Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eating in Nanjing

It is impossible to write about China and not talk about food, the preparation and consumption of which play such important parts in the cultures of China. And yet for me, an outsider with no knowledge of Chinese, accessing the breadth and depth of Chinese foods constitutes an imposing task, especially, perhaps, because I am at best a very modest cook myself.  Besides, because we had no kitchen in Nanjing, our food consumption was almost entirely "out" rather than "in."  So, what follows is a decidedly incomplete look at food and eating in Nanjing.

To begin, I should perhaps emphasize the ritual role that food plays in Chinese hospitality. As guests of the University, Jill and I were treated to several welcoming banquets as well as several farewell banquets.  Each represented a quite extraordinary array of foods and drink. It seemed to me that our hosts took special pleasure in consulting with the wait staff to order up diverse and interesting menus.  These items were then displayed on a large, glass "lazy Susan" which would slowly rotate as guests selected items from the dishes nearest to hand. Occasionally a waiter would bring some new dish to add to the ensemble, eventually crowding the entire glass surface with beautiful and tasty dishes.

At gatherings like these, no rice was served (unless requested); here the emphasis was upon largess and presentation. One might expect shrimp, at least one whole fish, other meats, including perhaps duck, chicken, and pork (each in its own unusual preparation), various vegetables (sometimes, to an American's tastebuds, exotic vegetables, like lotus, for instance), dumplings, and more.  A soup is likely to appear somewhere toward the end of the dinner, as well as, usually, some fruits (perhaps watermelon slices, pineapple, etc.). Even this listing cannot do justice to the wealth of foods served, and certainly does not adequately describe the often unusual preparations that might attend each of these dishes. But, even allowing for the inadequacy of my description, you will perhaps appreciate that these meals are truly feasts, and are meant to show maximum honor and hospitality to the guests. Indeed, the multiplicity and sheer quantity of dishes guarantee that much food remains uneaten, an informal index, perhaps, of the generosity of the hosts and the splendor of the dinner. These banquets also require that the guests occupy the seats of honor, and that they gain first access to the dishes presented.
Farewell Dinner at the ICC Restaurant, Gulou Circle: Our co-hosts, Hu Zhengneng; Xia Weizhou, and his wife; Andrew Kaiser; Xian Na; and Su Chen, wife of Hu Zhengneng

Dinner at the Hopkins-Nanjing University Center: Huang Chengfeng (co-director of the Center, and our host); Xia Weizhou; and Andrew Kaiser
Jill Kaiser; Su Chen; and Xian Na
So the banquets, despite the plethora of dishes and the staggering quantities of food, represent far more than "eating," and point rather toward the etiquette of hospitality.

More ordinary "eating" is certainly easy to accommodate around the university. Hankou Road, which divides the north and south campuses of the university, is home to a number of shops, most of which serve Chinese fast food—prepared on the spot and sold as "take-away."

I cannot provide a complete inventory of the dishes available, but most allow you the chance to stand right there and watch your lunch or dinner being prepared, so you can be your own judge of "what's for lunch!"  Still, if I had to guess what was the most popular lunchtime foods, I would say either noodles or dumplings.  Numerous shops around the university cater to these two staples of the Chinese diet.

Jill and I were especially fond of dumplings, which come in a bewildering array of flavors: each small doughy sack wrapped around chopped onion, mushroom, pork, or any of a half-dozen other ingredients. Best when hot and dipped in a bit of soy sauce, perhaps spiked with a bit of pepper,  dumplings are steamed rather than baked or fried. Consequently, in cool weather one can easily find a dumpling shop by looking for the "chimney" of steam escaping from the front of the establishment. Here is one dumpling shop close to campus. You can see on the left the stacked trays, within each of which one can find bamboo-woven trays on which the dumplings cook.
Numerous other shops and restaurants stand in close proximity to the campus. Guangzhou Road, just south of the south gate, is lined with both formal restaurants and casual shops where take-away is easy and inexpensive. The building rising above the metro entrance features a sushi restaurant on ground level, a hot pot restaurant on level 3, and several casual eateries below ground en route to the subway entrance. Similarly, the university student cafeteria is very close to the International Faculty Apartments, as is the university restaurant, whose front door is almost adjacent to the apartments. So accessing a meal is always convenient.

Less obvious, perhaps, is Qingdao Road, which, just west of the south campus, connects Guangzhou Road with Hankou Road, and where one can also find some very good places to eat.  Jill and I took a particular liking to this place, whose English name is simply "Muslim Restaurant." No pork was for sale here, of course, nor was there any alcohol available. But with a menu that included brief English descriptions, and with a lot of good food on tap (including my favorite, grilled lamb slices flavored with fresh cumin), this modest restaurant is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner. They will serve rice if requested, but I recommend instead that you order some of the naan-like flatbread more usual in central Asian cuisine.

Nanjing has a long history of foreign contacts, so it is small surprise that a sizable international community lives here, and several restaurants near the university attempt to cater to expat tastes. Jill and I enjoyed a couple of visits to a small French restaurant, "Les 5 sens," located on Hankou Road west (but east of Shanghai Road). Operated by Chinese who spent time in France and then returned to Nanjing to open their own place, "The Five Senses" is a pleasant, if modest, eatery. The full menu is extensive, embracing various appetizers, salads, main dishes, and, of course, desserts.  There is also a fixed-price luncheon, usually a good soup (we enjoyed mushroom), and some bread that resembles French baguettes. Daily specials are listed on a board at the entrance, but in general prices here are higher than at most Chinese restaurants. The ambience (often including recordings of Edith Piaf) is quite pleasant and in its inner rooms reminiscent of a small Parisian restaurant. In good weather, the small outdoor plaza will also prove a pleasant setting for lunch or dinner, although traffic down this road (with the inevitable horn-blowing) is not uncommon. Closed on Mondays.
Another nearby restaurant catering to expats is called "Swede and Kraut," a name evidently taken from the original owners, a Swede and a German.  The Swede is now long gone, and the German has added to his holdings with Skyways Deli, a popular lunchtime eatery on Shanghai Road near the Hopkins Center and NJU Business School. Located down the road from the northwest university gate by the athletic fields and NJU astronomy center  (I never saw a sign on the street), Swede and Kraut offers more generic ambience and furnishings; the menu, too, is perhaps more restricted. In addition to some typically "German" dishes (like wienerschnitzel), pizzas, pastas, and salads are available. Somewhat surprising, perhaps, is that the bread (served with all orders) is more French than the bread at Les 5 sens. Like Les 5 sens, prices here are higher than usual, and Swede and Kraut is closed on Mondays.

Of course, given the tremendous economic boom that China is now enjoying, numerous restaurant chains have also appeared in Nanjing. KFC was one of the first fast-food restaurants to try to capitalize on the Chinese market, and the KFC outlet at the intersection of Guangzhou Road and Shanghai Road is always filled to overflowing—mostly with young families. Other fast-food purveyors are also here in quantity, including McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, as well as some Korean establishments.  Guangzhou Road is home to several McDonald's restaurants, including one just steps from the university's south gate. Inasmuch as Mickey D offered inexpensive, reasonably good coffee
in the morning, together with unlimited refills (until 10 AM), I admit to having frequented McDonald's often at breakfast.  Several Chinese coffee shops are also within steps of the university campus, but restrict their offerings to cappucino, latte and espresso drinks without selling the humbler brewed coffee. A Costa coffee outlet is just a bit further down the road, at the intersection with Zhongshan Road (near the Zhujianglu metro stop).  But with the least expensive Costa coffee going for 21 rmb (Americano) and McDonald's offering a bottomless cup for 8 rmb, I reconciled myself to my cheapness (and caffeine addiction). Starbucks also has eight outlets in Nanjing, although the closest to the university are found at Xinjeiko Square, one subway stop south of Guangzhou Road (tall brewed coffee for 15 rmb; grande for 18 rmb), or else in the lobby of the Jiangsu Television Center at Gulou roundabout. Although each of these chains offers some China-specific menu items, most customers will find small difference from the establishments they patronize at home.

This seems to be less true for Pizza Hut, which has a restaurant situated just east of the intersection of Guangzhou and Zhongshan Roads. Although we visited this establishment only once, we were struck by how much more adapted to Chinese tastes was the menu. For instance, Jill enjoyed a beverage called "fruit tea," which, at 30 rmb, presented a pitcher of "tea," into which numerous bits of various fruits were added. The pizzas, too, often featured toppings not met in a US Pizza Hut. In addition, more than the other western restaurants, Pizza Hut seems to have tried to go up-scale in China, aspiring perhaps to a somewhat wealthier clientele (although on our one visit all the patrons we saw were very young Chinese).

Despite this survey of eating out, in fact, Jill and I did not eat out as often as we might have, because Andrew and Xian Na invited us to dine with them several times a week. Andrew usually prepared a dinner once or twice over the weekend, often working miracles with the toaster oven—baking bread one time, pizza another, and various other dishes, including this delicious chicken salad he made for us one evening.
Xian Na often prepared dinners for us on her days off—usually joining a Chinese vegetable with a chicken or beef dish, pork ribs, fried egg and tomato, or one of several other tasty entrees. These dinners were all superb, and made all the more enjoyable because we could share them with Andrew and Xian Na.
Andrew, Xian Na, and Jill (that's peanut milk Jill is drinking)
Home-made sausage from Xian Na's mother; smoked beef; tofu and vegetables; sprouts, pork and pepper
So, we were spoiled with "home cooking," even if we didn't do the cooking! Still, occasionally Jill and I indulged ourselves in a homey lunch in our apartment. The university stores were loaded with "instant noodle" packages, an indication, perhaps, of the popularity of this inexpensive and easy-to-prepare food. All that was necessary was some boiled water, which one pours into the noodle container after emptying packets of flavor, dried vegetables and meats into the mix; within a few minutes, one has a hot, tasty (if salty), inexpensive meal.

In a city like Nanjing, of course, there are many more dining options than these, and one can find restaurants of almost every cuisine (we enjoyed Indian one night at a restaurant just off Hunan Road). So each person will want to chart his own dining journey. But perhaps this brief introduction will point to some of the options available in this increasingly cosmopolitan city.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


We are already home, our "China Adventure" now past...sadly. The time seemed to fly by, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I also enjoyed writing up some of our adventures; indeed, I had ideas for many more topics than I managed to get on-line.  For example, our trip on the bullet train into Shanghai offered lots of material for the blog; some things will just have to go unrecorded, I guess.

However, I did have a couple of projects in progress as we left China, and I hope to get them posted relatively quickly.  One subject I wanted to write about is kids, and the impact of the one-child policy. As everyone knows, China has a gigantic population, whose dimensions seem especially compelling to someone who hails from a small town in the American Midwest.  As I remarked to my students in Nanjing when describing our Iowa home town, I was sure that more people passed me in one day on Guangzhou Road than the total population of Grinnell. And the city of Nanjing itself has twice the population of the entire state of Iowa. Consequently, living in China one gets accustomed to seeing lots of people everywhere.  And these demographics have driven policy decisions, including the rush to produce new housing stock. Coming into Shanghai on the train, for instance, I couldn't help but be amazed at all the hi-rise residential building—both that which is already completed and the rows and rows of hi-rises now under construction. With a "permanent" population estimated at about 20 million, Shanghai hardly needs any new residents. Nor does China, with its total population now estimated at more than 1.3 billion—which explains why the so-called "one-child policy" was enacted.

But it's not about politics or demography that I wish to write. What I noticed throughout our 7-week sojourn in China was how much parents and grandparents seemed to enjoy their kids—or at least it seemed that way to me.  As in any large, complex society, surely many Chinese children suffer abuse at the hands of their parents; and the well-known gender imbalance in China's population points to sex-selective abortions and infanticide, and evidently also affects the gender distribution of children consigned to orphanages. These indicators certainly reveal a nasty underside to parenting in China that was invisible to my street-side observations, and a result, at least in part, of the one-child policy.  But might it not also be the case that the affection for children that I found so obvious and so frequently on display was another, more benign (no doubt unintended) consequence of the one-child policy? At least, that is something that Jill and I wondered about as we observed children and parents in Nanjing.

I started trying to photograph kids early in our stay, but, because I wasn't sure how this act would be received, I made it a point to seek permission from a parent or grandparent—pointing to my camera and then to the child. To my initial surprise, most were more than happy to have photos snapped, and usually they asked me to show them the photo on my camera display.  Their pride and pleasure in seeing the photos of their children were unmistakable.

Sometimes parents went to such lengths to accommodate my photography that they inconvenienced themselves.  For example, while awaiting a train on a subway platform, I asked a mother if I could photograph her child in a stroller, thinking that it would only take a second and not interfere with her boarding the metro. The mother eagerly agreed to my taking the photo, and then set about trying to get her little boy to smile and look at me—neither of which he was prepared to do just then. 
Meanwhile, the train arrived, the doors opened, and still the mother tried to get her boy to favor me with a smile. Finally, the warning bells went off and the mother hurriedly rolled the stroller onto the train, but not before her late entry interfered with the doors closing, causing the official on duty to whistle disapprovingly. The mother, however, now safely on board the train, waved happily to me, more proud of my interest in her son, I thought, than concerned about making the train or disturbing the metro official.
Another time Jill and I happened upon this clutch of young roller bladers, skating around the (now dry) fountain on the university's south campus. As the photo confirms, the kids were fully outfitted with matching protective equipment (pink!) which was not, I suspect, easy to acquire. The kids are surely cute, but I wish that I had had the presence of mind to snap a photo of their parents, whose faces betrayed enormous pride in their offspring who were gliding so spectacularly around the university fountain.

And what about these pictures?  Can there be any doubt how much these parents and grandparents love their children?
More than a few times we encountered elementary-age children at play in Xuanwu park. They played with abandon, and, when called upon, they also performed—for their parents, for the camera, and perhaps just for the joy of performance. That they had prospered through the affection and attention of their parents seemed quite obvious to me.
There were other scenes that I saw frequently but never found a way to photograph: for instance, in these semi-warm days of early spring, Jill and I often encountered parents carrying small children who were lost beneath warm blankets that seemed to envelop the kids—of whom no head or arms were visible. We wondered how the little ones could breathe!  But I never found a way to capture this phenomenon in picture. We also encountered parents bicycling their kids somewhere, with the kids enclosed in plastic, zippered covers installed over their kiddy seats. I never succeeded in getting a picture with the child inside, but perhaps you can get an idea from the apparatus attached to these bikes.
Likewise I would have loved to have captured a picture of the split-behind pants in which very small children are often dressed. This apparel allows for quick access to the relevant body parts when urination  (or something more substantive) becomes necessary. In the meantime, except for those babies fitted with small diapers over their bottoms, tiny little cheeks occasionally peeked out from the pants of these tykes.

But no matter where or when I photographed them, I saw children who were prospering—not because they were well-off (as I assume the roller bladers were, for instance), but because they were loved.

Of course, we were in China only seven weeks, and we saw only a fraction of this enormous country and its giant population.  But the children we saw were the beneficiaries of the affection and attention lavished upon them by parents and grandparents, and that must be a good thing. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Johns Hopkins-Nanjing University Center

One reason we came to China this year is that our son is enrolled at the Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies for an MA in international and Chinese studies. So we were, of course, very interested to see the facilities, and get a sense of how the Center operates.

Founded in 1986, the Center occupies space at the northwest corner of the main Nanjing University campus, one side facing out onto Shanghai Road, the other facing into the campus and adjacent to the new Business School. In 2006 the Center completed a significant addition which provided new administrative and teaching spaces, a new two-story library, lounges for both students and faculty, and apartments for some Center faculty.

The new building opens into a tall, glassed atrium through which one looks out on a small quad, across which stands the first building, where the student cafeteria, mail room and other facilities are located.

Administrative offices and a conference center utilize most of this first-floor space, but a broad open stairwell rises to the Center's library, an uncensored and vital resource for students and faculty.

With a current enrollment of 90 students, about a third of whom are enrolled in the two-year MA program (the rest as one-year certificate students), the Center's classes are rarely very large, and the teaching facilities correspond to these demographics. Because many faculty use Powerpoint in their courses, classrooms are equipped with computer projectors. With instruction in both Chinese and English, depending upon the course and the instructor, access to powerpoint slides can be a very valuable tool to students listening in a language that is not native to them.
The new building also features some beautiful lounge facilities. Perhaps it is no surprise that the faculty lounge on the eleventh floor is the more winning space. Featuring a beautiful outdoor deck overlooking Nanjing, the lounge also sports an intimate, glass-walled interior where, I can imagine, one could enjoy sitting down with a good book. The deck is a superb space for receptions and other social events, looking out on the fast-rising outline of the city.

The student lounge—located on the fifth floor, I believe—is less luxurious, but still a quite comfortable space where students can recover. Master's candidates also have their own study carrels in another part of the building, so there are multiple places to prepare for and absorb classes.
Of course, in our brief tour we only got a glimpse into life at the Center. But we now have a better appreciation for Andrew's experience, and when we are once again far away, these memories will help us feel closer to him, despite the intervening distance.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nanjing Massacre Museum

The last time I was in Nanjing (2007), the museum devoted to the "Rape of Nanking" was closed for extensive remodeling and reconstruction. I remember the museum as having had a very powerful effect when I first saw it in 2001, and since Jill had never been there, we decided to make the trip early last week. As many of you will know, the Japanese capture of Nanjing in December, 1937 led to a gruesome slaughter here, one which Japanese soldiers themselves documented with photos and movies. Additional materials, including records kept by John Rabe and others who participated in the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, have been used to describe the depth of the disaster as well as to honor the memory of the victims.

The remodeled museum was reopened December 13, 2007, marking the 70th anniversary of the occupation of Nanjing. Compared to the original, the present memorial is much enlarged, now occupying about 75,000 square meters. The Memorial Hall, which depends upon some 150,000 items, has been generously expanded, and redesigned. The Center for the Memory of the Victims has been added, along with a Peace Park, each utilizing much visual symbolism as well as numerous historical markers. There is no charge for entry, although the guard at the entrance asks to keep track of the number of visitors and their countries of origin. So, Jill and I counted for "2" from "USA."  But numerous groups tour the museum, including large groups of Japanese,  and all the displays feature explanations in Chinese, English, and Japanese.

The museum and memorial make for a very sobering site, effectively thought out and designed.  Qi Kang and He Jingtang, reportedly Chinese architects of distinction, are credited with  the overall design, but numerous sculptors and artists have contributed to the various parts of the memorial exhibition.

Emerging from the metro onto Shuiximen Street in southwestern Nanjing, one confronts an imposing, dark stone "ark," and all along the walk toward the entrance a series of sculptures introduces visitors to the trauma that the occupation represented to Nanjing.

"A Ruined Family" by Wu Weishan (2007)
Once inside the gate, the visitor confronts a black wall on which is inscribed the number "300,000"—the estimated total number of victims—in a dozen languages. Before the wall stands a huge cross, arranged at right angles to the wall, with numbers etched on the crosspiece: "1937.12.13—1938.1," the period of the seizure of Nanjing and the rampage that followed.

From there one can either approach the memorial museum or proceed directly ahead to the "Graveyard Square," the site of the remains of some 10,000 victims discovered in the 1980s at Jiangdongmen. A grassless square covered with masses of stones "signifies piles of remains and death," and all around this stone desert stand memorial markers to victims who perished at other sites throughout Nanjing.
A wall of some 10,000 names of victims (reminiscent of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC) stands opposite the memorial hall itself where excavated human skeletons lie open to view by visitors who are asked to maintain silence in honor of the dead.
Wall of Names

The main museum exhibition is now greatly enlarged, and can be approached directly across a bare stone field lined on one side with an artistic installation reproducing one of the city's gates. The dark outline of the museum itself barely rises above sight-line.

The exhibition begins by having visitors descend into a reconstruction/diorama of the "Fierce Battle of Guanghuamen," the last defense of Nanjing before the Japanese took the city in December, 1937.  The many subsequent halls provide dramatic and incontrovertible proofs of the various tortures endured by the Nanjing Chinese: some material, as I mentioned above, came from the Japanese themselves, whereas the Chinese also conducted interviews with survivors, excavated numerous sites within the city, and collected additional material from all over the world (including, I was surprised to see, a copy of a Butte, Montana newspaper reporting on the Japanese attack of an American gunboat). John Rabe, whose diary provided an intimate account not only of efforts to protect Nanjing's civilians during the occupation, but also confirmation of some of the worst depredations, is given special attention in the museum because of his efforts. Other members of the international committee—like Minnie Vautrin who at the time headed Ginling College, the women's college adjacent to Nanjing University—also receive special attention. There is more to describe, including a moving "meditation hall," illumined only by candle-like lights, and, at museum's end, a huge wall—floor to ceiling—with shelves holding many hundreds of books in which are inscribed the names of victims of the Nanjing massacre. Looking at this last exhibit, I could not help but think of the wall of shoes in the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC., which is one of the institutions with which the Nanjing museum is affiliated.

It is true, I think, that the very quantity of material on display sometimes undermines the designers' ambition to have people contemplate the inhumanity represented by the massacre. I saw many visitors whose eyes had glazed over strolling right past exhibits, their mental capacities for absorbing more information already on overload.  But saying this does nothing to undermine the importance of the exhibition; if you find yourself in Nanjing, you really should visit the museum. This is a story still too little known or appreciated by Americans, despite the 1997 book by Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking, which helped spread the Nanjing story (by the way, Chang, who died tragically by her own hand in 2004, is also memorialized here in sculpture).

Inasmuch as our visit coincided with the tragedy now unfolding in Japan, I could not help but wonder how  Chinese visitors to the museum were responding, and whether they could sympathize with the Japanese today, given what they had just witnessed at the memorial. Although the museum exhibits conclude with several rooms reporting on the normalization of relations with Japan in 1972 and subsequent developments between the states that emphasize cooperation and friendship, the wounds  on Chinese historical memory inflicted by the massacre are deep and not easily repaired.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nanjing's metro

I have long been a fan of subways, and have tried to ride the subway wherever I've traveled, if only for the fun of it. So it's no surprise that I have enjoyed riding Nanjing's subway, first opened in 2005 and now with a second line that opened in 2010.
Several more lines are planned, and construction for line 3 has apparently already begun, so this relatively young system has very big ambitions.

As subway systems go, the Nanjing metro is very user-friendly.  As the map above indicates, all stations are posted in both characters as well as pinyin.  More than that, the on-board displays announcing the next station appear in Chinese characters as well as English, and the spoken announcement appears in both Chinese and English. Even better, the newer cars also have above the doors a lighted route map that shows in red all those stations already passed (or not part of this particular train's route), in flashing yellow the next stop, and in green all those remaining on this run.
The lights apparently flash, so when I snapped this photo some lights were "off," but you get the idea.
Ease of use for non-Chinese speakers seems to have been part of the whole system's design, because all the signage appears in English as well as Chinese. This proves especially valuable when one tries to exit a large station like Xinjeiko, which has more than 25 exits.

Over and above all that, the trains and stations are spotless! The train cars themselves are produced by the multinational firm Alstom, who also manufacture the French TGV hi-speed trains. The cars come equipped with plastic seating up against the car walls, so this is far from luxurious, and during much of the day the majority of the passengers are standing, grasping the numerous "straps" (now all plastic) each of which is fitted out with an advertisement. There is no real division between cars, so that, if you were riding an empty train, as Jill and I were the day we rode out to Xianlin, it can seem as if your train reaches endlessly in front of and behind you.
Most busy stations are staffed with metro officials, all equipped with whistles that they frequently employ in order to keep passengers from crowding too closely to the platform edge. In fact, however, many stations are designed with a second set of "doors" into a glass or plexiglass panel that stretches the entire length of the platform. So, in a manner that resembles some of the deep stations in St. Petersburg's metro, when one enters or exits the metro cars, one goes through two doors—one set on the train, another on the platform.
As these things go, the stations are relatively close together, so access to the metro from the street is not difficult or far, at least so long as you find yourself within shouting distance of the two intersecting lines. Fares are based on distance traveled across a half-dozen zones. Each station boasts a handful of automated ticket machines, but many people purchase instead magnetized payment cards which are good for all forms of public transit. More importantly, having one of these cards allows you to avoid the sometimes long lines gathered at the ticket machines.
So the metro has proven a real boon to us, especially as the closest station is only about one block away.

Buses here are numerous, and I am sure that, if we knew a bit of Chinese, we could make frequent use of them. But the bus signage is not nearly so English-friendly, so we have ridden a bus only a few times. Taxis are numerous, and relatively easy to hail, but again language is an issue. Still, watching street traffic has been a source of interest. I would say that easily the instrument most often used by Chinese drivers—whether of automobiles, truck, buses or mopeds—is the horn. Because drivers seem sometimes inspired to unusual decisions—like turning around in the middle of the block, even if it means that there is no room for a "U-turn," strictly speaking—there sometimes develop considerable traffic backlog, which results in a series of horns blowing, not one of which can possibly be helping solve the situation.

So, we have done a lot of our traveling in Nanjing underground, and it has been a real pleasure!