The second morning I was in Nanjing, ten days before the Year of Dragon came to an end, I was woken up by wafts of fragrant smells in the air, tantalizing my senses, making my appetite immediately alert with hunger – Home cooking by Mr Zhang.
“Today’s treat,” he said, as I sat down by the breakfast table, joined by Mrs Zhang and their niece, “is something very simple but special.”
“Wait for it,” Mrs Zhang continued with a smile, “It’s not something he does regularly, but he does it perfectly.”
The short but sweet suspense was soon revealed. Apart from the usual Chinese New Year treat of Tang Yuan, I had the honour to enjoy Mr Zhang’s Steamed Eggs!
“Wow,” I was delighted. “I do not remember the last time I had these. I used to love them, as a kid. Thank you!”
My memories of Fuzimiao was distant and vague, not a place I frequented as a student without easy access to transport nor a great deal of leisure time. What came to my mind was scattered images of the river, the ancient-looking, pagoda-like roofed buildings on the river banks. I had learnt stories about the women who used to live in these houses, serving rich men with their sweet songs and sexy dances. Legends had it that these beautiful women, despite their rock-bottom social status as prostitutes and courtesans, were fiercely patriotic. They have been written into books by various scholars and writers, the most recent being made into a film called The_Flowers_of_War, directed by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou and starring Christian Bale.
On arriving at Confucius Temple, we were immediately greeted by red lanterns and beautiful decorations. “We’ve picked a good time to visit. It’s morning and days before the Chinese New Year. It would be packed on the 1st day, and especially the 15th day of the Spring Festival.” My hosts repeated for emphasis.
Yes, I had no doubt that they were right. Everywhere I went in China, especially popular tourists attractions like this one, they were always packed, using a Chinese cliche 水泄不通 （even water cannot pass through) – The most striking image of today’s China in my mind had been ‘the ever-flowing human river’ which is constantly rushing forward, not stopping for anyone or anything.
Sauntering along the streets, which appeared wet and shiny, perhaps melting from the night frost and morning dew, my hosts and I took turns to pose and shoot photos of the sights and street scenes. With its long history and reputation, you could find a great deal of goods in Fuzimiao’s markets, from antiques, artifacts, to household pets and Yuhua Shi (Rain Flower Pebble, a unique Nanjing souvenir). Vendors of all kinds would tempt you to try whatever they had in their possession, from folk handicrafts to a variety of delicious snacks. A perfect combination of trade with tourism, a mixture of catering and culture, and sense of fun!
Although still full from my ample breakfast, my hosts had in mind to treat me with the local Qinhuai selection of tasty dishes. My final hour in Nanjing was well spent in a restaurant which offered just that. Minutes after we took our seats, our table was filled with various small saucers and bowls, containing around 25 different local specialities, some tofu based, others included steamed dim sums, tea eggs, salad vegetables and dark-boned chicken soups.
With these fabulous pictures of Qinhuai delicious offerings, I conclude today’s post. Hopefully I would have tempted you to pay a visit to Nanjing in your future China tour. Although my impressions of Nanjing are by no means comprehensive, I hope that I have given you a few highlights of this wonderful Southern Capital of China, and her hospitable people.