considered a fruit or a gourd, regardless, it was carved into a small work of art!


It has been my experience that China is full of people possessing a green thumb! My wife’s favorite flower is the tulip, so when I saw this arrangement in an airport shop, I had to take a picture. I like the container also!


Another use of flowers is with outside beautification of many different things, including the sidewalk! Store fronts are another location to commonly find lovely flowers.



The final picture I have for you is of a koi pond. For this particular koi pond, even the way they fill the pond or provide oxygenated water for the fish is decorative.


A couple of times I have seen where the water doesn’t come straight out of one of the heads that are being use to shoot water into the pool of water, so that is funny to see, because it looks like the heads are having a water gun fight.

Remember to keep your eyes open when traveling in China…….you never know what you might see next!


Water, Water Everywhere

Since my grandparents were great gardeners, I observed a few things while watching the Chinese around my campus work in their gardens.

One of the first things I noticed is that my Chinese neighbors would use lots of water on their plants. The diameter of their water hoses was probably four times the size of a standard hose we would use around our houses in the states. These hoses seemed to usually be about the color of rust, not green like we usually have in the states.

I have seen farmers water each plant individually using a metal bowl with a long handle dipping from a big bucket of water. Yes, that does take a long time if there are many plants. Sometimes, the gardeners would just pick up the bucket of water to water the plants.


watering the garden_BeauSides_1


My campus apartment was high enough for me to look across the street and over a neighborhood’s wall, so I could see my neighbors working on their garden. This community garden was interesting to me because there was a well in the garden, but a person had to pump the water by hand. Another interesting thing about this garden is that there was an outhouse near it, and I could watch the people who worked in the garden not let anything go to waste from the outhouse.


pumping well water_BeauSides_2


Everyone living in the compound came to do a little work in this garden. I saw children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents all pitching in and doing what they could do to help their garden flourish. I must admit, they had a very nice garden, and it was fun to watch it grow. I am sure they had many delicious meals as a result from all of their hard labor―and watering!


family gardening_BeauSides_3




To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Green Thumbs


In my recent post, Heaven on Earth, I mentioned how the gardeners on the university campus where I had the honor of teaching didn’t have many modern tools or vehicles to carry their tools. I was very impressed with how well these workers kept the grounds looking, and knowing the resources they used made it even more impressive. Regrettably, I didn’t speak Chinese well enough to tell these workers how impressed I was with their work, nevertheless I will show you some of the fruit of their labor.


Roses in China_BeauSides


The Director of Foreign Affairs at the university was a wonderful man; however, one thing in particular made my trips to his office so enjoyable: An area behind his office had beautiful roses and a long hedge going the length of the next building.


One day, I was surprised to see a man with manual hedge clippers trimming the row of hedges. I couldn’t imagine how long it would take him, but he was doing a great job with the tool he had.


Trimming hedges_Beau Sides_Lessons from China


The gardeners did have a lawn mower, which they used to cut to cut grass in large open areas. But on more than one occasion, I saw people using hedge clippers to cut smaller sections of grass. Even though the hand-clipped areas of grass were smaller, I couldn’t imagine how long it would take to complete that task.


One project that was reported to be completed on time and under budget for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the planting of trees. One million trees were planted! I have noticed that when many trees are planted in China, they are kept in a very straight line.


Beautiful trees in a row_BeauSides

To learn more, check out my book Lessons From China




To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Heaven on Earth

Spring is my favorite season of the year. I hate cold weather (except on the few occasions I find myself snow skiing), so I love the promise of better things to come which spring gives us. I also love the new life that is all around us: the baby birds chirping and the plants blooming.

Beautiful flowers on China campus_Beau Sides

In my new book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education, in the chapter “Beautiful Spring,” the main character, Jan, describes for me one of the loveliest places I have ever seen in the spring: the college campus where I taught in China.

The students told me that people from the city would come just to take pictures of the flowers, but I didn’t believe them. Yes, I was wrong. And yes, I became one of the people taking pictures of the beautiful flowers blooming there. In fact, I was so impressed with all of the vivid colors and majestic blooms that I would walk out of my way just see the flowers blooming.

Koi Pond_Beau_Sides_Lessons from China

I must tip my hat to the gardeners on campus because besides having green thumbs they created the most beautiful landscape settings. One setting in particular, which was one of my favorites, was a lovely limestone waterfall that poured into a koi pond. The pond with its exotic jewel-toned fish sat partly under an arch that was adorned with gorgeous purple wisteria clinging all over it.

One guy, whom I became good friends through English Corners and basketball, was scolded severely by one of the gardeners for trying to catch one of the fish in the koi pond with his hands.


Purple wisteria in China_Beau Sides_Lessons from China

Without many of the tools we westerners would expect them to have, the campus gardeners worked hard. They mostly used wheelbarrows instead of motorized carts or trucks to haul their supplies and tools. Regardless of how they did their work, they were very successful at it.

Now, I want you to enjoy their work as much as I have!



To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!