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First of all, don’t be surprised at the very verbose place-names that might appear in this blog. While it’s true that things may get lost in translation, sometimes they can also be found, and there can well be too many of them. What takes three or four syllables in Chinese might constitute a whole sentence in English. So when you’re browsing the tourist map of Hangzhou, you’ll see names like Melting Snow Hanging Over The Broken Bridge. A Bamboo-Lined Path Leading To Yunxi. The Spring Dawn Round The Su Causeway. Orioles Singing In Ripples Of Willows. Or Ruan’s Mound Encircled By Blueness.

Anyway, I’ve tens of photos from different hikes around these picturesquely named sites and so far couldn’t be bothered to make a postable selection. But just today the weather has taken a turn for the worse (fancy that, on the last day of November. And how long have you been donning your winter coats, all ye Northern folks?). As I’m shivering under my duvet on this cold night, my thoughts run to the sunnier days we’ve had so far and I find the time has come to choose a handful of pics for you.

Today’s theme: Yuhuangshan, i.e. the titular Hill Of The Jade Emperor. It’s a small hummock in the middle of the city which makes for a short and sweet hike on a Saturday morning. If you set out at 8.30 (and why does it always have to be 8.30, Organiser T.? It’s Saturday! Let people sleep in!), you’ll be back just in time for an early lunch. There are two small temples, one cave and a few nice views on both sides of the hill. All in all, a pleasurable way to get some peace and quiet (assuming you’re lucky and don’t bump into Chinese hikers with radios blasting out Chinese opera – call me if you ever manage to avoid them).

Bamboo forest. Expect a lot of these, they figure in every hike and are quite charming, if completely infested with those little midges that are smaller and quieter, but much nastier than mosquitoes. Your average mozzie bite will itch for a few minutes and disappear if you leave it well alone. These guys give you bites that itch for a week a leave red welts for a few more. I thought it might just be that I’m not used to them, but I had a look at some Chinese legs and they were every bit as bitten as mine.

Chinese-style gargoyles. I quite like them. And I like the traditional roof tiles – very elegant and graceful. I hope after they’re done with the We-Be-Great-Country-We-Build-Massive-Blocks phase, the Chinese will rediscover the charms of old architecture and draw more inspiration from it. For now it seems like they follow the Huge Wedding Cake style of design.

That’s a temple eaves as seen from below. The red lanterns are absolutely indispensable. I still haven’t discovered why the temples here are always yellow – maybe it’s symbolic, like gold being the colour of God in the European culture? Or maybe it’s just eye-catching and thus suitable for such a landmark as a temple should be (especially as they’re often hidden in forests and mountains)?

A fish-pond. There’s quite a few of them on that hill, only the koi carps in this one seem to be doing particularly well. The other ponds that we’ve seen on the road were small and with stale water. There were some well-fed fish in them, but if they survived in those conditions, they must’ve evolved into a life form that doesn’t need oxygen at all.

A caged bird in the temple yard. It could say hello in Chinese.

Incense sticks in a huge incense burner. Pretty colours!

That’s the back of the temple. I thought it made a nice contrast with the front. And the colours are pretty here too, aren’t they?

Climb every mountain, swim every sea – and you’ll always find a place to sip a cup of tea. And gamble.

Fake ruins and picturesque stones. No, honestly, they’re everywhere. These guys just won’t leave a pile of stones alone: they have to grab a pickaxe and make it into something resembling an anthill. Obviously they’ve been looking at too many Chinese paintings to keep a healthy relation with rock formations.

And last but not least: a brilliant kick-ass vine or a creeper or whatever you call it. Lots of fun climbing it.

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